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Thread: Newbie needs some help - going to Japan

  1. #1

    Newbie needs some help - going to Japan

    Hi all,

    I joined the forum thinking that the two $50 Sabatier knifes I use were hard-core bad-a## kitchen knives. I am taking the family on a trip to Japan this summer (July) and I started researching Japanese Kitchen knifes. I have always been fascinated by knifes and samurai swords, but have never really had the time to geek out on them. I am an IT-guy with a technical background which means that I have to research the heck out of a topic before I make buying decisions...

    I like cooking at home, but am by no means a pro. I don't know how to sharpen a knife, but I am willing to either learn how to do it or send my knives somewhere once in a while to keep them sharp. Based on my research I think I am looking for:

    - Something that looks "Japanese" - I like that look/blade/handle much better than traditional Western
    - I think I need 3 knives:
    1) a Nakiri or Usuba for cutting veggies (don't know what the difference is).
    2) a small Paring (to replace one I have today). Probably 10cm
    3) a knife for trimming and cutting meat and fish. Probably 24cm

    With regards to 3), I love the look of a Yanagiba, Kiritsuke, Takobiki (especially the Sakimaru Takobiki)

    With regards to steel, I really don't know what to look for. I like the look of damascus, but I am not married to it. Realistically I need a knife that I am not going to have to sharpen every day - so Kirenaga is important. I have looked at Kasumi or Hongasumi styles since that sounded like it would match what I was looking for?

    Finally, I am trying to figure out where to buy. I am going to Tokyo and Kyoto this summer and will have 10 days so I can easily fit in a little knife shopping. Apart from the fact that it would be cool to tell people that I bought the knifes in Japan I am trying to figure out if I can save by doing it or if I should just buy them online here in the US.

    Has anyone been to Union Commerce in Kappabashi - I have read that that's one of the places to go. I was also planning on going to the Aritsugu retail store in Kyoto.

    With regards to budget, I am thinking I want to stay under $250-$300 per knife. I am willing to spend a little more and then maybe just get 2 knifes.

    Ok, I know that's a lot of questions and that I have a lot to learn, but I hope that some of you will help me out in my quest. Even if you can just give me a perspective on some of the things I am hoping to learn more about, that would be really helpful. I am always really impressed by how much knowledge is out here on forums like this and how willing people are to help.

    Thanks in advance,
    Lars, San Francisco

  2. #2
    The alleles created by mutation may be beneficial


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    1) Nakiri are double bevel knives, Usuba are single bevel knives.

    2) I (and many others on this forum) find 100mm to be a little small for petty knives. I think 120 is a more versatile size.
    The konosuke HD is a great one - http://www.japaneseknifeimports.com/...-wa-petty.html

    3) I agree with you that takobiki are great to look at, but a yanagiba or sujihiki is more versatile. A yanagiba is single bevel and a sujihiki is double bevel.
    For a suji the konosuke HD is also very good, and matching sets are always nice. http://www.japaneseknifeimports.com/...-sujihiki.html

    For your first knives I would probably stay double bevel, but that's up to you.
    Also you might want to think about replacing a nakiri / usuba with a gyuto (chef's knife) which is more versatile.

    EDIT: I realized you might not know what double or single bevel means. A double bevel means it is sharpened from both side of the knife. A single bevel means the back of the knife is flat, and the right side (for right handed people) is sharpened.
    Not very accurate model:
    V (double bevel) |/ (single bevel)

  3. #3
    Thanks for the reply - I will look at the Konosuke. You mentioned the difference btw double or single bevel. How does that translate into how the knife works or handles - is there a big difference?

    I was looking through a lot of other threads tonight and found some references to Masamoto KS - series. Does anyone have good or bad experience with those knives - and would they fit my description of what I am looking for?

  4. #4
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    There is a huge difference in single vs double bevel. Single bevel can get very sharp, but is also more delicate. You should not use a yanagi on anything with bones, including fish. They are used to cut sashimi that has already been sectioned. It is not a general purpose knife. The takobiki is even more specialized. The kiritsuke is a general purpose single bevel knife, but again it is more delicate than a western knife (but can get sharp as heck) and takes time to learn to use effectively. Also, you have to consider sharpening, the knives will need it.

    Single bevel knives can 'turn' in when cutting into thick foods, ie start to curve toward the inside while cutting down until you get used to it. I don't mean to steer you away from single bevel knives, IMO they are better in a lot of ways, but they are a different animal altogether from western knives. Your lineup lacks a general purpose knife, so I would suggest a wa-gyuto or wa-sujihiki (these have the traditional japanese looking handles). If you want, also get a yanagi or single bevel knife as a slicer, too, for special use.

    Normal western knives are double bevel. Here is a picture of what right-handed single bevel looks like (left handed has the angled edge on the other side instead), notice that one side looks flat, although it is a little concave:




    "flat" back


    As a side note, real damascus pattern knives are very expensive, and don't give noticeable performance gains IME. Take note that carbon steel knives will rust if not dried after or during prolonged use (carbon steel is better though as far as performance overall - sharper, easier to sharpen, good kirenaga especially blue steel (aogami)). In kyoto, as I mentioned in the other thread, you should visit Kikuichimonji too. It's not more than a 20 minute walk from Aritsugu.
    Kappabashi has several stores along it that sell knives. You can see them from the street as you walk past, so they're easy to find. Tsukiji fish market area has Aritsugu also, as well as Masahisa. Nenohi is around there too, not sure where, but those are $$$$$.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Tandrup View Post
    Thanks for the reply - I will look at the Konosuke. You mentioned the difference btw double or single bevel. How does that translate into how the knife works or handles - is there a big difference
    There is a big difference in the way that single and double bevel knives work, yes. Much less of a learning curve with double bevel knives. You basically already know how to cut stuff with a double beveled knife, as that is what you most likely have been using most of your life. Also, the type of food and cuts we use in the west are much more suited to double bevel than single bevel knives.

    Wa handles can be found on single and double beveled knives, so if that is part of the look you want, it wont be a problem to get it. Takeda has a kiritsuke shaped gyuto with a wa-handle that is double beveled. His knives also have that "authentic/rustic" look with a wa handle you might like.

    A gyuto/chefs knife is usually the most used and versatile, so you most likely want to end up with one at some point. After that, a parer/petty and a slicer/sujihiki are very useful. Nakiris are more single task oriented than a gyuto, but still fun to have. I would also decide what your total budget is, and then allocate more to either one or two knives that you use more often. You don't need to spend 250-300 on a paring knife. If you had $900 to spend, I would rather spend 400+ on a chefs knife, less than 100 on a parer, 200ish on a suji and still have money left over for a nakiri.

    As for shopping in Japan, I can't help you much there.
    "God sends meat and the devil sends cooks." - Thomas Deloney

  6. #6
    Senior Member Seb's Avatar
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    Aren't there a bunch of cutlery shops at the Tsukiji Market?

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Seb View Post
    Aren't there a bunch of cutlery shops at the Tsukiji Market?
    Yup. 有次(aritsugu), 杉本(sugimoto) and 正本(masamoto).
    http://www.tukijimasamoto.co.jp/
    http://www.sugimoto-hamono.com/j/top.html
    http://www.aritsugu.jp/

  8. #8
    If you want a knife of great story I would go for a 240 Honyaki Gyuto.

    A massproduced knife would not impress me, they are cheap and have no particular cool story. If you want that special knife go at least for a Honyaki.
    And be prepared to pay for the right one. If you just want great knife go for massproduced either from Konosuke, Nehoni, Tadasuna, Sakai Yusuke, Mizono or another famous brand

    However if you wanna have a knife to impress your friend I would rather have a custom, but they are expensive.

    If I ever went to japan I would team up with a member in this forum: DrNaka. I would offer him money to show me around, and to find me that special knife I could be proud to own. You might even get lucky and meet the maker That would be awesome

  9. #9
    Canada's Sharpest Lefty Lefty's Avatar
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    Really quickly, I'll add this:
    I got to handle a Masamoto KS, recently, and they feel and look incredible! If you like the shape of your Sabs, the KS will feel strangely familiar, even though they are quite obviously worlds apart.
    The KS is beautifully crafted and the tip and taper seem to be spot on!
    As for performance, maybe dmccurtis will weigh in on this one!
    09/06

    Take a look around at: www.sharpandshinyshop.com

    Email me at: tmclean@sharpandshinyshop.com

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by oivind_dahle View Post

    A massproduced knife would not impress me, they are cheap and have no particular cool story. If you want that special knife go at least for a Honyaki...If you just want great knife go for massproduced either from Konosuke, Nehoni, Tadasuna, Sakai Yusuke, Mizono or another famous brand

    I'm not sure I'd recommend a starter to get a honyaki knife, especially if it is going to be their workhorse...but I never bought in to the 'only honyaki matters' bandwagon. And I don't see how you can call Konosuke, Nenohi, Tadatsunas, etc. cheap and uninteresting...many are made to order.

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