If you are going to be just starting out in knives, then I would suggest that getting Japanese knives is as good a way as any to start out. In the long run, starting out with a MAC, an Artifex or a Tojiro DP will be worth it, rather than getting something like a Victorinox or one of the Zwilling Henckels (the "Twin" figure, rather than the "Single" figure Henckels, which are the lower quality level Henckels International symbol). Heck, even one of the IKEA Damascus VG-10 Slitbars at $50 each is better steel than a Victorinox or Zwilling Henckels.
Richmond Knives are the house brand of Chef Knives To Go, and are named after Mark Richmond, who (with his wife, Susan Brown) started and run CKTG, which is an internet and mail only retail establishment, based in Madison, Wisconsin.
As for handling any of your potential purchase knives in the SF Bay area, I suspect that only MAC knives will be at any brick and mortar stores. Check the macknife.com site for locations - in Northern California, there are 12 sites listed. For Tojiro or Artifex knives, you will either probably (Tojiro) or certainly (Artifex) have to buy on faith online, without getting the feel ahead of time.
I generally agree with Phaedrus on what he says about the Artifex and the Tojiro as being good introductory knives/was, though I would note that the Artifex M390 is currently out of availability and is/was only available in a 210 mm (slightly longer than 8 inch) length. I do respectfully disagree with his assessment of the MAC as overpriced and not a step up from Shuns. The MAC Pro gyuto is more expensive, but you are getting a product which is proven, has reasonably good edge taking and holding characteristics (maybe not as good as a M390, though I don't have one of those) and excellent design and balance. I rate my MAC Pro 240 mm gyuto over my Tojiro DP 210 mm in edge characteristics, while everything I have heard on this and other web sites would place the Shun as lesser than the Tojiro DP in quality (VG-10 steel, which both Shun and Tojiro DP knives use, is tricky to properly heat treat. Shun knives have a reputation for being more chip-prone than Tojiro DP's, though truth to be told, almost any knife can develop chips).
What you should do is find and buy a good ceramic honing rod (improperly referred to by the unknowledgeable as a "sharpening steel"), such as an Idahone 12 inch. Put a small hook for it in your kitchen (if you don't want to drill or use screws, use a 3M "Command" two-sided adhesive and plastic hook set-up). Then learn to use it. That will slow down the inevitable dulling of your knife.
Also, get a good cutting board. Read the reviews and choose accordingly. That will also significantly slow down the dulling process. I am partial to the Michigan Maple Block 15 inch square by 2 inch thick end grain maple board/block. Before first use, I do multiple thick treatments on both sides with food-grade mineral oil (I buy that at my local Safeway for about $3.50 for one pint), and I do it until the board is so saturated that no more oil will go in.
Eventually, you will want to do your own sharpening. If you want to get used to the idea, try a practice (junk) knife and a practice (cheap) stone first. A straight edge (no serrations) knife which is not too thin from a really cheap source (thrift store or garage sale) is fine for practice and a big, cheap stone from a local Asian market will be perfectly adequate. What you want to do with these is just practice. It's not for anything serious, but only to give you a feel for getting the angles right and for feeling what hand sharpening is like. Watch videos by Jon Broida, Chef Knives To Go, Bob Kramer, Murray Carter, etc., and go out and play with it.