Food & Drink

What is the best Japanese chef knife?

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[OP]
Member
Apr 24, 2013
258 posts
630 upvotes
Toronto

What is the best Japanese chef knife?

Hi all,

I'm heading to Tokyo for vacation soon and plan on buying a very nice Japanese knife. I've researched a few different brands and am wondering which one is the best bang for the buck?

So far I am looking at:

Shun classic/premier 8"
Misono UX10 8.2",
Masamoto VG (western stainless steel)
Masamoto KS (Japanese carbon)
Miyabi sg2

I do prefer the yo "D" shapes handles over the western style. Also since I don't plan on going back to Tokyo for a while, I want this knife to last me a very long time with minimal maintenance.

Please let me know your thoughts and if I should consider any other brand. Thank you.
30 replies
Member
User avatar
Apr 17, 2010
202 posts
46 upvotes
Toronto
I have two Shun knives, and I think they are fantastic. (Haven't tried any of the others listed.)
Deal Addict
Jan 16, 2015
2423 posts
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Cochrane, AB
Depends on what you are trying to cut? A whole tuna?
[OP]
Member
Apr 24, 2013
258 posts
630 upvotes
Toronto
JoeStale wrote: Depends on what you are trying to cut? A whole tuna?
daily use - meat (no bones), veggies (lots of chopping), fruits, etc.
I am looking primarily at Chef 8" knives and may consider a smaller Sundoku Knife for the fiancee
Deal Addict
Dec 14, 2005
1432 posts
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pleebent wrote: daily use - meat (no bones), veggies (lots of chopping), fruits, etc.
I am looking primarily at Chef 8" knives and may consider a smaller Sundoku Knife for the fiancee
I have a set of Shun classics I've been using for 12 years, love them. I just realized how long I've had them for.

My coworker got this, it's a pretty good deal for what you get. http://www.williamsfoodequipment.com/sh ... -tdms2200k

Here's the classic knife http://www.williamsfoodequipment.com/sh ... ife-dm0706
Member
Jan 22, 2013
215 posts
50 upvotes
Toronto
Shigefusa knives are legendary. Carbon steel as hard as a diamond made by a craftsman of 50+ years. Just sold a nakiri, and cut myself horribly while packaging it up. Hard to find.

A pure carbon steel blade is not a toy and needs care to keep it in shape. You can get it supremely sharp but it will oxidize easily. Consider getting wetstones if you go down this path. It's easier to employ a blade which is alloyed to prevent staining but maintains good performance.

Kiritsukis are aesthetically gorgeous and sort of resemble swords.

http://houseofknives.ca/shun-blue-kiritsuke-8-vg0014/

But for the layperson I'd just get a 6 inch chef's knife or santoku preferably made of carbon steel, but failing that, a global or shun is a reasonable piece. The steel hiromoto knives with an exposed carbon edge are a great combo of functional performance and ease of use.

http://www.japanesechefsknife.com/Hiromoto.html

I have an 8 inch Hiro chef's knife which is comparatively inexpensive but which has the exposed carbon steel. Excellent performer and easy to take care of. My main go-to blade. But you may want a prettier item such as the damascus blades offered by Shun et. al. Note that Shun is not a "real" japanese blade. If you get into it you will discover the truly coveted blades. The misono you mentioned is good.

Check out:

http://www.epicedge.com
Deal Addict
Feb 13, 2007
1169 posts
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I was in Japan last year and picked up a Shigeharu knife, made (and engraved with my name) by the man himself. 8" santoku. A western handle was available, but I figured why would I get that as this is partly a souvenir?

However, his store is in Kyoto, not Tokyo, so if you're only in the one city, I believe you're out of luck.

I wouldn't bother with Shun. Not that I have any issue with them (I have a set I use regularly), but they're easily available in Canada, and mass-produced, not necessarily representative of the history of knife-making in Japan.

Your profile says in your Toronto. Swing by Knife if you can (on Dundas W, across from Trinity Bellwoods park), and take a look at their selection, ask some questions, hold a few in your hands and see what you like.
[OP]
Member
Apr 24, 2013
258 posts
630 upvotes
Toronto
Astin wrote: I was in Japan last year and picked up a Shigeharu knife, made (and engraved with my name) by the man himself. 8" santoku. A western handle was available, but I figured why would I get that as this is partly a souvenir?

However, his store is in Kyoto, not Tokyo, so if you're only in the one city, I believe you're out of luck.

I wouldn't bother with Shun. Not that I have any issue with them (I have a set I use regularly), but they're easily available in Canada, and mass-produced, not necessarily representative of the history of knife-making in Japan.

Your profile says in your Toronto. Swing by Knife if you can (on Dundas W, across from Trinity Bellwoods park), and take a look at their selection, ask some questions, hold a few in your hands and see what you like.
Awesome, I am fairly close to trinity bell woods and had no idea this store existed!!
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User avatar
Mar 7, 2006
3395 posts
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London
nanobu wrote: Shigefusa knives are legendary. Carbon steel as hard as a diamond made by a craftsman of 50+ years. Just sold a nakiri, and cut myself horribly while packaging it up. Hard to find.

A pure carbon steel blade is not a toy and needs care to keep it in shape. You can get it supremely sharp but it will oxidize easily. Consider getting wetstones if you go down this path. It's easier to employ a blade which is alloyed to prevent staining but maintains good performance.

Kiritsukis are aesthetically gorgeous and sort of resemble swords.

http://houseofknives.ca/shun-blue-kiritsuke-8-vg0014/

But for the layperson I'd just get a 6 inch chef's knife or santoku preferably made of carbon steel, but failing that, a global or shun is a reasonable piece. The steel hiromoto knives with an exposed carbon edge are a great combo of functional performance and ease of use.

http://www.japanesechefsknife.com/Hiromoto.html

I have an 8 inch Hiro chef's knife which is comparatively inexpensive but which has the exposed carbon steel. Excellent performer and easy to take care of. My main go-to blade. But you may want a prettier item such as the damascus blades offered by Shun et. al. Note that Shun is not a "real" japanese blade. If you get into it you will discover the truly coveted blades. The misono you mentioned is good.

Check out:

http://www.epicedge.com
Shun is usually overpriced for what you are getting, but they are good knives.

Hiromoto is very good. I got a buddy one of these. The balance is perfect. His is a VG10 so it does not hold its edge well. Note that Nagao has retired, so consider all of his knives now as limited edition.

First decide if you are going for carbon steel or stainless steel. The former needs a lot of care and work for a better edge.

Member
Jan 22, 2013
215 posts
50 upvotes
Toronto
That's too bad about the hiromoto. I thought I did notice a big price jump on japanesechefsknives.com

The SS blades with exposed carbon edge are excellent, though my stupid roommate used it to pry apart frozen steaks and broke the tip. Anyone know if the guy at Knife will reshape a blade?
Deal Addict
Feb 13, 2007
1169 posts
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My shigeharu is a carbon core with stainless on either side (think a carbon steel sandwich). Gives it good weight (at least for me), protects the blade, and just leaves the carbon edge exposed. The trick is to have a towel handy when using carbon steel - whenever you're going to put it down, wipe it off. Then when you're done, wash it and dry it immediately.
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Feb 13, 2007
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nanobu wrote: Anyone know if the guy at Knife will reshape a blade?
He should, depending on severity. I think one of my Shuns lost a tip a couple years ago and he handled it.
Member
Jan 22, 2013
215 posts
50 upvotes
Toronto
Astin wrote: He should, depending on severity. I think one of my Shuns lost a tip a couple years ago and he handled it.
What did he charge?
Deal Addict
Jan 10, 2009
1174 posts
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Toronto
Go to Kappabashi in Tokyo and go around the knife stores there. Find a knife that speaks to you and feels good in your hands. It's easy for everyone to say "this is the best Japanese knife" or that one is, but it's all individual preference. Feel them, look at them, you'll find one that calls to you and get that one.
Deal Guru
Sep 2, 2008
11399 posts
1410 upvotes
Don't worry too much about the brand. The brands we buy here from Japan are different usually from what you see in Tokyo. A lot of stuff in Tokyo is "unbranded" and the rest you won't even know who makes it. Spend an afternoon at kappabashi or tsukiji, if you are really into food go to both. If not, just tsukiji., look around the stores there and just pick something you like. There is no such thing as "the best Japanese chef knife".

You aren't going to Japan to buy a shun so that's out of the question. There is a masamoto store at tsukiji but I heard there are two different brands that go under masamoto name but not sure how that works.

To get an idea more of Japanese style knives in a Japanese store setting, I'd get familiar with the websites aframestokyo and metalmaster-ww. Unless you speak Japanese or have a translater I found it very hard to get info on knives at any store, but that was okay because I knew what i was looking for.

If you want more of a department store experience go to kiya. They sometimes sell unbranded shigefusa which are still $$ but the easiest way to get a shigefusa.
Sr. Member
Nov 4, 2006
780 posts
72 upvotes
I just came back from Japan, so I can offer some more intimate advice.

Knives in Japan are basically broken down to style and steel. With style, it's either Japanese or Western. With steel, you have:
1) European Stainless Steel
2) Japanese Carbon [blue or white]
3) Damascus
4) VG10 [stainless]
This is just a general guide and doesn't cover all the different types of steel. Each has it's pros and cons, but from what I've seen Japanese Carbon seems to be the most popular among tourists and professionals in Japan. Personally for the domestic cook, I would recommend VG10, which is a newer type of stainless steel with slightly less strength, durability and edge retention as Japanese Carbon, but is much more stain and rust resistant. In terms of style and handle, don't feel pressured into getting a Japanese style knife just because you're in Japan. Choose a knife with a handle that's comfortable in your hands, that has a nice weight to it and good balance.

A standard good quality Japanese kitchen knife will set you back between 10,000-30,000yen (approximately $120-325CDN), depending on make, quality and finish. More customized knives will run you an additional $50-100CDN. What's unique about Japan and the variety of knives available is the fact that the Japanese are specialists and make unique/specific knives for certain jobs. For example, they produce a short thick knives for cleaning and gutting eels, or long sharp blades for slicing whole loins of Tuna, etc.

If you're only going to Tokyo, than definitely check out Kappabashi (Kitchen town), as well as the outer boroughs of Tsukiji Market. More specifically in Kappabashi, you should check out Union Commerce, Tsubuya World, Kamata and Niimi. I would recommend you stay away from Kamaasa and Zwilling J.A. Henckels shop, both of which are overpriced imho. Though Kamaasa does offer great customer service, with multiple staff speaking perfect English, but if you look carefully, you'll notice the same knives at the aforementioned shops for 10-20% cheaper.
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Sep 1, 2005
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Markham
The Canterbury Tail wrote: Go to Kappabashi in Tokyo and go around the knife stores there. Find a knife that speaks to you and feels good in your hands. It's easy for everyone to say "this is the best Japanese knife" or that one is, but it's all individual preference. Feel them, look at them, you'll find one that calls to you and get that one.
+1

Best advice here. Unless you're buying just to impress as opposed to cook.
We're all bozos on the bus until we find a way to express ourselves...

Failure is always an option...just not the preferred one!
Deal Addict
Feb 13, 2007
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nanobu wrote: What did he charge?
No idea. This was a couple years ago, and part of a larger sharpening job. You can always call and ask.

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