If you want to be the cook with the coolest looking knife in the kitchen, look no further. Fortunately, looks aren't the only thing this knife has to offer. The Masanobu offers a handsome blend of traditional Japanese aesthetics combined with the modern performance of VG10 steel. In professional kitchens, and increasingly, home kitchens, VG10 knives are fairly common. With the double nickel-silver bolsters, this "wa' handled knife bears a passing resemblance to the popular Shun knives from Kai. However, if the Shun knives are a fusion of Western and Japanese styles, the soul of this one is pure Japanese.
The traditional Japanese "wa" handle isn't terribly familiar to most Western knife users, although courtesy of Shun and the slow migration of Japanese knives out of professional kitchens, it has become more familiar than a few years ago. Unfortunately, there are very few wa-gyutou on the market readily available to western users, and even fewer featuring high performance stainless steel blades, so that alone makes this knife quite unique and well worth consideration. Momentarily setting aside any other concerns, this is a very well made and very well finished knife which will easily hold up to professional use. The blade features the thin geometry for which Japanese makers are known, and comes with a good factory edge. The solid VG10 blade is tempered to 60RC which seems to be the most common hardness for VG10, a level at which it performs very well, with good edge holding ability.
Unfortunately, the impressive aesthetics come at a fairly high price for a knife made of VG10. Were you to remove the handle and replace it with a traditional ho wood handle with water buffalo horn bolster, I suspect the price would be right in line with comparably sized VG10 knives. The up charge associated with a custom or "nicer" handle is fairly common amongst Japanese makers, including everyone from small custom smiths to larger companies. The difference between a "standard" handle versus a "nicer" but still simple handle made from rosewood or ebony, can easily be over $100 USD or more. A handle as nice or "fancy" as the one offered on the Masanobu would almost certainly cost quite a bit more. In the case of the Masanobu, I'd speculate the handle is responsible for anywhere from 30-40% of the cost of the knife. While there aren't any rules about it, a lot of wa handled knives will also come with a saya (wooden scabbard) to protect the blade. I'm somewhat surprised that a knife with this level of refinement doesn't come with one, particularly at this price point.
Of the commonly available wa handled knives on the market, it seems most likely that Masanobu intended this line of knives to compete most directly with the Suisin Inox Honyaki line of wa handled knives, pricing them similarly, and offering a similar mix of sizes and styles. Were I in the market for a 270mm wa-gyutou at this price point, I'd opt for the Suisin if for no other fact than it comes with a saya. When it comes down to it, even though I have a great fondness for wa handled knives and despite the obvious aesthetic charms, the Masanobu is a very expensive VG10 knife. You're paying a lot for the impressive appearance and finish, not the blade steel, so it doesn't offer the best cost to performance ratio. That said, the only two significant points of criticism I can offer are essentially irrelevant to performance: that of cost and the lack of a saya. If the cost isn't a significant concern, I can't think of any reason why someone wouldn't be very pleased with the Masanobu. However, if you have your heart set on a 270mm VG10 wa-gyutou, and have a slightly smaller budget, I'd take a serious look at the Hattori