Pros: One of the few best chef's knives currently made in this sector of the galaxy.
Cons: Not up to splitting chickens or other heavy-duty tasks. Not cheap. Good sharpeners only.
As the tape measure said about Mary Poppins, "Practically perfect in every way."
Profile and Blade Ergonomics:
From the side, it's "French" in that there's very little belly until the edge actually approaches the tip; and Franco-Japanese in that it's not exactly a "spear point," as the drop to the point on the spine is somewhat delayed.
However, what really sets this knife apart (along with the Suisun Inox Honyaki Wa-Gyuto) is how thinly the blade is made. It's not easy to do; and a lot of blades fail and must be thrown away which partially accounts for the high price. However, the dividend in terms of sharpness is enormous and makes all the trouble and expense worthwhile.
Everything else being equal, thin knives sharpen more easily and stay sharp -- or at least act sharp -- longer than their thicker counterparts.
Taken altogether, the Tadatsuna gyuto profile really works. It's extremely light and agile. It doesn't quite have the magic for me that Masamoto or Sabatier knives do, but darn close. Combine that with its ability to take a great edge, and you've hit "world class" right in the nose.
The back and spine are beautifully arched. Knives with chips or grind marks are seldom shipped. While they appear simple, the handles are extremely well finished and attached.
Some people complain that the stamping on the blade is uneven and looks a little rough. That's an artifact of stamping each kanji character individually, rather than using a single block. Personally, I like it.
Blade Alloys and Edge Characteristics:
The knife is available in two flavors of Hitachi steels: G3 stainless or Shiroko carbon. Shiroko knives can be pretty hard to find; but if you go through aframestokyo.com or the manufacturer and are willing to wait, it can be done. This review is largely based on experience with the Inox (G3).
The "Inox" versions are made with Hitachi G3 and are, in my opinion, the best G3 knives available at any price. So good in fact, they're the equal of any stainless knife -- including metallurgical powders. Maybe not in the sort of edge holding that's associated with ridiculously high hardness, but better edge taking. Besides, extreme hardness is usally more obstacle than advantage.
Both alloys take edges extremely easily. Shiroko probably gets a little shaper and probably does it more easily; but the difference is slighter than you might think. Whatever Tadatsuna does (or has done) in terms of hardening, hits the sweet spot for G3 like no other manufacturer. The Tadatsuna G3 is remarkably better than Hiromoto's G3, for instance, and Hiromoto is no slouch!
Tadatsuna's Shiroko is also Shiroko at its best.
Both alloys have extremely good edge holding properties. Those are amplified by the geometry. No matter how dull the knife gets, it refuses to "wedge."
As is fairly typical for these alloys the G3 knives are hardened to around 60 RCH, and the Shiroko to around 63 RCH.
Sharpening and Performance:
Edge taking, holding, and thinness aside... Plan on sharpening frequently to maximize sharpness. You can't believe how sharp one of these things gets with some asymmetry and polish. So sharp, you can hear derisive laughter as it mocks mere "fall through" sharpness. No. Really.
The first time I used one freshly sharpened, I tried resting it on an onion in order to line up the knife before chopping and the edge was through the onion and on the board. On the second cut, I reduced blade pressure to far less than the weight of the blade and... same thing! To touch, no matter how lightly, is to cut.
You'll need a good sharpening kit and matching skill set to profile and sharpen. As good a knife as it is, I cannot recommend it to someone who cannot sharpen well. It is a two sided edge, though. So, you don't have to be an artist with bench stones and could use an Edge Pro. Anything less -- forget about it.
Do I need to say that as far as bench stones go this is waterstone only? Just in case: Oilstones need not apply.
Steeling? As long as you don't profile the blade too asymmetrically, you can use a good rod hone (aka "steel) to keep the edge in true. The shiroko is hard enough that steeling is a marginal activity at best. Another reason to plan on frequent visits to your stones.
Alas, there's no free lunch. I've gone on and on about how thin the knife is and talked a little about the alloys. One of the consequences is that the blade is a bit fragile. It's not a great deal more fragile than other gytuos, but it's not a Wusthof either. If you want to split chicken backs, or portion spare ribs through the tips, don't use this. In other words, you'll need a "chef de chef" in your block as well.
I'm not sure if it's fair to call Tadatsuna a mass-producer or even an actual manufacturer. As I understand it, they're a sort of OEM who has specific knives made for made for them by other knife-makers rather than actually making knives themselves -- but that's typical of other high-end hamonos.
One of the few best knives available at any price. The only reason I'm giving this knife 4-1/2 stars instead of five is because it's not perfect. No knife I've ever tried is, and for the foreseeable future 4-1/2 is as high as I'm willing to go. I doubt any knife ever will be.
That said, a Tadatsuna is about as close to perfection as you're going to get with a wa-gyuto. While it's not inexpensive, this level of performance doesn't come cheaper.
Put it on your short list.