Knife Japan: What's notable, worth buying, etc.?

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DitmasPork

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Recently I've noticed a few members chatting about Knife Japan— @HumbleHomeCook, et al. Admittedly, I've not heard of them, and obviously never purchased anything from KJ.

Finally cruised around the KJ website, first impressions were lots of lefty single-bevel options, and reasonably priced, utilitarian, knives from large number of makers I'm unfamiliar with.

My questions are—who're some of the makers at KJ worth a second look, buying, etc. Are there one or two makers that stand out as major talents? Outta sheer laziness, I've not had a chance to read descriptions of all the makers, dunno where to start, ...guess I'm looking for 'Cliff Notes' on the makers available via Knife Japan.
 
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Unshu Yukimitsu and Mikami are both great. For a lot of makers Michael can get custom sizes and shapes for you too. If you're interested in a lefty single bevel I'd email him and ask for recommendations. For some reason I think I recall he's a lefty, but regardless he'd definitely be able to point you in a cool direction! He's also got some off menu stuff if you ask, such as swordsmith made knives etc that can be ordered that he'll bring up if it's relevant to your inquiry.
 
Recently I've noticed a few members chatting about Knife Japan— @HumbleHomeCook, et al. Admittedly, I've not heard of them, and obviously never purchased anything from KJ.

Finally cruised around the KJ website, first impressions were lots of lefty single-bevel options, and reasonably priced, utilitarian, knives from large number of makers I'm unfamiliar with.

My questions are—who're some of the makers at KJ worth a second look, buying, etc. Are there one or two makers that stand out as major talents? Outta sheer laziness, I've not had a chance to read descriptions of all the makers, dunno where to start, ...guess I'm looking for 'Cliff Notes' on the makers available via Knife Japan.

There are quite a few lefty offerings on Michael's site.

As mentioned, Unshu Yukimitsu is excellent. I've never fooled with a TF but more than one person here has said Kusunoki-san's heat treat rivals it. Mine feels great on the stones.

I'm also really enjoying my Yashima Nogu Kogyo Nakiri-bocho and I freakin' love my little Okahide Hamono Kitchen Mini 115mm.

Michael told me his personal knife is a Ikenami Hamono nakiri.

These are rustic knives to be sure but they are blade/steel focused. I also feel like there's a certain romance I guess you'd say around these small, lesser known makers.

And as always, Michael is awesome to communicate with. If you're unsure about something or just have a question, just email him. He'll set you right.
 
Been eyeing their most sold knife, the bannou 180 mm white 1 ku… looks good for a user and a decent price. I heard the guy (Michael) is super cool guy with a great CS.
 
Because of comparatively low price point—I could see KJ being a go-to for newbies wanting wallet-friendly, rustic, functional, handmade J-knives. I'm seriously tempted to add more single-bevels to my humble lefty collection.
 
https://knifejapan.com/okubo-kajiya-takenoko-nakiri-210mm-aogami-2/
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I can't recommend Knife Japan or Michael enough. The products I've gotten through KJ (or makers that they sell) are all really well made, and without KJ, they'd be just fine continuing to make and sell their tools to their local population. I think he's really great to discuss things with and he's deeply passionate about the history of traditional made items in Japan and is doing a lot of work to unearth and share as much information and products that he can. Personally I've got knives from Unshu Yukimitsu and Ikenami that I use often, and I've got an older Yoshimitsu and a Takahashi in the queue to have varying degrees of work completed on them. I second (or third/fourth/fifth) what's been said above about just sending an inquiry about what you're looking for and go from there.
 
Because of comparatively low price point—I could see KJ being a go-to for newbies wanting wallet-friendly, rustic, functional, handmade J-knives. I'm seriously tempted to add more single-bevels to my humble lefty collection.
Their steel should be good with good heat treatment. Theyre all experienced lay low smiths not very famous to western market, but their knives should be very good to use.
 
Whether you have something specific in mind or not, I highly recommend just emailing Michael. He is very responsive and just an overall great guy to chat with. Customer service is one of, if not the best I've ever dealt with. He's really passionate about what he does, and it clearly shows. And a lot of the guys he works with seem like kinda smaller makers. So if you want something a little different than what's available on his site, he may be able to have it specially made for you. In the case of my nakiri/cleaver, it was a custom size request at the time, but looks like he had some extra produced with the same specs.
 
Because of comparatively low price point—I could see KJ being a go-to for newbies wanting wallet-friendly, rustic, functional, handmade J-knives. I'm seriously tempted to add more single-bevels to my humble lefty collection.

I don't see these as "newbie" oriented knives at all. They may not be to your cultured tastes but in no way does that diminish them. They have an allure all their own and to me, harken to the simpler experience of small makers turning out functional tools.

Clearly some of the names who have responded to this thread are quite experienced in all manner of knives up and down the quality ladder.

These knives are right at home next to my Western customs.
 
I have no recommendations for knives. Bought a 240mm Nakiri. Had no issues with the order. Arrived pretty quickly.

Although, heads up, the handle I got wasn't a keeper. But I could tell that from the pictures.
 
I don't see these as "newbie" oriented knives at all. They may not be to your cultured tastes but in no way does that diminish them. They have an allure all their own and to me, harken to the simpler experience of small makers turning out functional tools.

Clearly some of the names who have responded to this thread are quite experienced in all manner of knives up and down the quality ladder.

These knives are right at home next to my Western customs.
Gotta say I big part of what’s piqued my interest is being unfamiliar with nearly all the makers on the KJ site. I’m a rustic lover tbh. Dig the abundance of lefty single-bevels there too.
Btw, when mentioning ‘newbies’ I’m not necessarily citing inexperienced knife users, but rather those new to J-knives—I’d used western knives for decades before discovering j-knives, the transition wasn’t difficult. But yeah, won’t be everyone’s cup of tea.
 
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My take is probably a bit repetitive at this point but… Mikami nakiri is the best I’ve ever used. Okubo takenoko nakiri (cleaver really) is surprisingly high-performance for such a heavy weight. Both recommended. Lots of other fun, value offerings that I enjoy.

To top it off, Michael offers incredible customer service. Best in the business, or maybe best of any business.
 
great thread!

I only recently found out about KJ, like 3 months ago. Here are the makers I have tried so far:

Unshu Chuzen (160 nakiri and 125 bannou)

Nice grind - convex bevels that aren’t too hard to get stone ready if you want to and slightly pronounced shoulders (but overall a thin grind). Good combination of food release and smooth cutting.


Mikami (165 nakiri and 165 santoku)

His grind is so good… thin BTE and tall wide bevels = super smooth cutting. HT is fantastic. His knives just feel kinda special in hand, a unique style. There’s also the historic value I guess, since the maker passed away some years ago. His son is an active sword maker.


Ikenami Hamono (180 bannou and 210 suji)

Also quite thin BTE. Concave bevels that are a bit more challenging to get stone ready (but cuts great OOTB anyway). Michael mentioned he uses an Ikenami nakiri everyday at home.

I have a bunch of stuff on my wishlist, but at the top are probably Okubo - someone here mentioned his HT of aogami is great and he takes custom orders - and Nobuyah (@nobuyah on IG), his santoku and gyuto have interesting profiles.

There’s a common feeling among these makers IMO - the knives just feel nice in hand, very well balanced, HT is great and they cut really well in an almost surprising way. Simple tools, not perfect but at the same time make you feel like all you need in a knife is right there.

Needless to say but Michael is outstanding, don’t hesitate to contact him.
 
What's the best way to contact him? I used the "contact us" tab but everyone is talking about an email that I can't seem to find on his site.

Edit: he just got back to me. Very fast turnover. Definitely under 24hr response time
 
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I sell a lot of Yosimitu Kajiya knives which are available on KJ. I think he's a great maker, 3rd generation blacksmith who has been forging for about 25 years. His f&f is rustic (I buy blades & fit all of my handles myself). He generally works in Shirogami 2 but has made me knives from VG10, Aogami, ZDP189. I have a couple of his knives in daily rotation.
 

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