meridian elite santoku
Here's my $.02...I would go with a Shun classic. As someone earlier stated you can pick it up locally and the D-Handle is more comfortable and sleek than a Global. And the fact that she may not treat this knife as we do ours, you gotta remember they offer lifetime sharpening should you not be able to do it for her. She's not gonna need a laser and to tell you the truth...as far as edge retention...my 8" Shun Classic (which I use as my 'beater' knife) holds up agains both my Nenox and my Suisin IH.
Make simplicity seem like abundance - Tetsuya Wakuda
I think I've narrowed it down to the Fujiwara FKM (which I found frequently recommended as the best starter knife) and the CarboNext, both 210mm. Is the CarboNext worth the extra $30 knowing that it will be used by an inexperienced hand and sharpened infrequently?
Maybe the Misono is still in the running too... I had ruled it out being in the middle of the prices, but maybe that's the reason I should consider it more seriously.
As it is a gift to your mom you may consider more than a lot of knifenuts the factor of Fit&Finish, which is OK with the Fujiwara and the Carbonext, better than one would expect at this modest price level, but really nice with the Misono. You may take into account as well that the Misono comes with a decent edge, and to my experience and hearsay, both others are unpredictable, somewhere between almost unusable and fair.
Korin is having a 15% off knife sale and they do the initial sharpening for free. I don't know what style your mom likes but most ladies prefer the santoku. It seems to be less intimidating than a gyuto.