Why buy a Japanese knife?

What makes Japanese knives different?
Are they better? Is there any difference between handmade knives and mass produced knives?

Simple answers to these questions from a chef.

 

As a chef of 18 years, I sometimes forget that not everyone is a knife nerd and has been cooking, swearing, and spending most their waking hours with degenerate chefs in a sweaty kitchen.
Sometimes even I forget to answer the simple questions that most people AND chefs can’t answer:
Why should I even buy a Japanese knife?

Now I’m not a great salesman, nor do I claim to be.
I am a chef. I am direct and honest.
So let me be honest……

The WHY:

Superior and unmatched cutting performance!
There is some small makers around the world that challenge Japanese makers, but for the most part Japanese knives are at the top of their game when it comes to performance.
After someone cuts with a real Japanese knife I always say it’s kind of like a “drop the mic” moment.
If you care about sharpness, you will be blown away.

Just cut a carrot with a knife crafted by Mutsumi or Fujiwara…..I dare ya.
These knives split the fibers instead of wedging them.
The carrots cut surface even feels different! Its smooth!
Then go back to your thick western knife that clunks through the carrot as it almost snaps in half under the pressure. You know what I’m talking about, right?

What makes Japanese knives different?

Thin knives:
One of the many things that makes Japanese knives perform so well is their thinness.
Thin knives create very little resistance.
Little resistance pushes through food.

Hardness:
Another thing is hardness.
Japanese knives are tempered, or heat treated and tend to be a lot harder steel.
This helps hold that stupid sharp edge for a long time!
Most of the knives I stock are above 60RHC (Rockwell hardness scale)
Cheap knives tend to be very soft and generally in the 50’s RHC.
That’s why most cheap knives stay super sharp……only for a week!

The steel:
Japan is famous for its world class tool steels.
These are the real “high carbon steels” and not the bastardised word it’s become.
The high-quality steels come in stainless or carbon varieties and most the steels I recommended are made by HITACHI.

When you combine these characteristics you get a knife that performs with ease.
Slicing, dicing, chopping, and carving through food that can make a chore like dinner turn into something exciting and dare I say, fun.

Massed produced/factory knives.

Some massed produced knives are good.
There are some Japanese knife brands that use VG-10 steel and are well made.
So why don’t I recommend any of them?
Well first of all……….I do!
Tojiro knives are mass produced and set the standard as far as I’m concerned.
(And pretty dam cheap also)
Sadly many mass-produced knives just don’t cut the mustard. 😉
These knives cost the same price or more than some of knives I offer yet have lesser quality.
I would purchase any Hitohira S3 over *almost all mass-produced knives any day of the week.
Better performance and higher quality for almost the same price? Why not?

*Disclaimer: I haven’t finished building my collection. There are other good brands I just don’t stock yet. Knives from makers such as Takamura. Takamura makes high end factory knives. I hope to add Takamura to my selection in the future.

Let’s be honest

I think this is where most knife shops go wrong:
“Japanese knives are for everyone!
I disagree.

If you open cans with your knife. Or use it as a screwdriver.
If you cut on benches, plates, or hard surfaces.
If you use your knife like a meat cleaver or pretend you’re the karate kid……..or if you just don’t care about knives and sharpness.
Maybe don’t buy a Japanese knife.
Japanese knives are made for boneless meats, fruit, and Veg😊
They can chip or snap if mistreated.

All that great cutting performance does come at a price.
The trade-off is durability.
Your knife has limitations.
Check out Care instructions for more info.

Lies. All lies.

Let me give you an example:
Take Kamikoto knives.
This company is so close to being classed as a scam/fraudulent in my opinion.
They must spend more on advertising then the actual product.
“Handcrafted Honshu 本州 steel blades………. blade features high-quality steel from Honshu 本州, ”

First of all they aren’t handmade, and these knives are made in China.
The steel is 420J2 steel.
Just one quick search I got this info from knifeuser.com:
“What is 420J2 Steel?

420j2 is a low-end (can be the lowest) stainless steel high in Chromium, it’s very known for its high corrosion resistance, used in Budget knives and diving knives, Surgical Instruments, daggers, swords, and scissors.”

High quality?! Handmade?! Japanese?!
Companies like these spend a lot of money trying to trick you.
The knife makers I buy from spend their time, money and energy making a great knife.
Basically, if I wouldn’t use it professionally then I don’t sell it!


Conclusion:

There is a massive difference. Unmatched Performance.
However, don’t be fooled! There are lot of cheap knives and junk available on the market.
Knives with Asian symbols and pretty packaging made to trick you.
Knives that “stay sharp forever” and ride on magical carpets with dragons and unicorns!

Japanese knives aren’t for everyone, and they won’t make you a great chef overnight.
But if you care about sharpness, edge retention and high quality tools crafted by tradesmen (at the top of their game,)
then there is a good chance you’ll find yourself looking at a website just like mine.

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