Great folding, pocket knives that were designed and made in Japan.

If  You Are Looking For A Great EDC Pocket Knife From Japan Here Are A Few of the Best Folders.

I see a lot of hype about American knife companies who manufacture in Japan, or Chinese companies using Japanese steel, and even Japanese knife companies manufacturing in America. I don’t see a lot of hype about folding knives that are designed and made in Japan by Japanese companies.

So I thought it would be cool to look around and see what the options were in that category, and ended up finding a whole new category of neat gentleman carries. A lot of these companies I hadn’t heard of before, but they’ve been making some pretty cool stuff for a while. Most of it is on the smaller side, possibly due to Japan’s highly restrictive knife laws, but still some really nice designs.

Japanese Friction Folders

All these are based on one style of friction folder that cropped up in Japan in the late 1800s. They were always very small, and mostly used for mundane household tasks. The design has gotten a pretty severe update in recent years, though.

Ohta FK5

The Ohta Knives FK5 Folder Cocobolo OFK5CO folding pocket knife is a great looking friction folder.

Specifications

  • Overall Length: 5.5”
  • Blade Length: 2.1”
  • Blade Style: Reverse Tanto
  • Steel: D2
  • Grind: Flat
  • Handle Material: Cocobolo
  • Open System: Tang
  • Carry System: Leather sheath
  • Lock Type: Friction
  • Price Range: $50 – 75

This is a pretty serious update on the Japanese friction folder design. The manufacturing is a little more refined, it’s using a tougher steel and a much nicer handle material. Ohta has actually gone so far as to make one it with a carbon fiber handle as well. The leather sheath it comes with a nice touch too since a knife this small could disappear in the pocket really fast if you’re like me and really bad at taking things out of your pocket.

It’s a little hard to reconcile the size with the price, so the FK5 might be more in the cool collectable range for a lot of people rather than a handy EDC. But it would be a handy collectable too.

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Higonokami Friction Folder

The Higonokami Friction Folder is one of the best designed Japanese friction folding knives on the market.

 

Specifications

  • Overall Length: 6.25”
  • Blade Length: 2.6”
  • Blade Style: Reverse tanto
  • Steel: Blue paper steel
  • Grind: Flat
  • Handle Material: Brass
  • Open System: Tang
  • Carry System: Pocket
  • Lock Type: Friction
  • Price Range: $15 – 30

This is the “original” Japanese friction folder, but I need to nip something right now. Word around town (insert: internet forums I lurk on) is that the Higonokami knives are made by one guy, Nagao Higonokami. Supposedly because of certain laws/traditions I’m not super clear on, he might be the last one who can officially make them. Now, these knives are cool, particularly as very sharp and cost-efficient collectibles. I’m just not convinced they’re being made by one person. For one thing, there are a lot of these things all over Amazon and at least one other version version made by him (though to be fair, some are fakes), but plenty of other knife makers have taken this design and run off into the modern age with it. Far be it from me to say the Nagao Higonokami thing is a clever marketing ploy, but that’s kind of what it’s starting to feel like.

That aside, I really do like this design. For the price it’s definitely worth getting as a cool letter opener for your desk. This was not made to be a hard-use EDCs, and some people complain that the blade is often off center, but this is really more of a showpiece. When these first came into use in Japan in the late 19th century they were mostly used for things like sharpening pencils. Since modern technology has made both pencil sharpeners and pencils obsolete, this is mostly a cool letter opener. But it’s neat all the same.

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Katsu Bamboo

The Katsu Handmade has a D2 steel blade and a high quality G10 handle.

Specifications

  • Overall Length: 7.5”
  • Blade Length: 3.0”
  • Blade Style: Reverse tanto
  • Steel: D2
  • Grind: Hollow
  • Handle Material: G10
  • Open System: Tang
  • Carry System: Tip-up pocket clip
  • Lock Type: Friction
  • Price Range: $50

Katsu is a fairly new company but they’ve come onto the scene with a clear mission to drag the Higonokami style all the way into the 21st century. Not only did they slap G10 scales and a pocket clip on it, they blew it up to an American-sized 7.5 inches. I don’t know what traditionalists think about their stuff, but speaking as someone who is fond of pocket clips and loses small knives almost immediately, I can say without shame that I enjoy being patronized like this.

The only thing that worries me about the Katsu Bamboo is its size relative to its lock mechanism. Normally I wouldn’t be sure where to put my money on a fight between the gravitational pull on 3 inches of D2 steel and the little bump of metal riding at the base of the blade. Most of what I’ve read suggests the detent holds up just fine, though, so what do I know.

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Modern Style Japanese Folders

Now we’re back in familiar territory, more or less. Turns out Japanese knife companies aren’t all about making traditional Japanese stuff, although some of them do still utilize a “Japanese” aesthetic that turns into something a little different from the EDCs we’re swinging over here all the time.

Katsu Camping Pocket Folder

The Katsu Camping Pocket Knife is one of the best Japanese style knves for the outdoors.

Specifications

  • Overall Length: 9.0”
  • Blade Length: 3.9”
  • Blade Style: Reverse tanto
  • Steel: VG-10
  • Grind: Flat
  • Handle Material: Titanium w/ carbon fiber inlays
  • Open System: Front flipper
  • Carry System: Tip-up pocket clip
  • Lock Type: Frame lock
  • Price Range: $115 – 120

Katsu continues taking that Higonokami design and bashing their way through the millennium with this oddly named, and possibly overbuilt knife. Here they’ve basically taken that original friction folder design, kept the blade style (kind of) and the front flip opening, then made it lift weights. Between the titanium handle and the frame lock, this thing is a monster with really no regard for what the friction folder design they building off of was meant for, and I love it.

I’m a little confused by them calling it a “camping pocket folder”, though. Not that it wouldn’t be a good camping knife. There’s just nothing about the knife that seems to emphasize that. I kind of wonder if that was a mistranslation for its name in Japanese, which I assume must be something along the lines of “Bear Killer”. But that’s none of my business.

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Mcusta 146 Bamboo

The Mcusta Bamboo has a VG-10 blade nd an Ebonywood handle.

Specifications

  • Overall Length: 6.5”
  • Blade Length: 2.75”
  • Blade Style: Drop point
  • Steel: VG-10
  • Grind: Hollow
  • Handle Material: Ebonywood
  • Open System: Ambidextrous thumb stud
  • Carry System: Reversible pocket tip-up clip and nylon/leather pouch
  • Lock Type: Liner
  • Price Range: $220 – 230

The 146 Bamboo is a good example of Mcusta’s overall approach to design. They have an interesting way of making knives that look modern with some kind of call back to traditional Japanese style. It doesn’t necessarily work well with all their knives, but in this case they’ve made a pretty cool handle and utilized some top-notch materials. The blade itself is a little boring, but they do make a decent Damascus steel version that makes it more interesting. Far be it from me to stoop so low as to call it “elegant”, but I can think of a few people who would belch out a heartfelt “that’s some fancy shit” if I were to take this out of my pocket.

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Mcusta Katana

The Mcusta Katana is a great tactical Japanese EDC folding knife.

Specifications

  • Overall Length: 7.5”
  • Blade Length: 3.25”
  • Blade Style: Tanto
  • Steel: VG-10
  • Grind: Hollow
  • Handle Material: Aluminum
  • Open System: Ambidextrous thumb stud
  • Carry System: Tip-down pocket clip
  • Lock Type: Liner
  • Price Range: $120 – 130

This is more in the style that most people expect when they hear “Japanese folder”. It’s a mean looking tanto blade with a sleek handle and vague leanings toward a minimalist aesthetic. It would make a great gift for a thirteen year old boy who just discovered anime, or possibly a thirty year old boy who has just built up enough confidence to admit in public that he likes anime. In either case, it’s a solid gift. The Katana by Mcusta has a smooth action and a slicey profile. I’m always on the fence about aluminum handles, but this one looks nice, the indents should help with grip quite a bit, and I’m half certain that it’s part of the reason the price is usually around $100 instead of $200.

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Moki Kronos Lockback

A tough, practical pocket knife with a classic look.

Specifications

  • Overall Length: 6.5”
  • Blade Length: 2.75”
  • Blade Style: Drop point
  • Steel: VG-10
  • Grind: Flat
  • Handle Material: Stag
  • Open System: Nail nick
  • Carry System: Canvas sheath
  • Lock Type: Lockback
  • Price Range: $140 – 150

The majority of Moki’s folding knives seem to follow this old school lockback design. They make a lot of nice looking lockbacks with a kind of American vintage swing. It comes with a canvas sheath too, which isn’t something you see too often, but definitely makes it stand out. As much as I like the look of it, though, it makes me worry that if I carry it too long someone with a tweed jacket and an ironic curly mustache will ask where I got it, and I’m just not ready to handle that situation gracefully.

The pricing of this knife is not exactly vintage. You could probably pick up something that looks exactly like this for literally a tenth of the price at Walmart. But before you judge it too harshly on price, look at who you’re getting it from. Moki is not a shoddy budget brand. In fact, it’s likely you’ve already handled a Moki-made knife without knowing it. They’re a Seki-based manufacturer and have produced stuff for a lot of larger companies in the past, including Spyderco, Kershaw, and Al Mar (unless my loose research is mistaken). All that to say is they know their way around a quality knife, and it’s only fair that the price reflect that.

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Moki 107AP Pendant

The Moki Knives 107AP Mini Pendant is an excellent keychain knife.

Specifications

  • Overall Length: 2.75”
  • Blade Length: 1.13”
  • Blade Style: Drop point
  • Steel: VG-10
  • Grind: Flat
  • Handle Material: Mother of pearl
  • Open System: Nail nick
  • Carry System: Keychain or leather pouch
  • Lock Type: Slip joint
  • Price Range: $60 – 65

I disapprove of this knife wholeheartedly.

Never mind that it’s made by Moki, or that it has some kind of fancy mother of pearl inlay, or that it’s Vg-10 steel, or that it is not only conveniently sized for a key ring, but comes with a sweet leather pouch and a cord to wear around your neck. I’m sure if I mustered the strength to take this outside I would end up using it a lot, because it’s super convenient to have a small knife on your keys or hanging around your neck. That’s a fantastic idea, and who knows what aspects of my life might change forever if I could just square my shoulders and take it out the door with any amount of pride.

I will not say this wouldn’t be a useful knife for a lot of people to have. I will say that, at the end of the day, my muscles are not big enough to carry it.

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