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The Japanese are famous for making quality knives and a different knife for each cutting duty in the kitchen. Their attention to detail and function has made these styles of knives popular among western chefs and in many other kitchens around the world. Well-made Japanese knives fetch a high price in the west, but are Japanese knives heaper in Japan?
Japanese knives are cheaper when bought in Japan by about 20% compared to international costs. However, the cost of import reduces this margin and brings the cost closer to the price you would normally pay online. Cheaper online options are becoming more available as well as locally made equivalents.
Genuine Japanese knives can fetch a high price in the western world, and as their popularity increases, so does the price. If you are going on a trip to Japan, would it be worth your while to shop around in Japan for some high-end Japanese kitchen knives? Would the prices be cheaper than buying at home or buying online?
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What Is The Price Of Knives In Japan?
There are a number of well-known name brands of Japanese knives in the west, but these knife manufacturers are based in Japan.
These knife manufacturers know the value of their knives in the west, and even though they have a physical brick-and-mortar shop in Japan, the prices that are charged in-store are similar to the price of the knives internationally.
These shops have their location on main streets in Tokyo, Japan, where they know that tourists and western chefs will come looking for deals on these awesome kitchen tools.
Because they cater to the international market, these knives are only about 20% cheaper than what you could source them for from overseas.
On your return home, you will be required to declare your purchases and pay import duty on the knives. This would reduce the 20% saving and bring the purchase price closer to international prices.
If you manage to find a smaller Japanese knife maker that does not have an international market, you may be able to get the knives at substantially lower prices than the international houses.
In Tokyo specifically, there is an area of the city known as Kappabashi which is renowned for its kitchen and restaurant supplies, including the much sought-after Japanese kitchen knives.
If you find yourself wandering in this area of Tokyo looking for a good deal on some kitchen knives, you won’t find it on the main street.
The main street is where all the international knife houses are located. Duck into some of the smaller side streets and visit some of the smaller merchants. These side streets are where you are most likely to find a good deal on a set of genuine Japanese knives.
While they may not be one of the recognized name brands, they will still be authentic Japanese kitchen knives that will have the same qualities as the more well-known brands.
Buying Knives In Japan
Many well-known western chefs source their knives directly from Japan and will often go on a trip to Japan as part of their work. On such a working trip, they would certainly go to local Japanese knife makers to purchase quality kitchen knives direct from these makers.
Making a trip to Japan for the sole purpose of buying knives, however, would not be a cost-effective option for most people, even famous chefs.
As a tourist in Japan, however, you would need to be careful to abide by their strict knife laws to make sure you don’t end up on the wrong side of the law.
Japanese Knife Laws
The knife laws in japan are very strict, even for tourists, so some care has to be exercised if you are going to be buying knives in Japan.
It is illegal in Japan to be in possession of a fixed blade knife that is longer than 5.91-inches or 15cm without a permit. These permits are only issued if you directly need a knife that is greater than this length for the purposes of your job.
Most Japanese kitchen knives will easily exceed this limitation and put you foul of the law should they be found to be in your possession.
The authorities have realized that many tourists come to Japan and want to purchase some of these exquisite kitchen tools and therefore have made some concessions for the tourists.
When you buy a knife that exceeds the legal limit, the shop that sells the knife needs to wrap the knife and seal it inside a box and then place the entire package inside a bag that is also sealed.
The seal, along with the purchase receipt, is proof to the authorities that the knife contained in the box was purchased by a tourist and to be taken out of the country and not used within the borders of Japan.
The requirement, therefore, is that the knife remains sealed in this way until you leave the country and return home.
TIP: Broken knife blade – a nightmare for every owner of Japanese knives. Unfortunately, it happens to everyone. However, we know a solution to this problem. Check out the step-by-step guide on how to fix a broken knife blade in the article below:
Can You Buy Reasonably Priced Japanese Knives Online?
Smaller enterprises in Japan are turning to the online market to sell their knives to a wider market. This means that there are more reasonably priced, genuine Japanese knives that are becoming available in the online market at much more affordable prices.
While there is always a risk buying online and not being able to feel the knife in your hand before you make your purchase, these knives are becoming more accessible to the international market at lower prices than the name brands.
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Local Makers Of Japanese Style Knives
Knifemaking as a hobby, or as a part-time or even full-time business, is an art that has gained much popularity over recent years.
Many backyard knife makers have delved deep into knife making and are producing top-quality products that rival the big-name brands in the knife market.
This goes for knives across the board, from bushcraft knives to pocket-folders to Japanese-style kitchen knives. The processes that many of these local makers implement in their knife making are similar to the processes that the original Japanese manufacturers use to produce their knives.
These local makers even produce their own steel combinations such as Damascus steel and create blends of steel in various combinations, such as in San Mai steels which is a combination of 3 types of steel in layers.
Both Damascus and layered steels produce decorative and functional steel layers that make for great knives.
Of course, the influence that Japanese knives have had in the market of kitchen knives worldwide means that many of these local manufacturers are building knives in this style.
Are Local Knives Comparable In Quality To Japanese Knives?
Many of the local knife makers are building Japanese-style kitchen knives that are not only comparable in performance but also in eye-catching beauty as well.
These builders stay true to the style and purpose of the Japanese equivalent knife but put their own stamp on the knife with other design aspects that don’t detract from the purpose and function of the knife.
Thus, it is possible to get locally made top-quality Japanese-style knives that will do the same job, last just as long, and be less hurtful to your wallet.
The advantage of these locally made knives by local knife makers is that there are no import duties, taxes, and unreasonable markups by middlemen. The cost of shipping is also reduced because of local shipping rates.
If a knife maker is close to your location, many of them will welcome a visit from their clients to discuss their custom knife build.
Ordering a hand-made local Japanese-style knife also means that your knife will be personalized and unique and could be a talking point when the beauty of the knife is displayed on your kitchen wall.
TIP: Are you familiar with the names (types) of Japanese knives and know what are the differences between them? Many people are not sure about this issue. Therefore, we try to explain and describe the differences between the individual Japanese knives. Find out more in the comparison articles from the section below:
Japanese kitchen knives are no doubt quality and prestigious addition to your kitchen. While there may be some advantages from a price perspective to buying your Japanese knives in Japan, the cost saving is not significant enough to warrant a special trip.
If you are going to Japan on a trip for other purposes, it makes sense to visit some local Japanese knife shops and buy some genuine Japanese kitchen knives for yourself.
The effort is most certainly worthwhile, if not from a cost point of view, then from a cultural experience point of view and the opportunity to own a set of these magnificent tools.
However, if a trip to Japan is out of the question for you, it does not necessarily mean you need to give up your dream of owning a Set of Japanese kitchen knives.
Smaller Japanese manufacturers are now offering their knives online at lower prices than the mainstream name brands.
Don’t discount the option of local knife makers who specialize in making Japanese-style kitchen knives. You may be surprised at the deal you can get with locally produced equivalent products.
TIP: Japanese knives are among the highest quality and often the most expensive. Therefore, it is important to know how to take care of them properly. Find out the ultimate guide on how to care about Japanese knives in the article below: