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Top Japanese Knives

Mon Jan 14, 2013 7:47 pm

Hi Everyone,

I am delighted to have found this forum. I have to purchase a gift. This gift has layered importance. I decided on exquisite Japanese kitchen knives to achieve my desired objective. The recipients are the type of individuals who are "in-the-know" meaning that they either already understand the value of said item(s), or they will research (or have it researched) and come to understand the value of said item(s).

As it stands, I am not up to speed on evaluating high end Japanese knives. Therefore, I am asking for your your assistance. I would like to ask for some of you to list your top three to five Japanese knives (by name not actual knife selection(s)). I am looking to purhase knives that turn heads, exude quality, understanding, and appreciation for exquisite cutlery, and generate immediate conversation at intimate dinner gatherings where time in the kitchen is a major part of the gathering and the evening.

Thank you!!!

Re: Top Japanese Knives

Mon Jan 14, 2013 10:57 pm

If someone gave me one of these, I probably would spend many hours admiring it.(I am a total noob, so my advice is worth exactly as much as you are paying for it.)

http://www.chefknivestogo.com/satash30yasa.html

Re: Top Japanese Knives

Mon Jan 14, 2013 11:38 pm

That is one beautiful knife. Thank you for this recommendation. I hope to receive a number of responses to see if there is any type of agreement. It may turn out that there are many subjective options which would be perfectly fine with me. I must say the knife that you linked is stunning. I'd be very proud to present that as my gift.

The one reviewer referenced his recipient as a sushi chef. I do not eat sushi so I am wondering if this knife is specific to that one task.

Many Thanks!

Re: Top Japanese Knives

Tue Jan 15, 2013 2:03 pm

Yes, a yanagi is a specialty knife made to aide in making sushi. This is the case with almost all the Japanese standard professional knives....deba, yanagi, usuba being the top three. There are reportedly hundreds of these specialty knives with variations based on their geographic use.

If you're looking for more of a western style blade, then I would hunt for a gyuto which is basically a chef's knife.

If you're looking for the top Japanese knife makers, that might be kind of difficult.

Most all Japanese knives are made by individual knife makers. There is a forger, a final grind/sharpening guy, and a handle maker. They typically don't work in the same factory. They typically rarely work continuously for the same company. Konosuke will ask a group of these to make this knife for them, Sakai Takayuki will ask them to make a different knife....so on and so forth.

It's a very interesting way of doing things....and I'm completely fascinated with it.

So, you could have the same exact knife made by the same exact group of three people who all work in the same general area but not in the same factory with a Konosuke label and with a Sakai Takayuki (or any number of other company names). You'd never know though.

The same is true, to some extent, about factory made knives. The Kikuichi TKC knives are a good example....Kikuichi picked up the line because Ichimonji, the original company that sold them, wouldn't export them. So Mark asked Kikuichi to pick up the line. The TKC knives are made in a factory somewhere and that factory puts Kikuichi on some and Ichimonji on some others.

It's a huge web.

OMG I'm writing a book. :@

Some of the more respected knife houses in Japan:

Masamoto

Aritsugu

Nenohi (Nenox)

Suisin

Hattori (himself, but I don't think he's making knives any more)

Shigefusa (this is a case where they are actually all made in house)

That's quick off the top of my head.

You want to really blow a knife nuts mind, buy something from this page:

http://www.nenohi.co.jp/tokutyu.html

If you want to be a little more pedestrian, this is by no means a slouch of a knife:

http://www.chefknivestogo.com/mahowa24.html

Re: Top Japanese Knives

Tue Jan 15, 2013 2:23 pm

Adam,

Amazing information!!! Thank you!

I truly enjoy being educated on any subject of interest, and you have elevated my understanding of the intricate "web" of Japanese knife making to an entirely new level. I truly appreciate your taking the time to offer such a wonderful reply!

Re: Top Japanese Knives

Wed Jan 16, 2013 2:19 am

And in addition to what Adam is saying ( and I am sure he has volumes more to impart. It is a lifelong journey to be sure)..

There are American bladesmiths that Mark sells that rival the Japanese makers. In many circles a Butch Harner, to just name one, would inspire some serious conversation. Or a real Kramer..

People collect all kinds of things.. I am a relative knife novice and I have tens of thousands of dollars worth.. I can't even begin to tell you what taz and water crawl and Mark can tell you.. Now if you want to talk small boats, I can go on for hours about relative merits.. Esoteric differences for sure..

I think the relative paucity of responses to your question is because the question is so "big" and the ability to respond relatively limited. The real answer comes when you have some knives in your hands with your friends and a big pile of food to cut up.. Add in some fine Bordeaux and the answers will come.

I am babbling a bit but I will trust you get the drift..

Re: Top Japanese Knives

Wed Jan 16, 2013 2:50 am

Thanks so much for your input. After I had posted my initial querry, I did re-think the magnitude of such a request. I was also concerned to not, in any such way, create a scenario where brand names left off the list would leave some feeling disappointed. You have offered a very sound opinion as to why the responses will be limited in number - and I would be quite pleased to have the thread stop at this point. Adam knocked me down with such valuable information, and you have likewise opened my eyes to a yet another facet of knife collecting: American offerings.

As for boats, I share your passion. I raced Hoby Cats and J24's in my earlier years, and I have spent some time on a Marshall 22 and a classic 12' Beetle Cat. However, this discussion is for a different forum. Thanks, Again!, for your response. Most Appreciated!

Re: Top Japanese Knives

Wed Jan 16, 2013 3:32 am

I agree. It's hard to pin down the top Japanese makers since there are usually several people involved in each knife. Many of the manufacturers make several different brands as well. Some knives just have a different factor to them, like some of Korins fancy handled knives, others used a damascus steel, etc. Other knives may look simple or plain, but the beauty is in the knife and how it handles and performs. Look at the Honyaki knives; many look plain until you look and see the hamon line like on the swords and then see how the steel holds the edge and the type of edge it takes! The craftsmanship level is very high in those, but at first glance, it looks like most other knives.

The non Japanese makers, like Randy Haas, Pierre Rodrigue, Butch Harner, Devin Thomas, Fowler, Rader, etc are usually doing everything themselves (or maybe 1 other person helping) and do some really wild stuff that isn't the "normal" Japanese knife in terms of both the blade material, shape and the handle styling and materials.

Re: Top Japanese Knives

Wed Jan 16, 2013 4:11 am

Is this knife going to be used?

If you just want something that's pretty, there are a lot of fine knives with a great heritage, and you can just pick something you like. But if it's going to someone who is a serious cook, the value of the gift will be that much greater if it can serve the purpose for which it was designed. If it's for a cook who is not already a committed user of Japanese knives (in which case they'll have some strong opinions already), it would be hard to go wrong with a 240mm gyuto. A less serious cook who will still use it? Probably a 210mm gyuto.

To the above list, I'd add Murray Carter, who is both a respect American craftsman and someone deeply connected to the Japanese tradition. A larger operation than the single proprietor guys above, but his high grade series knives are gorgeous.

Re: Top Japanese Knives

Wed Jan 16, 2013 4:19 am

Thank you for your thoughtful input.

I forwarded several of the short video clips to my wife that I found connected to the Honyaki blades per your recommendation. Admittedly, we have never been focused on high end kitchen knives. We just have some basic, no thrills, inexpensive kitchen knives that we keep as sharp as they can be kept. We use one specific knife probably 90% of the time.

That said, we do have several very nice, high quality, extremely sharp, well maintained hiking/camping knives that are very important to us. However, my recent gift decision has instantly created a desire to add perhaps two very high quality knives to our own kitchen. After watching these extraordinary video clips highlighting the artistry of these knife designs, they have captured our intrigue. I don't anticipate ever becoming knife collectors. We'll just purchase knives that will see every day use in the kitchen. I am thinking two knives should cover our needs. We are vegetarians and fish eaters. We are also gluten free so bread loafs are not present either.
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