For Christmas this year John bought me two Japanese knives. To be honest, I cook all the time and I've known for a while that the knives we have are pretty dull, but I didn't really know very much about good knives. When John told me he wanted to take me to pick some out I nearly panicked because I wasn't sure I would know what to look for or even be able to appreciate such high quality knives. So I took a while to do my research and get used to the idea, but when we finally went I was so excited!
What I learned is that Japanese knives are some of the sharpest in the world. They're made in the same style as swords, and the steel they use can be sharpened to an exceptionally sharp blade, though it does make the knife a little more brittle. You probably don't want to go hacking away at bones with these. Originally I assumed that Kappabashi would be the place to go, but the store I settled on is in Tsukiji, where the fish market is. While Masamoto Tsukiji does sell knives for use at home, a great many of their knives are meant for restaurants and sushi chefs.
I chose a 210 mm gyuto knife, essentially an 8 1/2 in chef's knife, and a 120 mm knife for smaller jobs. The store sells both stainless steel and carbon steel, and I chose stainless which sacrifices only a small amount of sharpness for much more durability. Even though they're stainless it's important to wash and dry them immediately after use, especially when chopping salty or acidic foods, something I've never actually been careful about before. One of the most special things about these knives is that they will engrave your name in the knife, right there on the spot. With the stainless steel blades they can only put it in the bolster, but with the carbon steel they can carve it right into the blade.
I was a little nervous that it would be hard to get the knives, or that the proprietors would be annoyed to be selling to what would probably look like just another tourist. They're craftsmen who have been doing this for hundreds of years after all. But I was pleasantly surprised! Everyone in the store was very kind and helpful, even joking around and making small talk with John in simple Japanese. We saw a number of other tourists in the store, both American and Korean, and they were able to communicate in limited English phrases. If you plan on asking lots of questions or asking for much guidance it would help to speak Japanese, but by looking at their website (with google translate) beforehand you should be able to get a good idea of what you want before going in. This link goes straight to their stainless steal knives meant for home use.
Now that I've had the knives for about a week I have to say I'm in love. Cutting everything is so fun! And so easy! Honestly I want to say that cutting through potatoes or carrots or onions is like cutting through butter, but I tested it, and it's actually easier (if we're talking about cold butter, at least).
Hours: 6:00-3:00, closed Sundays and holidays
Address: 4-9-9 Tsukiji, Chuo-ku, Tokyo