Japanese knives are still superior“I use Japanese knives that I bought in Japan on business trips. People are more interested in my food and skills rather than the knife,” said a demonstrator at a Korean cuisine research center, where the last chef for the royal house of the Joseon Dynasty (1392-1910) left his recipes for royal cuisine and traditions. “Very sharp and thin knives should be used to thinly slice cucumbers and radishes, and we would like to use good Korean knives,” he added.
The JoongAng Ilbo’s Sept. 27 issue featured a Japanese knife that has received great reviews in Korea and other countries. In order to advance to the Korean and Chinese market, the Japanese company invited Korean journalists and showed its manufacturing process. A staff member from the Japanese company showed a pair of scissors as long as his forearm and explained, “This is developed to cut kimchi.” The sharp edges can easily cut thick cabbage leaves.
Only employees wearing white masks and scrubs are allowed in the factory’s aseptic room. That’s where the company’s knives for eye surgery, of which it has the largest market share in the world, are manufactured. A worker said that the market is constantly growing because the aging population has led to more ophthalmological surgeries. I could feel the power of the Japanese company, which has been around for more than 100 years but continues to pursue innovation. The factory is located in the city of Seki, Gifu Prefecture, in central Japan. Despite its remote location, the factory had many young workers. The company attracts them by offering better benefits and simplifying its simple labor process.
The September article inspired a “pro-Japanese” debate after it was published. Consumers have a choice to buy high-quality products at higher prices; it is meaningless to argue whether it is made in Japan. Regardless of the pro-Japanese controversy, we need to look at the reality. While the globalization of Korean cuisine is the trend, factories making knives are struggling to find workers because younger people do not want factory jobs. The Japanese company said that Korean knife makers were not their competitors, and instead works hard to promote its products at the international cutlery fair in Frankfurt every February and to explain the strengths of its knives to world-class chefs at Michelin-starred restaurants. The company also develops knives with celebrity chefs and display them around the world.
Are you uncomfortable to see how celebrated the “descendants of Japanese swords” that killed countless Korean ancestors are? What’s worse is the fact that Japanese knives must be used for making royal cuisine.
The author is a culture and sports news writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 8, Page 37
by KIM MIN-SANG