Buying Advice Japanese Chef Knife

Discussion in 'Cooking Knife Reviews' started by dalailamer, Mar 22, 2017.

  1. dalailamer

    dalailamer

    Messages:
    34
    Likes Received:
    12
    Exp:
    Home Cook
    Hey guys,

    I'm finally back in Seoul, and things are returning to normal, so let me give you a recap of my experience!

    First of all, I checked out both, Tsukiji fish market as well as the Kappabashi area, two fundamentally different ways of shopping IMHO (Spoiler alert: I bought my knife in Kappabashi).

    On the second day of my trip, I went to Kappabashi to check out a couple of stores and to get a sense of what's available. I focused my search on two roads, marked them yellow: 


    Area 1 was my starting point, there were around 6 shops, all full of upmarket knives, rather small and really Japanese. 

    This is what this street looks like:


    And these are two of these shops:


    We will get back to them later. 

    Then, I went to the main road, to find shop number 2. It looked a lot more western, and the owner turned out to be American. Great, I thought, finally someone who is a fluent English speaker. Unfortunately, not only the owner was American, but the whole shop seemed to be geared towards tourists coming from said nation. Lot's of people stopping by to shop for some really pretty knives, the cheaper the better obviously. So that was a rather short visit, even though I enjoyed the chat.

    On to shop number 3. Kamata Hakensha, most people around here seem to know this shop, so I guess there's not much to say about it. Some older Japanese guy explained all the different knives which were an option for me, in broken English, just like in the shops in area 1. Really sweet customer service, very patient and knowledgeable. 

    Being satisfied with what I had learned about the Tokyo knife market, I called it a day and went for some Sushi. My mate had endured enough knife shopping anyways.

    Two days later, I went to Tsukiji. Got there around 10am, so it was packed with tourists, and when I say packed I mean no more than 2km/h walking speed packed. Anyway, sightseeing aside, I went to the recommended shops, Aritsugu and Masamoto. 

    Aritsugu was INCREDIBLY small. Literally the size of a street food stall. A guy was sitting in there, sharpening a knife, completely filling the "store". He didn't seem willing to speak English as well, and communication with my couple of papers of knife related vocabs and drawings also was very brief. Apparently, they didn't have what I was looking for. Same experience in the Masamoto shop, horrible advice, seemed like being geared completely towards souvenir shoppers and Japanese. Took me five minutes to find out which steel was used in the knife they were trying to sell me, and the only further information I could get was "best quality". 

    Not exactly my kind of shopping, so I checked out another store, but with a similar outcome. Overall, wouldn't recommend. IDK what I did wrong, but I can't see how this area can be recommended to buy knives to non-Japanese speakers. 

    So one day later, I returned to Kappabashi. I couldn't get the two knives I posted here a couple of days ago out of my head. I decided to go for the more expensive one, because:

    1. I probably won't go to Japan for quite some time.

    2. The shopkeeper seemed like he knows his shit.

    3. You get what you pay for (or at least I hope that's how it works in Japan)

    Bought the knife in the left shop from the 3rd picture. Here are some pictures from the inside: 



    And that's all the shop. Between each sides, there's maybe 1 meter, 1,5 max. 

    Payed 25.000 Yen for my knife, so almost exactly €200. Walnut(?) handle, not that it really matters, stainless cladding which continues into the handle ofc, blue steel #2. 

    Some photos: 



    Asked them to engrave "can' touch this", I guess what they engraved translates to something like don't touch this or whatever. Close enough. 


    I'm not the best at taking pictures. Go here for a bit more: 

    Also sorry for the bad formatting, it's kind of a pain in the ass creating such a post with just the forum software.

    If you have any questions or comments, I'd be happy to hear from you guys!

    Thanks a ton for all your help, I would have never been able to make this purchase without it! 

    Best regards,

    Dalai_Lamer

    @foody518  @ChrisLehrer  @Benuser  @BrianShaw  @Rick Alan  

    /e

    Forgot to mention, this is the knife after dicing two onions and some other stuff. 
     
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2017
  2. foody518

    foody518

    Messages:
    1,061
    Likes Received:
    44
    Exp:
    I Just Like Food
    @dalaiLamer

    Wow thanks for chiming back in with pics and everything! :D

    Sorry to hear about those weird experiences with Aritsugu and Masamoto in Tsukiji >.<

    I love seeing photos of shops that totally full of knives O.O 

    Congrats on your buy! Looks like a nice thin grind. Have you used the knife a bit already? 2nd to last photo makes it look like there is some patina on the core steel (though now I'm thinking it could be a thin lacquer layer).
     
    benuser likes this.
  3. dalailamer

    dalailamer

    Messages:
    34
    Likes Received:
    12
    Exp:
    Home Cook
    Yeah well I wanted to see Tsukiji anyway, so that wasn't a big issue. 

    I indeed did use the knife, what you see is the patina after two onions, couple of chillies, three cloves of garlic and some potatoes. Took me by surprise that a patina develops THAT fast. Cleaned it immediately after finishing cutting each veggie. 
     
    foody518 likes this.
  4. chrislehrer

    chrislehrer

    Messages:
    2,011
    Likes Received:
    183
    Exp:
    Cook At Home
    The super-quick reaction will die down shortly.

    Nice knife!

    I'm sorry your Aritsugu experience was so blah. I think it's probably the Tsukiji-tourist effect: tourists have nearly destroyed that market, and there's now a huge project to move it to a new location just to handle them, so there's a good deal of resentment from people who work there.
     
  5. dalailamer

    dalailamer

    Messages:
    34
    Likes Received:
    12
    Exp:
    Home Cook
    So I've heard, IMO a new location is badly needed! The market will most likely lose much of it's charme, but what do you expect in a city as modern as Tokyo. Guess it's inevitable. 

    To be honest, I can kind of understand these Japanese shopkeepers. A culture which values quality this deeply and honors artisans that much just doesn't go well with tourists.
     
  6. foody518

    foody518

    Messages:
    1,061
    Likes Received:
    44
    Exp:
    I Just Like Food
    How's the blade profile suiting you?
     
  7. dalailamer

    dalailamer

    Messages:
    34
    Likes Received:
    12
    Exp:
    Home Cook
    Since I adopted a more thrusting motion, it is suiting me pretty well. Dicing onions, reliably slicing garlic thin enough to see through, dicing potatoes or chunks of bacon, all no problem. Have only used it two times though. 
     
  8. jbroida

    jbroida

    Messages:
    254
    Likes Received:
    21
    Exp:
    Former Chef
    looks like tsubaya
     
  9. rick alan

    rick alan

    Messages:
    2,374
    Likes Received:
    146
    Exp:
    Cook At Home
    You pay for the mirror polish.  Togiharu 
    Can you tell us more?
     
  10. foody518

    foody518

    Messages:
    1,061
    Likes Received:
    44
    Exp:
    I Just Like Food
  11. dalailamer

    dalailamer

    Messages:
    34
    Likes Received:
    12
    Exp:
    Home Cook
    http://tsubaya.co.jp/?pid=107801913





    Should be this knife then I guess? Maybe I mixed up blue #2 and blue super. It's definitely the same shop, and the knife looks exactly the same. 





    For easier comparison: 








    Anything you can tell me about the manufacturer? 
     
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2017
  12. jbroida

    jbroida

    Messages:
    254
    Likes Received:
    21
    Exp:
    Former Chef
    yeah... the sign in the picture of the store says the store name (helps to read japanese ;)  )
     
  13. dalailamer

    dalailamer

    Messages:
    34
    Likes Received:
    12
    Exp:
    Home Cook
  14. jbroida

    jbroida

    Messages:
    254
    Likes Received:
    21
    Exp:
    Former Chef
    haha... i really didnt even notice the english
     
    dalailamer likes this.
  15. sweetrub

    sweetrub

    Messages:
    7
    Likes Received:
    10
    Exp:
    Professional Chef
    It's funny...over the years, I completely got away from my German knives and have built a collection of around 30 or so Japanese knives. To me, they are far superior. There are few places in the world that could really give the Germans a run for their money but, the Japanese certainly have. I have several custom jobs, big names, entry levels, etc.. Of them all, I still finding myself constantly reaching for my Shun because it was the first introduction to Japanese-ish knives I bought. Since then, I've found several brands half the price of the Shun, that out-perform ANY German piece I own. If you'll mainly be using this as a workhorse knife, and not a showpiece, check out brands like Tojiro. I was able to pickup a powdered steel 12" gyuto for under $200.
     
  16. dalailamer

    dalailamer

    Messages:
    34
    Likes Received:
    12
    Exp:
    Home Cook
    Well thanks for your advice @Sweetrub, but the knife is already bought. Since about five weeks actually. 

    Will consider that when extending my "collection" in the future, though. 

    Since we reactivated this threat anyways, is it ok not to spend 100$ or more on sharpening stones?
     
  17. foody518

    foody518

    Messages:
    1,061
    Likes Received:
    44
    Exp:
    I Just Like Food
    For just your new knife, you'll be fine with a medium and fine stone, something like 1k/6k or 800/4k grits. Some sort of flattening solution. Under $100 for those is doable
     
  18. dalailamer

    dalailamer

    Messages:
    34
    Likes Received:
    12
    Exp:
    Home Cook
    Hey guys, sorry for my late answer. Just returned from a long trip abroad, I’m back in Germany now.

    And no, I am not a somewhat experienced sharpener. I have never used a whetstone in my life.

    @benuser, regarding the inexpensive stones you recommended: here in Germany the Naniwa Pro 400 seems to start at 52$, including a holder (). Some Amazon plugin is messing up the link for me, included a space in this one: https://www.am azon.de/Naniwa-Superstone-Schleifstein-2004-K%C3%B6rnung/dp/B003V3PLMU/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1500442912&sr=8-1&keywords=Naniwa+400
    Blue Belgian whetstones of a similar size can be found in a price range of 52 to 87$ (http://www.belgischerbrocken.de/lng/en/belgian-blue-whetstone/?count=40).

    That’s 104$ for two stones, without any other equipment. Would you consider this the minimum for Aogami Super Blue Steel? If so, I am willing to spend that much if it must be, but I would also welcome a cheaper alternative.

    For example, I’ve seen this combo stone being recommended: http://www.toolsfromjapan.com/store...ucts_id=2055:f03d9b2e96f5118a2f6d6948ee90c53d

    Regarding a flattening solution, is it necessary to start with a proper flattening stone? I have a few tiles lying around, smooth as glass. Was hoping to just glue some sandpaper on them and use those.

    Also, are there any tools which help to hold the correct angle which are worth buying?

    Best regards!
     
  19. foody518

    foody518

    Messages:
    1,061
    Likes Received:
    44
    Exp:
    I Just Like Food
    I think the combo from TFJ is a great value though not sure what your situation would be on any import/customs fees. They are both soaking stones, whereas the Naniwas you linked are effectively splash and go (no soak). Still, neither of those will do what a 400 grit stone will do (though there is the 320 Cerax add-on option in that combo stone link). I don't think you should need a 320-400 grit on your knife a while though, based on the knife you got.

    The way Benuser has recommended sharpening, there is little need for hitting a specific angle time after time. Start behind the edge and do a pass then raise the angle bit by bit until you are at the edge and have generated a burr. This also builds in slight thinning and the easing of any bevel shoulders that might develop through repetitively hitting only one angle. Also, Sharpie/Magic Marker to highlight the edge and somewhat behind it so you have an visual indicator of where is being abraded on the stones. This will help you build some angle control and muscle memory over time as well.
    There are probably also cheap or free phone Clinometer/Tilt apps that can help you visually get a feel for what something like a 15 degree angle looks like

    Glass and coarse sandpaper can certainly work. Just slower, and wash everything off afterwards. Flatten with wetted stones - not when they are in their dry state
     
    benuser likes this.
  20. dalailamer

    dalailamer

    Messages:
    34
    Likes Received:
    12
    Exp:
    Home Cook
    You're totally right, including delivery (and excluding import tariffs, I don't know if they would apply), the price difference wouldn't even be that big. Just ordered the two stones recommended from benuser.
     
    foody518 likes this.