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cteavin

Japanese knives

19 posts in this topic

Hi,

I live in Japan and would like to purchase high quality knives, specifically boning, vegetable, and paring knives. I went to kappabashi a few years ago and was sold shoddy knives at an inflated price. I'm back in the market and would prefer customer recommendations instead of some shop staff with stock to peddle.

Cheers,

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The first thing to do is to study a little what are the best metal in steel and stainless steel for kitchen knives.

If you have good metal, you are half way there for a good knife.

The other half is to select a style that you are comfortable with.

dcarch

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And the best steel for you. A softer steel will gain an edge and hold it but it'll be sharpened easily. Acids and wear will dull the blade. A hard blade will hold it's edge longer but the same wear and tear applies and they can be brittle, and harder to sharpen. It might take a lot of skill to properly hone too.

Also does one want a knife with heft to aid the slicing, chopping process or something lighter and thinner that'll glide through the target material but will require more effort at times?

Some of my embarrassingly cheaper knives are my favorites, though I cannot discount the value of the more expensive ones. So it's a balance of economics vs wear and tear and how one will use the knives.

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Thanks guys. But can either of you recommend a brand? If I start with reputable companies I can hone down my choices much more easily.

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I hear Hattori Hanzo is reputable?

Unfortunately I only have German steel forged in China or Chinese steel forged in the same factories. Both are great.

Perhaps this will produce some inspiration.

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If you are handy, you can buy the steel and make your own.

dcarch

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I love my Togiharu Inox Steel Santoku.

I've bought it as a present for 3 others and they've all loved it as well.

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You probably won't find any of those brands in Kappabashi. Go for Misono if you like modern style or Masamoto for traditional. From memory, Tsuikiji outer market has Masamoto, Sugimoto and Nenohi shops. All are excellent makers.


Edited by Prawncrackers (log)

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Find this guy http://shop.niimi.okayama.jp/kajiya/english/index.html

He makes his own, is not particulary cheap but not in the upper range of many Japanese knifemakers.

He comes to the US a few times a ayear and that's how I met him.

I have 5 of his knives, scary sharp, well made and will last.-Dick

Alternatively, purchase this book. http://www.amazon.com/Japanese-Kitchen-Knives-Essential-Techniques/dp/4770030762


Edited by budrichard (log)

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Thank you all very much. It's a good start.

Happy cutting!

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I too would recommend reading over the reports on various knife specific forums. I've spent months lurking on the above linked forum, and have learned a lot.

One thing that was mentioned not too long ago was that knives bought from large retail stores would have a significant mark-up over smaller knife specific vendors.

I have a few Japanese knives. Of the kinds you mention, the closest I have is a Hattori HD petty. It is a complete delight to use. Nimble, and beautiful, I've only had to touch it up about once every 6 months.

If you don't mind, what did you buy that was disappointing?

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Pretty happy with my Tojiro DP 240 Gyutou - cheapest Korin had and it's served me well. It's overdue for a sharpening though....

I second that Tojiro makes a damn nice knife for the money.


Edited by Erik Shear (log)

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Pretty happy with my Tojiro DP 240 Gyutou - cheapest Korin had and it's served me well. It's overdue for a sharpening though....

I second that Tojiro makes a damn nice knife for the money.

I have quite a few Tojiros and while they are very good, I find that I much prefer the Shun Classic line. I'm slowly replacing my Tojiros with Shuns when I find them on a good sale.

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I recently got a Shun Premier line santoku. It's a pretty amazing knife.

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Not relevant for the OP. But for all you people in the US, I can recommend the Richmond Artifex range. Seriously good knives for super value prices.

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Pretty happy with my Tojiro DP 240 Gyutou - cheapest Korin had and it's served me well. It's overdue for a sharpening though....

I second that Tojiro makes a damn nice knife for the money.

I have quite a few Tojiros and while they are very good, I find that I much prefer the Shun Classic line. I'm slowly replacing my Tojiros with Shuns when I find them on a good sale.

what do you prefer about the Shuns?

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A couple of general thoughts on Japanese knives ...

First, consider any recommendations of specific brands to have an expiration date. Like maybe a year. The best knives go through a cycle: an insider discovers a knife that's newly available (in the U.S. or wherever) and which outperforms everything else in its price range. It gets cult status, and then it gets widely known, and then the price goes up. It's not a great value anymore.

The Tojiro knives mentioned here were THE knives several years ago. They cost in the $50 or $60 range, and outperformed knives at twice the price. Word got out, and now they cost over twice as much. To their credit, Tojiro did improve the finish of the knives, but they are not the knockout value that they once were. A year after the price hike, Korin started imported knives under their house name Togiharu, and these became the next value leader. I don't know the status of these knives today, since I haven't been shopping.

This happens at the high end also. I bought an Ikkanshi Tadatsuna knife, because its performance was the same as that of the much more expensive Suisin wa gyuto. Chefs were flocking to the Tadatsuna for a year or so. Now that knife costs as much as a Suisin, and everyone's buying something else. The new contenders are every bit as good; they just cost less. For now.

Unrelatedly, you want to consider just how Japanese in styling you want to go. Many of the knives that people buy here are designed and made exclusively for export to the West. Shun, for example, is designed for American and European cooks who don't want to relearn how to use a knive. They have much thicker, more durable blades than the higher performance Japanese knives. They hold up to European knife techniques. People who are willing to learn new techniques—both for cutting and for sharpening—can use much thinner, higher performance knives.

Both paths are legitemate and present different sets of tradeoffs. You just want to know which is your own camp so you don't buy wrong knife.

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