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
Originally posted on Sept 20, ’20. Updated on Aug 11, ’23
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.
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).
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).
There is a reason why this blog post ranks high on Google. It is because you and many others are going through the same thing (about to be or are being catfished by a Chinese company).Some care who they support, but a lot of people do care about not supporting China’s knockoff/counterfeit and deceitful products.
“Integrity” and “Culture”
Oxford languages defines:
I am making a slight update in August of 2023, and I can tell you a couple years later that many of these scammers are global. Companies like Huusk “Japan” are a Lithuanian marketing company and Kamikoto is a Finnish dude enamored with Hong Kong.I can’t keep up with all the fake scammers marketing their Chinese made product as Japanese.
- 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.”
- Deceit: “the action or practice of deceiving someone by concealing or misrepresenting the truth.”
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).
“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).
There is a reason why China has more billionaires than the U.S. now.
It’s because many Chinese companies do not thwart or deter the use of deceptive marketing.
1. most US consumers will not question what is being touted (very trusting). 2. there are all too many people who prefer to save a buck than support ethical and long-established American, Japanese, and German brands/dealers.BTW, thanks for being here and reading this post.
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).
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).
Chinese products are rampant with deceit beyond claiming Japanese knives
It happens with almost everything from businesses being touted as “blacked owned businesses” to almost any “Japanese” product you find online is potentially a Chinese company and here are a few:
Any industry you can think of will be filled with fake/knockoff Chinese products touting themselves as something they are not. From products marketed as Japanese clothing, kitchen tools, towels, motorcycle components/gear, and the list goes on and on.I love the aerospace industry, and there a ton of videos about China ripping off stealth jet technology from the Americans. So this happens at the consumer product level to government.
- Kidori lifestyle: pants sold as Japanese.
- My Japanese Home: anything and everything, all the products are made in China.
- Jishinman: more pants sold as Japanese.
- Towels called Mizu touted as being Japanese.
- In the industry I was in, they knocked off $4k Brembo big brake systems down to our paperwork used in-house for QC.
- The motorcycle industry and all the products featured by Bennetts (UK) YouTuber.
- Daxueconsulting.com: Behind the industry of counterfeit products in China and lawsuit success cases
The Japanese lag behind the world when it comes to the internet and e-commerce, so there are very few successful Japanese Dotcoms (Japan still uses fax machines, Yahoo is their top website, and I bet you can’t name one Japanese Dotcom).
That finally leads me to the brands with potentially questionable integrity to the “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).
The sections below are in four sections
Starting with the worst
THE MOST QUESTIONABLE KNIFE BRANDS
THEY TOUT/IMPLY A JAPANESE CONNECTION
MADE IN CHINA BRANDS ON THE UP AND UP
“the not so bad”
THE IDEAL WAY OF BUILDING A BRAND
Read their “blong.”
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, but they are “made in China.”Branding does not mean integrity and trust by marketers of Chinese branded products.
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.
The company with the most potential, yet they struggle to understand branding. To back that up, I have added one of their advertisements (shown above) 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 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).
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.
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”).
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.”
The most common technique of most Chinese knife brands is to play off of the Japanese steel (VG10) they say they use (can you really believe them tho?). It makes it hard to trust them when they first implied they were using VG10, now they say “since our steel is globally-source, we deliver the same amazing quality at an amazing price.” They say this on their website in context to them implying/comparing themselves to VG10. If you do not believe them at all, 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.
Mitsumoto Sakari (one of the worst I have seen): the amount of hypocrisy of most people or how totally oblivious people become towards China. They domestically see the US as enemies, but Americans will buy up every Chinese made product to save a buck on Amazon. Well, if you are going to do that, buy direct from China off of AliExpress and cut out the middleman, Amazon (an American company). Even the Mitsumoto Sakari folding knives that are made in China can all be found on AliExpress.
Mikarto Knifeware 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.
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.
Right-off, the Seido brand says Chinese made 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).
These Aussies are pulling a Huusk “Japan” move, and it works because people hear what they want to hear, even though Huusk is a bunch of RAV4-driving Lithuanians at a marketing company who know nothing about knives or Japan.
So buy a “Ted Zukuri” (homemade BS), and I only hope they release an authentic Crocodile Dundee, “this is a knife” line of products with alligator and koala skin handles.
People want deals, and I get emails asking if I am sure because they are intent on a bargain. These bargain hunters, I refuse to engage, and no matter how much information I provide, it will never factor into those persons buying decisions because they already have their minds made up. They are merely trying to justify their decision, and I am a minor speedbump in their process.
I know this because I was in an industry where I marketed $4k brake systems, and that was just the front set. The complete set would be upwards of $8k to $40k with no shortage of legitimate buyers or bargain hunters trying to justify a lesser product by saying, “You’re only paying for the brand” (obviously, how do you think a brand obtains that status? One, by not going out of business like Tedzukuri).
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.
If you are being sold on a knife because it comes in a nice wooden box, it is a Chinese made product. Japanese knives come in cardboard boxes because you are paying for the knife, not a box you will never use.This is a tactic that headphone brands take with their product packaging to elevate their products perceived value.
THEY TOUT/IMPLY A JAPANESE CONNECTION
Legit if you believe them but not blatantly ridiculous
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).Yet, I can bet you a lot of dummies are ready to hand on over their credit card numbers.
Kuma Knives (updated 6/21/22): this is the newest brand being added to the list because they do not blatantly deceive, and they do state on their Amazon page “painstakingly crafted with premium VG10 steel in historical YangJiang, China by our expert bladesmiths,” but this is the issue that they are taking advantage of: they have oblivious and sell-out sites like GoodHouseKeeping.com who are more than happy to tout your product as being the “sturdiest Japanese knife.” Well, GHK, how is Kuma a “Japanese knife?” (by Nicole Papantoniou).
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.” You have to respect the people behind this company, and I can almost bet you, if you were to buy a Chinese knife, these people would be more trustworthy than the rest.
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”).
MADE IN CHINA 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).I love the way people say shiitake and karaage.
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.
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.
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 these two do. They do not misrepresent, imply, and they are very transparent with what they do. I only post about these brands hoping the worst offenders take some notes.
A good brand and a company can have products made in China (China makes a lot of great products). Two such examples are Cangshan and Misen, and they know what’s up on how to create a legit brand with products produced in China.Out of the two, Cangshan FTW.
Since I get targeted ads, I just got served this one, and this is the company to look out for. It is like they are doing branding right from the few minutes I spent on their website, and I am hoping to do a full write-up on them, wow.
A 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.
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 1. have a website and they 2. advertise online (Amazon is filled with these brands).Almost all Japanese brands go through knife dealers, and they rely on their dealers to promote and advertise their products (Williams Sonoma, Sur La Table, etc).
- 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.
The vast majority of Japanese knife producers are craftsmen, so they typically do not do any marketing. They also struggle with having a website, product photography, and anything to do with social media.Japanese craftsmen rely heavily on their dealers to do that and these are the top Japanese knife dealers in the US, Canada, and Japan.
Typically no physical address for Chinese knife companies
Oddly, Kyoku has an address, and they say they are located in Lake Forest, California. 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
- VG-10 (and Damascus cuz pertty, like your mouth)
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.
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 about everything they claim: 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:
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.