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Buying Japanese Knives in Japan


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#61 Kiem Hwa

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Posted 28 January 2005 - 12:39 PM

Here is a nice article on Japanese Knife Basics, for someone who is clueless about knives like me.

http://the.honolulua...il20ataste.html

#62 Hiroyuki

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Posted 03 February 2005 - 02:39 AM

Here is a nice article on Japanese Knife Basics, for someone who is clueless about knives like me.

http://the.honolulua...il20ataste.html

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Thank you for the link. I didn't know much about knives, either.

My wife and I use only one knife, bannou bouchou, also known as santoku bouchou. We have more, such as a sashimi bouchou, but stored them in a box for safety reasons when my son (now 8) started to crawl. We don't need them anyway. We can get by with that single knife only, as long as it cuts well. (I am the one who keeps it sharp. My wife never does no matter how many times I tell her to. :angry: . Is this a man's job?)

***
I think the most striking difference between the Japanese and European (and American?) people is the use of the cutting board. We almost always use the cutting board when cutting whereas European people often use a petty knife to cut vegetables and the like just above the pot. Are you like us or them? :biggrin:

Edited by Hiroyuki, 03 February 2005 - 11:16 PM.


#63 Kiem Hwa

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Posted 03 February 2005 - 01:52 PM

I think the most striking difference between the Japanese and European (and American?) people is the use of the cutting board.  We almost always use the cutting board when cutting whereas European people often use a petty knife to cut vegetables and the like just above the pot.  Are you like us or them? :biggrin:

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I always use a cutting board.... it think my knives are not sharp enough to do any aerial cutting...plus, I am probably too clumbsy...and if my BF ever caught me "dangerously" chopping, he'd scold me.... :biggrin:

On the cooking shows here in the US, I think I usually see the chefs using cutting boards...maybe it depends on what is being cooked? I'll pay more attention next time Im watching....

#64 EdS

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Posted 05 February 2005 - 01:07 AM

...
I think the most striking difference between the Japanese and European (and American?) people is the use of the cutting board.  We almost always use the cutting board when cutting whereas European people often use a petty knife to cut vegetables and the like just above the pot.  Are you like us or them? :biggrin:

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My mom never used a cutting board. She did everything with a large paring knife doing just like you said. She was born and raised in Hawaii and would make some Japanese-inspired dishes like teriyaki chicken or beef. However, the presentation was very non-Japanese. Everything was kind of dumped on one plate until there was no more room. I guess that is Hawaiian plate lunch style! :biggrin:

#65 itch22

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Posted 04 April 2005 - 09:19 AM

I am interested in find out from Japanese cooks here on eGullet about their experience with traditional Japanese knives.

I am looking at getting the following: deba, usuba (and maybe a nakiri), and a yanagi-ba (or a tako-biki). I have some concerns though...

First is a reliable brand that produces professional grade knives. Kikuichi look great but are too expensive for me right now. Some of their knives top $1000.00 USD. Realistically I am looking at maybe MAC or Masahiro. What brands, available to the west, do any of you prefer?

The second is more of a concern. Traditional Japanese knives are made from carbon steel or a carbon derivative. According to Chad's knife clinic, the high acidity of fruits, vegitables, and other sources in a kitchen can cause micro-rusting and will eat away at the blade's edge. However, is this really a problem or any seriousness? Many Japanese and non-Japanese chefs must use carbon I am sure.

So what I am asking is, anyone here who has used carbon steel Japanese knives please let me know how they preformed for you. I'm primarily interested in how they preformed in the professional kitchen environment, because that's where my knives will be, but all experiences are welcomed.
-- Jason

#66 torakris

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Posted 04 April 2005 - 02:49 PM

The second is more of a concern.  Traditional Japanese knives are made from carbon steel or a carbon derivative.  According to Chad's knife clinic, the high acidity of fruits, vegitables, and other sources in a kitchen can cause micro-rusting and will eat away at the blade's edge.  However, is this really a problem or any seriousness?  Many Japanese and non-Japanese chefs must use carbon I am sure.


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I can't help too much with the Japanese knives as all the knives I use are German. :shock:
But I can tell you that most Japanese houses that I have helped cook in have rusty knives, some much worse than others. I think you really have to be meticulous in your care of them.

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#67 wattacetti

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Posted 04 April 2005 - 03:44 PM

Torakris uses German steel? :shock:

I have been replacing my Wustofs with Kershaw (KAI) Shun; these have an offset (so they're useless if you're a southpaw), a D-handle and are made of their own VG10 stainless steel mix. There is a Pro line which adheres to traditional designs: a nakiri is available, as are 3 lengths of deba and 2 yanagibas so you're only out of luck on the usuba.

I have two from the Classic line (10" chef and boning knife) and two from the Pro (4 and 8" debas). They're all very sharp and easy to maintain with no worry of rusting. The Pros are very heavy and on par with the Wustofs in weight. Macs were nice too but I liked the feel of the Shuns better.

#68 jayt90

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Posted 04 April 2005 - 05:14 PM

I use the 7" stainless clad carbon knife from Lee Vally. It gets abused a lot, and no nicks or corrosion occurs. It was a good intro for me.

#69 helenjp

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Posted 04 April 2005 - 06:42 PM

Barebones info on steel types used in J knives. As they say, the line between "carbon steel" and "stainless steel" is even more blurred than it used to be.

Itch22, regarding nicking and rusting....are they a problem with carbon steel knives? Yes and no....

Following is a not very good close-up of a $20 25-year old supermarket stainless steel general purpose Japanese knife from Kaicut. I use it every day, it's very useful, but the blade shows scattered pitting all along it (most visible in marked area) and the edge has fine nicks in it - these supermarket knives look nice, but the blade edges nick more easily than any of my better knives. They sharpen fairly easily, but also lose their edge faster than my better knives. However, nothing could make them rust.
Posted Image

Below are my two favorite handmade knives, both bought in Sakai, Osaka, 25 years ago. The top one I rarely use now, because it was stored very badly for several years (my mother moved it out of its cradle and into a damp cardboard box in the basement...). I cannot find anybody to repair it, and it has rusted fairly badly (though only surface rust) and the blade has nicked a little. (It looks nicked in the photo, but that's just the toweling pile, sorry...). However, it is not pitted...it is a straight-up carbon steel knife with a white-handle blade and water buffalo-horn casing, needs careful handling, but it has stood up well to 25 years of use, and sadly, abuse. I have other, cheaper knives of the same type which have rusted extremely badly in storage.

The bottom one is my darling, also carbon-steel, but stain-resistant. I don't know exactly what alloy. It has a red wood handle and a stainless steel casing. It has a tiny amount of rust still remaining after poor storage, but no pitting and the blade edge is in beautiful condition. I am very careful to clean and dry it frequently even during use. I think it really does combine the best of old and new technology, and I would rather have more knives of this type than the white-handled type. I do have a heavy-bladed deba of the same type, which is also a joy to use. I have large hands, so I don't find the slight extra weight compared to the surprisingly light white-handled knives any problem.
Posted Image

As for professionals, I think many of them do use more modern knives, but even if they use the very traditional carbon steel, they have access to professional knife-grinders and repair shops which are becoming hard to find, even in Japan.

Edited by helenjp, 04 April 2005 - 06:49 PM.


#70 itch22

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Posted 05 April 2005 - 06:11 AM

Torakris uses German steel? :shock:

I have been replacing my Wustofs with Kershaw (KAI) Shun; these have an offset (so they're useless if you're a southpaw), a D-handle and are made of their own VG10 stainless steel mix. There is a Pro line which adheres to traditional designs: a nakiri is available, as are 3 lengths of deba and 2 yanagibas so you're only out of luck on the usuba.

I have two from the Classic line (10" chef and boning knife) and two from the Pro (4 and 8" debas). They're all very sharp and easy to maintain with no worry of rusting. The Pros are very heavy and on par with the Wustofs in weight. Macs were nice too but I liked the feel of the Shuns better.

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They look nice. I'll need to find a place that carries them so I can try them, see if the feel is nice. I am worried about being not able to find a Japanese style knife for myself as I have big hands.

Some brands I am considering: Masahiro, Kershaw Shun, Masamoto-Sohonten, and MAC. Anyone here use masahiro or masamoto-sohonten? There is a brief reference to masahiro in this other forum.

EDIT: Here is a site I found during my research I want to share with you. It's a site dedicated to Japanese knives and is in English. www.japanese-knife.com

Edited by itch22, 05 April 2005 - 06:32 AM.

-- Jason

#71 helenjp

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Posted 05 April 2005 - 09:04 AM

My workhorse knife (red wood handle bottom in the photo of 2 knives) is a Masaomi, which is a sub-brand of Masahiro. Masahiro specialize in good kitchen knives rather than professional knives, but they are well respected in Japan.

My traditional carbon-steel knives are from Ichimonji, a well-known maker in Osaka (e.g. the white-handled knife at top in the photo of 2 knives). From memory, they were more expensive than the Masaomi knife.

My deba was a fairly expensive knife and has a solid blade. It has the maker's name 玄忠 which I assume is read Genchuu. I don't know anything about this maker, except that it's been a good knife to use, but I believe Masahiro handles their products.

#72 itch22

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Posted 05 April 2005 - 10:30 AM

I have found on the above posted site a line of Korin that uses 8A stainless steel for their blades. Might be best for what I am going to using them for. The proper cleaning techniques used for carbon steel to prevent staining does not meet the guidlines of the health inspector or my chef/boss.

The problem with professional Japanese kitchen knives is they are several times more expensive than western kitchen knives. It must be the quality, artistry, and traditional forging techniques used. I bet a young Japanese chef who weilds a professional Japanese knife is probably connected to centuries of tradition, a culinary ancestory of sorts. I feel nothing when I pick up my wusthof, just like when I pick up a hammer or screw driver.
-- Jason

#73 russ parsons

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Posted 05 April 2005 - 11:18 AM

i tried out a bunch of gyutous for a story this christmas and am totally converted. my workhorse knife is a misono ux-10. every time i used it i am amazed.

#74 prasantrin

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Posted 05 April 2005 - 03:48 PM

My workhorse knife (red wood handle bottom in the photo of 2 knives) is a Masaomi, which is a sub-brand of Masahiro. Masahiro specialize in good kitchen knives rather than professional knives, but they are well respected in Japan.

My traditional carbon-steel knives are from Ichimonji, a well-known maker in Osaka (e.g. the white-handled knife at top in the photo of 2 knives). From memory, they were more expensive than the Masaomi knife.

My deba was a fairly expensive knife and has a solid blade. It has the maker's name¬† 玄忠 which I assume is read Genchuu. I don't know anything about this maker, except that it's been a good knife to use, but I believe Masahiro handles their products.

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How did you decide on on the knives you purchased? Was your decision based on brand, first, feel second? In Japan, amongst my friends who really cook, it seems they pay a lot of attention to artisanship (and, therefore, name). A couple of my friends have custom-made knives, but from where I don't remember. They would be out of my budget-range, unfortunately. I would like to purchase a knife or two while I'm here again, but don't know where to start. I have to consider maintenance once I've returned to Canada, though.

Have you ever been to Seki in Gifu? I've been wanting to go for the Cutlery Festival--on the second Saturday and Sunday in October. I thought it would be as good a place as any to take a look at Japanese knives :biggrin: .

Edited to add: Japanese Chef's Knife seems to be a very good commercial site--they claim their prices are less than Japanese retail. They offer a wide variety of Japanese knives. They do seem to have good prices, but I've not done much comparison shopping as of yet (I did check to see if the site had been posted to e-Gullet, yet, but my search skills on e-Gullet suck--or the search function on e-Gullet sucks). Any opinions? They also have a section on how to sharpen your Japanese knife.

Edited by prasantrin, 05 April 2005 - 04:12 PM.


#75 helenjp

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Posted 05 April 2005 - 06:41 PM

I feel nothing when I pick up my wusthof

Now THERE I can't agree! I know I spend ten minutes looking for my favorite ballpoint pen to write a one-line memo...it's a pleasure to use something that works efficiently!

How did you decide on on the knives you purchased?


I was hoping nobody was going to ask that :raz: . At the time, I was cooking carefully from big-name Japanese chef books on classical Japanese cookery, but I knew little about the tools...I would read up on materials and technology, but as I wasn't taking lessons, I didn't have anybody to say "This is what you're looking for." There surely was a known ranking for knife makers, but the information wasn't accessible to me back then!

So on my regular trips to Namba, in Osaka, I just looked at products and prices, and hefted knives until I found what I wanted. I knew nothing about the brands of knives I purchased until years later, sorry. I'm pretty sure, looking at my other kitchen equipment bought around then, that I did a lot of damage at the Ichimonji shop - I still use various molds and graters I bought there too! I probably spent around 6,000-12,000 yen per knife. Even if prices have doubled, that's not more than 30,000 yen on any one knife.

The only problem with entry-level knives is that you may see some which command high prices simply because they are handmade, not because they are really good knives. If you go with a reputable maker, though, the "entry level" handmade knives will still be of excellent quality. Pro knives should be around 25,000 to 60,000 yen, and the lower half of that range is where I'd look. Anything over that starts getting into an area where it's hard to separate product value from brand name value -but I don't really know enough about the differences to comment.

I don't recommend buying from department stores - too many gimmicky knives at outrageous prices. Some department stores may carry good knives, but how would you know unless you were an expert? Much better to go to a specialty shop.

I've never been to Seki, sorry.

The Japanese Chef's Knife site does look good, though of course I know nothing about their services...

Maintenance...the plain carbon steel ones are not only the highest maintenance, they are not supposed to be cleaned with hot water, or anything much harsher than soap. Since most Japanese cooking is not really greasy, and regular sharpening also cleans off dirty surfaces, that's no problem for home use. If you are using your knives in a professional kitchen, it is an important consideration - why not send an e-mail to some place like the JCK site and see what blade types they recommend for pro use?

#76 itch22

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Posted 06 April 2005 - 04:48 AM

I feel nothing when I pick up my wusthof

Now THERE I can't agree! I know I spend ten minutes looking for my favorite ballpoint pen to write a one-line memo...it's a pleasure to use something that works efficiently!

View Post


Yes, it is always nice to have something that works well, which is becoming increasingly rarer these days... :hmmm: I just meant that my wusthof, and many western knives, don't carry the same kind of traditions in its manufacturing. New wusthof knives are developed in laboratory style settings and finished in marketing rooms. The high end knife makers of Seki and other areas have a much more organic approach to the evolution of their knife designs. They seem more... alive.

Maintenance...the plain carbon steel ones are not only the highest maintenance, they are not supposed to be cleaned with hot water, or anything much harsher than soap. Since most Japanese cooking is not really greasy, and regular sharpening also cleans off dirty surfaces, that's no problem for home use. If you are using your knives in a professional kitchen, it is an important consideration - why not send an e-mail to some place like the JCK site and see what blade types they recommend for pro use?

View Post


Korin makes a line that are traditional Japanese knives with honiki wood handles and resin bolsters, but utilize a blend of stainless steel for blade construction. You can see them here. I think this is the route I might have to go. At work I am required to wash my knife in hot soapy water, which worries me about the impact of this on the carbon steel blades of other lines of Japanese knives. In the future I may buy some really nice, really expensive carbon steel Japanese knives for home use where I can use only hot water (no soap) to clean them, as recommended by Japanese knife manufacturers' sites. At least at home the health inspector can't get me.

Edited by itch22, 06 April 2005 - 04:51 AM.

-- Jason

#77 MomOfLittleFoodies

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Posted 08 April 2005 - 07:54 PM

I prefer German style knives myself, but my husband has knives similar to the two that helenjp has in that second picture. He bought his for about $20 each at the local Asian market though. They're ok now that I'm used to them.
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#78 Octaveman

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Posted 16 April 2005 - 09:37 AM

I just happened across this thread and can add some comments.

You can get decent traditional knives at very reasonable prices. I'm not a sushi chef but I do eat a lot of sushi at various places around town. Every one of them use stainless of some form so I can't really comment on what is widely used carbon steel or stainless. I do know that carbon is the traditional material and gives the knife an extra weight to it over stainless because of the addition of iron to support the hard carbon steel core. There are white steel and blue steel. White steel can take a sharper edge but Blue steel holds it's edge longer. If you haven't purchased wetstones or waterstones and learned how to sharpen your own knives, this is a must if you are to own Japanese knives. Norton and King are excellent brands and are inexpensive. I would get a 200 or 400, 1000 and a 5000 grit stone. There are combination stones that give two different grits on both sides and is cheaper than buying the stones individually. HERE is a site that has them the cheapest.

THIS SITE as mentioned above has plenty of brands and lines to view. I have made several purchases from Koki and am fully convinced that the prices are the best on the net, the customer service is outstanding and the $7 shipping from from Japan for delivery in less than a week can't be surpassed. I have heard of people ordering their knife on a Thursday and getting in the mail Tuesday...from Japan!!

THIS SITE is another site that has many inexpensive traditional knives. I bought my wife a carbon steel Hon Kasumi Yanagi for $70. Look around, they're stuff is quality and their located in San Francisco bay area.

THIS SITE is the same as Japanese-Knife.com but is better organized. These guys are typically higher in price than anyone I've come across so keep that in mind when you make your purchase. My very first Yanagi was from Korin. I purchased Korin brand Ginzanko stainless Yanagi in 240mm. I got it on sale last year but their not on sale now. But I like it a lot but not enough to keep. Why? Because it's short and it's too light for a Yanagi. As I've ben told, there should be no downward pressure as you slice the fish. The weight of the knife is all that is exerted as you move the knife across the fish to slice. This knife doesn't cut it so to speak.

THIS SITE is Shinichi Watanabe's website and he hand makes every single knife. I have a blue steel deba from him that only cost $160. His knives may be out of some people's price point but I have to tell you that his knives are very high quality and you will be hard pressed to find better quality for the price...anywhere! Plus, his knives come sharper out of the box than any other brand (other than Murray Carter). My next Yanagi will be from Shinichi ever since I've seen one first hand and was in awe of his work. Seriously consider these knives as they will be the best you'll likely ever own. For example, you can get a 240mm Yanagi in white steel for $150 in his Master Grade professional knive's area. It's a no brainer to me.

THIS SITE is another place that I've looked at but have yet to buy from them so I can't lend an opinion about their offerings. Check them out as they also have a great selection. Check out the Kumagoro brand Yanagi. I heard about someone who just bought this and really likes it. $80 and you get a saya. Not bad at all.



Well, I gotta go, but you should be able to find something you can afford. To make a choice between stainless and carbon steel is tough. It depends on your personal thoughts, can you keep it clean and wipe it down or do you lay it down without wiping it? Carbon steel is the hands down choice for sharpness capability, weight and durability. SS will not be as sharp nor will it stay there as long as CS. White versus blue is a close call. The Blue has some stainless properties (but not stainless) in it but is more expensive than white. Many people can't tell the difference in shaprness and kurenga or duration of sharpness between the two so why spend the extra bucks on something that you won't notice? My next Yanagi will be in white. There is also Aogami super steel. This is a very good steel and if you see it at a reasonable price, get it. Koki has Miromoto and they make knives in AS.

Hope this helps. If you have any questions feel free to send me a PM.

Cheers,
Bob

p.s. There is a huge amount of information on Japanese knives here at Knife Forums.com in the Kitchen forum.

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#79 ChefJeff

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Posted 19 April 2005 - 08:43 PM

I'm in Tokyo for the week - are there any places one can purchase Japanese cutlery ?

Any problems with traveling back home (US) with such purchase in stowed luggage ?

Will be in Shanghai and Bangkok next couple of weeks - any options on purchase there ?

Thanks

#80 torakris

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Posted 20 April 2005 - 01:06 AM

here is a previous Japanese knife thread, with more specific locations

Your best bet would be in Kappabashi...

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#81 ducphat30

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Posted 11 July 2005 - 03:15 PM

Looking for a couple of recommendations for knife shops/makers in Osaka. The corporate chef (of the company I work for) and one of my sous chefs will be in Osaka (the Hyatt) for a chefs' exchange program, and I want them to pick me up some blades.

Looking for deals, but more importantly looking for something that I wouldn't normally find in the USA. I know this is rather vague, looking more an 11" slicer and a 6" boning knife, thin blade, not flexible-very much like the misono style handles, as well as the MAC handles. Quality and "something special".

Open to any suggestions. Need to know by this weekend.

Thanks in advance for the help.

Ducphat30
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#82 Hiroyuki

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Posted 11 July 2005 - 04:41 PM

Sorry, I can't give you much information.

How about visiting Doguyasuji?
http://www.doguyasuji.or.jp/
(Japanese only)
http://www.doguyasuj...ang/english.htm
(English)

#83 russ parsons

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Posted 11 July 2005 - 05:31 PM

have you checked out knifeforums? those guys are mad dog. i'll bet they know.

#84 torakris

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Posted 11 July 2005 - 05:47 PM

take a look at 2 previous threads we have had, this first one also specifically discussed palces in Osaka:

http://forums.egulle...showtopic=32371

http://forums.egulle...64983&hl=knives

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#85 Richard J

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Posted 22 July 2005 - 01:47 PM

JC tells us that there are two Masamoto knifemakers in Tokyo, one at Sumida and the other at Tsukiji. Is this like Sabatier in the fragmented old days? Certainly, there were vast quality differences then (I speak of late 1960s, early 1970s Sabatiers). I ask for this reason: I ordered a western-shaped Masamoto from Korin a while ago and had to return it because, while the blade was quite good, the handle was like a junior high school shop project: projecting metal made it enormously uncomfortable to use. Are the Tsukiji Masamotos different/better? Or is it a completely different outfit - different steel, different shapes, different sharpening, etc.? I'll be in Tokyo for a few days in April, and this information will find a practical application.

Thanks.

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Does anybody know what/if there is a difference in workmanship? I understand that the shop in Tsukiji is the original location for Masamoto. There are only three distributors in the US for the Tsukiji blades (wholesale only) and there are quite a few retailers for the Sohonten blades. I'm guessing it is the same family but must have split off at some point.

#86 Hiroyuki

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Posted 22 July 2005 - 04:53 PM

Does anybody know what/if there is a difference in workmanship? I understand that the shop in Tsukiji is the original location for Masamoto. There are only three distributors in the US for the Tsukiji blades (wholesale only) and there are quite a few retailers for the Sohonten blades. I'm guessing it is the same family but must have split off at some point.

View Post

I googled, only to find that there is surprisingly little information on the subject.
I sent an inquiry to someone who might know.
Hope I get a reply from him.

#87 Richard J

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Posted 25 July 2005 - 08:37 AM

Does anybody know what/if there is a difference in workmanship? I understand that the shop in Tsukiji is the original location for Masamoto. There are only three distributors in the US for the Tsukiji blades (wholesale only) and there are quite a few retailers for the Sohonten blades. I'm guessing it is the same family but must have split off at some point.

View Post

I googled, only to find that there is surprisingly little information on the subject.
I sent an inquiry to someone who might know.
Hope I get a reply from him.

View Post


I went to the presentation and show on Saturday and they said that all of the knives made at the Tsukiji shop are made by hand. Several of the Sohonten knives are machine manufactured (some hand finished, others all machine).

I am still a bit confused about the knife I purchased at the Tsukiji shop. I know that Masamoto is stamped on the knive and there a small circle stamp they put on the knives that are better quality but my knife also has an "A" stamped on the knife which I think means that it is Aoko (blue steel). There are also a couple of characters stamped on the back side of the knife.

When talking to the woman working at the show, I was unclear which Masamoto made the knife. She said that she thought it came from the sister company (Sohonten) but wasn't sure and said I should talk to the president of the company (he gave a knife sharpening demonstration at the show). Of course, he spoke very little English and I speak no Japanese.

Anyway, I didn't purchase another knife at the show even though they had the knives marked down 25% from wholesale price (I think it is still cheaper to purchase them in Tokyo). I'll probably have my sister pick up a 240mm or 300mm Honyaki Yanagiba from there. The other nice thing about purchasing the knife there is that you can choose which buffalo horn ring you want for the handle at the shop (most are black and mine is white with brown streaking). And, they will stamp your name on your knife for free there.

#88 Hiroyuki

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Posted 25 July 2005 - 05:20 PM

Got a reply from him.
He said he didn't know, but said he will ask someone the next time he goes to Tsukiji.

#89 torakris

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Posted 22 January 2006 - 09:47 PM

I am not really a knife person and don't want (and can't afford to) spend a lot of money on knives.

I just found this set of 6 knives made here in Japan for an unbelievable price.
I have really wanted a sashimi knife and shellfish knife for a while now. The price in US $ is $190 but the Japanese site gives a price of 15,000 yen (about $130), this almost seems too cheap.....

I have never owned a Japanese knife before.. :sad:

Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"
Manager, Membership
kwagner@egstaff.org


#90 budrichard

budrichard
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Posted 23 January 2006 - 01:54 PM

As an Enigneer with background in metalurgy, A long time custom Knife Collector and amatuer chef, I purchased my first sashimi knife about 20 years ago from a commercial Japanese supply house in the US. It is a laminate with a hard steel core and soft steel outer. This makes it much easier to sharpen. It can attain a razor edge, fairly quickly. It will discolor/rust if not kept oiled but after 20 years, no problems.
Wanting a true honyagi for many years, i surveyed the Japanese knife commercial market and found that i could spend over $2000USD for a top quality knife from a commercial supply house in the US. I contacted Murray Carter who was making knives in Japan at the time and asked him to act as a broker for an artizen made Honyagi sashimi knife with ebony/ivory handle and scabbard. Murray had one made for me by Kenichi Shiraki from Hitachi 1 White Steel. Cost was $3000USD delivered. Murray makes this type of knife but understood that I wanted one from a top Japanese maker. These knives are rare in the West and are used only by the purchaser and have to be valued by the user. This knife is an excellent performer as well as a stunning knife cosmetically. A Sushiya will probably get one of these at some time in career and it will stay with him always. They start out at 33cm and wear down. 33cm is quite long, so i like 27 to 30 cm as I probably won't wear it down much. Certainly the price is not for everyone but there are many good Japanese makers at a lower price point. This smith http://www.shop.niim...en/index_e.html makes as good a knife as anyone. I have met him personally and have one of his Yanagibabocho AS (double-edged) 27cm. It is the sharpest knife i own. Since it is double sided and not a mirror polished like a yanagi, it has some drag while cutting raw fish for Sushi/Sashimi. I currently have a traditional Yanagi with Ivory/Ebony on order from him.
For a first time Japanese knife user, I would purchase a commercial laminate blade with honoki wood handle. Learn how to correctly sharpen and care for the blade as well as how to correctly use. After gaining some experience, purchase a higher grade knife that may be slightly sharper but will have more hand work.
I believe that the top Japanese knives rarely make it out of Japan because of the expense and maybe the Japanese don't believe Westerners are worthy.
BTW- For normal kitchen cutlery, i have an extensive collection of Wusthof learning long ago that most of the custom knives available may cut extremely well but the hodgepodge of blade shapes and handles makes going from one style of knife to the next difficult. The wusthof traditional handle knives all feel the same and the blades all cut with the same shaprness. To view the entire line of Wusthof knives, you need to acquire a full set of catalogs as what is generally listed on sites is short blades for smaller stature individuals. -Dick