Buying a sushi knife in Tokyo?
June 5, 2007 8:21 AM   Subscribe

What kind of sushi knife should I buy in Tokyo, and where?

I will shortly be going to Tokyo and want to pick up a good sushi knife while I'm there. I'm willing to spend up to about 100 dollars US, though I'd certainly be happy to get one for cheaper. What should I buy and where should I buy it?
posted by Fat Charlie the Archangel to Food & Drink (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Look for a santoku blade.
Get one of those awesome, super sharp, ceramic sashimi knives that are solid black or white.
posted by HotPatatta at 9:02 AM on June 5, 2007

You want to go to Kappabashi, the neighborhood in Tokyo that specializes in restaurant supplies. There are a few knife merchants there. Plus it's just a lot of fun.

A sushi chef will have a bunch of different, specialized knives in his kit, so there's no one answer here. When I was last in Japan, I bought a friend a knife that the maker described as a "tuna" knife, but it had the same proportions as a 10" chef's knife. One thing you'll be able to find there that is harder to find elsewhere is knives made of carbon steel instead of stainless. These require more care than stainless (as you might imagine) but they hold a sharper edge longer.
posted by adamrice at 9:08 AM on June 5, 2007

Assuming you're flying States-ward with this knife, make sure you pack it in your checked luggage. I speak from experience (had to double back to the check-in counter and move sharp instrument purchased in Kyoto).
posted by beagle at 9:09 AM on June 5, 2007

There really isn't such a thing as a sushi knife since sushi refers to the rice, not the raw fish. What you probably want is actually a sashimi knife, for cutting thin slices of fish with a clean, even surface. This is either called a sashimi knife or sashimi bo-cho-(????)or sometimes a yanagiba bo-cho- (????) (?? means knife). It's a long, narrow and relatively thin knife. You can get it at any good department store, which is probably the most convenient place. A department store is also a bit more likely to have someone who speaks English to guide you, though this is certainly not guaranteed. With a 100 dollar or under budget you should be able to afford a good home-use model.

If you can afford it though and you are really into Japanese cooking, a three-knife basic set like this one (scroll down) would be ideal, consisting of a deba bo-cho- which is used the most for vegetables and general cutting, a sashimi bo-cho- and a santoku bo-cho- (or bannou bo-cho, aka all-purpose knife) which has become popular on its own outside of Japan.

Japanese knifes are bit tricky though - they have to kept very sharp, and they are made for right-handed's hard to find one for lefthanded peeps.
posted by derMax at 9:16 AM on June 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

Speaking as a southpaw myself, that's not entirely true. Some Japanese knives are chamfered on only one side: those are right-hand only (oh yes, I've tried). Most have equal chamfers on both sides, and are ambidextrous.
posted by adamrice at 9:59 AM on June 5, 2007

Seconding Kappabashi. There are several stores specializing in knives, so you've got a good chance of finding exactly what you need there. You can walk there from JR Ueno station if you can figure out which way to go, but the closest station is Tawaramachi station on the Tokyo Metro Ginza line (subway). Most of the stores should be open from 9-17 on weekdays. You might want to pick up a sharpener (toishi) along with your knife to take home with you. Lots of tourists seem to visit the area, so the shopkeepers are probably used to people who don't speak Japanese, though I might be wrong. But definitely worth the visit.

Bonus: Kappabashi is where you can find wax food samples that make great gifts!
posted by misozaki at 4:22 PM on June 5, 2007 [1 favorite]

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