Japan has a rich 800-year-old history of sword-making.
That has not stopped even when samurais were outlawed and their katanas were banned.
Instead of forging weapons, the artisans started making household kitchen knives.
Now, this cultural hub is reputed to be the cutlery capital in Asia.
And Seki, a small town in the Gifu Prefecture, is where most illustrious brands hail from.
Two of these are Shun and Kasumi.
If you’re wondering which of these two companies make the better blade, read on to find out…
Shun: Reaching the Peak of Perfection
Under the leadership of Saijiro Endo, Shun started as a tiny shop selling razors and pocket knives in 1908.
A few years later, he started forging kitchen knives in the same manner that katanas were forged.
Since then, this brand is considered to be one of the finest from Seki.
It’s not a surprise to see these in many homes and even professional kitchens all over the country.
When his grandson took his place as chairman, Shun entered the competitive cutlery industry of the West.
This proved to be a good gamble as they are now world-renowned beautiful and functional knives.
Creating the Knife
The Japanese use high-carbon steel which results in hard knives that keeps their edge for a long time.
The downside of high carbon is that the blade tends to chip.
This is what Shun tried to correct by using VG Max – special steel exclusively used by the company.
Shun’s knife-making process follows no less than 100 steps.
And most of it, particularly the forging and the honing, is done by hand.
This proves their commitment to the centuries of Japanese blade-forging tradition.
Shuns are deemed heavier than most Asian knives, but still lighter than their western counterparts.
The spine and the belly of the knife are linear, great for up and down motion chopping.
But their thin blades can still slice nearly transparent tomatoes.
Most of their variants have a full tang, thick half bolster, and a more columnar handle.
Depending on the series, the handle materials used are high-quality TPE, the wood resin PakkaWood and the Tagayasan which is famously used for katanas.
Except for their entry-level series, Shun is known for the stunning Damascus patterns on their knives caused by forging several layers of steel.
- Lightweight knives
- Narrow, easier to grip handles
- Beautiful Damascus-style design on the blade
- Most have a lifetime warranty
- Free re-sharpening service
- Slightly heavier than other Japanese knives
- Many say Shuns are overpriced
Best-Selling Variant: Kanso 8-Inch Chef’s Knife
Forged using AUS10A steel from tang to tip, this is razor-sharp and wonderfully balanced.
The dark Tagayasan wood handle matches the weathered-like blade, hiding imperfections and giving it a beautiful vintage look over time.
The simplest, most rugged-looking Shun is a huge favorite.
Kasumi: One Hundred Years of Honing Excellence
Sumikama, the company making Kasumi knives, has been in the cutlery industry since 1916.
Like most knife-makers of Seki, they acquired and honed the knowledge of bladesmiths of yore and are committed to keeping this tradition alive.
Today, they only have a few series which include the Damascus, HM Hammered, the Kuro, and Titanium, just to name a few.
Some of these variants received various awards abroad including the Design Plus in Germany (2002 and 2006) and at the Bocuse d’Or in France (2013).
Creating the Knife
Interestingly, most Kasumi knives are made with just one type of stainless steel – VG10 (HRC 59-60).
High in iron and carbon but has good levels of chromium, molybdenum, manganese, silicon, and vanadium, this intricate blend is tough, sharp, and flexible.
Only the Titanium variant is different as it makes use of Titanium steel, as the name implies.
What makes each Kasumi variant different is how it was forged.
For example, the Damascus is made with 32 layers of VG10 giving it that wavy pattern while the HM Hammered has those tiny craters on top of the sharpened bevel.
Kasumi knives are lightweight and razor-sharp, with a 15-degree angle on each side.
However, they don’t have the conventional Japanese look.
Their Nakiris and Santokus, usually with a parallel spine and edge, are more curved at the bottom.
All their variants have a full tang and thick half bolsters which give the knife a good balance.
The riveted handles, narrow but arched at the butt, are made of high-quality plastic resin.
The most interesting series in the Kasumi line is the Titanium.
The blades are given a cool blue and warm gold color while the handle has a sinuous contour for easy grip.
- Lightweight and razor-sharp
- Slightly curved blades are easier on the wrist
- Interesting silhouette on the handle
- Quite expensive,
- Their smallest knives start at $100 or so
Best-Selling Variant: VG10 Pro 18-cm Santoku
Made from VG10, this blade is hard and holds its edge for a long time.
However, it doesn’t have the vertical indentations on the bevel like most authentic Santokus.
But it is one of the most well-balanced since the whole knife – from the tang to the tip of the blade – is forged from a single steel piece.
The easy-to-grip cylindrical handle is made of a special resin with a dark marble appearance.
It’s a no-nonsense knife. And sometimes, that’s what you need.
There is no doubt that when you get a knife from Seki, you’re getting a remarkable piece.
But if you’re looking for a whole lot of options when it comes to steel types, forging methods, and overall design, Shun can deliver better.
Compared to Kasumi which only has four variants, they have nearly a dozen.
And in that regard, if you’re looking for a decent knife at a lower price, Shun has more selections.
Their Kai and Sora are considered by many to be good entry-level products at $50 or less.
Kasumi’s cheapest is almost a hundred bucks a pop.
And with that free re-sharpening service, Shun is hard to say no to.