Where are they in the woodworking tools? It's generally on the ground in basic tools in japan.
The world of knives has definitely been ahead of tools in terms of blade steels, but there is a market for oddball stuff there and people will tolerate a $400 knife that doesn't even work that well.
(I remember reading a review on a "richmond addict" knife in some kind of powder metal. One of the reviewers said "it's really hard to sharpen and the knife chips easily, but it's a really great knife!!")
(I also saw someone beat a 3v knife on the top of a metal barrel and the knife edge was, I'm sure, dulled by it, but it didn't have any significant damage, so it's not all bad).