Complete knife newbie here. I'd like to replace my junk knives with j-knives with good bang per buck. I'm currently using $5 Spanish Arcos, never sharpened. Suffice it to say that I can pass their full length over a tomato 2-3 times without any danger of cutting in. I've been relying on a no-brand serrated utility knife for most of my cutting as a result, something I've wanted to change for a while.
I have the good fortune to be going to Japan in a couple months, and I've found that many highly recommended knives at US/EU vendors cost around one and a half or two times what they cost in Japan. Done quite a lot of reading and came up with the following short list of knives that fit my budget. Basically I'm hoping to be prepared with a few options when faced with a wall of knives, in case I find that my first choice doesn't fit my hand, feel right, isn't in stock, etc... and to be able to strike while the iron is hot, as they say.
I'm looking to get 4 knives:
Gyuto, 180-200mm max, (very small kitchen, small 300mm cutting board, longest knife I have now is 160mm)
Masamoto VG 180mm Gyuto at Kappabashi st. for 12760jpy/100eur - in US for $180 including shipping - Not/Available on Amazon EU or anywhere else in the EU that I could find
Mac Pro MTH80 200mm Gyuto 12600/100eur on amazon jp, 150eur on amazon.uk The Mac pro Gyuto doesn't come in 180mm size. If I want a Mac under 180mm it's the 170mm Santoku.
Mac Pro MSK65 170mm Santoku 11700/92eur on amazon jp, 140eur on amazon.uk
Both Gyutos get regularly praised as a great introductory knife, and cost exactly the same. I'd be inclined to go for the Masamoto for the length. Haven't seen the Mac Santoku discussed at all. Anything against it?
4in Paring knife - Food only, even with junk knives I have a knife set aside for package opening, etc.
-Mac Pro PKF-50 120mm - 5500jpy/43eur/55usd on amazon.jp Couldn't find much in the way of discussion on the Mac or the Masamoto petty knife. No one refers to them by model number, anyway. Seems all anyone ever talks about is Gyutos!
-Masamoto VG6312 120mm - 7500jpy/60eur/80usd
-Tojiro Flash DP FF-PA100 100mm 6300jpy/50eur/62usd at TDI Rakuten (hopefully also that price at TDI's kappabashi store) $95eur on amazon.de
I've variously seen this described as the best bang for your buck in VG-10 alloy knives, "easily worth $150", or even "as close to a perfect paring knife as it gets" by the fellow at zknives. Others disagree, but neither camp provides much rationale. With the rave reviews I'm inclined to go for the Tojiro, though my understanding is the damascene is for show more than anything and feel in hand will probably be the deciding factor. What's the Masamoto getting you for 20 bucks more? Are you losing anything with the cheaper Mac or is it a deal?
Nakiri - I'm a vegetarian, so it's all vegetables all the time. I see other vegetarians asking 'what Nakiri should I get' and getting recommended to start with a cheapo nakiri so I've set my budget at $50.
-Tojiro shirogami nakiri 165mm - 2500jpy/20eur on amazon.jp, 18eur on Rakuten. I'm looking at either the F699 or the F702/702A as an intro to carbon knives, expecting them to crumble if they even look at a lemon but hoping to be pleasantly surprised. Lot of recommendations for this one.
Tojiro DP Nakiri 165mm F-502, 3961jpy/31eur on amazon.jp. 80eur on amazon.de. For 10 bucks extra, VG10 steel. Will probably go with this one unless the rusting on the shirogamis isn't going to happen if I put the knife down to answer the phone for a few minutes. On the other hand, I can almost get 2 carbon blades for the price of 1 VG10.
-Aritsugu Kyoto nakiri - expensive, reportedly around 12500jpy/100eur/130usd. From the hype around these it seems like you may as well be buying Kusanagi no Tsuguri itself. If I'm won over by the buying experience, I like the idea that the hardest knife to sharpen would be almost entirely straight. I read their knives are clad in steel, no idea about the rust factor on the edge though.
Cheese knife - Global GS-10. Serrated. Will only use for cheese, mostly mature Irish Cheddar, but we go through an awful lot of it.
50eur/ 6700jpy on amazon.jp. €51 (¥6,800) on TDI's rakuten - 90eur on amazon.co.uk, can't buy on amazon.de. Not much in the way of cheese knives posts, zknives recommended this one. Global handle looks cool, ergonomics reviews are mixed. Any backup cheese knife recommendations? Guess that's not really on your average japanese house's chopping block too often.
To sharpen all this:
Bester 1200 2681/21eur on az.JP
Suehiro rika 5000 5250jpy/41eur on AZ.jp 26eur on rakuten
Mont Blanc Super Togeru Knife Sharpening Guide 700jpy/6eur from tokyu hands. Never sharpened a knife before, watched a lot of video over the past couple weeks. Seen this recommended as one way to gain the muscle memory while practicing on beater knives before you move on to knives you care about.
Thinking of getting the Minosharp equivalent for the petty knife
SK11-double sided diamond plate # 400 / # 1000 grit. 2500jpy/20eur at amazon.jp. 2000y/15eur at tokyu hands. Plan to use 400 side for lapping the 1200 grit stone, 1000 side for lapping the 5000 grit
My main questions are:
1. What <$150 Gyutos/<$75 paring knives/$50 Nakiris should I watch out for in Japan that wouldn't normally be recommended on knife forums for beginners due to their lack of foreign availability or much higher expense overseas? For instance, the durability and stainless properties of a tool steel sound attractive but the ones I see recommended are either $300 and way out of my price range or seem to be no longer available anywhere that I can find (ex: Ikeda/Akifusa/Haruyuki SRS15 knives)
2. Is the black coating on the $20 Tojiro F699 purely cosmetic, or is it actually protective wrought iron, not just paint? Any reason to go with the equivalent white F702s instead?
3. One post I read suggested cheap carbon Nakiri's can be found practically everywhere in Japan for $15, any brands besides Tojiro that might be better all-round nakiris for cheap? For instance, what's the the MAC JU-65 Nakiri at $60 going to get you that the Tojiro DP at $30 wont? Durability? Edge retention?
4. Are Aritsugu Kyoto's nakiri's edges stainless, or do they need to be thoroughly wiped down and oiled with every use?
5. Are Kappabashi knife shops prices online representative of what you'll pay in store?
6. Is Kappabashi dorii generally the cheapest place to pick up these knives?
7. If I get sold on an Aritsugu Nakiri at Nisshiki market would I need to change either the Bester 1200 or Suehiro 5k to cope with the hardness?
8. It seems SK11 is a chinese diamond plate brand - albeit with decent reviews.... I couldn't find any info on them. Any recommendations for a better cheap lapping method, preferably as easy as diamonds and japanese?
9. Any major online shops in Japan besides amazon.jp, tokyu hands and rakuten I can price check knives on (or buy at)?
10. I'm assuming these knives will be a huge step up from the spoon-level sharpness I'm accustomed to, how long can I expect them to last? They'll be preparing daily vegetarian meals for 2 on a hinoki board if I can get a decent one (see last question) or a 50 cent ikea polypropelene board otherwise, with sharperning every couple months based on what I've read. A decade? more? less? Toughest thing they'll encounter other than the board is a squash and I expect that would shorten their lifespan so I'd relegate it to the cheap nakiri.
11. One last question -- any suggestions on hinoki cutting boards? What's important to look for in a good one besides that it be a "single piece"? There are hundreds of hinoki boards on amazon.jp, ranging from $15 to wait-that-can't-be-right-oh-it-is-ok-wow $3600.
That was a lot of questions, sorry. Thanks all for the insights and knowledge shared over the years! They should teach this stuff in school, it's been tremendously enlightening. Time flies on knife forums,,,