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Thread: Knife tales of Japan...

  1. #1
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Paris, France

    Knife tales of Japan...

    Hello everyone.

    As some of you may recall from my previous posts, I just spent two weeks in Japan for holidays (wonderful place!!!). While I was travelling with my wife and a friend, both of whom are not really interested in knives, I had decided to dedicate some of my time in Tokyo to kitchen knives.

    My first mission was to pick up the two Hattori KD knives I had found on-line while researching my trip: the 150mm Petty and a 180mm Santoku. When I actually got to the store to pick those up, I discovered that they also had in stock a 210mm Gyuto (which I promptly bought), as well as a second 150mm Petty (which is still there, AFAIK). Later on, while scouting out other knife stores in Tokyo, I was also able to find a 270mm Gyuto, in a store which also had a 210mm Gyuto and a 180mm Santoku in stock. So, as you can see, while rare, Hattori KDs are actually available in Japan!!!

    The prices, however, are not negociable there (though you will get some discount if paying cash), and these knives sell for the recommended price shown on Hattori's web site (see here), plus 5% tax. So they were expensive, much more so than shown on Koki's web site. But, what the hell - I was on holidays, so I was in a good mood, and the elation at finding all these Hattoris actually available, made me come home with these four gorgeous knives:

    Unfortunately, as I kind of feared in this thread, the store did indeed scuff them up when sharpening them for me, so I will be polishing and re-etching them as per Dave Martell's instructions in this post very soon! I will post pictures again once I am done.

    While visiting the various knife stores, I ran into a couple of other interesting knives. The first one is a 160mm Santoku by Isshi Machida, in Takefu V-1 steel:

    I loved the damascus look and the feel of the curved handle, and so that knife also came home with me.

    While in the same store, I also spotted this peculiar letter opener/paper craft knife, made in a limited edition for the 50th anniversary of Hiro, and I could not resist - the damascus steel peeking out of the cocobolo wood cladding was just too much for me:

    But the real highlights of the trip came in the form of after-sales service on two knives I already had! You may recall my post about the Kane Soh yanagi-ba which I had bought in Tokyo 20 years ago - well, I asked a colleague at work to translate my request in Japanese for me before I went to Japan, and on my first day in Tokyo I showed up at the store with my knife and my printed request. The balked a bit at the short delay I was requesting (4 days), but ended up refinishing, repolishing and rehandling my knife on time and for a very reasonable price. So in the end I was also able to come back with this rejuvinated knife, now sporting a nice new octogonal handle:

    Finally, came the real surprise of the trip! Some time ago, when reading the long thread here about the Bob Kramer by Zwilling knives, I decided to buy a 10" Chef on Amazon, since they had one marketplace seller who was willing to ship internationally. Unfortunately, when the knife arrived, I discovered that the wood handle had shrunk quite considerably, exposing almost 1mm of the brass rivets, and that the knife had the heel over-grind which people have been talking about. So I sent an e-mail to Bob asking his advice in terms of what I could do to restore the wood to its original volume, and he - after advising to soak it in natural oil - put me in touch with Zwilling US.

    When I contacted them, the Marketing VP answered me personally, and we began a long exchange of e-mails to see how I could return the knife for exchange without losing the Customs and VAT which I had already paid to receive the first one. To make a long story short, knowing that these knives were made in Japan and that I was going to be there, I asked if there was a way to exchange the knife in Tokyo. Zwilling US went way beyond what would normally be considered good customer service, and made arrangements for this to happen, allowing me to pick up my new knife in Tokyo while returning my old knife to Germany to minimize shipping costs.

    When I showed up in the Zwilling Tokyo offices, the Zwilling Japan General Manager actually took time out of a meeting to greet me, as did the Manager of the Seki factory, who was in Tokyo that day and wished to apologise in person for the defective knife I had received. So not only did I leave their offices with a perfect 10" Chef replacement knife, which the factory manager had personally checked and sharpened, but also with a 5" Utility Kramer by Zwilling knife which the factory Manager had brought for me as a gift to apologise for all the trouble - I could not believe it!!! Apparently, the Utility knife is supposed to be B-grade stock, for which he also apologised, but it looks just perfect to me, and for the life of me I could not tell you why they would consider it B stock:

    So here is a customer service story which ends very well! I just wish to publicly tip my hat to both Zwilling US and Zwilling Japan for going the extra mile, and beyond!, to make this particular customer happy! If only all companies were like this, the world would probably be a happier place...

    Knives notwithstanding, Japan is a wonderful country, with wonderful people, extraordinary sights and excellent food, which I cannot recommend enough! We all had a wonderful time there, and now yearn to return as soon as possible...

  2. #2
    Great experiences all around! Thank you for sharing with us

  3. #3
    Wow...all those KD's...
    Twitter: @PeterDaEater

  4. #4
    Damn man, what a great bunch of knife tales! Of course you must realize that you've just set off the spark to start the hunt for KD's in Japan, right?

  5. #5
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2011
    San Diego, CA
    Thanks for sharing. Very cool story.

  6. #6
    Great story.
    Congrats on the knives, you are insane spending that amount of money on knives :P
    Are these knives gonna be used or stored?

    Again great story, and I love people showing such devotion for their interest

  7. #7
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Paris, France
    Quote Originally Posted by oivind_dahle View Post
    ... you are insane spending that amount of money on knives :P
    Hey, I come from watch and wine collecting, so - relatively speaking - knives are a steal!!!

    This said, they will definitely be used... every single one of them!

  8. #8
    You are allowed to post more pics from your trip and your knives
    Must have been cool to visit Tokyo and found this treasure

  9. #9
    Senior Member Deckhand's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Costa Mesa California
    Wow, great story. Also, lots of good food to enjoy while you are there.
    Even the box lunches on the trains are good.

  10. #10
    They are indeed wonderful knives (I actually prefer Hattori's patterning/damascus to most others) but and again this is personal preference I guess, feel they are a little spoiled by the western handles. As others have said a nice story too.

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