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Thread: Japan Trip Knife Suggestions

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    jalanpipes's Avatar
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    Japan Trip Knife Suggestions

    Hey folks,

    I'm leaving Saturday for nearly 3 weeks in Japan (Tokyo, Osaka, & Kyoto). I'd like to pick up a new blade when I'm there, but honestly don't know where to start. Have any of you made the trip before and have suggestions from your experience? I'd love to get a lesser known blade (in the US) that is unavailable here. I'll probably be mailing whatever I buy home since I'm not checking my bags. I use my 240 & 270 gyutos exclusively these days. So I'll probably buy another since I want a knife I'll use.

    Thanks!

    Jeff

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    I spent a whole day at Tsukiji at the end of last year, eating, browsing, then more eating, and more browsing. I didn't really take a careful look at all of the knife stalls there (there are a number of them), as I was more interested in the seafood market itself. But, Tsukiji, as a whole, is definitely worth a look.

    I ended up buying a 300 mm White #1 Yanagiba with saya at Tsukiji Masamoto for a good price. I mostly looked at single bevel knives at Tsukiji Masamoto when I was there, but also quickly looked through the western knives. They had a full selection of western handled, wa handled, single bevel and double bevel knives when I was there.

    However, I have to say that the quality and fit and finish seemed to vary greatly between similar knives so it's extremely important to pay attention to what you're buying. Look carefully at the grind, fit and finish, especially the ura, the shinogi line, and around the machi if you're considering buying a single bevel knife. The western handled knives I looked at did not have rounded spines or choils.

    That being said, the price was significantly less than expected going in, but cash only, although they do take dollars and convert at a better than published rate IIRC. They were very accommodating as far as letting me carefully inspect a number of knives that I was interested in.
    Michael
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    As above, Tsukiji is definitely worth a visit.

    Aritsugu Kyoto in Nishiki market has a lot of stuff (like stainless-clad carbon gyutos for instance, or at least they did 7 years ago.) that isn't widely available through the established channels (Korin is the only place which stocks them that immediately springs to mind, Aritsugu Tokyo [A-Type etc.] knives are obviously more common) It's worth a visit, cash only and relatively expensive due to it's prime location, reputation, etc.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Timthebeaver View Post
    As above, Tsukiji is definitely worth a visit.

    Aritsugu Kyoto in Nishiki market has a lot of stuff (like stainless-clad carbon gyutos for instance, or at least they did 7 years ago.) that isn't widely available through the established channels (Korin is the only place which stocks them that immediately springs to mind, Aritsugu Tokyo [A-Type etc.] knives are obviously more common) It's worth a visit, cash only and relatively expensive due to it's prime location, reputation, etc.
    Just a little correction here. Aritsugu at Tsukiji does take credit cards. Aritsugu Kyoto does not.

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    You can visit Tsukiji and Kappabashi in Tokyo, Doguyasuji in Osaka is another one, and Nishiki in Kyoto - all market areas with accessible cookery/knife shops and fun to visit. However, you have to know what you're doing to find a good 'lesser known blade' though it's certainly possible. If you can really do some research or have connections or know some of the language there are shops scattered all over the place that should be worth a visit, and which aren't heard of here. There's no one amazing or super convenient place to go to, though, and you'll feel that you understand a lot more of the knife world reading on the internet than when over there taking in countless seemingly identical knives with unknown kanji. In the end I think Japanese knife seekers will often buy through recommendation, word of mouth and connections, so things aren't well laid out for visitors from abroad. There's no knife superstore. If you're really intrepit, I'd try poking around Sakai or Sanjo and see what happens. In the end, if you find a good knife and there's some story behind it it's all the more interesting.
    And yes, bring cash for any (un)expected purchases.

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    Jeff - There are a lot of options for your trip, especially if you have a some free time in Osaka. You can get on the train at Osaka's Namba station in the early AM, head to Sakai, visit a bunch of shops and be back at Namba station in the afternoon. Some of the shops like Sakai Yusuke will mail the knife back to you for a reasonable price. They sent a gyuto to me for about 1,500 yen (15$). Osaka proper has a bunch of interesting shops too including Chuki Ichimonji.

    Be on the lookout for small shops along the way. Some makers have gained a lot of notoriety in the west by the fact that they are able to promote or represent themselves in English (or have otherwise found representation) but Japan is full of makers who are restricted to their local market. If you are looking for something uncommon it would be worth it to ask around.

    If you go to any of the shops at Tsukiji (which are all located in the outer market) I would advise that you arrive early. The inner market only allows tourists in at 9:30 and by that time the knife shops will be packed. Service and your ability to inspect a lot of knives will be severely affected. You'll also want to catch what goes on in the inner market and if you take any time after 9:30 in the knife shops you'll likely miss most of it. The 9:30 entrance coincides with the winding down of the market so there isn't a lot of time to see the action after that.

    Everyone will recommend Aritsugu in Kyoto but don't overlook the other shops. There is a covered shopping arcade adjacent to the Nishiki market (where Aritsugu is) where you will find a small shop called Hisahide. Doesn't look very interesting from the outside but they stock a good number of nice knives. The last time I was there they had some Shigefusa behind the counter.

    Most of the shops are cash only but there are some interesting exceptions. If you are looking for anything more specific PM me and I'll give you all the help I can.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tripleq View Post
    Just a little correction here. Aritsugu at Tsukiji does take credit cards. Aritsugu Kyoto does not.
    Sorry if I was unclear, I was saying that Aritsugu Kyoto does not take cards.

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    Picked up my 240mm Artisugu A-Type in Tokyo on my visit to Tsukiji Market. Seriously awesome knife that lived up to my expectations and continues to impress me today, with ease of sharpening and edge retention especially.

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    That's all really helpful advice. Thanks to everyone! I'll be staying in Shiodome only a few blocks from Tsukiji, and we plan to go early (4:30am, I hear) to the tuna auction for fun. I'll be sure to look around there for some knives. I just remembered that I need a yanagiba too. I'm sure I may come home with more than I intended.

    Tripleq, thanks for the Kyoto recommendation. I'll do some research and see how feasible that is with our schedule.

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but it sounds like the japanese knife market (and culture) is so expansive that there are far more labels than an are seen or know in the US.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jalanpipes View Post
    Correct me if I'm wrong, but it sounds like the japanese knife market (and culture) is so expansive that there are far more labels than an are seen or know in the US.
    Sure, but not only the US of course. (International forum, right?) Lots not known in the realms of this forum and lots that is pretty common knowledge on this forum which isn't known there. Not sure, but if you go around in Osaka and say 'Shigefusa' they might not know it at all, though perhaps if you say 'it's from Sanjo' they might say 'ahh...' with some understanding, as it's from the other end of the country as far as they're concerned.

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