Originally Posted by Dragon
Keeping in mind that my wife is the cook, and I don`t cook at all... Real Japanese knives are great, but they require a lot maintenance. They rust easily (unless you keep wiping them clean) and require regular sharpening. The sharpening requires skill too, so overall they are not recommended unless you want to go through the learning process. The most high end knives, which are the same as samurai swords are harder than regular Japanese knives, which are more soft. This makes them even more difficult to maintain/sharpen properly, so only advanced users are recommended to buy these type of blades. Also, if you get the really high end Japanese knives, you should get a nice cutting board too. Wooden boards are preferred, as plastic or harder boards ruin the knives more easily. Considering all that, I think the Shun blades are good for people who want the benefits of Japanese type blades without the hassle of the real thing. I have no idea how they compare though.
I partially disagree. Shun Classics for example or comparable stainless western style Japanese made knives do not require any more maintenance than stainless European made knives. Softer knives are easier to sharpen provided they have enough carbon content. You may be thinking of traditionally shaped Japanese knives which are not really useful in a western kitchen. You have your long yanagiba for slicing fish and your deba for boning fish and your usuba for chopping/shaping vegatables. At present time you can buy these knives made with different types of steel while traditionally they were made with high carbon non-stainless steel. Modern Japanese super powder steels, like SG2, Cowry-X and ZDP-189 are superior to a lot of steels used traditionally. Knives made from powder steels can be obtained with hardness level of up to 66 Rockwell which is a harder level than most traditional steels are taken to. I agree about the nice wooden cutting board. I personally prefer end grain maple. They are available from Paul Boos or from several sellers on ebay. If someone does not like wood, Paul Boos also has a nice white poly board.