Japanese knives are popular because they cut well. However, Japanese knives are divided into special knives for each purpose, and it is not suitable for home use to prepare all of them. The knives used in Japanese homes are mainly Santoku Knives or Chef’s Knives (Gyuto). If you want to buy your favorite knife in Japan as a souvenir, I recommend one of these. As additional knives, a petty knife and a Deba knife are enough.
And don’t forget sharpening. A kitchen knife is not disposable, but you can keep its sharpness by sharpening it regularly. When you buy a kitchen knife, you need to check if you can sharpenn it by yourself.
Then, where should you go to buy a kitchen knife in Japan? Before that, I would like to explain the main points about the type of kitchen knife that is desirable for family use.
Materials of Knives
Japanese knives are made of steel. If you want the ultimate sharpness, steel is the best. However, it takes time and effort to maintain steel because it gets rusty.
Therefore, I recommend a stainless steel kitchen knife as a kitchen knife. Nowadays, some stainless kitchen knives are almost as sharp as steel depending on the material.
Ceramic knives are also sold by Kyocera. However, they are difficult to regrind at home and they are easy to chip, so I don’t recommend them.
Chef’s knife or Santoku?
Chef’s knives are generally used as all-round knives worldwide, but Santoku knives are more popular in Japan.
There has been a type of kitchen knife called Nakiri Knife (it means “Vegetable Knife”) since a long time ago in Japan. Santoku knife has a wide blade, and the shape is between chef’s knife and nakiri knife. For this reason, the Santoku knife is an all-round knife like the chef’s knife, but it is more suitable for cutting vegetables. I think Santoku knife is an all-purpose kitchen knife for vegetarians.
In Japan, some people choose the Santoku knife because they feel fear because the chef knife is so sharp. Also, a chef’s knife with a wide blade is long, so it is not suitable for a small kitchen in Japan.
Materials of kitchen knives’s handle
There are many wooden handle knives, but these knives cannot be washed with a dishwasher. I recommend all-stainless knives because they are clean and can be washed in a dishwasher.
There are also kitchen knives with resin handles that can be used with dishwashers.
Price range of kitchen knives
Some knives cost around 3,000 yen to cut well, but if you want a good one, the price range is around 10,000 yen. Of course, petty knives are cheaper. If you are looking for a good cost performance product, I recommend going to Kappabashi or buying a Tojiro or Seki Kotetsu knife online.
Now that you’ve narrowed down the type of kitchen knife you want, where do you buy it?
Buy in a department store
Every major city in Japan has one or more department stores in front of the railway station. The upper floors of these department stores sell kitchenware and you can buy popular knives including Global, Misono, etc.
The major department store chains are: Mitsukoshi, Isetan, Daimaru, Matsuzakaya, Hankyu, Hanshin, Takashimaya, Tobu, Seibu, Sogo.
Buy at Tokyu Hands
Tokyu Hands is a group of stores that sell a variety of good products that are useful in daily life and have stores throughout Japan. You can buy brand knives including Global, Tojiro, Misono, Sugimoto, etc.
If you want to buy your own kitchen knife around the world, or if you’re a professional chef looking for a special kitchen knife, I recommend the following destinations.
Buy on the central market
There are many good knife shops near the big market.
In eastern Japan, the Tokyo market has recently moved from Tsukiji to Toyosu. For this reason, many popular kitchen knife shops have opened new shops in Toyosu (Sugimoto opens only in Tsukiji), leaving their traditional shops in Tsukiji. Please note that the market is closed on Sundays and also on weekdays around 15 o’clock.
Tsukiji Masamoto (築地正本)
Tsukiji Aritsugu (築地有次)
In western Japan, Nishiki Market in Kyoto and Sakai City in Osaka are recommended.
Buy in Kappabashi
In Tokyo, Kappabashi is a town where chefs go to buy cooking tools. Many shops close on Sundays, but popular kitchen knife shops are open.
Kamaasa Shoten (釜浅商店): My favorite shop. We also have nameless good products for young chefs who are not rich.
Union Commerce: Masamoto Sohonten, Tsukiji Aritsugu can be purchased cheaply
An English-language guidebook is useful for getting around Tokyo.
Buy online from outside Japan
There is a disadvantage that you can’t see the real thing, but if you know what you want, you can buy some items online. Knives such as Shun, Tojiro, Misono, Global, and Seki Kotetsu are available outside of Japan and are sold at prices not so different from those in Japan.
How to sharpen
The sharp edge of a kitchen knife can only be obtained by sharpening it regularly. The best way is to sharpen it with a whetstone, but it’s difficult to do it well. I recommend using support goods that can be easily ground. If you can’t grind it yourself, you’ll at least need a quick sharpener.
Please refer to this page for instructions on how to sharpen.
The best whetstone I recommend is Shapton.