An exquisitely patterned blade, with a razor-sharp edge, and an elegant handle, wait, what? A 70 % sale? Wow! Can’t say no to this knife. And just before you hit the “shop now” button, you might think” is this a legit or fake Japanese knife? Isn’t that too good to be true?”
Yes, you’re right, there is a whole secret life going on behind this perfect image.
Nowadays, the cutlery market has been soaked in mass-produced cheap knives that look as sharp and elegant as Japanese ones. Therefore, spotting fake Japanese knives among all those shiny blades would be a real struggle, yet we still can expose them. Most online scammers have a bunch of classic tactics that they commonly use, and this is where they get caught!
How To Spot A Fake Japanese Knife?
In this section, I’ll help you become a fake Japanese knife detective. Through the following lines, I’ll unravel some of the scammers’ most unexpected moves that they use to pull your leg.
Learning those few tips and tricks will protect you from scammers stabbing you in the back with their fake knives. Are you ready?
1. No mention of the country of origin
If you happen to have worked or lived in a Japanese community, you must have noticed how dignified the Japanese are, and how much they love to take pride in every little achievement. So, when it comes to Japanese advertising, stating the country of origin becomes a big flex.
In the world of blades,“ made in Japan.” works like magic. As soon as you set eyes on “Japan” or “Germany”, your anxiety about the quality of the knife is so much relieved.
That’s one nice trick to pull an innocent customer’s leg. If you check a website selling scam Japanese knives, I dare you to find a blatant declaration of the country of origin. Instead, you’ll find statements like “ Japanese-style” or “ Japanese-inspired” just beating around the bush with no clear evidence of the country of origin. For instance, Vertoku knives adopted this deceptive branding fashion as they used the term “Japanese-inspired” instead of clearly mentioning the country of origin.
Some scammers try to play it smarter by saying something like “ our company is located in Japan” or “ we are based in Tokyo, Japan”. Well, to make things clear, a company located in Japan doesn’t imply that its products are made in Japan too. Not only that, but Tokyo isn’t the “capital” when we talk about knives, Seki city, or Takefu.
It’s even fun to mention that a lot of scammers put fake addresses on their websites or don’t even bother to mention their location.
By now, you’d probably be thinking “ how can I know where the knives are made?! ”. Well, by a simple trick. You can discover the actual location of any registered company through DNS lookup as well as their Facebook page transparency section.
For example, if you check the real Vertoku knives’ location through their Facebook page and DNS lookup you’d be astonished. Their so-called “Japanese-inspired” knife company is registered in the US and has nothing to do with Japan.
As well, the admins responsible for their Facebook page, are located in the Philippines and Australia. So, if the packaging doesn’t clearly show the country of origin, or declares a country other than Japan, that’s a big strike for the authenticity of the knife set, you can be sure it’s not Japanese.
2. Unbelievable discounts
God, we do love discounts and they know it! Scam sellers work on our soft spot for sales so they are always keen on stuffing their websites with imaginary offers like 50 % up to 70 and 90 %, wow who wouldn’t fall for that?
Well, if you wear your thinking hat for a couple of minutes, you’ll realize how much these offers seem like fluttering red flags.
Simply because this doesn’t make any sense in the world of Japanese marketing. For true Japanese marketers, pricing is not the driving factor when marketing a brand, it is rather the quality, the steel, the grind, or the aesthetics.
So, low prices are not among their selling strategies, unlike the Chinese products that prioritize pricing as the main marketing element. That’s why, it wouldn’t be of any profit if a genuine Japanese company sold its high-quality kitchen knives at such low prices, in what world?
Not to forget the iconic “buy 1 get 1 free” or “ buy 2 get 1 free” which sounds like nonsense if you’re selling original Japanese knives made of expensive premium materials.
Wasabi knives would be a perfect example for an insane sale, 60 % off they say!
3. FOMO technique with limited time offers
Not only this, but scam websites also use the popular “FOMO” marketing technique. This one plays a little psychology game targeting impulsive customers which, I promise, are a lot, including myself.
They create a sense of urgency by using words like “ limited-time offers”, “last chance”, or “48 hrs sale”, so you rush into purchasing before this opportunity slips through your fingers. Some even raise the game by setting a counting-down clock, or recently a fortune wheel with plenty of offers.
It’s interesting to say that these sales are actually unlimited, they are abnormally available throughout the year. Every time you hit a website selling fake knives it’s likely to find a flash sale, almost all the time!
Not to forget the iconic “buy 1 get 1 free” or “ buy 2 get 1 free” which sounds like nonsense if you’re selling original Japanese knives made of expensive premium materials.
Razar, for example, is one of the companies that are fond of limited-time offers and exclusive editions, like all the time!
4. A Phony Japanese Name
What could be more convincing of a brand’s authenticity than its name? A fake Japanese knife company typically picks a tacky Japanese name for its brand, mostly a name of a Japanese weapon; something like “Katana” or “Samurai”, or a Japanese martial art like “Aikido”, is pretty cliche.
Some scam marketers might even pick names that are totally irrelevant to cutlery products which reflects the tackiness of the brand. “Aikido”, for example, is a Japanese martial art, well it’s Japanese after all, but what does it have to do with kitchen knives?
Others might even use Japanese letters without checking their meaning, like the Wasabi owners. They stuffed a Japanese letter meaning a “year” beside the name Wasabi! It’s like putting an ad. Saying “delicious apples” to sell oranges.
To add insult to injury, some scam websites use Chinese letters instead of Japanese letters knowing that their customers would not distinguish the difference.
We, as humans, usually gravitate towards mystery. In the mind of a scammer, if you claim that your knives are handcrafted by traditional Japanese blacksmiths in the same way as Samurai swords, people will be thinking “ that’s very Japanese!”.
Well, if you are a knife nerd, you’ll understand how much of an insult such low prices are to a genuine Japanese knife made of premium Japanese carbon steel or crafted by hand.
5. Using cheap steel
So, Japanese knives, what’s so special about them that everybody is playing off of them? The secret lies in two things; the steel and the manufacturing process (i.e heat treatment and sharpening).
Standard Japanese knives are made of carbon steel which makes them very hard and sharp. Yet, It’s common to find stainless steel in entry-level Japanese knives or in knives that are geared toward professional chefs in restaurants.
VG10 stainless steel, which is originally made by the Takefu company in Japan, is one of the most popular steels in the Japanese kitchen knife industry. VG10 steel is well known for its high hardness, corrosion, and abrasion resistance, which makes Japanese knives gain prolonged edge retention.
Many of the real Japanese knives are made of a VG10 core material covered by layers of stacked steel which is known as the famous Damascus steel.
Scammers picked this common theme and did their best to imitate it in their marketing messages.
Now, do you still believe that a knife made with such high quality would cost thirty or forty-something dollars? Again, in what world? What kind of business is that? Counterfeit knife sellers abuse VG10 Japanese steel in their advertising.
In fact, they use fake copies of VG10, which are made in China, then advertise them as authentic Japanese VG10 “cheap” knives, which doesn’t make sense. What makes sense is that their cheap knives are also made of cheap Chinese steel, which is available in different types.
Some companies might be using steel produced in Japan, but still, the knives themselves are not Japanese; they’re not made in Japan. What I want to say is that the knife could be of Chinese origin and still be of good quality, so why to lie about the origin?! This has to be skeptical.
Chinese steel, not as expensive as Japanese steel, is still of fairly good quality, offering high corrosion resistance and good edge retention, but not so hard, which makes it easier to sharpen than VG10 steel. 5Cr15MOV steel, for example, is one of the most commonly used types of steel in manufacturing Chinese knives.
Here are the common types of steel that drop shippers use in their knives:
- Chinese VG10
- 5Cr15MOV steel
Wasabi knives are among the companies that use Chinese 5Cr15MOV steel to make their knife sets, e.g. the Tatara series, while at the same time, claiming to be one of the reputable Japanese brands.
6. Excessive use of Damascus steel in their advertising materials
Most scammers just love to flood their ads with the word “ Damascus “. It’s indeed common to find Japanese knives that are made of layered Damascus steel, but knife experts know well that “Damascus” is not the keyword for quality when we talk about Japanese knives, it’s the core material and the grind that define a great deal of the hardness, sharpness and the total performance of the knife.
That’s why many authentic Japanese kitchen knives don’t have a Damascus pattern.
If you check one of the websites selling deceptive Japanese, Razar for example, you’re going to stumble onto the word “Damascus” everywhere, as they overused it to praise the quality of their knives.
Fake vs real Damascus steel
Scammers will go to any lengths to persuade us into buying their lies. Faking the beautiful waves of the famous Damascus pattern is a common tactic among deceptive Japanese brands, then they love to say that it is made of 67 layers of Damascus steel.
Surprisingly, you’ll find out that most of these 67’ers produce fake imprinted patterns. An original Damascus is produced either through pattern welding or forging Wootz steel, while a fake pattern will be etched on the surface of the blade either by acid or laser.
There is a simple trick that can be done to reveal a fake Damascus pattern and that’s by polishing the surface of the blade till the wavy pattern disappears, then, the blade is immersed in acid. If the pattern reappears then it is authentic, if not, you can be sure it’s fake.
If you’re searching for an example, Razar and Aikido knives are perfect! Both companies simulate the genuine Damascus steel pattern through laser or acid etching on their blades.
Some users even declared that they could distinguish the end of the fake pattern right near the tang.
7. No useful information about production and geometry
Original Japanese knives undergo special welding processes which provide them with unmatched qualities; techniques that resemble those of making the ancient Samurai swords.
So, you can tell that the heat treatment greatly influences the quality of the knife. From a scammer’s perspective, it’s enough to say things like “handmade knives by professional blacksmiths”, while keeping the heat treatment process mysterious, to convince you of their Japanese authenticity.
They might even display a couple of photos showing a Japanese knifemaker while handcrafting a knife. I’ll have to tell you that very few knives are hand-forged nowadays, and those few ones would not cost 30 or 40 dollars, and won’t be made by a single worker.
The photos of Mr. Itso Doi, the famous Japanese knife master, are heavily abused by these fraudulent suppliers. So, make sure when you see his photo on any website beside a knife with a price tag below $100 that this knife is just a knock-off. (Check Mr. Itso Doi’s authentic work in crafting Sakai Takayuki Homura )
Moreover, scammers often have nothing valuable to say about their companies, just a typical made-up success story. They describe their knives as” ruthlessly sharp” or “razor-sharp” or “lifetime knives”, while they don’t mention any useful information about the geometry of the knife such as the thickness of the blade or the blade angle and so on.
Again Razar knives adopted this advertising strategy bragging about their hand-made knives.
A fun fact is that many of the original Japanese knife makers don’t have their own websites, and digital advertising is not their thing. They are rather focused on their lines of production and the quality of their knives. Some large authentic Japanese brands do have their official websites though.
8. The same knife is sold under several brand names
Commonly, you’ll find a certain knife set with the same shapes and colors, disguised under different names. You’ll think” I have seen this before, but where?” I’ll tell you, on Aliexpress. Though it’s legit itself, Aliexpresss is one of the most famous hosts for scam sellers.
There are a few tips to dodge that trap.
- Carefully read the comments on Instagram about the products, you’ll be amazed that the total number of comments is much more than the comments present. That probably means that the admins are removing the bad comments while leaving the positive ones on display, which must arouse your suspicion.
- Another important tip is that you can check if the suspected knife set is displayed on Aliexpress through the “Aliexpress search by image” chrome extension. If you find the same knives on Aliexpress they’re probably another cheap Chinese knock-off that is white labeled to be sold to you at higher prices.
For example, if you check the Razar knives Azure series, you’ll find the same set of knives on Aliexpress under a different brand name.
9. The knife’s reviews on its website are too good to be true
The reviews on a scam website are a double-edged weapon. Yes, they recommend and impressively praise their products, but at the same time, they negatively affect the credibility of the seller since all of the reviews on scam websites are positive reviews only, most probably fake ones, or filtered ones.
If you check a website like Razarknives.com or Kizaruknives.com and many others, you’ll find five-star reviews only, maybe with a couple of four-star knife reviews to play it smart. These reviews usually have a common theme that is biased toward the product.
Filtering and faking a knife review is a piece of cake for scammers since they use what is known as “an internal reviewing system” which allows them to edit and delete any negative comments. Scamsdviser will help you discover if a doubtful site uses such internal systems.
10. The Knife is sold on questionable retailer
One of the simple ways to expose an online scam brand is that they are often sold on questionable retailer websites like “Be Healthy Be Loved”, whereas if you search for the same scam Japanese kitchen knife on a reputable third-party retailer such as CKTG or Hocho knife, I bet if you’ll ever find it.
Another interesting issue is that you’ll find a pretty tempting sale on the same set of knives, at the same time, on different websites like Joyus.com or stacksocial.com. These sites often have similar themes, sometimes with the same texts on their home pages!
So, if the knife set you’re looking for is on such sites, it’s very likely to be a scam.
11. Long shipping time
A common complaint by the victims of scammers is the boringly long shipping time, most of the time from 2 to 8 weeks or more.
The truth is that this long shipping time is due to the lengthy dropshipping process taking place behind the scenes.
In addition, those scam sellers usually put virtual tracking numbers or emails on their sites so that tracking your order becomes impossible. So, you’ll often find most of the negative feedback about such companies is related to poor communication and customer service.
What do scammers want from us? Money, nothing else. Consequently, scam sellers like to muddy the waters when you ask them for a chargeback or a replacement, they typically don’t answer emails or calls, the money is already gained and that’s it.
12. Check third-party reviews
Reading other customers’ experiences with the product is a critical thing if you want to dodge an online scammer, but which sites should you check? You should expect tons of fake reviews if you’re dealing with a fake brand, there, you have to pick trusted third-party review sites, for example, scam adviser, Trustpilot, Reddit, or BBB, where you can find reliable customer reviews.
On the other hand, there are several websites e.g. Judge.me that are stuffed with phony positive reviews likely tailored by the dodgy company owners to attract as many victims as possible.
How do scam websites work?
How to make up a brand in simple steps? Well first, as I’ve mentioned before, pick a cheesy Japanese name probably “Katana“ or even “Karate”, then create a professional-looking website using Shopify, with nice photos of the knife sets you want to sell, which are not your own product.
So, where do scammers get their knives? By dropshipping from AliExpress. They simply Whitelabel Chinese knives that are sold at very cheap prices on Aliexpress, rebrand and post them on their websites at inflated prices to cover their costs, with an additional hefty profit margin of about 100% per knife. Then they flood the social media platforms with their ads, not to mention the collaboration with influencers who are followed by 5k people or even more to post their products.
It’s not too long before bad reviews start to appear on the screen, so, what do they do? Rebrand; choose a whole new brand and start all over again.
That’s why you’ll find identical knife sets under different names on different websites, especially on cheap marketing platforms such as Aliexpress, Banggood, and Shopify which are greatly abused by scammers since they are easy to use and legit.
For example, you can find a plethora of domains that carry the “ Huusk” name with different iterations of the rest of the domain name.
Examples of fake Japanese knives brands
In this part, I’ll list some questionable Japanese knife brands that you’re likely to stumble into while searching for your dream knife.
- Huusk Japan knives: As if they are screaming ” we are Japanese!”; under their logo is a big bold “Japan”, nevertheless, their website is full of red flags such as 70% discounts and limited-time offers to play the famous FOMO marketing game. Huusk owners also pay for several media outlets to run their sponsored content, well that’s a lot of fake reviews!
- Haarko knives: Also a typical fake Japanese knife brand with the classic insane discounts reaching 70%, and of course, for a limited time, all the time! They used “Japanese-inspired knives” and “Japanese style knives” to describe their knives hoping that it goes unnoticed, yet we now know that a Japanese-styled or inspired knife doesn’t mean that it is Japanese. The Haarko knives are the santoku version of Huusk chef knives.
- Aikido Steel knives: Naming their brand after a Japanese martial art, Aikido owners thought they did the trick. They also used the same tactics as most scammers, limited time offers, currently the “easter offer”, as well as using “Japanese-designed” knives, that are of course made in the same techniques as Samurai swords ! said the scammer.
- Seido knife: Flooding their website with huge discounts and excessively using the word Japanese to describe almost everything; “Japanese Chef knives” or “Japanese master Chef knife”, Seido owners failed to sound like a true Japanese brand. Not only that, they fake a so-called Damascus pattern on their blades, then go around bragging about their authentic Damascus knives!
- Kamikoto knives: Another Chinese company pretending to be a Japanese one. This one is called out by many people for marketing deception, just try googling it. They claim to sell Japanese steel knives, while in fact, they use 420J2 economic stainless steel commonly used for budget cutlery. This brand also deals with paid media collaborators who promote their products through tailor-made reviews, the kind saying “ this knife is used by a hundred thousand professional chefs around the world”. Well, if all these people are jumping off a bridge, it doesn’t mean you have to.
- Kogami knives: It’s fun to know that this brand is named after an anime character! In addition, they claim that their knives are Japanese, why? Because they’re made with VG10 steel, nonsense. The knives might be made of Japanese steel, but that doesn’t imply that they are made in Japan.
- Kanzen knives: Aside from their fake limited-time offers and their fake counting-down clock, this brand is praising its authentic Japanese knives, so, what’s with that? Nothing except that this company is Danish! Not to forget that Kanzen knives have no reviews on trusted review websites, such as Trustpilot.
- Kinzoku steel: These guys used the steel ploy;” Damascus Japanese steel” to advertise their knife sets. I’d love to remind their marketing team that Japanese and Damascus steels are totally separate entities. This is of course in addition to their overly generous 50% discounts.
- Kyoku knives: They typically played off of Japanese VG10 steel, not only that, but they also used “Japanese style knives” and fake Japanese names on their sets to try to make us buy their petty knife.
- Kutara knives: They owned the theme of scam websites with “positive only” reviews and unreasonable 50% discounts on everything. Their Akaishi Kido chef set description is a mess. They claim that this knife set by Kutara is made of “Japanese 7Cr17 carbon steel”. Now, we already know that 7Cr17mov is Chinese steel, which is not as sharp or hard as real Japanese steel, so their claims about their exclusively sharp edge are all smoke and mirrors.
- Mikarto Knifeware: The people here focused on the origin of their carbon steel, not the origin of their knives. They excessively as well used “Japanese” here and there desperately trying to prove their Japanese origin.
- Wasabi knives: They shamelessly played off of the famous Kai Wasabi, and a lot of people got confused. They used fake Japanese names everywhere, the title alone is a total mess since it includes a Japanese kanji that means “year”; totally irrelevant to what they are selling.
- Hajeto knives: The classic unbelievable offers and the five-star reviews typical of scam websites.
- Razar knives: Speaking of fake Japanese brands in disguise, Razar knives are pretty good actors, except that their company is in the UK, with virtual tracking numbers. This is aside from the serious quality problems from their so-called ergonomic handle breaking down, to their false laser-etched Damascus pattern.
- Yatoshi knives: They claim that their knives are Japanese, while they state that they use 7Cr17 Chinese stainless steel. Ignorance is bliss!
- Vertoku knives: Also got away with not mentioning the country of origin, and playing with words saying things like” Japanese-inspired”.
- Damasukasu knives: From its name, it’s so obvious they’re playing off of the reputation of Damascus steel and Japanese names. Many users complained about their fake laser-etched Damascus pattern! Besides, a lot of reviewers also revealed that they are lying about their knives being hand-forged in a process that takes up to 120 hours per knife while selling the knife for about 16 dollars! Who would believe that? In addition, many reviewers have seen the same knives on Amazon and social media platforms under different brand names. Typical!
Asakh Japan: Also sticking “Japan“ to their title to imply their amazing Japanese origin. They claim that their knives are originally made in Japan, then display their knives on a questionable retailer called Shopee for 36 $ per knife!
Legit Japanese kitchen knives examples
This is a real Japanese knife, period.
The Sakai Takayuki Damascus has VG10 core steel that is thrust into 33 layers of epic Damascus layers.
The VG1o steel is respected steel that takes a crazy sharp edge and retains it for a long time. Aside from the decent edge retention, it has great corrosion resistance and is quite easy to sharpen.
The factory blade is crazy sharp and ready to be thrown at anything you put on the cutting board.
Speaking of geometry, the Takayuki gyuto is lightweight with a neutral balance point. It also features a nimble blade that has a prominent curve towards the tip that becomes gradually flattered when you move down to the heel.
That makes this blade a super versatile multi-purpose knife. It‘s a superb push cutter and an excellent rocker.
The handle is mahogany wood and it’s extremely ergonomic and grippy.
With the hand-hammered Damascus cladding and the gorgeous shiny look, the Takayuki Damascus is a true showstopper. Moreover, the fit & finish is exceptional with good attention to every detail.
If you need a nice-looking Japanese knife without any sacrifices in performance, this beast is your best bet.
This is a great conversation starter for any home cook or young chef to delve into the Japanese knife world.
The Fujiwara FKM gyuto blade is made of AUS-8 stainless steel which is heat-treated to 58 HRC.
This steel is great entry-level steel that takes a reasonably sharp cutting edge and holds it for a decent time. The great news is that it’s super easy to sharpen and maintain without any rust issues.
Out of the box, the knife is fairly sharp, yet it might need a couple of strokes from your whetstone.
In addition, the knife’s profile is impressive. It’s beautifully thin behind the edge with good distal tapering towards the tip. It is also well-balanced with a combination of a slight belly and generous flat spot, making it a versatile all-around knife.
The Fujiwara FKM is a real performer that is suitable for many cutting techniques. It’s a great pusher, a decent rocker, and a good slicer without any wedding. The food release is fine.
The knife has no problem with dicing onions, chopping parsley, or slicing meat.
The fit & finish is above average with some minor issues which are common for Japanese knives at this price point.
The Fujiwara FKM gyuto 210mm comes with a western handle that is made of pakkawood. It’s a super practical material that will live for decades to come. The handle is comfortable to hold, yet it’s not suitable for guys with large hands.
This gyuto knife is a true value for your money and I strongly recommend it to any beginner.
How to Ensure You Get a Genuine Japanese Knife?
If you are fed up with western knives and want to get a real Japanese kitchen knife, you always have to use a reputable retailer; Amazon, Knifewear, Hocho knife, Chef Knives To Go, or Cutlery And More for example.
Fake Japanese brands rarely use these websites so you can be sure you’ll get a quality knife at the desired price range.
Also, make sure the “Made in Japan” slogan is written in the product description. If you’re suspicious, apply our previous scam checklist and you’re good to go.
If that’s your first Japanese knife, you can opt for famous Japanese brands like Shun, Miyabi, Yoshihiro, Fujiwara, Sakai Takayuki, Tojiro knives, or Kai Wasabi.
So, here is where I leave you hoping that I’ve helped you somehow expose the tricks online scammers try to trap you with.
My name is Kenzo Kishita. I’m a retired cook and a knife nerd. Now I’m a full-time home cook and a passionate blogger. Here in the blog, I share with you my love for knives and cooking.
Thank you for a very straightforward review and in-depth analysis of how to spot scam “manufacturers.” I have been in the market for quite a while looking for a great Chef or Santoku knife for my daughter. She is an amazing at-home cook, uses standard “mid-level” knives that one can buy off of Amazon but would genuinely enjoy, and take care of a knife that can move with her as she makes her journey through life—sending many blessings and appreciation.
~ Marilynn Hill