Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Cookware >
Oct 6, 2009 07:35 PM

Japanese knives on eBay

Years ago, I bought a few Japanese cooking knives here in LA at Anzen Hardware.....the two-layered steel kind...the good ones.

I'm a lefty, so they were special ordered. But even the right-handers were over $100 each, and seemed to be of excellent quality. I have talked to many sushi chefs, and they all say, they get their knives directly from sources in Japan.

There are many "Japanese knives" on eBay now.
However I can't determine the quality of them.....and with many of them priced below $60....I am very suspicious of their quality.
They "look" like the excellent ones, but are they just cheap knock-offs ??
Is this one area where price actually can be a hint, to quality ?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. There are a few problems with buying Japanese knives on ebay.

    One is that you have to know a decent amount about Japanese knives to sort them out. Hopefully the seller would know and be honest about the maker and the steel used (actually, that's being a bit optimistic), but you have to be able to sort out these makers and steels and know or be able to reference how much these knives generally go for.

    Another problem is that while you can get really great deals on really awesome knives, these offerings tend to get pounced upon quickly by other buyers who know what they're looking at.

    Worst of all, it's reallllllly reaallllly hard to tell the condition of a knife you buy used over the internet. And while that's a hassle with western style knives, it's far worse with traditional single-bevel Japanese knives, where some dolt can irreparably damage a knife by sharpening it incorrectly a few times. I've seen some terribly abused knives listed as "good" condition.

    The good news is, I don't know of any real knock offs for high-end Japanese knives. Japanese knives tend to have very distinct markings on them left over from the way they're forged. If you're familiar with them, they are immediately noticeable and obvious. Counterfeiting this seems like it would be prohibitively expensive. There are exceptions - I could see how someone could pass off a Tosagata (cheap) for a Takeda (expensive). But for the most part, Japanese knives tend to look somewhere near as expensive as they are. I wouldn't buy a knife without seeing a few large, detailed pictures of it though.

    20 Replies
    1. re: cowboyardee

      I wouldn't buy a knife without holding it in my hand. Ebay has its place, but always remember that you are buying USED goods. If you are looking for vintage or collectibles, that is one thing. If you are looking for something of high quality you want to use regularly, proceed with caution.

      1. re: mojoeater

        We're talking about products that you often can't hold in your hand without making a pilgrimage to Japan, or at least to Korin in NYC. There are some upsides to buying on reputation (especially if the seller has a decent return policy, but that is neither here nor there). A trained eye is not a useless guide.

        1. re: cowboyardee

          A trained eye is only as good as the pictures it sees. Those pictures could be years old or of a completely different product.

          1. re: mojoeater

            That's true of ANY product on ebay, not just knives. Yet, people still do manage to have many good experiences there, along with some bad.

            Sorry to argue - I just disagree with the "only buy a knife once you've held it" line of thinking that gets repeated so often.

            1. re: cowboyardee


              It comes down to if you are ready to take that chance. The chance which you get a great deal against the chance which you bought craps.

              I think if you are buying a not-so-expensive knife (like a small paring knife) or you already have an existing one (buying a second or third chef's knife), then it is fine to buy without holding it or looking at it. However, if you are planning to buy an expensive all purpose main knife, then it is probably better to have a general idea -- if you can. It certainly does not hurt.

              I am not a picky person and I can adapt to different knives. It may take me 30 minutes to a few days, but I will get the hang of them and be fine. In fact, I don't think I own any knife which I held prior buying them, so it is not necessary. However, I know many people have stronger preference and will feel out-of-place without that perfect knife of theirs.

        2. re: mojoeater

          If you will only buy knives you can hold, you're severely limiting your options if you live in most of the US. Wusthof, Henckels, Shun, MAC, whatever. Knock yourself out.

          If you want something different, you have to take more chances. There are more reputable sources than eBay (JCK, Korin, etc.), but the simple fact is that a leap of faith is unavoidable.

          1. re: mojoeater

            "I wouldn't buy a knife without holding it in my hand"

            That works well with a few mainstream brands but not with traditional Japanese knives. There are only a few dealers in the US. I have bought from Korin (NY), JB prince (NY) and JCK (Seki). All have excellent customer service and easy returns.
            Buying from a reputable dealer is a wise choice.
            Buying knives on eBay? A good recipe for disapointment.

            1. re: mojoeater

              that's just not true. Some of the knives are used, some are new. The important thing is to have a good dialog with the seller. I've bought plenty of new knives on ebay and some used knives that were fantastic. I bought a Messermeister Meridian 5-inch santoku for $20 (retail around $70). I've also bought a new shun for about half the retail price. If you know what you want, you should have no problem shopping for price on ebay

              1. re: chuckl

                "The important thing is to have a good dialog with the seller."

                What exactly is a "good" dialog?
                Contacting a seller doesn't mean a vendor won't lie or miss-represent a product.
                The other concern with buying main stream knives on eBay is that the vast majority of dealers are not factory authorized. That can mean zero warranty if you ever needed it.
                It doesn't help any that eBay has pretty much eliminated the ability to leave sellers negative feedback either.
                As always price should be a clue. If you see an item for a fraction of the price every one else is selling it for then it's probably a knock off unless it's used.

                1. re: Fritter

                  It doesn't help any that eBay has pretty much eliminated the ability to leave sellers negative feedback either.
                  I think you have this cannot leave negative feedback for the buyer.

                  1. re: fourunder

                    If you leave negative feedback for a seller, the seller can dispute it and send a re-vised feed back request. eBay often removes negative feedback left for sellers. So the whole feedback system is really flawed compared to what it was in the past IMO.
                    Because of this when you buy now instead of just reading the statistics you really need to take the time to read the comments left under "positive" feed back.

                    1. re: Fritter

                      So the whole feedback system is really flawed compared to what it was in the past IMO.

                      I would agree with you that the system is flawed, but disagree with you that it was better in the past.....the buyer could leave the seller a negative feedback unjustly and so could the seller for the buyer....and hold eachother hostage for fear of it. As a rule, I do not see why all sellers do not leave positive feedback, unless they do not receive payment or payment is delayed....after all, the buyer bids, wins and pays.....what is there to feel negative about. The upper hand is definitely on the buyers side now.....with regards to feedback. In a way, I feel as a buyer, the fact the seller cannot leave a negative is a positive now....he has service you properly and in a timely manner.

                      personally, I do not hold much attention to negative feedback,unless it relates to communication or service issues. If a seller has 99 positives and one negative, I am willing to give him the benefit of doubt, the one negative was probably unreasonable and should have been able to be worked out to an amicable resolution for both sides. It's my experience, especially when relating to golf equipment, the ones who are quick to leave a negative response are ridiculous with their positions....the worst being, if you do not ship the day payment is received, your service is terrible...even though they receive the item within 5 business days....and it was sent out next day after payment.... they always expect to receive the item yesterday.

                      In my history, I received one negative from a moron....and I was not able to have it removed.....even though I was able to prove the moron buyer deliberately altered the product before returning the item to me.....verified by his e-mails.

                      for anyone who cares....


                      1. re: fourunder

                        I have sold several items on eBay with positive experiences. Unfortunately on the buying end I have been burned a few times but I've picked up a few good buys as well.
                        I do think eBay protects it's sellers as that relates to their bottom line but you make some good points.

                        1. re: Fritter

                          Although I detest PayPal immensely as a seller, as a buyer they do protect you. I have made some bad purchases on eBay, but it was mostly my fault for not asking questions......or the seller embellishing the condition.....either I weigh the cost of return...or simply take the hit.....but mostly a request a partial refund. In my entire history of six years dealing on eBay, I have only left one negative response.....for the moron who returned the goods damaged back to me and not in the condition originally sent to him.

                          1. re: fourunder

                            While I respect your view my friend IMO Pay Pal won't do much to protect you. If I need to go that route I'll be looking to my own CC company and not Pay Pal.
                            BTW who owns Pay Pal? ;)

                            1. re: Fritter

                              Do you want to hear the story where my accounts at both PayPal and eBay were compromised with Identity Theft....$6800 was taken out of my personal checking account....both eBay and PayPal gave me lip service for nine funds were finally returned by VISA after the nine week period.

                              Both PP and eBay are necessary evils in my disagreement there.

                  2. re: Fritter

                    By good dialog, I mean exchanging e-mails that clarify any ambiguity. In my experience, there's more problems through ambiguity than out and out fraud, though I'm sure that happens too. If a seller straight out lies about an item, you at least have an email trail that you can use to get your payment refunded through either paypal or your cc company. I've had to do that a few times. And I've also found that for legitimate sellers, negative feedback can be a powerful incentive to make things right. Bad actors are usually exposed, though as you can probably attest, if a seller is determined to act in bad faith he probably will.

                2. re: mojoeater

                  OK. Let me rephrase. I wouldn't buy a USED knife without holding it. Unless it was dirt cheap.

                3. re: cowboyardee

                  If you count Global as high end, they suffer from knock offs.

                  1. re: Soop

                    The Euro Global web site has an entire page of fakes sold on eBay. Quality or value is another matter. Most of the traditional knives I have seen from eBay make me cringe when I think some one paid $100 plus and thought they were getting a "deal".

                4. Japanese knives have a following that are knowledgeable beyond belief. If there is a particular knife or two you are interested in, register and post a question at, In The Kitchen section. The responses will give you the answers you are looking for and most likely much more.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: BoardSMITH


                    I have heard a few who have bought from bluewayjapan on ebay and were very happy. I'm always leary of ebay from poor experiences with other items. But there are good deals to be had and a little knowledge will go a long way in a successful purchase

                    1. re: BoardSMITH

                      ""If there is a particular knife or two you are interested in, register and post a question at, ""

                      This seems like great advice.

                    2. Sorry to say I do not know bubkus about Japanese I cannot help you there. My only advice for you here regards purchasing on eBay....which is, as a buyer with your payment through PayPal, I believe the current policy is you have 60 days to return the item back to the seller for refund, less original and return shipping fees. You need to provide a reason for your return and the best explanation is to say simply the *item is not as described* the chance you are taking is really more like $20 or less. Regardless of the facts, PayPal and eBay, will really not get into the disputes and just wait until one side gives in. I found this the hard way. The only caveat as a buyer is, in your return of the item, you must return the item with delivery notification and provide that information to PayPal. Once the item is delivered, PayPal refunds your purchase (and sometimes with original shipping fees) immediately without having to deal with the seller. I have purchased and sold over a thousand items on eBay, so I have experience on both ends to qualify my information.....

                      My last advice is to deal with a domestic seller, rather than an international one if you really have apprehensions on counterfeits.

                      1. Anzen Hardware....great place that Mr. Maehara loves to talk.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: monku

                          I went to Anzen today, and priced a special-order left-handed Nakiri knife made by Sakai Takayuki. Around $250.....10 day delivery from Japan. (lefty's are up to 50% more expensive)
                          So for those of you who said there's nothing like holding a knife before you buy it...(especially at this price range) are correct.

                          Anzen pics...

                          (you can see the spruce cutting board I oil needed)

                          1. re: Freq Band

                            Too bad Anzen doesn't have a website. Looks like a nice selection of knives. Another place I'll have to visit if and when I get over to that coast.