Business Branding

Is Kamikoto Knives Chinese or Japanese?

Featured image by Gary Todd

Is Kamikoto a Japanese Owned and Operated Company?

No, they are not.

Chinese cutlery companies spend a tremendous amount of time and effort to market their knives as Japanese and this is how they do it.

I had written about this before through 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 the online marketing of tactics of only Kamikoto knives.

Photo Description: these are all shots of Chengdu/Sichuan province where many knives in China are produced.
All images are of Chengdu/Sichuan province. Image courtesy of Yohann Agnelot (dude is car guy, so I suggest you check him out if you’re into cars)

If You Google Search Any of These Words or Questions

You will most likely come across Chinese knife brands marketed as Japanese because this is their primary tactic, online marketing via content marketing (paid articles) and Google ads (btw, I’m only listing the top 3 otherwise the list would go on and on).

Keywords by Monthly Volume

  • “Japanese knives” roughly 13,700.
  • “Japanese chef knives” roughly 8,400.
  • “Japanese kitchen knives” roughly 6,400.

Questions by Monthly Volume

  • “Which japanese knives are the best” roughly 100.
  • “How to care for Japanese carbon steel knives” roughly 100.
  • “At what are Japanese knives sharpened” roughly 100.

You Will Most Likely Click on 1 of 76 Paid Keywords for Kamikoto.com

If you search using “Japanese knives” or any number of “Japanese” related keywords, you will most likely come across a number of paid ads by Kamikoto that is a long, long, long list which is why I will post their top 5:

  • “Japanese knife set”
  • “Japanese kitchen knife”
  • “Chef knifes”
  • “Japanese cooking knives”
  • “Japanese chef knife”
Photo Description: these are all shots of Chengdu/Sichuan province where many knives in China are produced.
All images are of Chengdu/Sichuan province. Image by Toon Bronselaer

Kamikoto Wants You to Believe You Are Buying a Japanese Knife

If you are looking for a Japanese knife, you will most likely come across Kamikoto which most buyers will assume is Japanese for good reason. The last thought they would have is “are Kamikoto knives made in China,” and if that was you, do not feel bad (I say “was” because you’re here now).

This Is Who Kamikoto Says They Are

“Japanese Steel Knives — A Thousand Years of Craftsmanship. Tokyo, Japan.”

– Kamikoto.com

If you’re a pro at marketing, everything you say will be based on fact, and in the case of Kamikoto to avoid any potential lawsuits, they do just that although let me break it down for you:

  • “Japanese steel knives” they use 420J2 which is an economical steel for budget conscious cutlery although SLD is a Japanese steel by Hitachi that is fairly highly regarded.
  • “A thousand years of craftsmanship” Yanjiang, China – a town with over 1,000 years of knife and sword making heritage.
  • “Tokyo, Japan” anybody can open an office anywhere in the world but it doesn’t mean you’re a Japanese company as much as Apple is an Irish company.
Photo Description: these are all shots of Chengdu/Sichuan province where many knives in China are produced.
All images are of Chengdu/Sichuan province. Image by Paul Wolneykien

What Kind of Steel Does Kamikoto Use

“420J2 steel for the Genten Series or SLD steel for the Ganjo Series.  The 420J2 steel gives the Genten Series blades an HRC of rough 53, while the SLD steel is significantly harder at 62 HRC”

– Kamikoto.com

The pitch by Kamikoto is “high-quality steel from Honshu 本州, Japan – a steel with high corrosion resistance and durability.” Whoever is doing their marketing knows how to dance around with facts to market their knives because it is “high-quality” although it’s an economical stainless steel.

“420A (420J1) and 420B ( 420J2 ) are economical, highly corrosion resistant stainless steel grades. Knife manufacturers use this material in budget knives, also in diving knives due to its high resistance to corrosion.”

Wikipedia.org

What they think of 420J2 on BladeForums.com

According the Hitachi-metals or Yasugi Specialty Steel (YSS), SLD is “cold work die steel with high abrasion resistance for general use, excellent harden-ability and minimal quench stress.”

Hitachi-metals (aka YSS)
Photo Description: these are all shots of Chengdu/Sichuan province where many knives in China are produced.
All images are of Chengdu/Sichuan province. Image by George Lu.

A Lot of People Are in on It (Paid Collaborators)

Not only do they pay chefs in the U.S., but they also have paid media collaborators such as Medium.com to Reviewed.com

My husband is a chef, and the only thing he’s asked for this year is the Kanpeki Knife set. A favorite of sushi chefs, these knives have handcrafted Japanese steel blades”

Reviewed.com

They will imply anything and everything such as mentioning Japanese cuisine, sushi, chefs, to sushi chefs, but to cut through all the marketing hype put out by Reviewed, I will let Kamikoto say it in their own words:

“Fully versed in traditional blade-making practices, Kamikoto’s blades are handmade by a select group of experienced craftsmen in Niigata, Japan, where blacksmithing can be traced back to before the Edo period, as well as in Yanjiang, China – a town with over 1,000 years of knife and sword making heritage. Today, Yanjiang is the leading center of Japanese-style knife forging, polishing and balancing – where the Japanese legacy is preserved, and carried on, with reverence for the skill of the knifesmiths who evolved this craft centuries ago.”

Kamikoto.com

On their other Canadian website:

Our blades are handmade by a select group of experienced craftsmen in Yanjiang, China – a town with over 1,000 years of knife and sword making heritage, and today, the leading center of Japanese-style knife forging”

CA.Kamikoto.com
Photo Description: these are all shots of Chengdu/Sichuan province where many knives in China are produced.
All images are of Chengdu/Sichuan province. Image by Toshiyuki Imai

What Actual Blade Enthusiasts and Chefs Really Think

In the automotive industry to cutlery, forums are some of the best, if not the best places to go to get as much unbiased feedback as possible to get online, which is also why you need to check out these two sources:

Why Does This Matter? It Matters if You Are Looking for a Japanese Knife

Yea it should not matter where something is produced, but the point is that these Chinese companies think you’re stupid. On top of that, they idolize the Japanese, so they pretend to be Japanese even though the Chinese have been producing knives for over a 1,000 years.

So the issue with all these companies is that they make no investment into building a Chinese brand which is ridiculous since there are well-known Chinese based brands growing by the day (one such brand that I love is Anker, out of Shenzhen Guangdong, China – Steven Yang is gangsta).

Photo Description: these are all shots of Chengdu/Sichuan province where many knives in China are produced.
All images are of Chengdu/Sichuan province. Image by Gary Todd.

How They Try to Convince You That Going Through a Trusted Retailer Does Not Matter

Kamikoto says it and illustrates it the best:

Kamikoto says they are direct-to-consumer, so they save you a 5-6x (markup) and they tout that other brands have a retail store markup, staff cost, operation cost, logistics, middleman, wholesalers, and importers.

Although this is silly because Kamikoto also has equivalent costs, and anybody who knows anything will know that this comparison is grossly distorted. Everything they listed is all under one umbrella of “retail store markup,” such as staff cost, operational cost, to a leased space. Not to mention, they throw in logistics as an aspect on its own, but it is once again part of the “middlemen, wholesalers, and importers.”

What they fail to communicate is that the chain of retailers/importers, etc. are people who are committed to and stand behind the products that they are selling and servicing. So, if you have all these other individuals invested in your product, I think you can consider that company, individual, and product to be properly vetted.

For $22 a Knife, You Can Start Your Own Company

From AliExpress.com to MadeinChina.com, you can start your own company because there are a ton of companies willing to sell you a “Japanese” or “damascus” style knife. One such company on Made in China is Yangjiang Jingchuan Industrial Co., Ltd, which will sell you an 8″ inch “Japanese damascus” chef knife for $22.

Photo Description: these are all shots of Chengdu/Sichuan province where many knives in China are produced.
All images are of Chengdu/Sichuan province. Image by Nick Turner

If You Are Buying Online, You Will Most Likely Come Across a Company Like Kamikoto

The reason why that will more than likely happen is because most Japanese typically don’t do marketing/online advertising (yet alone sell things based upon it being on sale).

Most Japanese companies are oblivious to online marketing, and they rely heavily on word of mouth, reputation, and their partners (relationships) such as retailers to sell and service their product. Retailers and cutlery experts with decades of experience selling European to Japanese cutlery.

If you are looking for a Japanese knife/knives, please support your local businesses, and you can find a few of them listed at the bottom of this post.

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