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rgruby

Japanese Knives – What to Buy?

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A few more words about these now that I've had a few days to play with them.

Been using the Usuba daily; my skills are progressing slowly but that's no fault of the knife.

Broke out the deba today to debone and butcher a big hunk of BlueFin my wife scored today (she works in Fish Harbor). It too was a pleasure to use and capable of remarkably precise, even delicate, cuts.

The yanigiba sahshimified the tuna effortlessly.

This all is still using the factory edges - I suspect even better times are in store once I work the knives on the stones a bit.

IMHO these knives are a steal.


Edited by 6ppc (log)

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So, work has me headed to Japan (Tokyo) and Korea (Jeju Island) next week. Thinking about getting myself a treat while I'm over there... If you had to bring back a Japanese knife, which knife would you bring back?

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Blether   

If I had to bring something back, I'd definitely drop by Japan Sword in Toranomon (right in central Tokyo). The top page there is a little inaccessible, but there's lots of English explanation and description as you drill down. It's a shame you're not here between June 30th and July 6th, Japan Sword's also connected with the exhibition by modern swordsmith Miyairi Kozaemon-Yukihira at Takashimaya in Nihonbashi.

At the budget end, I'd pick up something from this list

http://www.japansword.co.jp/mcargoe/price-e.htm

- say a Makie Matsutaka katana with a 71-cm blade: just like the tuna-cutters at Tsukiji, but fancier ! Then I'd get into your actual butchery of whole animals with it, and learn more about meat from the carcass stage to the primal cut. I might even try going out to hunt my own game - just when Bambi thought it was safe to go into the woods, bam !

At the high end, my own choice would be the 19.6cm Sadaichi Gassan Japanese-Navy-style tanken copy listed at #2 in the second modern sword list here. (I hope this works out, it's about 3/5 or 2/3 of the way down that whole page, in case the link takes you to the page top). Gassan was born the third son of swordsmith Sadakatsu Gassan in 1907, and created a living national treasure in 1971. I'd have something no-one else was cooking with, an excellent topic of conversation even for non-knife fans, and an instant get-out-of-jail-free card when I encountered a boring knife loony. Perfect.

But then I'm a sailor - that knife might not speak to you. And you'll be richer - or less of a cheapskate, anyway - than I am. If you really want to push the boat out, there's really no limit to how exclusive a blade you can score there.

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Hiroyuki   

If you happen to be a Shigefusa fan, and if you ever visit Shibuya for whatever reason (you may want to see the now world-famous "scramble crossing" at first hand, right?), consider dropping by Yoshizawa Riko.

Website showing the Shifefusa knives that they sell

Some info of this shop can be found here in my blog, although the information here is outdated.

Anyway, have a nice trip to my country!

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helenjp   

Actually what I need is not so much a place to buy knives, as a place to give the ones I have a little TLC...any recommendations for the greater Tokyo area?

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Blether   

Actually what I need is not so much a place to buy knives, as a place to give the ones I have a little TLC...any recommendations for the greater Tokyo area?

To answer obtusely - the Apex Edgepro isn't cheap, but it's excellent How many knives are you talking about ? If you'd rather not incur expenses, bring them over and help defray mine.

Otherwise generic reply - try Tokyu Hands. Of course I go there at the drop of a hat even when I've no particular requirements. I'd be really interested to hear what alternatives you have or discover. If I didn't have the Edgepro, I'd start with a google for local 刃物店 / hamono-ten / blade shops, though I'm sure that's not an idea you're short of.

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If you happen to be a Shigefusa fan, and if you ever visit Shibuya for whatever reason (you may want to see the now world-famous "scramble crossing" at first hand, right?), consider dropping by Yoshizawa Riko.

I found them, and came home with 2 knives. Will put up pictures later. Thanks for the advice, Hiroyuki, I'm looking forward to doing some chopping (figure that I'll wait until the jet lag and general exhaustion passes, so as not to chop my fingers off - anyone ever notice that the impairment that comes with being awake for 29 hours straight is not unlike being drunk...).

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Hiroyuki   

Thanks for your report!

My Shigefusa nakiri is still razor-sharp, and I still enjoy working with it.

Properly sharpen Japanese knives... That's my problem, too.

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Anyone ever bought anything from chefknivestogo.com ? They look like they have a good selection of Japanese knives at fair prices, but the only mention I could find here is a plug from a friend of the owner's.

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Dakki   

I bought a Ken Onion 10" chef's from them once, about 3 years ago. Didn't like the knife, passed it along.

No problems with the site or service, might use it again.

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Anyone ever bought anything from chefknivestogo.com ? They look like they have a good selection of Japanese knives at fair prices, but the only mention I could find here is a plug from a friend of the owner's.

I have not personally purchased from them but there is a lot of positive feedback on foodieforums and knifeforums, two boards with a high number of Japanese knife enthusiasts

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lets put it this way if you want an item and they have it you are a fool for shopping anywhere else online.

fast shipping and competitive or better pricing and on the rare occasion some sort of unforseen issue arises they are super fast to remedy the situation.

easily one of the best internet vendors I have ever dealt with

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I also recommend Chefknivestogo. Mark is very active on knifeforums and is very responsive in terms of customer service. Also, if you are a member of knifeforums, there is a 5% discount for members. japanesechefsknife.com is also good.

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I purchased a Hattori petty from CKTG - great service, and Mark's presence on the 'In The Kitchen' forum at Knife Forums is really helpful. He's always looking to bring cool goodies to market, even when he sometimes has to accept very slim profit margins. His current project, commissioning a semi-custom carbon knife by Devin Thomas at an affordable price is just one reason to support him.

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I agree fully with your assessment of Mark from CKTG, and I cannot wait until those Devin Thomas knives get in. He also has started carrying the HandAmerican glass honing rods, which is nice . Chef Knives to Go is quickly becoming the 'candy store' for knife nuts.

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The Devin Thomas knives are certainly the ones I lust for at the moment.

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If you really want a bargain in a Japanese knife take a look at these. They are the Tosagata brand and for the money you get really good knives for a super cheap price. They are rough around the edges (no pun) but I'll tell ya, the blades are really good and they are sturdy knives. The Satsuma knife is a new one they started offering and looks like a great prep knife. The Atsu Deba is super tough. I have the small chopping knife and it's done a great job so far.

I looked at that website... How can they have blue steel knives at such a high RC and be soooo cheap??

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they are very rustic and the handles are really cheap crap but they work well. I have a couple of santoku/kirisuke like knives in blue steel that were under $40 each and stay very sharp and resist chipping. I got them as beater knives but use them quite a lot for regular prep work.

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Mano   

Six months ago I purchased my first Japanese knife, a Kagayaki Carbonext gyuto, 240 mm which is a western version of a traditional Japanese chef’s knife. The handle is essentially the same as my Wusthoff as opposed to the stick-type or “wa” handles. Japanese knives have stronger, thinner and lighter blades. This Carbonext has a 15 degree 60/40 bevel compared to a 30 degree 50/50 for a western knife. The flatter profile blade makes more contact with food.

Overall, j knives are more maneuverable and require far less force when cutting. A light grip allows for better feedback and the sharp edge and thin blade smoothly cuts through tomatoes, onions and proteins.

At the upper end of entry-level j knives it cost $128 + $20 for a magnolia wood saya (wooden sheath), which you have to know to ask for in an email. Two synthetic water-stones for sharpening were another $100 and should last a lifetime.

After using it daily for everything but boning I love using this knife. My sharpening skills are just developing but takes and holds a terrific edge. A CIA and French trained chef at a cooking class was impressed with balance, performance and “wished my knives were this sharp.”

During the first few weeks my learning curve was slow as I want to move faster than my ability allowed so I made more mistakes and cut myself more than usual. Slowing down gave better control. Cuts are thinner and cleaner.

Subsequently, I bought a honesuki (boning knife) and sujihiki (slicer) which I’ll report later.

The Carbonext is the Camry or Accord of j knives. Plain, very good in all respects and affordable.


Edited by Mano (log)

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Those look interesting. I'm curious about tool steel knives but haven't ever had one.

FWIW, there are many, many great Japanese knives available right now. Several are contenders for the title of Camry or Accord. Typically, last year's contender will have gotten popular and then expensive, and so a new unknown will appear, seemingly out of nowhere, as the next great bargain.

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Hassouni   

I have a Tojiro DP gyuto, 240mm. I think it's wonderful, though it's due for a sharpening. I'm strongly considering a deba for fish and poultry butchering purposes, as well as either a nakiri or usuba. It's the latter two I have questions about:

1. I've read on here and elsewhere that a gyuto can do everything a nakiri can and more - so what advantages does a nakiri have?

2. ditto re: an usuba is only for certain techniques, and there are many things it cannot do. I am not particularly interested in katsuramuki, so given that, what are the pros and cons of an usuba?

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