Since seeing Michael Romano's collections of Japanese knives (many were around $1,000, but some were custom made and cost him $5,000, which he displays, never uses) at one of the programs I organized last fall, I determined the need to graduate from my Global knives. I mean, I like them-- they are basic and cuts everything decently, and I also learned how to sharpen them from Yoko's post (later an Umamiventure in Berkeley). What I didn't know until Michael's talk was that Global knives are made of stainless steel, which is very difficult to sharpen them at home. He said it's possible, but it takes forever to sharpen stainless steel knives.
I could have gone to Korin in NYC to buy Japanese knives, but I waited until I went home to Japan over the holidays.
When I was in Kyoto, I went to a well-known knife shop called Aritsugu. The shop has been around since 1560. There's a same-named shop in Tsukiji market, but it is unrelated, and had to be "blessed" by the shop in Kyoto to use the same name. The best knives (or the most popular among chefs) come from Sakai City in Osaka, but I always wanted an Aritsugu knife. (Sakai City is where majority of samurai swords were made back in the day. When the government banned samurai or for them to carry swords, they started creating knives).
Arigetsu was filled with knives from all-purpose to totally professional (sorry I didn't take any pictures of the shop!). There were so many choices, it was impossible to decide on one on my own. With salesperson's help, I settled on three knives (one all-purpose aka santoku, one yanagi for fish slicing, and one deba to fillet fish). But then the guy told me they only take cash. WTF!??! There are still so many stores in Japan that only take cash. They need to step it up if they want a sucker like me to drop hundreds of dollars on a knife.
So I had to give up the deba knife due to the lack of cash in my wallet. Deba is very thick, so that it can cut through fish bone with ease. It's the Japanese version of cleaver, but definitely thicker and sharper.
So I bought these two. Aren't they pretty?
Check this out! They engraved my name for free!
Since I am using them here in the States, I chose my name using alphabet letters instead of Chinese characters, as it's traditionally done. It is amateur looking, but hey, it's definitely one of a kind.
How cool is this?! Yamahomo trademarked knives. I didn't dare to ask to engrave Yamahomo, though.
They are super-über sharp. No wonder knives are still used widely in Japan to murder people. The salesperson told me that these knives slice so sharply that if you cut your finger, the wounds heal quicker.
So far, I've only sliced my fingernails, nothing has gone into flesh, but another bloody post may come soon. By the way, the reason I bought a yanagi knife (for fish slicing) is actually so I can use to slice meat! I know, any sushi chef would die if they heard this, but its sharpness is perfect to thinly slice any meat as well.
If you want to cook well, first step is definitely to get a sharp knife. It doesn't have to be expensive, but get a real knife, hopefully one from Japan, made out of steel, instead of stainless steel. This will change your life forever. Do not go to Williams-Sonoma and get a Shun-- the fake Japanese-style knives. They are crap. If you are in NYC, go to Korin in Tribeca. You will find decent, economical knives for less than $100.