If you’re looking for a Japanese kitchen knife, it’s risky to buy a non-branded one. This is because there are a lot of unknown and suspicious Japanese-style knives for sale on the Internet.
There are 3 famous production areas of kitchen knives in Japan. Along with the history and characteristics of each production area, I introduce famous brands.
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Seki City (Gifu Prefecture)
Seki City (Wiki) has been producing Japanese swords for more than 750 years. It is known for producing high quality swords that satisfy all of the following requirements: not breaking, not bending, and cutting well.
KAI Group: The current head office is in Tokyo, but the birthplace is Seki City. The market share of domestic kitchen knives in Japan is the top. The KAI knives can be bought at any home center or supermarket in Japan, but the quality varies depending on the price range. “Shun” brand is of KAI Group.
Misono: Very simple and practical kitchen knives are loved by chefs all over the world.
Sakai City (Osaka Prefecture)
In the 5th century, the forging and steelmaking technique was introduced to Sakai City, and since then it has become a production area of swords and guns known for their high quality.
Sakai knives account for nearly 90% of the market for professional Japanese knives.
There are many small factories that are specialized in different processes, and not many famous brands in Sakai City.
“Some of” Yoshihiro knives are made by one of them. But be warned. The Yoshihiro knife popular in North America may not be the same brand as the Yoshihiro knife popular in Japan and Europe.
AOKI-HAMONO: This is the company that owns the “Sakai Takayuki” (堺孝行) brand. They produce a variety of specialty kitchen knives for professionals, including stainless steel chef’s knives.
Tsubame City (Niigata Prefecture)
Tsubame City started with the production of Japanese nails in the 17 century and is now a major production area of metalworking products that represent Japan.
They have a reputation for knives made of stainless steel or composite materials because of their excellent metal processing technology.
GLOBAL: The “GLOBAL” series of all-stainless steel kitchen knives, first introduced in 1983, has received high acclaim around the world. The sharpness is good because of the special shape of the blade, but the way of sharpening is a little special.
Tojiro: It is a company that manufactures kitchen knives for business and home use. Products with excellent cost performance are attractive.
Other Famous Brands
I would like to introduce 2 brands that are highly supported by professionals and are called “Aritsugu in the West, Masamoto in the East”.
With over 450 years of history, the Aritsugu (有次) is a very popular cookware shop. Aritsugu has not only kitchen knives but also first-class handmade cooking tools. There is no online shop and you have to go to Kyoto to buy it now. Western knives are also sold, but the lineup mainly consists of all-steel Japanese knives with particular attention to cutting quality.
My mother has been using this kitchen knife for more than 30 years. It needs to be sharpened sometimes, but its sharpness is wonderful.
Tsukiji Aritsugu in Tokyo (Official site, Japanese only) is a store separated from the original Aritsugu (Kyoto). Tsukiji Aritsugu is easier to get and is also popular. Tsukiji Aritsugu also have stainless knives.
This kitchen knife shop has been popular among chefs in Tokyo since the Edo period. The original company is Masamoto Sohonten (正本 総本店) and has a store in Azumabashi.
Tsukiji Masamoto is a store separated from the original Masamoto Sohonten. However, Tsukiji Masamoto is also known for its high quality as it is used regularly by Rokusaburo Michiba who is known as a master of Japanese cuisine. Tsukiji Masamoto’s knives are marked with “(秀)” so you can tell them apart.
Tsukiji Masamoto official website (Japanese only)
In addition, Sugimoto (杉本) is a famous kitchen knife shop in Tsukiji. This chef’s knives are very popular in eastern Japan.
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The following Amazon list is of authentic Japanese kitchen knives that I have checked.