Currently I own a trio of cheap Japanese knives, specifically a Tojiro DP Gyuto, a Tojiro F-699 Nakiri and a Sakai Genkichi Funayuki. From what I've read they're all made from first class steel (VG10, Shirogami #2 and Aogami #2 respectively) and even with my no doubt mediocre sharpening technique they get frighteningly sharp and perform extremely well - I think. The thing is, I've never had the opportunity to try an expensive knife since the only Japanese knives to be found in local shops are the all-steel Globals (which I absolutely detest the look of) and no-one I know uses anything other than your run of the mill German-made chef knives.
While all my current knives are cheap (~$40) that's not because I'm adverse to spending more, but simply because I am adverse to spending "serious" money without knowing what it'll give me over and above what I already own. The many articles I've read pretty much all stress that the steel quality is the most important and my cheapo blades already have that covered.
So what *more* do I get if I decide to spend, say, $150-250 on a knife? Is it only a matter of fancy Damascus patterning, a hammered finish, exotic wood in the handles and bragging rights derived from the brand name and price (which I've no use for, since I know of no-one who might care), or are there tangible benefits to be had in terms of practicality and/or performance too?
Please enlighten me!
PS - I'm very much an amateur home cook, so please bear that firmly in mind.