my first was a watanabe.....can't go wrong with that!>.....ryan
My first real Japanese upgrade (as opposed to a knife that was simply "made in Japan") was a Tojiro honesuki I bought used off of Ebay. What an eye opener! After that I figured I'd get aquainted with some more authentic stuff and got a set of Watanabe's basic knives. I still use the deba and ajikiri pretty regularly; the santoku, after much thinning, is now the 'go to' knife on the rack at home. The others were given away or lost over the years.
Though I could not caution all I still might warn a few: Don't raise your hand to raise no flag atop no ship of fools. - Robert Hunter
Sad to say I've not every forayed into good knives, I was a cook at a seafood grill for a couple years when I was in college.
I got so pissed at the crap knives they had in the line that I went and got the best knife I could find which unfortunately was nothing better than a Henkels 5star. I still have it, though I have ground off the full integral bolster and rounded the spine.
currently I use a 210mm french pattern of my own in 52100. I am working on a W2 replacement at the moment.
When I got my first apartment, I got a $60 set of Chicago Cutlery knives in a walnut block. I used that 8 inch chef's knife for ten years. Over that time I bought a bunch of different sharpening gadgets but could never get the knife sharp. Eventually i speculated, "maybe it's the knife," so I went to the internet to research whether to get a Henckels or Wusthof. The forums sent me in another direction. I started with a Tojiro DP and got hooked. That led me down the path of Shun, Hattori, Yoshikane, Nenohi, Watanabi, Moritaka, and Hiromoto. After I worked up to my Kramer I stopped trying to rationalize this hobby.
P.S. I still have that 8 inch Chicago Cutlery and I still can't get it sharp.
My first was a Masahiro 240 VC, followed by Masamoto CT240,A-type 270.Now its a Mizuno 270, and Tadatsuna shiriko#2 270.
after many months of reading at KF i decided to go for a 240mm takeda kiritsuke shaped gyuto.
though that was actually my second japanese knife, the first one being a moritaka gyuto that had to be returned due to a funky overgrind (that Dave here helped me identify).
i eventually got a 210mm tojiro dp gyuto that was supposed to be my wife's knife and that hon kasumi set of deba, yanagi and usuba from epicurean edge (that i've yet to use).
so far these are my only japanese knives.
My first truly serious knife was a Henckels Cermax chef's knife. After using a Henckels' 4 star line for years, I got "lucky" when someone dropped it, point down, from about five feet onto an asphalt parking lot. The top three inches of the knife snapped right off. Having read about kitchen knives on a couple of forums and in Chad Ward's book, I knew I wanted something thinner and with better steel. The RC 66 of the Cermax impressed me, and while it wouldn't be my first choice today, I still own it and use it regularly. It's since fallen second in the rotation to its big brother, my 240mm Hiromoto AS rehandled by Dave.
My first quality knife was a 180 mm Akifusa Santoku. That has since led to a 150 mm Petty, 240mm Gyuto and 210 mm Damascas Gyuto by Akifusa. A 165 mm Nikari, 240 mm and 360 mm Sujihika by Moritaka san and a 165 mm Santoku Masakage Shizuku by Kato san.
My first perfomance knife was a Dp suji and a 240 misono sweedish steel gyuto. I still have the gyuto and i wish i never sold the suji. Every time i use my misono it impresses me. Iv have probley sold 7 or 8 gyutos since i bought it but its still my workhorse.