Why Are Japanese Knives Always Sold Out? (And How to Get Rare Japanese Knives)
September 21, 20224 min read
We often get asked: “when is that knife coming back?” and it’s tricky to answer sometimes! We’re lucky enough to have four stores across Canada and a warehouse full of treasures. So, if that perfect knife you have your heart set on is in one of those places, we can get your chosen knife to you pretty quickly by mail. That being said, it’s not always that easy keeping everyone’s favourite knife in stock. So why is that knife you want really want out of stock?
The most significant reason knives are often unavailable is that many are made by hand in very small batches. Though blacksmiths in small workshops operate at a different scale to some factories, everyone we work with emphasizes an attention to detail and quality control when making knives. Every step taken in making a good knife, from the forging through to sharpening it and putting on the handle, is carried out with care and not rushed.
If you’re looking for a next-level, extraordinary collector’s knife - think a River Jump by Hinoura-san, a Shigefusa, or a Hana or Uchigumo from Terukazu Takamura-san - patience is the key. They’re collector’s items for a reason! They are all fantastic knives, well deserving of their reputations, so many folks are looking for them. As more folks fall in love with Japanese steel, it becomes harder and harder to snag one of these ultra-rare knives. There’s also just not a lot of them made! In the case of folks like Hinoura and Shigefusa, they set their own pace. They’re serious perfectionists and spend a crazy amount of time on each knife. Others such as Takeda and Moritaka are just one guy, or a few of them, and aren’t looking to expand their workshops beyond their current scale.
Takeda-san puts an exceptional amount of care into each blade, represented by the heart stamp, which is what makes his work so desireable.
Much of what we carry also arrives from a different continent the old-fashioned way: on a freight ship. Even without boats getting stuck in the Suez Canal, they take a while to get here. So sometimes that’s all it is—like Tom Hanks in Castaway, your knife is making its long journey home to you from a faraway island.
If you’re deadset on having a Tinker Tank or Takeda Gyuto, your best bet is to head to the product page on our website and click “Notify Me When Available”. Enter your email, and we’ll let you know as soon as we have one for you! Our waitlists do work on a first-come, first-served basis, so in the case of something like a Tank, it may be several years before your turn comes around. Your best bet is to snag it right away when you get that email! Rare knives tend to sell out quickly, so be ready for that day when it comes.
See that red button? That guy is your friend.
Another good time to get collectible & rare knives is our biannual Garage Sale! These sales started after Kevin’s twice-yearly trips to Japan, where he found all sorts of cool and unusual knives and brought them back for a special week-long event. This is the time of year you’re most likely to see knives like Hinoura River Jump, Shigefusas, Takamura Uchigumo, and some other super talented makers we don’t usually carry. You can catch the Garage Sale every year in late May and early November.
If you can’t get your dream knife, try to think of what it is about that knife that strikes your fancy. Let us know if you have some ideas about what you like—a cool hammer pattern (akatsuchime), a specific type of steel, or a particular geometry. Any Knifewear staff are sure to have some good ideas of what to show you instead, and we’ll all be happy to help!
If you’re down to try something different, I have some great suggestions for substitutes for popular knives that a lot of folks end up going with:
Masakage Koishi - The Nigara AS Tsuchime line is made with the same steel as the Koishi and are even clad in stainless steel. They’re wicked thin, feature an octagon handle, and have a cool hammered pattern. The Haruyuki Shiso is another great contender; very similar in style and performance to the Koishi. While many folks love the romance of a hand-forged blade, the machine-forged shiso blade is super consistent and cost-effective!
The Haruyuki Shiso look and work just as good as the Koishi, but are much easier to get!
Takeda -Moritaka Ishime. This may seem like an odd alternative for super-thin Takeda blades, but Takeda’s knives feature a blade geometry that’s slightly different from most Japanese knives we see. Their primary bevel is relatively short, and the Moritakas bevel their knives in a very similar way. An Ishime knife may also be for you if you like Takeda’s knives for their rustic kurouchi finish. If it’s the extreme thinness you crave, check out the blades of Yu Kurosaki for some serious lasers.
One way to get a rad knife is to go with a lesser know yet equally talented maker, like Go Yoshizawa of Nigara Hamono.
Hinoura River Jump - These are prized for Hinoura-san’s insane skill and artistic damascus blades. More often than blades from Hinoura, we get the NigaraOnigoroshi from the ultra-talented Yoshizawa-san, who spends sleepless nights brainstorming new damascus patterns and how to make them.
If you’ve managed to snag one of these blades, congrats! You own a piece of knife-making history. If you’re still after one, then I’ll see you at the next Knifewear Garage Sale!