Japanese Natural: Hones, and Naguras.

Discussion in 'Straight Razors' started by DaltonGang, Jun 3, 2019.

  1. Steve56

    Steve56 Well-Known Member


    The $26 super finisher. Hard dull egg kiita, Hatanaka stamp, wants to be a karasu from the black spots here and there but didn’t quite make it.
    Edison Carter and DaltonGang like this.
  2. Steve56

    Steve56 Well-Known Member


    Nice Nakayama kiita koppa from Takeshi that just finished a Kenwa asymmetrical Western kamisori. Koppa means ‘bits and pieces’ and is the Japanese equivalent to a bout in coticule vernacular.
    Edison Carter, brit and DaltonGang like this.
  3. DaltonGang

    DaltonGang Ol' Itchy Whiskers

    So, forgive my ignorance, but what is a Karasu, and why did it "just not make it"??

    Edison Carter likes this.
  4. Steve56

    Steve56 Well-Known Member

    Karasu means ‘crow’, and they named it because the pattern reminded them of crows flying against a grey sky like the stone with the Hayashi. You can see the faint black spots in the small koppa, they’re just not well formed and pronounced enough to be called karasu. Sellers like to call them ‘hantom karasu’, anything to get ‘karasu’ into the listing!
    Edison Carter and DaltonGang like this.
  5. Steve56

    Steve56 Well-Known Member

    A20A5780-3615-458F-BD6C-5E399F8E062E.jpeg 8A410E5A-DFEF-41D1-8520-64ED567EF767.jpeg

    Here’s a nice kiita koppa from Alex, it has a small ‘phantom karasu’ also, and it’s a ‘living edge’ stone. All sides of this stone are natural and uncut except for the honing face. This piece existed like a little gumdrop at the edge of the formation no doubt.
  6. Steve56

    Steve56 Well-Known Member

    07F6D9B3-A85D-429F-AF28-55BA67B4244C.jpeg C061F616-09E9-4D55-80AB-8815CF3D9D56.jpeg

    This is the stone that started it all for me, for razors, pushed me right down that rabbit hole. It’s a Nakayama koppa from Takeshi with a pretty kan pattern. Kan means ‘ring’ and refers to the tree ring pattern. It’s quite pretty on the kan side, the pattern doesn’t go all the way through but it hones the same either side the kan pattern has mizu (water) blue, some rouge, and other colors.

    So I was wanting a new stone having just started with straight razors about 9 years ago, having been honing Japanese kitchen knives. I’d tried a few that I had for knives and they worked pretty well. I wasn’t the best at honing back then, but I was at least competent enough to make a reasonable shaving edge. I was used to feeling the straight razor cut the hair, and when I started using this hone, nothing. The edge didn’t feel like anything really, no tactile feeling while shaving. I put it the drawer and went on playing with other stones, but in a few days it dawned on me ... this is what edges are supposed to be like! Butterknife, squeegee, that’s it and down the hole I was. I started wondering if I had an anomaly, but pretty soon I found another, and so on.
  7. basil

    basil Well-Known Member

    Agreed a gritty botan or a thicker diamond slurry will help to set a bevel. I haven’t really tried on my jnat though. I tend to use my coti to start.
  8. basil

    basil Well-Known Member

    I have two ozuku jnats but I tend to reach foe this one first. Here’s a front and back shot of it. The honing surface has an almost cloudy tiger stripe pattern.

    A5108EB9-8563-4F60-A82E-E5A410C6E6A0.jpeg 5D20691B-590C-41C7-B55D-2870940169E4.jpeg
  9. Steve56

    Steve56 Well-Known Member

    Attribution: All below courtesy of Jim Rion's Easten Smooth Blog, now defunct. A lot of the information came from a book cited below. The site is constructed like So Yamashita's site, the link in the address bar just takes you to the main page and this content is buried in past year's posts.


    Japanese Hone Vocabulary

    Welcome to my new project, an illustrated Japanese Hone Vocabulary--My attempt to catalogue all the confusing Japanese terms associated with Japanese natural hones. I'll do my best to research and document as much as I can, and if you can offer any help, email me! Before you do, though, PLEASE make sure you have a reputable source, i.e. someone with real experience in the field.

    My information all comes from professionals in the field, and most particularly from the book "The Charm of Kyoto's Natural Hones", published by the Kyoto Natural Hone association. This group, founded nearly 30 years ago, is an association of miners, wholesalers and researchers dedicated to the promotion and preservation of these natural hones as pieces of Japanese culture and history. These are the men who grade the stones, stamp them with the particular names and qualifications we will see below, and have the years of experience and education that I myself lack.


    Aisa (also called Gousa)-合さ-Direct translation "Meet"(???). A seam in the Honkuchi Naori, in the very middle of the strata. Produces very hard stones. Karasu stones are a very thin seam in the Aisa.

    Aishi Naori-合石成り-Direct Translation "Meeting Stone Strata". A line of hone stone strata that extends from Yuuge, in the North of Kyoto prefecture, southwest to Tomita. Produces stones that are softer than the Honkuchi Naori, and somewhat coarser, but relatively big and clean. The Hideriyama stones are especially famous.

    Asagi-浅黄-Very confusingly, the direct translation is "Light Yellow". Color Variant. According to "The Charm of Kyoto's Natural Hones", Asagi hones are light blue or dark grey, and are usually very pure and hard.


    Botan Nagura-ボタン名倉-Direct Translation, "Peony". The roughest nagura stone used with razors. Cuts very fast.


    Coppa/Koppa-小端-Direct translation "Small part". An irregularly shaped stone, usually smaller in size than the regular benchstones. Often cheaply priced due to their unusual shape.


    Enshou-煙硝-Direct translation, "Gunpowder". A stone with a heavy sulfur content, causing a blueish or blackish color, and on use it can produce some discoloration in steel, and releases a gunpowder smell.


    Higashimono-東物-Direct translation, "Eastern Thing". The mines located to the East of Atago Mountain in Kyoto produce stones from the Honkuchi Naori that are known as "Eastern Things." They are known as the hardest, finest and best of all the hones produced in Japan. Mines include Nakayama, Narutaki Mukaida, Ozaki, Oozuku, Shoubudani and more.

    Honkuchi Naori-本口成り-Direct Translation, "Main Opening Strata". The Honkuchi noari is a line of rock strata that runs for about 20km, from the Narutaki district of Kyoto northwest to Oouchi. The Honkuchi Naori is the source of the hardest, finest hones in Japan. Seams include Tomae (most numerous, synonymous with "Awasedo"), Aisa/Gousa, Suita, and many more (80 seams in total).


    Karasu-カラス・烏-direct translation, "Crow/Raven". Color variant. Light colored stones with black, feathery spots (the black spots are the "raven" part--no spots, no karasu). They come from the Aisa (sometimes called gousa) seam, and tend to be very hard, smooth stones. Stones from this seam are often recommended for fine honing, as for razors.

    Kiita-黄板-Direct translation, "yellow plate/yellow board". Color variant. Stones with a rich, yellow coloration are called "Kiita". They have a reputation for being somewhat softer than the other well known color variant, Asagi. Highly prized, and most commonly associated with the Nakayama mine, though not solely produced there.

    Koma Nagura-コマ名倉/細名倉(??)-Direct translation possibly "fine" but difficult to tell, as usually written in Katakana. The finest nagura, and most expensive. Some call this "Tomonagura," but this is a historical misnomer (according to Iwasaki's Barbering manual).


    Maruoyama-丸尾山- Direct translation "Circle Ridge Mountain" or "Circle Tail Moutain". A "Western Thing" mine northwest of Kyoto, located in the Oouchi district at the intersection of the Honkuchi Naori and the Aishi Naori. Produces stones from three locations-Ashitani, which is in the Aishi Naori, and Ipponmatsu and Gobyo, which both are in the Honkuchi Naori.

    Mejiro Nagura-目白名倉-Direct Translation "White-eye". A middle-range nagura, between Botan and Koma.

    Momiji-もみじ・紅葉-Direct Translation, "Maple, Maple Leaf". Figuration/color variant. The book "The Charm of Kyoto's Natural Hones" lists Momiji as a color/ marking pattern particular to the Suita, making it especially desirable. According to Youzo Tsuchihashi san, 4th generation owner of the Maruoyama hone distributors (Totoriya) and miner, Momiji is the same color variant as Renge (reddish spots) but the spots are considerably bigger than the very fine renge. According to Yasuyuki Bo-oku san, a 3rd generation Kyoto hone wholesaler and distributor, and member of the Kyoto Natural Hone Association, these patterns are prized for their aesthetic qualities, rather than any effect on honing.


    Nagura-名倉-Direct translation, "Famous Warehouse" (not related to anything specific). The best nagura are sourced from a mountain near Mikawa town, in northern Aichi prefecture, Japan. These stones are small, soft chalky stones used to create a succession of slurry "pastes" (In Japan called "Tojiro", hone juice, or "Todoro", hone mud.). Come in a total of 12 varieties, but only 4 concern razor honing. See also "Koma," "Botan," "Tenjou" and "Mejiro."

    Nashiji-梨地・なしじ-Direct Translation "Pear-like". Color variant. According to "The charm of Kyoto's Natural Hones", this is a distinguishing characteristic of Tomae stones. Specifically, it says "A yellow stone with a spotted patter like the skin of a pear." However, there are MANY MANY stones labeled "Nashiji" which are not yellow, and do not look like the skin of a pear...So this is still somewhat controversial. According to Yasuyuki Bo-oku san, a 3rd generation Kyoto hone wholesaler and distributor, and member of the Kyoto Natural Hone Association, these patterns are prized for their aesthetic qualities, rather than any effect on honing.

    Nishimono -西物-Direct Translation "Western Things". The mines arrayed to the west of Atago Mountain, northwest of Kyoto, produce stones called "Western Things." They are not quite as hard, on average, as the Higashimono, but still very fine and of excellent quality. Mines include Oohira, Maruoyama, and many more.


    Renge-蓮華-direct translation, "Lotus Blossom." Figuration/color variant. The book "The Charm of Kyoto's Natural Hones" lists Renge as a color/ marking pattern particular to the Suita, making it especially desirable. Renge are Shiro-suita (white suita) with a fine, distinct reddish/pink, sometimes brown or black, pattern. According to Yasuyuki Bo-oku san, a 3rd generation Kyoto hone wholesaler and distributor, and member of the Kyoto Natural Hone Association, these patterns are prized for their aesthetic qualities, rather than any effect on honing.


    Shoubudani-菖蒲谷-Direct translation, "Iris Valley". The name of the area between Mt. Atago and Kyoto City proper, which also lends its name to one of the "Higashimono" mines, producing top quality finishing hones.

    Su-巣-Direct Translation, "Net, (spider's) web". Su are small holes, ranging from about 1mm to sizes invisible to the naked eye. They are the remnants of gas bubbles trapped in the stone at its formation. They are especially common in the Suita seam (hence the name). They can hold slurry and rough particles in honing, and so caution should be used when honing very fine edge tools.

    Suita-巣板-Direct Translation, "Webbed plate". One seam of the Hon-Kuchi Naori, the layers of rock that produce Kyoto's natural hones.  Very popular, and known to be fast, fine hones. Often have su.

    Sunashi-巣なし-Direct Translation, "No Web". A suita stone with none of the eponymous su.


    Tenjou Nagura-天上名倉- Direct translation "Heaven, Sky". Finer than the Mejiro, but still a midrange nagura.

    Tomae-戸前-Direct Translation, "In front of the door". The most common of the Honkuchi Naori layers (48 of the total 80 are Tomae), and produces a large number of stones. In "The Charm of Kyoto's Natural Hones", there is a section of "Q&A" (it isn't exactly clear who is doing the asking and answering, but anyway...). In the Q&A, it goes "Q: Why are "Tomae" such good "Awasedo"? A: 1) They represent the essence/heart of natural hones. 2) "Tomae" comes from "In front of the storehouse door". 3) Rice was kept in the storehouse. 4) So if a miner reached these stones, he could keep producing them [because the seam is so large] and so he would be able to eat."

    Tomonagura-共名倉-Direct translation "Paired Nagura". Also known as a "Shougata Honzan" 小型本山, meaning "small-form true source mountain". This is a slurry stone, but is NOT one of the white mikawa nagura stones. These are small pieces of a fine finishing stone, a Honyama/Honzan stone, used to raise a fine, pure slurry for finishing purposes. Vital for the traditional Japanese honing method described by Kousuke Iwasaki, and taught to me by my barber.


    Yake-焼け-Literal Translation "Burn, brown". Color variation. Dark golden brown streaks, like the stone has been roasted.
    Leclec13, Edison Carter, brit and 2 others like this.
  10. basil

    basil Well-Known Member

    Is then correct spelling tenjyou or tenjou? I’ve seen both.
    Edison Carter likes this.
  11. Steve56

    Steve56 Well-Known Member

    I’m not sure there is a correct English translation for many Japanese words, so either would do in the English-speaking world.

    Just to make things worse, there’s an upper suita strata by the same name, this strata has no relation to the Mikawa nagura!
    Edison Carter, basil and Keithmax like this.
  12. DaltonGang

    DaltonGang Ol' Itchy Whiskers

    That's a lot of Japanese vocabulary to digest, @Steve56 . I can see me referring back to this, often.
    Keithmax, Edison Carter and Steve56 like this.
  13. DaltonGang

    DaltonGang Ol' Itchy Whiskers

    Just a comparison between a High finishing JNAT, that is very hard and somewhat slow, and a Welsh Slate Stone, which is always slow, rated at around 15k.
    Both were used with several naguras, and ended up with just clear water. Under the 60x Loupe, no difference could be seen between the two, as far as striations.
    They both seem to do a very good job, with the appropriate slurry(That is the Key).

    The top stone is the Welsh. It has several scratches, due to a very hard nagura, I used several weeks ago, when I tried it for a slurry. It was sanded and lapped. The remaining scratches do not effect the honing, just my pride. I will sand it further, in the near future.

  14. DaltonGang

    DaltonGang Ol' Itchy Whiskers

    Japanese "Kuro" Mud Stone Nagura. Approx 1x2 inches.

    Easy to make a slurry. I was told not to soak these, so I didnt. The slurry is somewhat fine, but not a finishing type of fine. Possibly 4-6k grit, from the striations I saw. It works fast, and has a real strong mud, earthy smell.
    I kind of like it. None of the sides are sealed.

  15. Suhrim21

    Suhrim21 Well-Known Member

    I love that razor. My girls favorite color is purple. So now I'm going to have to find that razor for sale.
    DaltonGang, Steve56 and Keithmax like this.
  16. Steve56

    Steve56 Well-Known Member

    They're uncommon, especially in good condition. I know of only one other on the fora that I frequent. If you haunt Yahoo.jp, they occasionally come up, but usually in less good condition. There were a few others that used the same scales, but not with the purple covered tang IIRC.
  17. Suhrim21

    Suhrim21 Well-Known Member

    Thanks for the tips. Gonna have to keep an eye out for one.
    Steve56 likes this.

Share This Page