Friday, August 12, 2011

My Japanese Knives




Good tools make even the simplest chore enjoyable and often make the most difficult much easier. Whether it is ironing a shirt, sewing a garment, cutting a lawn, fixing a car, or chopping vegetables, well-made, quality tools are worth every investment in resources and time to seek them out. I am pretty much devoted to my beautiful and practical Japanese knives. I have had other knives over the years - of course - but I have valued none the way I value these.

There is an area in Tokyo called Kappabashi. Pretty much a bit of heaven for those who enjoy time in the kitchen and good food. It is the restaurant supply and kitchen wholesale area for the city. I truly believe that one can find and buy the best of anything the world offers in Tokyo - if you know where to look for it. And the place to look for the well-out-fitted kitchen is Kappabashi. After our first stint in Japan I had a few Japanese knives that I had bought in one supermarket or another. I liked them better than other knives I had used but I knew they were not really "quality" knives, so I determined to see what I could see when we moved to Tokyo a few years ago. I took along my trusty interpreter (David) and we rode the subway to Kappabashi for the adventure. You need to know that when David shops for something (anything really) he exhausts the possibilities. Accordingly we visited every knife shop and knife maker in the area. Every one. It took most of a day and we learned a lot. As Japanese knife makers are passionate about their work and product it was a really great day. We didn't buy anything that day but went home and considered what we had learned. To  make a long-ish story shorter I decided that the knives I wanted were the Tojiro Flash knives.

At the outset I certainly was not looking for a "set" of knives. (I am more or less opposed to sets of anything - from furniture to jewellery.) And I had thought I wanted the unique hand-made traditional knives but chose the Tojiro Flash and have been so very happy with them every day for the last five years.


These knives are made of Damascus steel - a technique that originated in ancient Damascus and was refined in Japan during samurai times. The blades in my knives are 63 layers of steel wrapped around an extremely hard core of VG-10 steel. This produces a blade that is incredibly hard but still flexible (holds an edge very well) and is beautiful as well. The wrapping and layering of the steel when ground results in a unique and beautiful surface that looks like moire silk - a work of art.  The elegant handles are made of something called micarta (layers of resin and linen - how cool is that?), I love how they look and feel. They fit my hand very comfortably and add another aspect of beauty and craftmanship.

Being as hard a blade as they are, these are very very sharp knives and deserve to be treated with respect. I always hand wash mine and always, always use a good cutting board (either wood or Richlite - a paper and resin product). The down-side of the extreme hardness is that if one is careless the blades can chip. (Chips can be sharpened out by a pro.) That said, although I do treat mine with respect I don't give them the kid-glove routine and I have really no chips after five years of use.



I have two other Japanese knives that I would be loath to part with. One was quite pricey and the other only about 15.00. One is the traditional high-carbon steel blade that is sharpened on only one side. The other is who knows what? I use both regularly but not as often as I go to my Tojiro Flash. I have two identical TJ knives because I use and love the size and shape so much (and because I hate to ask anyone who might be cooking with me to use anything less.)


And that's my love song for my beautiful handmade knives. I do think they are so pretty.


P.S. Eden has a picture of Tiffany from the wedding up on her blog today. Just one but it is so perfect. Just in case you wanted to know.




3 comments:

Elizabeth Cranmer said...

I love that you cherish these! I have been on the hunt unsuccessfully for knives that I love since I got married. First we were too poor and now I just haven't had luck finding what I want.

I wish I could visit Tokyo now! These look excellent. So the hunt continues.

I so enjoy each of your recipes and cooking tips. Thank you for sharing.

Cheri said...

Elizabeth,
There is an excellent Japanese knife shop in Inglewood. You should check it out. Alternately, you can now find these knives online! Good luck.

I am so glad that you enjoy what I share. Thanks for the comment.

Elizabeth Cranmer said...

Thanks for the heads up in to the right direction! How kind!

I felt so flustered when you were at my home a week or so ago. Almost star struck or something silly. And mostly racking my brain wondering what condition my children may have left the facilities.

Next time perhaps I'll be able to calm myself.

Thank you again!