Knives are always the key to a great chef, no matter whatever you’re doing in the kitchen, you can always be more confident with a great knife by your side, and of all the knives, Japanese are often considered the best of all.
In this article we’ll be discussing why this is the case, and giving you the best Japanese knives on the market that you can buy right now! So without further ado let’s get started.
Why Are Japanese Knives The best?
If you’re a fan of cooking or are in the industry, then there’s a good chance that you already know about Japanese knives.
Japan has had 600 years of crafting blades which has allowed it to reach the level of prestige that people associate with Japanese knives.
Generally, compared to knives of other countries, Japanese knives are more balanced, and feel light but powerful in the hand compared to something bulkier.
The steel they use for the blade is thinner, but keeps a sharper edge for a longer amount of time, so they’re perfect for everyday precision tasks that chefs will be doing all the time.
As well as that, they’re visually beautiful. It’s quite rare that something as plain as a knife can look this good, but Japanese knives really are pieces of art.
Japanese knives are generally purpose built too, so rather than getting a single, multipurpose knife, instead you’re going to have many different tools that excel at their own jobs individually.
There’s two main types of Japanese knife, double edged and single edged
Double Edged Knives
Double edged knives are double bevel, which means that they can be sharpened on both sides at either a 50/50 angle or a 70/30 angle.
Let’s take a look at some of the different types of double edged knives:
Translating to cow sword, this is a large (7-10 inches) blade that’s effectively going to be a chef's knife.
If there’s one japanese knife that you get, then a gyutou is probably going to be your best bet, as it’s a fantastic multipurpose knife.
If a Gyutou is a chef's knife then the petty is a smaller (4-6 inches) utility knife, that’s great for tackling more detailed and fragile tasks, and detailed work.
Translating to three virtues, the santoku is an all purpose knife that’s extremely popular in Asian restaurants, the blade is taller than a chef's knife, so you can keep your knuckles safer on the board, and it’s slightly smaller at 6-7 inches.
Another great option if you want a multitasking knife.
A longer and thinner blade, the sujihiki is perfect for slicing delicate fish without ripping at any of the flesh, its long but thin blade means its razor sharp edge can glide straight through fish or meat to leave clean cuts that don’t damage the fragile meat or fish.
Shaped sort of like a butcher's cleaver, the nakiri is perfect for chopping uniform pieces of vegetables with ease.
It’ll easily glide right through tougher vegetables too, like pumpkin or squash.
The point at the tip of this knife and the thicker overall spine means it’s perfect for breaking down complex butchering jobs.
The sharpness of the blade will allow you to cut right through any connective tissue that you might find getting in your way.
The Honesuki will make short work of any butchering work you’ve got to do.
Single Edged Knives
Single edged knives are more traditional Japanese knives, and so you’ll see them used for more specific tasks.
They’re single bevel so you can sharpen them only on the one side. Let’s take a look at some types of single edged knives.
Much larger and heavier than its brother the nakiri, the Usuba is a traditional vegetable knife that cuts through anything you need with ease.
If you need wafer thin strips of vegetables then the Usuba is a classic for a reason, and will make prepping vegetables so easy.
Similar to the sujihiki, the yanagi is a long and thin blade that’s used when cutting delicate fish for sashimi.
Because sashimi is raw fish, it’s essential to get clean beautiful cuts of your fish, and the yanagi makes this extremely easy.
The deba has a very wide spine and a pointed tip, which make it great for breaking down fish, and cutting through the bones. If you’re prepping fish then the Deba is a great option for its efficient design.
So now that we know all of the basic Japanese knife types, let’s go through our list for the best japanese knives that you can buy.
Best Japanese Knives
OUR TOP PICK
To kickstart our list is this yoshihiro stainless steel chefs knife, composed of 46 layers of steel in the damascus tradition and backed up with a VG-10 core, this knife perfectly blends beauty and function together, to result in your best friend in the kitchen.
VG-10 steel is a Japanese stainless steel that is often utilized in high end Japanese cutlery.
It has a hardness, or a HRC level, that exceeds that of most other stainless steel cutlery on the market.
Its exceptional hardness means that the cutting edge can be constructed thinner, and therefore sharper, allowing the blade to seamlessly cut through almost any ingredient placed in front of it.
It’s a chef's knife, so you’re going to be getting a knife that can do every different job you’ll need it to do.
If you’re thinking of only getting one japanese knife then this is a great idea for a starting point.
The hard VG-10 steel is clad all over in a softer Damascus steel in order to give the blade an added toughness and durability.
Whilst having that great damascus steel finish that everyone loves. The hammered texture of the blade also eliminates friction and keeps food from sticking to the blade as well as looking great.
Both the outer layer of damascus steel and the VG-10 are coated in a stain resistant coating too, so if you leave your knife wet for a while you won’t have to worry about it rusting over time.
Overall the knife is balanced and comfortable, with the knife being complimented with a traditional japanese style octagonal rosewood handle, that feels just as good as it looks on the end of the blade.
The knife comes with a protective sheath that’s called a saya, which holds up the knife’s great looks and will protect it against any wear it might experience whilst being stored.
- Damascus steel knife looks great
- VG-10 steel is durable and lightweight.
- Added sheath to use when storing knife
- Rust resistant
- Two handle colors to choose from
- Requires upkeep to keep as sharp as possible
“Shun” (shoon) is a concept which is at the very heart of Japanese cuisine.
In Japanese, shun is the word used to describe local, seasonal food when it is at the peak of its flavor and freshness—at the peak of its perfection.
This theme is continued with this 8 inch chef knife as it really aims to be your perfect all round companion when in the kitchen.
The blade is made from a combination of VG10 san Mai cutting core and a Japanese 420J blade upper which gives the blade definition and overall durability, whilst offering the same stain resistance of the Yoshihiro knives.
The blade features a modern wavy ‘hamon’ design which combines the edge holding properties of carbon steel with the rust protection and corrosive resistance of stainless steel.
Each shun sora chef knife is hand sharpened, and the 16 degree double-bevel blade is really easily sharpened, you’d probably have to sharpen it at least once a month, but sharpening after every use is easily done, and retains that amazing sharpness the blade has.
The handle is a traditional Japanese design in easy-care, textured PP/TPE blend, which gives a comfortable and lightweight feel to the whole blade.
This knife is half tang but really balances the weight of the blade very well, because of how light the steel is.
If you’re worried about quality due to the knife being half tang then a warranty on all Shun products gives you the peace of mind to keep using the knife as much as you like, and any damage will be replaced
If you’re looking for a chef's knife that’s relatively inexpensive and compact, then the shun sora is a good go-to knife for the kitchen.
- Pattern on the edge of the blade feels authentic and makes the whole blade look great
- Combination of two kinds of steel works well together
- Relatively inexpensive compared to its counterparts
- Rust resistant
- Free sharpening
- Half tang means the knife does have quality issues occasionally
- No sheath
Another Shun knife for our list, but this one’s a utility knife which is perfect for different jobs around the kitchen.
The long blade of this knife is perfect for cutting delicate fish or meat, but it’s ideal for trimming, dicing and slicing whatever you’ve got, and because it’s a shun knife, the blade is made from the exclusive Shun formula of VG-MAX steel which has been crafted together to offer great durability and sharpness all in one.
This blade tries to mix the precision of a paring knife with the power of a chefs knife, and ends up achieving that for the most partl.
It’s full tang, and the formula of the blade has increased tungsten to enable the blade to be sharpened into an incredibly fine edge.
Additional carbon is added too to improve the overall strength and durability of the blade, but it’s important to remember that this knife is thin, and won’t offer the same raw punching through power that a larger knife on this list might have.
The core is covered in 68 micro layers of Damascus steel, providing a beautiful pattern that appears after it has been bead-blasted.
The handle of the knife is made from something called pakkawood, which is a traditional Japanese-style handle that has a slight ridge on the right side, which fits into the curl of the fingers for a comfortable and secure grip.
Viewed end-on, the shape resembles the capital letter "D" for the most comfort you can get out of your knife.
Pakkawood is waterproof, incredibly durable, and won't harbor any bacteria on its surface.
The quality of the blade demonstrates the innovation and advanced technology that Shun prioritizes in its knives, so if you’re looking for something which prioritizes precision over power, with a longer blade, then this shun utility knife might be right for you.
- Long extremely sharp blade is great for cutting anything delicate.
- Rust resistant
- Full tang
- Free sharpening whenever you like
- Classic handle looks simple but elegant
- Shouldn’t be used for general tasks, the blade is thin and can be damaged if overpowering the blade.
- No sheath included
For something that embraces culture just as much as it innovates, the aritsugu gyuto is another great multipurpose knife that is based on conventional chef’s knives, but using Japanese materials and innovations to strengthen that concept.
The ARITSUGU had made Japanese swords for Samurai since 1560 and it shows with this knife, it’s just as sharp as it is beautifully crafted, and when using this knife you can really feel the tradition that it’s steeped in.
With the blade measuring approximately 240 mm it’s one of the longest on this list too, which makes it great for slicing fish, and meat back and forth with long strokes, in order to get cleaner slices than if you were to forcefully chop straight down with any of the other knives on this list.
This knife is light too, having an Alloy Steel handle with a wooden finish gives it that traditional, graceful look whilst balancing the knife out quite nicely, and when you’re done using it, there’s a sheath that comes with it to keep it stored safely.
There’s other options on this list that would be a better all purpose knife, but if you’re looking for a knife that’s extremely light, fits that traditional japanese theme, and specializes in cutting meats and fish, then the aritsugu gyuto is a good choice.
- Beautiful traditional japanese styling
- Long and extremely sharp blade to allow for precision and some power too
- Comes with a sheath to keep it stored safely when not using the knife
- Half tang
- Whilst not extremely prone to rust, less resistant than other knives on this list.
This Nakiri is another Yoshihiro knife that’s excellent for your kitchen if you’re looking for a great knife for prepping vegetables.
It’s got that signature, layered VG-10 Japanese stainless steel that’s used in all Yoshihiro knives, and just like the chef’s knife above, it’s coated in a stain resistant finish for some much needed durability and rust resistance.
The Yoshihiro Nakiri has a flat cutting edge to allow for the whole length of the knife to come into contact with the cutting board on each stroke that you make with the knife.
This makes it great for chopping with its thin and flat blade edge, with there being less chance of vegetables sticking together as you cut them.
The octagonal ambrosia handle really adds a nice touch to this knife too, and you can choose whichever color you like too out of white or rosewood, with both looking great on the finished product.
If you’re looking for a knife that specializes in chopping vegetables then you really don’t have to look much further than this Yoshihiro nakiri, it’s extremely sharp, looks fantastic and also comes with the standard sheath that you can use when storing your knives.
- Perfect knife for chopping vegetables
- Rust resistant
- Customizable with two different handle colors
- VG-10 steel will cut through the toughest of vegetables
- Added sheath for storage
- Really only useful for chopping vegetables
- Will require regular upkeep
So there’s a few of the best Japanese knives available for you to purchase right now! Remember whilst these are all fantastic knives, regular maintenance is imperative, even more so when using Japanese knives due to their lightweight but fragile nature. So make sure you’re constantly sharpening them whenever possible. And use the knife that’s right for the job!