Why so japanocentric?

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Chef Doom

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I don't know a lot about import taxes and such in the UK, but isn't some taxes in Europe range up to %100 for imported items? I think that is where a lot of the cost factor comes in.
 

bikehunter

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Each of the participants spent anywhere from 30 seconds to 2-3 minutes describing how the wine in more expensive bottle had better bouquet, aroma, aftertaste and bunch of other wine tasting terms, the amount of terms varied from reviewer to reviewer. Obviously, the more they have read or knew about wine tasting the more eloquently they went about the wine from expensive bottle being so much better. Except none of them guesses they were tasting the same wine. Simply put, more knowledgeable wine tasters spewed out a lot more BS, in more sophisticated terms.

You have no idea how right you are :D
Growing up in Napa Valley, and spending almost 30 years in the Napa/Sonoma wine industry (working in and managing tasting rooms) I can attest that the "experts" simply....know many more appropriate words to describe wine. ;-)
 

mzer

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The thing is, some ingredients, take fillet of beef only has this delicious succulence to it when you do it the old school way. It might be overcooked here and there, but you want your perfect flavour or you want your perfect doneness? you can choose.
Same with knives, isnt it?
Also cote de veau.
 

Chef Doom

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......someone having done this as a sole source of income for say 50 years, and learning from dad/ a master knifesmith who has even more, should be able to produce a better product than your average hobbyist out of Hicksville USA with a desire to make an extra buck or two...

Sorry for the harsh words here, but come on, it's all good to support local artisans and all,but to expect them to top the very best of this game with just a few years of "homemaking" in the shed is kinda ridiculous.
I may be a jerk at times, but even I will admit, that was cold.

"Themsis some fighten words I tell you what!"
 

Chef Doom

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You're telling me that western knife makers aren't using more advanced heat treatment methods with a greater range of high quality steel? Are you calling Devin and Pierre Hicksville hobbyists? LOL Your words not only come off as pretentious, they sound quite racist and insulting too. Coming from a guy who cuts one onion a week, poorly at that, I'd say maybe you should tone it down a little there.
I agree with the 'insulting' part, but 'racist' is a little far fetched and out of place in this situation and shows that you should try a little harder. I need less NBC and more Public Access TV. I emailed both Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson and both were neutral on the term. My pen pal and personal Black Relations Adviser Louise Farrakhan praised the use of the term strangely enough. :dontknow:
 

maxim

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I dont think Birnando tried to be racist or insulting.
I just think he was fed up with arrogance of the subject. When every single maker on this bord and more copying Japanese blacksmiths in both design FF hardens of steel and more they show quite a little respect for them and what they do.
So i guess he just try to defend them :D

Recommending to put Japanese knife in home oven because it chipped to make it softer "because i know better then those Japanese blacksmith" :D is very good example !
And yeah in any i mean ANY feld you get better the more you do what you do.
So you can not really compare one that makes knives for 2 year and one that have been making for 50, i think its quite logical

I could never dream go and say I make better pattern welded steel then Devin :) Even if i make 1 or 5 super beautiful steels that dose not make me better then Davin at pattern welded steel.
 

Justin0505

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I've read though most of this thread, so I don't think anyone has mentioned this yet, but I may be wrong.

In response to the OP, I would say that the reason that knives from Japan are discussed more than any others is rather simple: more good knives come from Japan than anywhere else in the world.

Excluding mass-produced knives like Zwiling, Wusty, etc. there is no other place in the world that produces high quality knives at the same volume as Japan. Sure, there are great craftsman making top-level knives all over the place and I'm sure that you could spend $500+ on a knife from a small, indie maker in North America or Europe and put together a very good case that it was as good or better than a knife costing the same amount from Japan. However, many of the really talented and well-regarded wester smiths produce a very small quantity of knives annually... heck, many of them still have day-jobs. Many of them have multi-month to multi-year waiting lists and prices that make them inaccessible to all but the wealthiest and/or knuttiest knuts.

So, if you own or want a really good knife in the $100-$300 range, then there's a good (probably 99%) chance that it's from Japan.
 

Birnando

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I may be a jerk at times, but even I will admit, that was cold.

"Themsis some fighten words I tell you what!"
Yes, I agree.
And it was quite intentional.

No, I don't think every US or other non-US artisan is as I described.
As stated earlier in this thread, I have tested both good and not so good artisan knives.

What initiated my rant if you will, was the blanket statement of four named artisans improving on Japanese knives, indicating that the US makers like the four mentioned made better products. Period.

I find that a silly and ignorant remark, very typical of the fanboyism one can sometimes see online in communities like this.
What constitutes a good knife depends on a number of factors.
In addition, we all have our own preferences.

So, in light of that I wanted to make a few pointed remarks to really stir some debate and who knows, maybe someone did see things a bit differently afterwards?
I for one have enjoyed the discussion, and have found it enlightening for my next purchases of cutlery.

As for the racist part, I find it hard to take that seriously, and put it in the account of hurt feelings..
A side-effect of fanboyism if you will.

Out of my 3 vacations this year, two of them have been to the US..
In other words, I absolutely love spending time over there, be it in Arizona, NC or NY, meeting up with both new people, and old friends.

Oh, did I mention I have two foster-kids?
Both from Thailand.
How's that for a racist?
 

stevenStefano

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I disagree with Birnando but I do not believe anything he said was racist. I don't think you have to make knives for a long time to know how to do it. You could study knives and how to make them for your whole life, how do you quantify that? Your first knife could the the best one ever because your approach and research was so good. Why can't this knife be better than someone whose family has been making them for centuries? You could actually flip it the other way and ask why does it follow that someone whose family has made knives for a long time, therefore makes good knives themselves? If someone learns from their father/grandfather, they do not necessarily learn how to make a good knife, they learn what their family knows and tells them, maybe they don't think outside the box, they don't input their own ideas, they don't try to improve the process, they do what their family would want them to do. If what their father learned was flawed, those flaws are passed on through the generations. You could ask a knifemaker why they do certain things and they wouldn't have a clue

I knew someone who every time they cooked roast beef in the oven they cut the end quarter off it. Why? That's how their mother always did it. Their mother always did it because they had a tiny oven and the beef was usually too big to fit

My mother could teach me how to make bread the way she was taught and her family before that. It doesn't necessarily make the bread good. I could still enter a bread-making competition and come last and lose to someone who read a book the week before
 

Chuckles

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I hate to say it Bernardo but your opinions are wrong.
And your status as a foster parent is poor support for your arguments.
I find your elitist and anti-American ranting to be annoying and somehow boring at the same time.
Your idea that someone is a better knife maker because their daddy did it too is strange to me.
I am guessing your daddy was a pretentious a$$hole because you are AMAZING at it.
 

scott6452

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From a neutral standpoint it really doesn't seem to me that Birnando is being anti-American, perhaps since he is not being as pro-American as the forum is used to, it is being noticed? And that's the beautiful thing about opinions, they can never be wrong by definition.

With a forum that is as great as this, I think it is essential that users with a different opinion to the masses in certain subjects are not bullied out by the mob, which is exactly what this kind of thing "I am guessing your daddy was a pretentious a$$hole because you are AMAZING at it" could end up doing.
 

Birnando

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I hate to say it Bernardo but your opinions are wrong.
And your status as a foster parent is poor support for your arguments.
I find your elitist and anti-American ranting to be annoying and somehow boring at the same time.
Your idea that someone is a better knife maker because their daddy did it too is strange to me.
I am guessing your daddy was a pretentious a$$hole because you are AMAZING at it.
If you find my posts anti-American, then I am sorry that you feel that way.
I tried to explain that I am no such thing, but clearly, I failed to do so in a manner that convinced you.
The annoying part I can understand, but I'm not sure I quite believe the boring part;)

The dad thing was merely a comment to the fact that quite a few of the knife-shops in Japan seem to be a family thing.
Meaning many of the knife-smiths followed in their fathers footsteps.
That does not mean anything other than that.
I'd say that they will learn pretty much the same from any knife-smith they work for.

You are quite right about my dad, although it seems a tad out of place on a forum such as this..
He most certainly was what you indicate.

As for the compliment to me, all I could really say is thank you, it meant a lot to me.
 

echerub

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I don't sense any nation-bashing here nor do I see racism. Let's not inject any now, nor any personal bashing.

There are some pointed views and comments. * That* is perfectly fine and welcome.
 

Chuckles

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Bernie,
Ok. I think what you just wrote was pretty witty.
I'm not sure but I think I am starting to like you.
But your opinions are still wrong.
 

JKerr

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I keep coming back to this thread meaning to add my 2 cents but too many new thoughts keep popping into my head. I reckon it's a subject that's best brought up at the pub, over a few beers and debated to the point where all objectivity is lost and there is no clear answer.

Every now again a thread pops up along the lines of "Who makes the best knife?" and it's either shot down or the first reply is along the lines of "No such thing", and we're basically arguing the same thing so why it became personal in the first place, I have no idea.

If you want my opinion, I reckon the random French bloke who made my vintage K sab filleting knife gets my vote simply because I love that knife......but who knows, maybe he was a Japanese intern...
 

Marko Tsourkan

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I haven't followed this thread too closely in the last couple of days so I am a little surprised by negativity. Tone it down folks.

There is nothing wrong having an opinion and stating it, and nothing wrong with challenging a person's opinion as long as it is done in constructive way. I challenged Birnando to a contest and he accepted it, and both of us are looking forward to it.

M
 

Zwiefel

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I haven't followed this thread too closely in the last couple of days so I am a little surprised by negativity. Tone it down folks.There is nothing wrong having an opinion and stating it, and nothing wrong with challenging a person's opinion as long as it is done in constructive way. I challenged Birnando to a contest and he accepted it, and both of us are looking forward to it. M
:plus1: I'm looking forward to more details about how it will be structured, and the results.
 

NO ChoP!

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I have no connection to Marko, other than meeting him once at a dinner. Have never held one of his knives. That being said, I have been around long enough to know, Marko has handled probably every great knife, American and Japanese. He has asked a million questions; studied; visited knowledgeable makers, and picked their brains; studied some more; tried and tested techniques a million times; probably tossed as many knives as he's sold, all in the pursuit of perfection; stopped production and made people wait, because he discovered some new technique that could possibly make his product just that much better...

I'd blindly put up one of his knives against anything comparably priced from anyone and from anywhere. Good luck with this bet...
 

Mingooch

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I would love to see both of those knives entered into that contest first hand. Would love to use them.
 

bamin

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Here's my 2 cents. I don't think that you can definitively state that western makers are better or worse than Japanese knife makers. I think the reason that American knife smiths seem superior to us here isn't because they thought of wholly new techniques that left the Japanese in the dust. I think it is simply that they are here in America and most importantly they have a very close relationship with their customers. The knives that they forge are very much tailored to the needs/wants/desires of their customers. This is possible because they can get direct feedback about the quality of their work and fluidly incorporate the necessary changes into their next batch. To say it a bit more concisely American made knives are better because they are made with us in mind. I would gander that the Japanese knife makers are the same. They produce knives to please their principal market which is Japan. How often can one of us contact a Japanese smith and talk to them about what we like/dislike about their product. The only person that comes to mind is Jon. What we look for in a great knife might not be what the Japanese knife nuts want.

Also, I think western made knives seem superior because most people are getting completely custom knives. Your custom knife should be among the best you have ever used because it was tailored specifically to you. If it is not then either you failed to properly communicate everything that you wanted or the maker failed to execute.

It was mentioned that Japanese smiths learn from their families and while true I don't think we can believe that they eschew all other outside knowledge. Producing knives is their livelihood and in Japan there is a lot of competition. If they make an inferior product or are not continually improving their methods and design they would lose business to their competitors and ultimately have to close their doors. On this point I wonder why people are saying that only the western makers have access to the more modern steels and techniques? Japan is a modern country, any information or type of steel that we have here should be accessible there.

So you can't go wrong either way Japanese or Western, but a knife that is tailored to your needs should always seem better than a mass produced one.


Side note about the wine. I think California wines are great and all, but can we really say that its entirely because Americans thought of something revolutionary? Wine is heavily influenced by the climate and geography that the vines are grown in. I think American growers found great locations in California, Oregon, and Washington that is ideal for growing the vines. I would say its 80% location 20% on the grower. For example, Massachusetts has vineyards, have you ever heard anyone say that they had a great bottle of wine from Mass? American growers don't have magic fingers that rest of the wine producing areas of the world don't have.

Basically, everything from knives to wine is subjective. At the end of the day all that matters is that the customers are happy and they keep spending money to support the artisan's businesses.
 
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Exactly about the US makers (not 'Western' - that could me from several countries). I think the communication thing is the one advantage US makers have to have in the eyes of most KKFers. As I said before, imagine if suddenly everyone could talk directly with the Japanese makers without the language/cultural barrier? Would change everything.

Completely natural, then, that customers would be raving about knives they've had input on, which is often the case with the US custom makers.
 

Marko Tsourkan

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Exactly about the US makers (not 'Western' - that could me from several countries). I think the communication thing is the one advantage US makers have to have in the eyes of most KKFers. As I said before, imagine if suddenly everyone could talk directly with the Japanese makers without the language/cultural barrier? Would change everything.

Completely natural, then, that customers would be raving about knives they've had input on, which is often the case with the US custom makers.
There are number of things:

-Steels (variety of carbon, stainless, conventional and PM steels, damascus)
-Heat Treatment (cryo treatment is pretty standard for most steels among Western makers, custom HT or HT done professionally)
-Level of Customization (custom handle/saya - stabilized materials, mokume, horn, etc)
-Blade Finish (hand rubbed finish equivalent you will see from just a handful of J. makers)

There is a reason why it is easier to sell through distributor than be a custom maker. It takes the pain (and a lot of time involved in communicating with a customer) away.

Don't assume that if you could communicate with a maker directly, you would get exactly what you want. Sometimes things don't make production sense, or sense in general, or a maker is not going to change his method to accommodate a customer (try to get a mono blade from a san mai maker like Shigefusa or try to get a knife in a steel like M390 or K390 from a maker like Yoshikane).

M
 

JBroida

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one of the reasons you dont see mono blades from shigefusa and m390 from yoshikane is specialization, which is something we often forget about here. Being able to do everything doesnt mean you will be good at all of it. Theres a reason you see guys like kramer using mainly 52100 or devin spending huge amounts of time with aeb-l, etc.
 
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Don't assume that if you could communicate with the maker directly, you would get exactly what you want. Some times things don't make production sense, or sense in general, or a maker is not going to change his method to accommodate a customer (try to get a mono blade from a san mai maker like Shigefusa or try to get a knife in a steel like M390 or K390 from a maker like Yoshikane).
Definitely, and the recent thread on 1-bevelled gyuto is as an example. Yeah, there might be 1 or 2 out there that would do it, but if the idea doesn't make sense a good maker wouldn't want his name attached the inferior end result.
 

Chef Doom

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I agree with you Maxim. I don't think he was trying to be or is racist at all. But here in the states, the term is an easy and efficient defensive tool for arguments and a cheap way to invalidate someones opinion.

Recommending to put Japanese knife in home oven because it chipped to make it softer "because i know better then those Japanese blacksmith" :D is very good example !
:plus1: Why anyone would recommend this is beyond me.

And yeah in any i mean ANY feld you get better the more you do what you do. So you can not really compare one that makes knives for 2 year and one that have been making for 50, i think its quite logical
I only %50 agree with you on this one. You can make crap for 50 years because you were taught to make crap by someone who did the same for 50 years and be satisfied with the crap you have been making because there is a strong market for your crap. Especially when there is a market for "The lowest priced item without question".

I find that a silly and ignorant remark, very typical of the fanboyism one can sometimes see online in communities like this.
What constitutes a good knife depends on a number of factors.
In addition, we all have our own preferences......

Oh, did I mention I have two foster-kids?
Both from Thailand.
How's that for a racist?
You just don't understand American Patriotism. A lesson or manual is in order :bat: :IMOK: :lol2:

I would admit that saying that American makers was improving on Japanese knives was a little far fetched. I've seen that a lot of the American makers are copying Japanese profiles and steel hardness, but every craftsman is trying to find their own style in their own way. Traditional American cutlery originated from European settlers. And despite the Asian immigrants that helped us build the railroads, European style cutlery is what we were stuck with until then. Chinese cleavers have been available for a long time, but that old sense of patriotism would keep them from being popular. Japanese profiles and techniques was a popular and excellent break from the norm. Plus there is always a hunger for a "Made in the U.S.A" stamp.

And a word of advise, you don't defend against accusations of racism buy presenting your foster kids. At least not in America. That is now a cliche. The best is to ignore, laugh, or say screw you. Unless you are a white politician in the U.S. Then you have a problem.

On another note, I can never understand the appeal of wine to begin with. I could never drink enough of it to get a decent level of intoxication without getting an upset stomach. Hard liquor hits too fast too quickly.

Why so Japanocentric?

Because sake is the perfect liquor. It has given me the longest consistent buzz that did not include a hangover.

JAPAN IN THE HOUSE!
 

ThEoRy

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What initiated my rant if you will, was the blanket statement of four named artisans improving on Japanese knives, indicating that the US makers like the four mentioned made better products. Period.




As for the racist part, I find it hard to take that seriously, and put it in the account of hurt feelings..
A side-effect of fanboyism if you will.

To your first quote...

Where did I say what you are claiming I said? I never made an end all be all blanket statement as you so claim. Don't put words in my mouth. Since reading comprehension escapes you, kindly read it again. I said, " What's funny to me is that the gyuto is actually the Japanese interpretation/improvement of a European/Western knife. And now we have makers like Marko, Devin, HHH, Pierre, etc. improving upon THAT now as well. Full circle perhaps?" Show me where I said "Better. Period." ............................................ Oh right , I didn't. I said they were improving upon it, because they are. Just because I learned how to make Beef Bourguignon from a master French Chef who had been making it for 50 years doesn't mean that I can't improve upon it. His is still great, but mine is also now great with perhaps improvements upon cooking techniques, prep efficiency or even ingredients. See how that works now?





To your second quote...

Where I come from, calling someone a hick IS a racist remark. "He's a ******* hick." It implies the person is a white supremacist, Ku Klux Klan member or any other kind of backwater redneck white separatist. To say that someone is from Hicksville, USA is to imply they are from a town full of ignorant inbreeding racists.

Maybe you didn't mean it that way but your own ignorance of our language and culture seems to have you at a disadvantage here and I think the best thing you could do is to apologize for that remark in the least.
 

Timthebeaver

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It's very clear that there are no racist connotations in Birnando's posts, despite the cultural misunderstanding/somewhat belligerent choice of words. This has been one of the most interesting threads on the forum in a while (ymmv), it is refreshing to see someone challenging the predominant thinking here.
 

Chef Doom

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What's funny to me is that the gyuto is actually the Japanese interpretation/improvement of a European/Western knife. And now we have makers like Marko, Devin, HHH, Pierre, etc. improving upon THAT now as well. Full circle perhaps?
But the gyuto was never meant to be an improvement on Western knives at all. It was mostly used to tap into a new market for exporting. I've seen videos and heard people from Japan say that the softer knives in Europe is a cultural and cooking style difference.
 

ajhuff

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Come on, aren't you guys thrilled I've stayed out of this crapfest!!! :D

Learned my lesson last time.

-AJ (the KKF pariah)
 
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