One year on - back in Japan and a new shopping list

Joined Oct 6, 2009

About a year ago, I posted here looking for some advice, which I duly got ( Thanks, it was all really helpful! A little over a year's passed, and I'm back in Japan and have a small-ish shopping list. If anyone can give any more advice this time round, it'd be greatly appreciated...

I got back last year with a Misono 440 210mm, a 180mm Deba, plus some stones. I've since been to japan on a number of occasions and subsequently picked up a Masamoto 135mm carbon petty. I've given those knives/stones a lot of use and am now a lot clearer about things now. So here are my thoughts and potential shopping targets...

210mm Chef's

The Misono was/is an excellent knife. I thought this until I got the Masamoto and went through some sharpening iterations with them both. I completely get carbon steel now! I find it much easier to get a very keen edge on it and the Masamoto is an absolute delight to use, I'm totally in love with it. Now, my thought was to replace the Misono with a carbon Masamoto chef's (the same size, 210mm); the Misono has a happy home to go to, in the shape of my brother's. I'm sure this will be an outstanding knife. However, while i must check the prices out in Union Commerce when I go, it seems from JCK the exchange rate changes make this quite an expensive knife. Conversely, the Euro is getting hammered and I note that I can pick up a 8" K-Sabatier carbon for roughly half the price. This is possibly too tempting... the Masamoto will be a delight to use but half-price is half-price! Anyone used both, any thoughts? (PS the sabatier I mentioned in the original post is vaguely retired. I realised it had been quite abused plus it proved a little long for our small kitchen).

180mm Stainless Chef's & 120mm Stainless Petty

My girlfriend has also been loving the new knives. However: the 210mm chef's is too long; carbon steel is not, ahem, compatible with her cooking style ;-) I'd like to get her a decent smaller stainless chef's and a smaller petty. She's less bothered by absolute sharpness and edge retention, more about lightness/ease of use and toughness (she's less kind on knives than I am!); she also has small hands. I was thinking for her Masamoto VGs (based solely on the outstanding performance of the carbon masamoto petty), but I note also that the Hiromoto G3 from JCK is extremely good value. I know german/french knives are generally tougher than japanese, but are there any japanese knives that are good in this regard?


Absolutely love the deba, so good for dealing with fish! I'll probably look to get a bigger one, depending on overall budget :)

Thanks again,

Joined Oct 9, 2008
Love the Masamoto KS wa-gyuto, which does now cost a small fortune; haven't used a Sab sufficiently to comment. BDL will be along soon to tell you what's what on that one. Piece of advice, though: get a 240mm, not 210. In short order you'll wonder why you ever settled for less.

Deba: here's the deal. Bigger is not necessarily better. Depends what you use it for. I have come to the conclusion, after endless discussions with various experts, that debas basically naturally come in 4 sizes. The little teeny ones are specialty knives for butchering little teeny fish. The really big ones are specialty knives for butchering huge fish professionally -- and I don't mean in a kitchen, but in a fish market. What you're left with is debas in about 180mm and debas in about 210mm. So what's the difference?

A 180mm deba is handier, cheaper, defter, etc. For any fish you're likely to butcher, the front half to maybe 2/3 of the knife is what you will use -- you will not "run out" of blade with 180mm. If you do, you're doing it wrong.

A 210mm deba is minimally less good in these various ways. HOWEVER it has an extra third of the blade that goes unused when doing most fish butchering. That section of the blade you should back-bevel very strongly -- try 45 degrees back-bevel there. This is now your heavy shearing and mincing tool, perfect for making minced herbs or meat, shearing heavy chicken or fish bones, and so forth. No knife in the traditional Japanese stable of non-specialty blades can be used this way.

So.... How do you prefer to do those tasks? If you rely on a gyuto/chef's, and potentially a chef-de-chef or something for heavy brutality, you have no need for this extra section of the deba blade. Stick to the 180mm. If you have a genuine use for this in your deba, say because you've decided to go with a so-called "laser" gyuto and do not have another heavy brutality knife, then you want a 210.
Joined Oct 6, 2009

Thanks for the comments. Actually hadn't considered a wa-handled gyotou, so that's something else to think about!

On the deba... that's really useful. The motivation for a larger one (e.g. 210mm) was twofold. First, we picked up a couple of big salmon last year at an extremely keen price which we divided up and comsumed/froze/distributed to friends and family! This is likely to be repeated, such is our fondness for fish and the relative promixity of Billingsgate fish market to our flat :) This task was marginally manageable with the 180mm; on both occasions I thought it would be nice to be holding something longer. Second reason is this, "because you've decided to go with a so-called "laser" gyuto and do not have another heavy brutality knife, then you want a 210," exactly. As I said in the previous post, I was quite taken with the way in which japanese chefs use deba for e.g. mincing tasks. However, budget is a consideration, so I'm aware this isn't super essential - I'll sort out the other knives first and then see what's left over.



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