What gyuto chef knife should I buy while in Tokyo?

I don’t own any Japanese kitchen knives except for a classic Shun set which I sometimes use. Usually I use my Victorinox fibrox chef knife.

I am in Tokyo for a few more days and interested in picking up a good quality chef knife (~210 gyuto) to bring back to my home kitchen.

My budget is $500 maximum, and I would be happier spending half that, but might spend a little more if you can persuade me it’s worth it.

I checked out a few knife shops at the outer Tsukiji fish market but couldn’t tell which was the best, so I thought I’d consult with you.

My slight preference is carbon steel, but stainless would be fine.

I am under the impression Damascus is pretty much mainly an aesthetic feature, so I’d rather not choose that or pay extra for it.

I would probably prefer a Japanese style handle for the souvenir aspect as it’s my first trip to Tokyo, but this is a small preference and I’m flexible.

I’m into value, meaning I want the most bang for my buck. I want to pay for functionality most of all, but aesthetics do matter, as well as excellence (meaning I want to buy something that’s relatively top tier or as good as you can get, but without getting astronomical). A highly respectable recognized brand or maker would be appreciated.

What gyuto do you recommend I purchase in Tokyo?

PS I’ll be in Kyoto for a couple days if that alters your advice. Thanks!


Do you already have an idea of some names you would be interested in?

I think the article above highlights some of the issues involved in buying directly in Japan. Personally for someone venturing into J knives I’d recommend getting some advice first, eg from a US shop like Japanese Knife Imports. Especially with your stated budget of 500 usd.

Just thinking out loud, a knife that might be of interest, also because it has very good resale value, is the Masamoto KS gyuto. That would fit within your budget. But if I were to buy one, I’d rather go through the online shop in Japan called Japanese chef knives, because the owner can deal directly with Masamoto, eg in choosing different handles or ferrules. He is more knowledgeable and closer to Masamoto I feel than perhaps some shop clerk in Tokyo. Plus the benefit of having time to arrange for these modifications.


There are many good Japanese knives brand such as Masamoto or Mizuno. You cannot go wrong to get these, but you can also get these in USA as well. I think the advantages are the cost is a little lower in Japan and you get to see and hold these knives in person and maybe ask to crave your name on the knives…etc.

For more customization knife ordering such as Watanabe (渡辺) and Takeda (渡辺), you need time on your side and neither is in Tokyo nor Kyoto, so these won’t work for you.

My other thinking is to get lesser known and less refined knives. Go ahead and experience the local shops and get to the ~$100-200 knives. You get to buy something not easily obtain here. Go to the knife district. Maybe even venture into lesser known knife brands and lesser knife styles. Kamaasa 釜浅商店 is a well respected general cookware store.
【合羽橋の釜浅商店】 KAMA-ASA Shoten in Tokyo’s Kappabashi Road - YouTube
料理道具 | 釜浅商店 (kama-asa.co.jp)
Another idea is to expand to knife accessories. If you sharpen your knives using a sharpening stone, then maybe look for some nice stones, especially natural sharpening stone. It is far more difficult to get high quality natural waterstone here in USA than to get high quality knives.

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Thank you. I read this entire article and visited the store they recommended today.

You are right that I lack knowledge and buying in a rush is not wise.

I spent the whole day in the kitchen district in Tokyo and spoke with more than a dozen knife vendors at length.

There’s a lot of imprecision, exaggeration, half truths, and lore in the process of Japanese knife selling. I did not trust many of the people with whom I spoke today.

The article recommended by ipsedixit recommended a store just around the corner from the main drag of knife vendors. I did find the two older men working in this store were no BS. They didn’t try to sell me anything. They didn’t exaggerate at all. Their prices were 10% less than the competitors.

I am currently debating going back there tomorrow to close the deal on a 300 mm yanagiba blue #1 honyaki (hand forged). Their price was 10% better than the other shops.

I don’t need or deserve a high end sushi knife. I’m in part attracted by the prospect of taking home a souvenir and also having a super nice knife.

I was also considering buying Shapton Glass 500 and 2000 stones as I’ve heard these make an effective pair, though I would not dar sharpen the honyaki myself but would have it professionally sharpened if I go through with this purchase.


Good to hear that the article has helped, and that you have found a good shop!

J knives… There is no right or wrong here, I think it’s all just part of the journey. Some people like the journey, others like me just want the short cut to a few knives. I’ve spent around 1500 dollars on knives over the past few years, and the ones I use most are among the cheapest… :heart_eyes:

Anyway, some of the names you will hear a lot when you spend some time on knife forums are: Masamoto as mentiomed before (though seen as somewhat plain vanilla), Teruyasu Fujiwara (they have a shop in Tokyo), Watanabe (chem and myself have knives from him), Toyama Noborikoi (closely linked to Watanabe), and Konosuke.

As mentioned, TF have a shop in Tokyo, their Denka is highly sought after.

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If you can find a small scale knife maker who will let you into their shop, and share a bit, I’d buy from them. The experience will make the knife all the more special.

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I love this concept. The human connection is priceless. Alas, this trip didn’t allow for such a visit to a forge, which I would have really enjoyed.

I am typing these lines from the airplane bound to San Francisco. Akin to the connection you describe, I visited a flea market during my last afternoon in Tokyo and managed to find an older man with a stall with a selection of kitchen knives. I bought two knives from him and two copper wasabi/ginger graters, all of which were vintage though not antique.

I stayed at his stall for a nearly 20-30 minutes looking through the knives one by one and eventually negotiating a mutually acceptable price. By the end, I grew fond of him and his gruff exterior. Later in the afternoon I regretted not asking him for a selfie by which to remember the interaction. These human touch points matter to me.


Hi Damiano,

thank you for this very helpful post. I am finally beginning a J knife learning process. Up until now I avoided it by telling myself that my Shun classic knife block set is as sharp and extensive as I’ll ever need. This is still true. I do not need more or sharper or better (whatever that means, longer edge retention? Weight balance in my hands? Etc…) knives.

But I think I’ve decided this week while in Tokyo that I want a nice set of Japanese handmade knives. The reasons are that 1. I want to learn about the subject (the steels, the process, the shapes, the history and the names); 2. I want the feeling of remembering who made each knife and how I obtained it each time I use it; 3. I want a knife set that is intentionally built one knife at a time (rather than a block set) and composed of a medium number of outstanding pieces that are not available at any mall kitchen shop.

Each of my reasons are wants and none of them are needs. This is purely a matter of pleasure and luxury and not at all a matter of utility.

In addition to my classic Shun block set, I have a knife drawer overfilled with knives I’ve picked up from thrifting over the years. These include many modern Victorinox knives, several antique French chef knives, and a handful of American examples like some Cutco knives. I tend to buy these whenever I encounter them thrifting just based on principle.

I sharpen these cheaper knives in my drawer using a Trizor XV electric knife sharpener, but I’m interested to get a basic set of sharpening stones.

I admit yesterday I went back and bought the yanagiba that caught my eye the day before. It’s 300 mm, honyaki blue #1 carbon steel and the maker is Minamoto Tadatsuna from Sakai near Osaka, which seems to be a major knife making area.

This purchase was splurge of historic proportions for me, and I totally do not deserve such a blade or have the skill to use it. I never spend with this magnitude and seldom buy retail if it can be avoided. But I got a bit caught up with being in Japan (first time for me as an adult).

I’m not bothered that Tadatsuna is not on the list of the most elite / famous J knife household names.

My impression is these household name types are basically retired from hammering steel and they have a team of younger people making knives under their supervision and labeling them under the master’s name.

Hopefully the lack of international fame means Tadatsuna actually made this knife himself. Based on the superficial appearance, he appears to be as skilled as the rest.

With time I’d like to learn how to prepare sashimi and use a yanagiba. I’d also like to add a gyuto, deba, petty, nakiri, santoku, bunka, etc J knives. But deliberately and hopefully only very high quality.


The one marked "Made in America " :laughing: