Why Japanese Chef’s Knives Are So Expensive

Japanese chef’s knives are world-renowned for their unique design and durability. And just one can cost you over $900. From heating and hammering the metal to sharpening the knife’s edge and polishing the final blade. These are only a few of the skills a Japanese artisan spends a lifetime learning to master.

So what makes these knives so coveted? And why are they so expensive? Terukazu has spent 37 years crafting chef’s knives at his family’s factory in Echizen. Each one goes through 100 production stages and It’s a process that requires over 10 years of practice. Compared to popular European chef’s knives,

Japanese blades are lighter and sharper, allowing for more precise cuts. On the low end, most Takamura blades cost a couple hundred dollars. But custom-made pieces can sell for 15 times that. One of the most Takamura Hamono was one of the first knife makers to use a certain kind of stainless steel called high-speed powdered steel.

Because of its durability and strength, it was originally designed for power tools, such as saws and drills. Two qualities of the Japanese chef’s knife are known today. After cutting the metal, it is heated in an electric furnace to harden and strengthen the blade. Then the hammering began.

At this point, the artisan relies on experience and instinct to guide them in producing a blade of ideal strength and thinness. Hammering leaves behind circular indents, something knife makers in the past typically polished away. This hammered finish, called tsuchime,

allowed chefs to chop ingredients quickly and more efficiently. But a Japanese chef’s knife wouldn’t be nearly as valuable without its supremely sharp edge. An artisan presses the blade against a rough grindstone made of natural rock, a sharpening material you’ll only see used in Japan.

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