Ok I am an Alton Brown fan, but not of his opinions on knives.
1) No! Most "pro" sharpeners are volume operations and while they make most knives sharper than they were, few are going to get knives as sharp as they are capable of being. Worse yet, because many of the operations use belt sanders they remove more metal than is necessary as a consequence the lifespan of the knife is shortened. There are good sharpeners out there but they are not necessarily widely or conveniently available. Here are a few on this forum who you can ship your knives to to have them worked on: sharpener-s-corner-f19.html
. Most of these guys will happily advise you in the "sharpening" section of the forum on how to get started yourself.
2) VG10 is a widely available quality steel. It does have a reputation for being chippy so I don't know that I would sing its praises for edge retention, but my Tojiro DP in VG10 has given me no problems at all. If you want a steel that will need less sharpening look at a Powdered Metallurgy (PM) steel like SG-2/R2 or HAP40. PM steel keep their edges well but in exchange are a bit more challenging to sharpen. The Kohetsu Blue #2 will keep its edge fairly well and is comparatively easy to sharpen. The Ginsan steel listed above is made by Hitachi, just like the Blue #2, and is well thought of. Any of these three would be preferable to me over VG10.
3) Many Japanese knives use a high hardness core steel for the edge and a softer cladding layer which may or may not be stainless. The Kohetsu Blue #2, for example is carbon core (it will react and discolor) with a stainless cladding (I do not know what steel they use in the cadding). The Tanaka Ginsan is a stainless core with what I believe to be a stainless cladding layer (need confirmation here). So this is not a unique Shun thing, but they make a deal out of it.
4) Maple, cherry, and walnut are the most common used in cutting boards. Be careful of exotics some will wear your edges. There has been a spirited debate for example regarding weather teak is bad, or only some teak is bad
. Bamboo is pretty crap but mostly because they use so much glue and the glue is so hard that the boards dull the edges. Plastic boards of all types are hard wearing on edges but they can be bleached and the disinfected. That said, there is some debate as to whether or not plastics are more sanitary as wood has natural antimicrobial properties. I do use plastic boards for raw proteins mostly because I use different boards for raw protein than I do for produce. Ultimately, if it is in your means, a high quality end grain cutting board like those from the boardsmith or lone star artisans is ideal, an edge grain cutting board like most Boos boards is next, followed by bamboo and plastics in what ever order you prefer. Of note, if you can sharpen yourself and you are not paying to have someone grind your knives away with power tools, resharpening a dulled blade from a poor quality cutting board becomes a non-issue.
5) This about Shuns: "They are decent knives but there are a lot of other knives (of similar or greater quality) that can be purchased for the same or less money out there"
*Lepus beat me to it