Business Branding

Fake Japanese Knives: More Deceptive Chinese Knife Scams/Brands Marketed as Japanese Which Is Like Dating in the 80s

I realized Chinese brands might be a reflection of their culture which is like dating in the U.S. in the 80s, so when these companies lie and tell you that they are Japanese or a movie producer, that is their game, playa

As I wrote about in my previous article, if a person were to behave this way when it comes to dating, they would end up on the MTV show Catfished. Except maybe culturally being deceptive is not frowned upon in China because even in the U.S. during the 80s, you would often see this happen in movies and TV shows. The characters would pretend to be a doctor, an architect, or a Hollywood exec to get some booty.

Catfishing: “lure (someone) into a relationship by means of a fictional online persona.”

Definitions from Oxford Languages.
Photo Description: Seinfeld episode where George Costanza pretends that he is an architect (he's talking to Jerry).
Yea, George may be an architect, but if you need a latex salesman, I know somebody at Vandelay Industries.

When I Say:

  • Made in China
  • Made in Japan
  • Made in the U.S.A
  • (I’m an architect/doctor)

Each one of the countries of manufacture elicits a level of expectations to you, which is why one of the countries I am listing would rather have you think of their product is made elsewhere (or that you want people to think you are in some cool profession that you are not actually in).

Photo Description: the text says "most Japanese craftsman do not have websites/social media."
So if you are buying directly off a website, it is most likely not a Japanese company. Only the largest Japanese knife producers have websites (Kyocera, KAI, Nenohi, Tojiro), and they sell through local authorized (reputable) dealers.

Who Cares Where Something Is Made as Long as They Deliver on the Promise of What They Said They Would Do (Like Looking Like Your Pictures on a Dating App IRL)

That does not seem so hard to do, except these brands do not do that, which is at the heart of what I consult companies not to do. That is how simple what I do is, and the last two and half decades I spent building brands are typically all there is to what I do, which is managing expectations. If you say you will deliver said products or services, you simply have to come through. Otherwise, you are breaching the brand promise (just like if you are also older, balding, married, and you’re not an architect).

“Integrity” and “Culture”

Oxford languages defines:

  • Integrity: “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness.”
  • Culture: “the customs, arts, social institutions, and achievements of a particular nation, people, or other social group.”

Is it the individual or is it the culture of these businesses, and am I being American in my way of thinking because in many countries, price haggling is common place which is the pretense of this sort of transaction although it’s just happening online nowadays (just like internet dating vs the vegetable aisle of your local grocery store).

Photo Description: an image of a variety of Chinese knives from cleavers, chef knife, vegetable, and a number of other knife types. The knives have a darkish brown handle and the blades have a Damascus look - there is absolutely no branding or logo or product name on the knives (generic product shot). This is one of the most common images for fake Japanese knives.
They don’t put a brand name on the product photography like with Kizaru because it could also be Kincaid, Kanzen, Kefir, or Kofta knives *poof* just like that.

“Thanks Idiot For Being So Stupid and Buying Into Our B.S.”

To these companies/individuals, it is more of a game that they are the smart ones, and you are the idiot. This dynamic is all put to the test if they can get your money (or in your pants).

Ignorance is Bliss

I do not know about you, but regardless if I am happy about the product or service, who would want to be in a relationship dynamic built on deception? Yes, I know people raised to price haggle (or a ho), and I suppose if they never find out, don’t care, or they just exemplify the adage “ignorance is bliss,” then enjoy those knives because that is what it comes down to (just don’t come crying when you get kicked to the curb).

Trust Us

The reason why they are raking in the cash is that many of us are complacent idiots, myself included, and I say that because there is only so much you and I could focus on. So many times we as consumers rely on the integrity of the seller. Without it, we are the innocent doe-eyed calf in the hands of the wolf (and the wolf is not going to tell you whether or not their herpes is in intermission).

That Finally Leads Me to the Brands With Potentially Questionable Integrity to Not So Bad at All

I have a number of articles on this topic, but every generic term that you can think of from the type of Japanese knife, to anything Japanese related is utilized to imply they are a Japanese brand (wasabi, samurai, mizuchi, kiritsuke, and the list goes on and on).

Photo Description: Instagram advertisement with a picture of nigiri sushi all lined up. Also pictured is a Dalstrong sushi knife. The text below says "head-turning Japanese Steel Knives" along with using the Japanese flag emoji.
I got two messages from dudes, but if you are paying attention to the ad by Dalstrong I screenshotted. Dalstrong avoids saying Yangjiang, China, and they focus on implying they are Japanese by always referring to the possible use of “Japanese steel.” BTW, how many of you are preparing sushi where you need a dedicated sushi knife?

Read their blong.

1 – THE MOST QUESTIONABLE KNIFE BRANDS (NOT LEGIT JAPANESE KNIFE BRANDS)

If you are looking for a review of each and every one of these companies, I will not be doing that although a lot of the companies utilize sometimes identical product. The only difference is the product name given and the website they are sold on.

These companies see branding as a means to fool your a** by any means necessary.

  • Aikido Steel: If “jiu-jitsu,” “judo,” and “karate steel” do not work out for you, you can turn to the branding/naming geniuses at Aikido Steel. The individuals behind this brand have named their knife after a Japanese martial art, so I can not wait for their American-style knives, the MMA and Boxing collection might be just as epically named.
  • Dalstrong: the company with the most potential, yet they struggle to understand branding. To back that up, I have added one of their advertisements where they hype the use of “Japanese steel.” Even in their own words when asked “where are Dalstrong knives made” they say “materials from different locations” (isn’t that cute). Also, try finding that information on their website, it will not be easy.
  • Huusk Knives (Mariful/Colapa Fashion): this is another brand that just got added, and they are BLATANTLY DECEPTIVE. They have a picture of Mount Fuji, and have the word “Japan” under their Huusk logo. The big giveaway to their origins although is “Discount 50%.” The other giveaway is that they have the word Japanese throughout their website to imply. Here are a few examples: “High-end Japanese steel is used by third-generation expert bladesmiths to handcraft flawless, durable and beautiful knives.” They say they use “Japanese steel.” Emphasis on “USED BY third-generation expert bladesmiths” – they do not cite by 3rd-generation Chinese bladesmiths because they are hoping if they had said “Japanese” enough, you would have assumed Japanese bladesmiths (that is what they are betting on). On top of all of this, there are a bunch of media outlets running Huusk affiliate content where they receive a commission (the Daily World is one such outlet).
  • Kamikoto: one of, if not the company who has gone through the most trouble to get you to believe they are a Japanese product/company, and I have a dedicated Kamikoto post.
  • Kanzen Knives: this company has the balls to tout “Trusted by over 100,000 and seen in Wall Street Select, Ask, Yahoo!, Business Insider, Star Tribune, and Digital Journal.” They do not link to any content, so I searched on my own. After a search of “business insider and kanzen knives,” I did come across their press release via Globe Newswire.” This company supposedly out of Copenhagen, Denmark has no shame in saying “Kanzen Knives has been the heart of the Japanese cutlery scene.” Can they substantiate that claim? (I doubt it, and I think the Reddit community agrees based on “Kanzen Knives Scam”).
  • Kinzoku (Damascus): what a mess because if you have seen any of my other articles, you will know that most Japanese are stuck in the 80’s when it comes to the internet. So if you do not protect your brand online, the Chinese will take advantage of that (kinzoku steel/kinzoku.co).
  • Kizaru (another anime character): Right away they tout “Japanese chef knives.” So imagine having a Chinese brand where you called your product Kung Fu, and your product line was “sweet’n’sour,” “panda,” “chow mein,” “fortune cookie,” to “Jackie Chan.” Sounds idiotic? Well, Kizaru didn’t let us down because “kanji” and “ganjo” are their product lines.
  • Kogami Steel: aside from the name (an Anime character), they also cite that they use VG-10 which is why they utilize “Made in Japan” into their product copy (yea, that does not constitute “Made in Japan). If that is not enough, their product name is “Azure 8″ Chef Knife – Real Japanese Damascus steel.”
  • Kyoku: the most common technique of most Chinese knife brands is to play off of the Japanese steel they say they use (can you really believe them tho?) If you do not believe them, Kyoku does honestly say “Japanese style,” but they go off and name their products “daimyo” and “samurai” to imply, imply, and imply.
  • Kutara Knives: I almost placed this brand below, but touting “the finest “Japanese chef knives.” Along with a product line that utilizes naming their products “akaishi kido chef knife set” to “samurai” and “mizuchi pro” places them here.
  • Mikarto Knifeware: this company is fixated on letting you know where their carbon steel is from, but they will never go as far as to say where their products are made in. The other egregious aspect of Mikarto is implying everything is Japanese.
  • Santoku Knives: well, I’ll just go ahead and list all of their product lines and product names, and let you decide what to think: “aiko, kiritsuke, nakiri, gyuto, riku, minato, ichika, haruta, miyu, kiyoshi-kyokuto, and tsuki.” The blue resin, “color wood” G-10 Garolite handles are clear giveaways of their non-Japanese origins.
  • Seido Knives: Right-off, it says Chinese because “discounts and sale” is in their title (Chinese love sales). They also go H.A.M. on implying Japanese because they are touting “Japanese chef knife”, “Japanese master chef knife,” and “Japanese craftsmanship.” Except, they know what discount shoppers love the most, THEY HAVE DAMASCUS etched knives (all the looks, not the cost).
  • Wasabi (not to be confused with KAI wasabi): this brand is just like all the other brands using every possible Japanese sounding name you can think of from “tatara sasuke, asuka, tsumiwakashi, sunobe, kiyoshi, evolution, aratogi kiritsuke, to naruto gyuto,” and a million others.
Photo Description: A Huusk advertisement touting "Japanese Samurai Kitchen Knife."
What historical period is this “samurai kitchen knife” with a finger hole from? (the Chinese tell is the “50% off”).

2 – THEY TOUT BEING “A MANUFACTURER” IN JAPAN (LEGIT IF YOU BELIEVE THEM) AND NOT SO BLATANT

The first and second category are not that much different from each other, although I try to give credit to the companies that are making at least some attempt to not be so deceiving (even if it is negligible).

Just as bad as the companies above, but a few of these companies believe in a little honesty (not a whole lot, and they still think you are dummies).

  • Shuzo: is not so blatant, and they just imply, imply, imply, and imply. From their product descriptions, a quote by Masaharu Morimoto (I wonder if he is aware of this), to their silly product line name “omakase” (to imply sushi/Japanese), they are all about implying you are buying a Japanese knife. Since they are not so blatant, I do not think this is a mainland Chinese operation, which is why I want to place them in the list below (acceptable brands). Except this brand still wants to treat their customers like idiots by fooling them into believing they are buying a Japanese knife.
  • Yakushi: they say “Yakushi Knives Inc. is a premium knife manufacturer based in Tokyo, Japan. By using durable and premium materials, and having unique designs that transcend traditional knife making, Yakushi Knives is leading the way in providing the world with distinctive kitchen knives and accessories for the discerning chef.” Except on Reddit, they beg to differ. I should also point out they do not say “Made in Japan” if they are a premium manufacturer based in Tokyo, Japan (TRIVIA: name one Japanese knife company based in Tokyo, Japan? Struggling to do that, well that is because the knife capital of Japan, is Seki City).
  • Yatoshi: aside from the name, another brand that is not so blatant, and they are little more trustworthy. I say that because they let you know the high-carbon stainless steel they are using (7Cr17MoV). That is good and all, but the part they get points for is when they say “Japanese style cooking knife.”

Many of these websites and brands utilize the same basic template, along with the same product photography, and the only difference is the logo (they have a thing for brands that start with the letter “k”).

Photo Description: "damascus and colorful handles" is in a bold white text with a very light, barely seen "made in china" in the black background.
DAMASCUS FOR ALL! is a telltale sign that you might be buying a Chinese knife, along with colorful handles are big indicators that “all signs point to ‘yes’.’

3 – CHINESE MADE BRANDS ON THE UP AND UP (NOT SO BAD AT ALL)

These are the brands typically owned and operated by Americans who are a little more forthright with their marketing, yet they all have Japanese sounding names, except the products are made in China.

If you know nothing about the Japanese language, you might pronounce it as “can” (Kan Kitchen), but it is pronounced “kahn” (Captain Kirk had no issues pronouncing it).

  • Kan Kitchen: the main guy behind this brand is a good guy, and I highly suspect a very respectable one which is why this brand gets high marks.
  • Vertoku: this brand is slightly more upfront, and they deserve a some credit for not being so deceptive because they do denote on their “About Us” page as being “Japanese-inspired,” a big thumbs up to them.

4 – THE IDEAL WAY OF BUILDING A BRAND WITH A PRODUCT MADE IN THE “PRC,” YO!

This is a brief list because many do not stand out as shining examples, although this one does. They do not misrepresent, imply, and they are very transparent with what they do. I only post this brand hoping the worst offenders take some notes.

This is how a brand and a company is run regardless if your product is made in China.

  • Misen (as in “mise in place”): It is startling to see that they have the same layout as a Chinese website with their glowing 4.9 rating and 7,800+ reviews, which makes me skeptical. Although, from what I can tell, Omar Rada seems to have a winning formula of hopefully being transparent/honest. If that is not how you build a brand, how about a product line of kitchen knives starting off at a respectably priced $65?

There is no way this a complete list because the individuals behind these companies keep coming up with new names, so if you have a new one or you are unsure, either leave a comment or contact me.

Photo Description: a shot of 3 knives. One of which looks like a kitchen knife, a santoku knife, and possibly a paring knife. Thye are placed on a round cutting board surrounded by an assortment of vegetables from avocado, carrots, eggplant leeks, apples, to a pineapple.
Most of these companies such as Kinzoku know that you have to look the part, so they do throw down for proper and fantastic product photography.

Tactics Employed by Deceptive Chinese Knife Companies

The MOST OBVIOUS way to know if the brand is Chinese and potentially fake/scam, is if they have a website and they advertise. The vast majority of Japanese knife producers are craftsmen, so they typically do no marketing. They also struggle with having a website, product photography, and anything to do with social media. Only their dealers do that.

  • Japanese sounding brand name or product line.
  • Chinese companies are typically anonymous, and you will not see an individual behind the business.
  • Playing off of Japanese steel, or industry related brands, to pop culture (anime).
  • Utilizing Japanese knife styles to imply the country of manufacture.
  • No blatant “Made in ______” information.
  • Using the word “Japanese” throughout marketing collateral.
  • The same or similar product photography (generic with no brand name).
  • Emphasis on pricing and always on sale (50% off).
  • Careful wording “Japanese styled,” “inspired by” to “an homage to Japanese knives.”
  • Some products are just looking the part because they use a “laser Damascus pattern engraved on the surface.”
  • They do not just sell these knives as Japanese, and they may be sold as an American, European, Middle Eastern, or whatever brand they can come up with.
  • No “About Us” or no details about the company.
  • E-commerce/online sales only.
  • They are all over Amazon.com which is notorious and rampant with Chinese knockoff brands from knives, clothing, watches, to cosmetics.
  • Not sold, supported, or serviced by 3rd party retailers.
  • Highlighting “handmade,” yet many large Japanese companies nowadays mass produce product.
  • Paid or compensated for positive reviews from influencers: bloggers, vloggers, and Instagrammers.
  • No modesty with their “Customer Reviews.” One website cites 106/5-star reviews with only 1/4-star review.
  • They tout limited availability due to low production output, yet in the “shipping and delivery” section they say “we are very rarely out of stock in our US warehouse.”
  • Many companies only allow you to return it if you did not open it so it must be in the original packaging.
  • They also will not guarantee that they received your returned item unless you purchase shipping insurance.
  • Products are listed and sold on the Chinese site AliExpress.

I have abbreviated a few of these tactics down a little, but you can read a number of the additional details on my other post. I suggest you read it because these tactics are considered business as usual in China, and now I know why Chinese friends would spend tens of thousands of dollars on high-end brands in the U.S., they do it because they do not trust buying it in China.

Photo Description: "if you do not see 'Made in Japan' than it is not". The product is most likely made in China.
ATTN: if you are a Japanese company, you need to step up your game bro.

Typically No Physical Address for Chinese Knife Companies

Oddly, Kyoku has an address, and they say they are located in Lake Forest. Fortunately, I used to work in Lake Forest which is why I looked them up because I’m familiar with the area. The tiny office park they say they are located in does not show that they are there, and only their website lists the address, but Google Places or Google Maps does not.

Types of Steel Claimed to be Used by Chinese Knife Producers

  • AUS-10V
  • VG-10 (and Damascus cuz pertty, like your mouth)
  • 420J2
  • 7cr17
  • 10Cr15CoMoV

The tactic employed here is that they either tweak the name slightly or they really do use the steel although they are not always the high grade they tout them to be, and if you want more information about the types, Wikipedia.org (list of blade materials) of course has an in-depth listing of each one. Not to mention, if you were to Google each one, the country of origin comes up quite often such as with 7cr17.

Photo Description: a lot of these product shots look the same. They are all on a dark background with the blades lit to contrast against it. The blades have a variety of finishes to them from dimpling, a Damascus look, to a ripple pattern. Also, it is a variety of knife styles but most look like kitchen knives. Kyoku knives has their logo on it.
Kyoku knives at the very least has their logo on the product (photoshopped or not, most likely not). So that right there says they are committed unlike the others.

Are Chinese Knives Any Good?

Yes, although it also all depends on how you define “good.” If you are the average joe who is not that particular, a lot of these brands will be great for you as long as you do not try to hold the companies to the expectations they have set (implying that they are Japanese or made by a Japanese company/blacksmith). That is the only reason I am writing about it is that many of these brands are out to trick you, and you should be that dude. That dude, if you had a female friend who you introduced to one of your man whore friends, you would give her the heads up (well, maybe not if you are Chinese).

The Potential Downsides of Buying Any Chinese Knife Brand

  • Being catfished: Like Forrest Gump’s mom said “you never know what you are going to get (what you are told, might not match what you get).” After all, if they lie to you about being a Japanese kitchen knife, who is to say they will not lie about the materials used?
  • Inconsistent: product quality may vary, and you may have gotten a product on a day when the dude just wasn’t feel’n it that day.

When in Doubt, Turn to the Knife Enthusiasts

It is hard to beat the resource of having a community of knife enthusiasts from the casual home cook to the chef with decades of experience to the cutlery enthusiast that knows every aspect of of knives from the metals, forging etc., that is why you should use:

Photo Description: a meme of "don't hate the player, hate the game."
Enjoy your Chinese made knife dumb m*********** (and I plugged up your toilet before leaving).

What up Playa! You Call It a Scam, I Call It Getting Played

So this could all be a cultural thing, so if you get played, don’t hate the player, hate the game foo.

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[…] I did a post on Chinese cutlery marketed as Japanese, I now get served ads for Mizu towels which is the same exact template Chinese companies take with […]

[…] two others posts “Japanese Knives and Which Brands are Out to Deceive You” and “More Deceptive Chinese Cutlery Brands Marketed as Japanese Which Is Like Dating in the 80s.” These posts gave an overall perspective of the market at-large, but this post will focus on […]

[…] (what a smart strategy), to working with bloggers/vloggers to promote them for the almighty dollar (common tactic Chinese marketers employ) which is I will keep my results to the O.G.’s. I will only focus on the Japanese snacks and […]

[…] my research, it is primarily mainland Chinese companies that are fixated on deceptive marketing, and you would think, with all the effort they put into being deceptive, why would they not invest […]

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