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Help choosing a Japanese knife

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 

Hi all,


I was wondering if I could get some guidance on picking my first Japanese chef knife. I've had a good old read through these threads so am aware you might be sick of questions like this so a huge thank you to whoever might reply. I'm hoping Mr BDL might chime in at some point!


So. This will be my first 'proper' knife having just moved out of a shared house where things tend get abused. I've wanted one for a long time and now the time is right.


This is what I'm looking for, I'll narrow down as much as I can: 


1. A Japanese 8" chefs knive/Gyutou (it does have to be Japanese. It's what my heart is set on)


2. Something that will last a long amount of time. I'd love a 'knife for life'. Budget could be up to £130 


3. As you can see, I am based in the UK. Lots of other exciting knives I've heard of here seem to be unavailable to me and I'm wary about import duty/tax etc


4. I'm happy to go either stainless steel or the more fussy route of carbon. I'm not immediately planning on learning how to sharpen myself, I will be using a sharpening service as and when needed. Obviously I'll learn how to hone


5. The knife will be just for home cooking. I have a Chinese cleaver for anything heavy duty


6. I wish it wasn't important to me but I'd really like something that looks beautiful if it's going to be in my hand for years to come



I've been looking at the Shun classic (first ones I knew about as my brother owns some, and are readily available to the UK). 


The others are:


The Miyabi Kaizen, but a little over my budget at £149 (the only place I've seen them in for UK)


The Masakage Yuki 210, looks great and is apparently very nice but is out of stock at the only UK dear I've found. There is a 7" version but I'm worried that all important inch will make this too small:


The Masamoto VG 210. I've read that this knife is awesome but it just looks so standard. Again, I wish this didn't put me off but it just does.


I hope that's enough info. My head is swimming with the options. Are there any others out there available to the UK that fit the bill?


Thanks all!



post #2 of 14

Maybe I'm too removed from your local conditions to know better (I'm in the USA), but I was under the impression that the UK was part of the EU and import duties did not apply for transactions between parties in EU member countries.


If that is the case, then you might be able to expand your search to such sites as Korin France.



Galley Swiller

post #3 of 14
That's indeed an excellent solution. Another is getting your stuff from JCK,
who's custom declarations facilitate things greatly, all depending on HM custom officers, after all, alas.
post #4 of 14
Thread Starter 

Thanks guys!


I had found Korin France but it's is a little over my budget sadly.


Japanese Chefs Knives is interesting but now I'm presented with more names to consider! Given what I'm looking for, what would you recommend?


Thanks again for any guidance.



post #5 of 14
To put it a little crudely: it makes no sense getting a Japanese knife if you're not prepared to maintain it properly by stone sharpening. Sending out is hardly an option: only a very few sharpeners offer stone sharpening, and they charge accordingly.
Japanese blades are thinner, made of harder steel, have finer edges and are much sharper. But their sharpness requires frequent maintenance. After a few weeks any knife will be dull. With no proper maintenance a very nice blade will be as unusable as any other dull blade.
post #6 of 14
Thread Starter 

Crude is fine! I know of places/people so no problems there. I do intend to learn in time, I probably would want to practice initially on some other cheap thing though. And honing as I go will hopefully keep it going a little longer than 3 weeks considering it's for home use.


So back to the initial question, if you're still willing to help?!

post #7 of 14
With JCK, you may choose between Fujiwara FKH and Misono Swedish for the carbon steel, Carbonext by JCK Kagayaki for the semi-stainless, JCK Kagayaki, Hiromoto G3 and Misono 440 for the stainless, and Hiromoto AS for the stainless clad with carbon core.
With your budget you'll get most value with the Carbonext and the Fujiwara FKH, I think. Greatest performance with the Hiromoto AS and Misono Swedish though.
Expect Fit&Finish at the highest level with the different Misono lines.
post #8 of 14
I got into Japanese knives last year, so some thoughts.

I find the different style of handles to be quite importannt - I love the japanese style handles, don't like the european style so much anymore, makes the knife a lot heavier.
No doubt a personal thing, but it does make a difference to me.

I have a 240mm Tanaka blue steel damascus (from metal master in Japan). Lovely knife and a bargin for $120. Some people have complained about the f&f, but mine was fine.
The damascus isn't as shiny as a shuns - a bit more subdued, but a lovely knife.

I also have an Inazuma Nakiri from JCK. Swedish stainess Tsushime damascus, very nice knife at a reasonable price.

I can put a very nice edge on both knives and I am very much a beginner with the stones.

Before getting into the japanes knives my favourite knives were 6 inch knives, my favourite knife length is now 240mm.
However I must mention a Moritaka Hamano 210mm super blue steel knive I bought recently - I put a scary sharp edge on that. It's got the black (furochi ?) finish.

I don't have to worry about the import tax down here in Ozz, but I try to buy from japan as their shipping is so cheap.

hope this helps a bit.
post #9 of 14

Best lifetime investment you can make is learning to sharpen your knives yourself. Even cheap knives may perform pretty good if you keep them sharp.


Personally I like Tanaka knives a lot, but they do need some work, like rehandling and rounding choil/spine. And if you don't like Tanaka, then any knife from Ben's recommendations would serve you well.

post #10 of 14

Just a thought - you have both wa and western handles (can't remember what they are called in Japanese - sorry!)  in your list, which diverge quite a bit in appearance and 'feel'.  Some folks are very particular about how their handles feel (personally, I am not, but my wife is).  This might help you narrow down.  A lot. 


Talk to JCK and CKTG (chefkinvestogo) and see is there are any issues with shipping/customs/taxes/etc.  Mark Richard at CKTG and Koki Iwahara at JCK are both very responsive to queries via email and I gotta believe they are up to speed on shipping to UK. Just ordered knives from both within the last few weeks, and very pleased with customer service and attention from both.


FWIW, I just researched and purchased a 240mm gyuto.  I was trying to keep it under $200 US, and with a western handle.  After searching a bunch of forums, demo-ing what I could find locally, and putting up a posting on cheftalk, I narrowed down to Masamoto VG and Mac Pro, and went with the MVG.  A lot of performance and craftsmanship for the $. The MAC would have been a great choice as well (for me, the deciding factor was weight, the MVG being heavier than the MP).   If I was willing to spend a little more, the Kikuichi TKC would have been what I went for.  For under $100 US, it is really hard to beat the Fujiwara FK series (carbon or stainless) in western handle, would consider Yamashin #1 white or Kanashige SS in wa handle based upon reputation.


Last, I learned to sharpen by stone recently and I can't agree more with the other posts.  There really is no downside to it, other than using up a bit of your free time.  The cost for someone to correctly sharpen your knives isn't cheap and the monetary investment will quickly pay for itself.  Also, I was surprised by how quickly I gained a lot of feedback from time on the stones that helped with knife skills on the board.  And there is just something so therapeutic about it...

post #11 of 14

All of my knives are Japanese made. I've used a Miyabi Kaizen Artisan sg-2 chef knife for a while now, and I thought it was really nice, until I bought my Glestain. I hadn't heard of the company before, but I saw the knife on Korin and thought it had an interesting design. I've had it for about a month now and haven't had to sharpen it at all I just hone it every few days and it stays razor sharp. It's the best Japanese knife I've used and they're not too pricey.

post #12 of 14
A good waterstone will come in handy, also, if your blade is traditionally honed in the kataba style you will need to get accustomed to working with that type of edge. Maintaining your own cutlery is a great idea.
post #13 of 14

I sharp my knife once a week...after hard work in the kitchen its getting dull very quick....

post #14 of 14
That's not that unusual, especially with VG-10. It gets screaming sharp from the stones, but will quickly dull to a very acceptable and usable level and stay there almost forever. Consider both thinning and a more conservative final edge.
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