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Buying Japanese Knives in Japan

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A friend who called and advised me this morning that this "Knife", is available at over $1,000.00. I'm not comfortable beating up any knife that expensive just for fun cooking. I'll put it in the vault or someplace until I have to compete in Iron Chef or something similar. Maybe at the "James Beard House", except when i used to cook there for fun all the knifes that James and I used were Forschner.[still my all around favorites]

For what it's worth, I have a few Japanese friends with knives in the same price range, and they use them as every day knives. It would be a shame if you didn't use it at least a few times. That's what they gave it to you for, after all :smile: .

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A friend who called and advised me this morning that this "Knife", is available at over $1,000.00. I'm not comfortable beating up any knife that expensive just for fun cooking. I'll put it in the vault or someplace until I have to compete in Iron Chef or something similar. Maybe at the "James Beard House", except when i used to cook there for fun all the knifes that James and I used were Forschner.[still my all around favorites]

For what it's worth, I have a few Japanese friends with knives in the same price range, and they use them as every day knives. It would be a shame if you didn't use it at least a few times. That's what they gave it to you for, after all :smile: .

I've been using the Hattori for several weeks, but since I generally work quite fast, and tend to push my knifes into doing more variations then normally anticipated, I sometimes may be more abusive since it's treated primarily as a versitile working tool. I'd rather use this quality knife when i'm only doing a specific job suited for what the knife is made to do, that way it will be treated with the respect it deserves.

If you've got a Rolls Royce you're not going to treat it like your 4 wheel drive SUV, well my Hattori has become my Rolls Knife.

For the type of cutting I generally do I seem to prefer a Properly made Granton Edged Knife, of which there are very few in the marketplace. The good ones can sure take a beating.

Irwin


I don't say that I do. But don't let it get around that I don't.

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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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I have a question....where would you go to purchase knives in Japan? (sorry, have been to Japan several times but I wasn't shopping for knives those times). Is there specialty kitchen stores? All I remember is that Tokyu Hands carry Global (but I really don't want to buy Global)

I've gotten all of my knives at Kappabashi Knife Company, in Kappabashi. Their prices are anywhere from 20%-30% cheaper than Tokyu Hands.

I've got a Glestain chef's knife, and absolutely hate the balance of it. For heavy work, I use a Wusthof-Trident chef's knife. But, I'm absolutely head-over-heels in love with my Global-Pro knives (chef's, boning, and petty). And, using the Global Shinkansen knife sharpener, bringing them back to their factory hone is a breeze!

Yoshikin/Global Website

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I'm actually looking for some help in contacting a knife maker from Sanjo City. If someone who live in or near Sanjo City can help, please post here.

Thanks in advance.

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Hi Hiroyuki,

Yes, I'm looking to buy a knife from a specific maker. His name is Tokifusa Iizuka (or better known as Shigefusa) from Sanjo City.

knife1948alt1.jpg

There are some US websites that sell his knives, but I don't live in USA. Besides, I find it much better to get knives from the source.

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I made an inquiry to one specific dealer in Sanjo, and I have just received a reply from him:

Dear xxxx:

I'm Juumi of Hamono No Juumi.

We can ship Shigefusa's products overseas.

We will ship them by EMS international mail.

As you may know, however, we were safe from the Igarashi River bank rip here on July 13, but the workshop of Shigefusa, also known as Tokifusa Iizuka, was flooded above floor level, and cannot resume operation yet. I think he will start operation around October.

Usually, he needs about 90 days to delivery on a make to order basis.

It is expected that due to this disaster, it will take about one year for the time to delivery to return to normal.

We have some items in stock, and other than those, we have to request you to wait.

We will contact you as soon as your product is finished, and we will ship it after receipt of payment.

We look forward to serving you.

(Translated by me)

***

You can contact the dealer at

webmaster@jumi.co.jp

Dealer's website (Japanese only):

http://www.jumi.co.jp/

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Thanks for your help Hiroyuki.

I hope Jumi understands English because I cannot communicate with him in Japanese.

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Tonight, he replied as follows:

I am not good at speaking English, but I think I can manage to read and write.

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

http://the.honoluluadvertiser.com/article/...il20ataste.html

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 (log)

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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:

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....

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...

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:

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:

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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

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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.

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.


<p><strong>Kristin Wagner</strong>, aka "torakris"

Manager, Membership

<a class="bbc_email" href="mailto:kwagner@egstaff.org" title="E-mail Link">kwagner@egstaff.org</a></p>

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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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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.

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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.

gallery_7941_1055_492924.jpg

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.

gallery_7941_1055_821688.jpg

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 (log)

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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.

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 (log)

-- Jason

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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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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

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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.

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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.

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 (log)

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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?

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