I turned 65 end December, so I can easily get away with a completely redundant new knife without anyone yelling "...what, not another knife!!...". So, I bought this Yaxell Ran 255 mm knife and it came yesterday after a long vacation at our customs office, which costs me another 33 € extra... aaarrrggghh.
I'm not into Japanese handles, but this kind of handle pleases me quite a lot after a good year's experience with the Saiun. Both Yaxell and Saiun have quite large micarta handles and fit my hand much better than any other traditional Western handle. As you can see, the Yaxell is some kind of half tang construction while the Saiun is a full tang. Perfect for larger hands.
All of the knives on the pictures are VG10 Damascus. I like VG10 a lot. It takes a while before you manage to sharpen them well, but once you succeed on doing it perfectly, you end up with screaming sharp knives which retain their edge like forever! The Damascus pattern has no real function other than introducing some fun into your life. The difference between Damascus VG10 and massive construction is somewhat like watching the sterile but perfect Rockettes at RCMH in NYC versus the dazzling girls at the Crazy Horse in Paris. You'll remember one of those flocks for the rest of your life...
The Yaxell comes with an impressive 80/10-ish edge but it's irregularly done. I'll make it better. Compared to the Hattori, it is longer, a bit lighter and has a nicer Damascus pattern. I quite like the more modern looking profile design of the knife and the larger distance from the handle to the blade. The Yaxell blade is a tad thicker than the Hattori's.
I really think both the Saiun 210 slicer and the 255 Yaxell are perfect alternatives for people who need to be convinced to start using Japanese handles.
All of these knives should be handled with care when sharpening. You will inevitably scratch the Damascus pattern. I've used the Hattori and the Saiun as much as possible and scratched both of them. I thinned the Saiun which messed up the damascus severely. I restored both Hattori and Saiun with a variation of sandpapers, always ending with a 1200 grit worn-out wet sandpaper and they still look like brand-new.
As for the "chippy" reputation of VG10; all knives chip, the harder the steel like VG10, the more risk, the softer the steel the less risk. This also means that you don't need to be an Einstein to understand that you cannot use these knives like a chopper and on things you shouldn't use them on. Common sense keeps your knives in a healthy condition!
Yaxell and Hattori side by side;
Micarta half-tang handle on the Yaxell, oh, with stainless butt cap;
Yaxell 255 gyoto, Hattori 240 gyoto and Saiun 210 mm slicer;
Yaxell at http://www.hocho-knife.com/
Hattori and Saiun (Kanetsugu) at http://www.japanesechefsknife.com/products.html