Noob questions on a recommendation for Japanese knives.

Joined Jul 28, 2015
Hi, I'm just a simple at-home cook who's always putting on dinners and entertaining whether it's a big family get together or a small poker night with the guys. I cook every day and enjoy cooking, and I'd love a set of knives to cherish for many years to come.

I'm looking for a small set of the basics (santoku, gyuoto, nakiri/usuba, other?). I believe in investing in quality to avoid costs later on down the road so I'm not looking for an intro or beginner set, I'd prefer a semi-professional set or at least a high quality intro set. That said, I'm also a bargain hunter and I never want to pay retail - so any tips on annual online sales are appreciated (I am patient). I also don't mind buying used if they are in good condition, if there is a reliable resource for such a thing.

I'd like:

-the highest quality steel I can get away with the least worry/maintenance (I care for my knives and am willing to learn how to occasionally sharpen the way these knives need to be sharpened, but I don't want to worry about cutting acidic food or leaving a water drop on the blade).

-something with a wow factor, I really like the hammered and/or Damascus look. I want to enjoy my cooking experience visually as I prepare food. I'm sure this is mostly psychological, but I appreciate the beauty of the blade.

-value retention. If I don't like them or get tired of them, I want to be able to sell them for a good price to re-invest into something new/better.

Visually, I like the hammered Miyabi Artisan Sur La Table set:

I also love the classy look of the Miyabi Birchwood set:

We're also planning on going to Japan within the next year, so any advice on some exclusive masters or dealers I could purchase from directly over there would be great. Brand names like Shun and Miyabi are so easy to find, but I am open to some lesser known makers.

Also: I recently spent some time in Vietnam and stayed with a family who I really appreciated their hospitality and amazing FOOD! The man had a poor set of knives which could barely cut into a mango, yet he spent the better portion of his day preparing meals for many people. I would love to find an affordable set + sharpener to send to them for use in their guesthouse. He is not into knives and gadgets, but I'm sure he would appreciate something better (low maintenance, reliable, long edge retention).. Okami seems to have decent reviews, thoughts?

Joined Nov 15, 2012
Welcome to cheftalk!

If you like the Miyabi then get them.  They are very good knives and they have the looks for you.  Does it really matter to you that Tanaka's SG2 knives are better?  Even if so the price of the Tanaka might deter you, at least I think they're more expensive, you might want to check that out, along with their availability.

So many knives you could send your friend in Vietnam, but I've got to run.

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Joined Apr 25, 2014

Speaking of sales...  Korin has 15% off ALL knives in July.  A lot of stainless options too.  They do this twice a year usually.  Next one probably Dec or Jan

For other deals, I've found good stuff off the buy/sell/trade forum on KKF.  Probably bought a dozen things from there, never had any problems.
Joined Jun 16, 2015
Just about anything you send to Viet Nam will be better than what he can buy there. While they do use a lot of Thai Kiwi brand knives, the Viet stuff sets new standards for extreme low quality. But its cheap which is what is important in lots of the world. That and the fact in skilled hands a cheap knife can create wonders. Just don't get me started on the dull crap they handed me at the state run cooking school in Hue! :)
Joined Nov 15, 2012
Unless the set is an essential part of your aesthetic, you can get a 9" birchwood slicer and 9" chefs for on amazon for $630.  In comparison the Tanakas would be a thousand, and good luck finding them in stock.

In reality you really don't need the ugly block, it's not a flattering or revealing accompaniment for the knives, which are too short in the set which also doesn't include the slicer.  And don't get us started on that "sharpening steel" they supply, which would be insane to even consider using here.

Takamura has some small knives in their Hana line which would fit nice with the Birchwood.  The plainjane Migaki line would not look too shaby either.  All R2/SG2 but there is really no reason you have to stick exclusively with that steel.

You can get a Mac Superior 10.5 " bread knife for $90 if you really want a [great] bread knife.  I believe there are some nice Damascus ones from other makers for a reasonable price.


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