10 Best Japanese Kitchen Knives for the 2020 Chef

No tool is more important in the kitchen than a good knife. Selecting that knife is no easy task in today’s marketplace. There are European-style knives, there are stamped knives, forged knives, handmade knives, knives of almost every shape and size and even every color. Serious cooks are interested in high quality knives and like to try a variety of tools to improve their techniques. The best Japanese kitchen knives offer exciting possibilities for the home cook to acquire beautiful equipment that will enhance their culinary skills.

Product FAQ

1. What Are Japanese Kitchen Knives?

Japanese kitchen knives include a wide gamut of products for home cooks and professional chefs, from the most affordable to the most expensive. Japanese knives differ from European style knives is their construction and design.

Fine European-style knives are designed to be multi-purpose workhorses in the kitchen. The best Japanese knives are designed to handle specific tasks and have strengths and limitations based on that design. The best Japanese kitchen knives are the work of skilled craftsmen, often working for companies with centuries-old traditions.

2. What Kinds of Blades Do the Best Japanese Kitchen Knives Have?

Japanese kitchen knives can be stamped or forged. They vary in quality and price. They are made from carbon steel, stainless steel, Damascus or ceramic materials. The best Japanese kitchen knives are forged from steel, often in proprietary combinations of metals. The Damascus blade concept involves several layers of both hard and soft steel surrounding a carbon steel core.

This design produces a blade that is exceptionally hard and strong and will retain a very sharp edge. The knives in our review all have steel blades and a number of them are made in the Damascus style.

Japanese knives can be either single-beveled or double-beveled. The single-beveled knife blade only needs to be sharpened on one side, while the double-beveled blades require honing both sides. Double-beveled knives do not retain their sharpness as long as the single-beveled, but they are easier to handle. A single-beveled knife is harder to use and will take some practice for a beginner to use skillfully.

3. What Are Japanese Gyuto Knives?

The Japanese gyuto knife is similar in purpose to a Western-style chef’s knife. The design is a combination of traditional Japanese nakiri knives and western cook’s knives. This knife can handle multiple duties including slicing and chopping. Typically gyuto knives are best suited for push chopping rather than rocking techniques. Our selection of knives includes several gyuto knives. This is a good style to choose as an introduction to Japanese knives because you will be able to use it for a variety of tasks.

4. What Are Japanese Santoku Knives?

Japanese Santoku knives are all purpose knives for the home chef. They look like a chef’s knife but are shorter, thinner and more flexible. They combine the features of gyuto and nakiri styles. Typically, the blade on a santoku knife will measure five to seven inches. The blades have double-beveled edges and may be flat or incorporate divots in the design.

The santoku is a versatile knife that can handle chopping and cutting. The blade length is too short to be an effective knife for slicing meat or fish. Our list of the best Japanese kitchen knives includes the santoku knife.

5. What Are Japanese Sujihiki Knives?

The Japanese sujihiki knife is a slicing knife with a long, narrow blade. It has a short blade height and is designed for slicing boneless meat, poultry and fish. The short height of this knife reduces friction while cutting to produce a smooth, even cut. The small surface area prevents food from sticking to the blade.

This style knife is intended to produce a smooth cutting action in a single draw rather than a sawing technique. This style is a basic knife that compliments the all-purpose santoku or gyuto knives. Our review includes this style.

How We Reviewed the Best Japanese Kitchen Knives

We identified the best Japanese kitchen knives by studying the offerings of the top manufacturers of high-end Japanese cutlery. Many of these companies have centuries-old traditions and employ skilled craftsmen with an emphasis on the handmade quality of their knives. We chose knives designed for use in home kitchens rather than professional chef tools.

We selected a range of styles to cover the interest of most cooks, and we included a range of price options. Since we are dealing with the best Japanese kitchen knives, there are no bargains on our list. But we do list an attractive knife set that will give a home cook a taste of the quality of Japanese cutlery at a price point that won’t break the budget. And we included a one-of-a-kind handmade bunka knife for a taste of the artisanship of the best Japanese kitchen knives.

Overall Price Range

The overall price range of the best Japanese kitchen knives that we reviewed is from around $125 for a 12-piece knife set and single knives from around $58 to around $550 for a handmade, one-of-a-kind work of art. Even the relatively inexpensive set is not at the low end of knife sets available on the market.

This selection of the best Japanese kitchen knives is a list of outstanding knives that are available at appropriately premium prices. There is nothing here for bargain hunters, but great knives should always be seen as investment that will last.

What We Reviewed

  • Misono UX10 Santoku 7.0″ (18cm) – Right
  • Ginsu Gourmet Chikara Series Forged 12-Piece Japanese Steel Knife Set
  • Misono UX10 Sujihiki 10.5″ (27cm) – Right
  • Tojiro DP Petty/Utility Knife
  • YOSHIHIRO Ice Hardened High Carbon Stainless Steel Wa Gyuto Japanese Chef Knife
  • Shun Classic 8” Chef’s Knife
  • Shun Cutlery Premier 8” Chef’s Knife
  • Yoshihiro VG10 16 Layer Hammered Damascus Gyuto Japanese Chefs Knife
  • Shun Classic 7” Vegetable Cleaver
  • YU KUROSAKI R2/SG2 STEEL HAMMERED JAPANESE CHEF’S BUNKA KNIFE

Misono UX10 Santoku 7.0″ (18cm) – Right

Features

The Misono UX10 Santoku 7.0″ is a Santoku style knife with a seven-inch blade. Santoku knives have a Western-style, double-beveled edge and usually maintain a uniform thickness from the spin to just behind the cutting edge. 

Blade and Handle

The blade of the Misono UX10 Santoku knife is high quality, stain-resistant Swedish stainless steel. This blade construction offers the longest lasting edge retention in the Misono knife brand. The blade has a Rockwell Hardness rating of 59-60.

Misono knives are known for their sharpness. The design of this Santoku knife concentrates the sharpening on the face of the blade at a steeper angle than on the back. This creates a thin cutting edge close to the sharpness of a traditional Japanese single-edged knife. The triple riveted nickel silver bolster provides strong balance as well as durability. The blade of this knife is stamped with the Misono UX10 emblem which assures the authenticity and quality of the knife.

Usage

A Santoku knife can be used for a variety of cutting and chopping tasks, but the blade length is too short for slicing fish and meat.

Pros

  • All manufacturing of parts and knives done by Misono
  • High standard of quality control and inspection
  • Sharp Santoku style knife suitable for many kitchen functions

Cons

  • Knife is only suitable for right-handed users
  • Blade not long enough for some meat and fish slicing
  • Expensive knife

Price $$

Where to Buy

Warranty

Misono makes all parts of its knives in-house and guarantees the quality of their knives for a lifetime by demanding that every knife go through several levels of inspection. If you have any problem, send it back.

Ginsu Gourmet Chikara Series Forged 12-Piece Japanese Steel Knife Set

Features

The Ginsu Gourmet Chikara Series Forged 12-Piece Japanese Steel Knife Set is a full set of kitchen knives in an attractive bamboo block. The set includes a 3.5-inch paring knife, a 5-inch utility knife, a 5-Inch serrated utility knife, a 7-inch Santoku knife, an 8-Inch chef’s knife, shears, a honing rod, and four steak knives.

Blade and Handle

The steak knives are stamped, but in the rest of the set each knife is forged from one piece of premium Japanese stainless steel. These blades are rust and stain resistant. The Ginsu Chikara forged knives are razor sharp and stay sharper than competitive knives. They are well-balanced for good performance and control.

Pros

  • Good selection of knives in a starter set
  • Very reasonably priced set
  • Knives are forged of premium stainless steel

Cons

  • Good knives but not the quality of the other premium knives in this review

Price $

Where to Buy

Warranty

The Ginsu 12-Piece Knife Set has a lifetime limited warranty.

Misono UX10 Sujihiki 10.5″ (27cm) – Right

Features

The Misono UX10 Sujihiki 10.5″ Knife is beautiful knife in the sujihiki or slicing style; a knife well suited for slicing meat and boneless fish. It has a long, narrow blade with short height. This design means there is less friction, minimizing any sawing motion in carving meats and fish.

Blade and Handle

The Misono UX10 version of the sujihiki knife is made of high quality Swedish steel. Its construction is very similar to the Misono UX10 Santoku knife but with a longer, thinner blade. 

Usage

This knife will produce a smooth, clean cut with one draw without leaving torn edges or rough cuts. This knife is ideal for the cook who has a light, confident touch. The sujihiki knife resembles a traditional carving knife.

Pros

  • Produces a smooth, clean cut
  • Well-suited for slicing and carving meats and fish
  • High standards of quality control and inspections

Cons

  • Expensive knife

Price $$

Where to Buy

Warranty

Misono makes all parts of its knives in-house and guarantees the quality of their knives for a lifetime by demanding that every knife go through several levels of inspection.

Tojiro DP Petty/Utility Knife

Features

The Tojiro DP Petty/Utility Knife is used much like Western paring or utility knives but it has a longer blade. In Japanese petty knives the blade lengths vary from 3.5 to 8 inches and the height range is from 1 to 1.5 inches from heel to spine. This Tojiro utility knife blade is 5.9 inches long. This knife can be used by both right-handed and left-handed people because it is is doubled-edged with a 50/50 balance.

Blade and Handle

The Tojiro knife is constructed in the “honwarikomi” style, forged with a combination of 13% chromium stain-proof stainless steel with a superior quality Swedish carbon steel. The blade has a Rockwell Hardness rating of 60+1. This handy tool is a handsome, lightweight knife with a composite wood handle. This knife is considered one of the best Japanese kitchen knives because of its excellent quality, its multi-purpose functions, and its moderate price point.

Usage

The blade has a triangular shape with the edge ground in a double bevel. This knife can be used like a paring knife, but it is also very good for small chopping jobs on a cutting board.

Pros

  • A high quality paring and utility knife
  • Suitable for both right-handed and left-handed users

Cons

  • An expensive paring/utility knife

Price $

Where to Buy

Warranty

The Tojiro DP Petty/Utility Knife has a lifetime warranty.

Yoshihiro Ice Hardened High Carbon Stainless Steel Wa Gyuto Japanese Chef Knife

Features

The Yoshihiro Ice Hardened High Carbon Stainless Steel Wa Gyuto Japanese Chef Knife is an 8.25 inch knife handcrafted for both performance and beauty. The technique used in the manufacturing of the Yoshihiro knives has its roots in medieval sword making, combining centuries of history in handling iron, fire and water.

Blade and Handle

This knife is in the hardened molybdenum series. The knives are forged in a single piece of high carbon Aus-8 stainless steel and then ice hardened. This process draws out the hardness of the refined steel and gives it resiliency. The result is a thin, lightweight, double-edged blade that is razor sharp. This Gyuto knife is an excellent chef’s knife for the home cook or the professional chef.

Each handmade knife is a work of art. The handle is made of Shitan rosewood in the traditional Japanese Wa-style. It is octagonal and ergonomically designed for comfort and control. The knife comes with a lacquered magnolia wood sheath known as a Saya Cover.

Usage

It has a curved blade that rocks smoothly back and forth and has an extended tip that works well for cutting, meat, fish and vegetables. This knife should not be used to cut bones or frozen foods. 

Pros

  • Versatile chef’s knife
  • Handmade as a work of art and craftsmanship
  • Ice hardening process produces strong, flexible blade

Cons

  • No warranty terms
  • Expensive knife

Price $$

Where to Buy

Warranty

Yoshihiro will only replace knives which are received in damaged or defective condition and has tight deadlines for communicating with the company about any issues.

Shun Classic 8-Inch Chef’s Knife

Features

The Shun Classic Chef’s Knife is exactly what its name suggests – a classic, all purpose chef’s knife capable of handling a variety of tasks. With its slightly curved blade this knife rocks easily through foods for mincing or chopping fresh herbs. It is also the right size for preparing meats, fish, fruits and vegetables. Shun is a Japanese word that indicates a food’s peak of ripeness, an interesting brand name for a company with long-standing traditional Japanese roots and a commitment to the blade-making technologies that product excellent knives.

Blade and Handle

The blade is made with the Damascus layering technique. The eight-inch blade is made up of 69 layers, 68 layers of alternating steel and a proprietary Shun VG-MAX Cutting Core. This process is a Shun exclusive with extra tungsten for a sharp edge, more chromium to resist corrosion and additional carbon and cobalt for strength and stability.

The knife handle is ebony Pakkawood, a hardwood infused with resin to produce a water-resistant, durable finish that is easy to clean and can withstand wear and tear.

Usage

The recommended technique for using this knife for slicing is to push the knife forward and down when cutting through food and then to pull it up and back, repeating these steps in a locomotive motion. This assures smooth cuts and prevents chipping the food. 

Pros

  • Class high quality all-purpose chef’s knife
  • Unique layered blade construction
  • Handsome, durable Pakkawood handle

Cons

  • Expensive knife

Price $$

Where to Buy

Warranty

The Shun Classic Chef’s Knife has a lifetime limited warranty.

Shun Cutlery Premier 8-Inch Chef’s Knife

Features

The Shun Cutlery Premier 8-Inch Chef’s Knife takes the Shun Classic Chef’s Knife to the next level. Priced slightly higher than the Shun Classic, the Premier knife is a lightweight knife with a very comfortable grip.

Blade and Handle

This knife has 34 layers of Damascus cladding on each side of the VG-Max cutting core. The blade is VG-10 high carbon and has a Rockwell Hardness rating of 60-61. The Pakkawood handle is walnut-colored and contoured to fit well in any hand. The hammered finish releases food and adds to the beauty of this knife. The embossed end cap adds an elegant touch.

Usage

It is a great tool for chopping, slicing and dicing. This is an ideal chef’s knife for the home cook and the perfect gift for an aspiring chef or serious home cook. Its wide blade makes it easy to transfer food from a cutting board.

Pros

  • High quality all-purpose chef’s knife
  • Beautiful handmade knife
  • 34 layers surround VG-Max cutting core

Cons

  • Expensive knife

Price $$

Where to Buy

Warranty

The Shun Premier Chef’s Knife has a lifetime limited warranty.

Yoshihiro VG10 16 Layer Hammered Damascus Gyuto Japanese Chefs Knife

Features

The Yoshihiro VG10 16 Layer Hammered Damascus Gyuto Japanese Chefs Knife is the essential chef’s knife capable of everything from slicing and dicing and chopping fresh produce to carving roast poultry. This knife is for serious home cooks and entry level chefs.

Blade and Handle

It has multi-layered construction with a core of VG-10 Japanese stainless steel and a Rockwell Hardness Rating of 60. With its exceptional hardness, the cutting edge can be made thinner and sharper, enabling the blade to cut seamlessly through almost any food. This is a very sharp knife with excellent edge retention.

The hammered outer steel layer of the blade adds beauty to the knife while it keeps food from sticking to the blade and minimizes friction. The knife has a full tang and a beautiful, premium mahogany wood handle.

Pros

  • Very hard, sharp blade
  • Layered construction
  • Beautiful mahogany handle

Cons

  • Expensive knife
  • No warranty terms

Price $$

Where to Buy

Warranty

Yoshihiro will only replace knives which are received in damaged or defective condition and has tight deadlines for communicating with the company about any issues.

Shun Classic Vegetable Cleaver

Features

The Shun Classic Vegetable Cleaver has a seven-inch wide square blade. It is a chukabocho, the Japanese version of a Chinese cleaver.

Blade and Handle

The blade length is between seven and eight inches and the height between four and five inches. It has the layered Damascus construction of the Shun chef knives. The D-shaped ebony Pakkawood handle is comfortable to use for big chopping jobs. It is a very handsome knife handcrafted in Japan by skilled Shun artisans and has the distinctive look and feel of a classic Shun knife.

Usage

This cleaver is designed for preparing vegetables of all kinds. It has a razor-sharp edge for slicing. The wide, flat blade is ideal for crushing garlic and ginger. It is powerful enough to handle cabbage but the thinness of the blade makes it just as efficient in mincing herbs and trimming and peeling small vegetables. It has enough curve to use for rocking chopping motions. This is not a meat cleaver.

Pros

  • Suitable for all kinds of vegetable preparation
  • Classic Shun quality and craftsmanship
  • Razor-sharp slicing edge

Cons

  • Expensive knife
  • Not suitable for cleaving meats

Price $$

Where to Buy

Warranty

The Shun Classic Vegetable Cleaver has a lifetime limited warranty.

YU KUROSAKI R2/SG2 STEEL HAMMERED JAPANESE CHEF’S BUNKA KNIFE

Features

The YU KUROSAKI R2/SG2 Steel-Hammered Japanese Chef’s Bunka Knife is in a class all its own. This knife is handmade by Yu Kurosaki, an accomplished young blacksmith who is well known in Japan for producing knives with a very unique blade design. 

Blade and Handle

Not many bunka knives are made. They are the work of top artisan craftsmen. Typically they are produced in small batches in small shops or by independent knife smiths. This knife, created by Yu Kurosaki, is a work of art. Its beautiful hammered blade, the Shitan Rosewood handle, and the distinctive shape of the blade all set this knife apart from ordinary kitchen tools. But it is a very sharp, efficient knife that can be used by a skilled cook or chef with great success and with great joy in the pleasure of handling a rare, unique work of art.

Usage

The classic bunka knife is similar to the santoku knife but somewhat smaller and thinner. It has a convex cross section just above the cutting edge for good release action when cutting both vegetables and meats. The blade height on a bunka knife provides good knuckle clearance for chopping or push cutting.

It has a slight curve making a rocking chop possible, but this is not its specialty. It has a sheepfoot tip that provides excellent control for delicate cutting.This knife should not be used to cut bones or frozen foods, The blade could chip or break. Like all good knives, this one should be handwashed in warm water and towel dried. Handling this knife with care is part of the full experience of owning such a unique tool.

Pros

  • Handcrafted beautiful knife
  • Very sharp blade for fine cutting
  • Shitan Rosewood handle

Cons

  • Very expensive knife
  • Requires careful handling

Price $$$

Where to Buy

The Verdict

Exploring the best Japanese kitchen knives opens up a world of fabulous artistry, craftsmanship and efficiency. Our review covers the important styles of Japanese knives including gyuto, santoku, sujihiki, utility, chukabocho and bunka, with excellent options for the home cook.  Our selections are not cheap, but they are within reach of serious home cooks who want to acquire the very best tools.

Best All-Purpose

A logical starting point is a gyuto or santoku style knife. These styles resemble western-style chef’s knives in their purpose and function. They are multi-purpose knives, and the Premier Shun Chef Knive is the best of this type.

Best Budget

If your budget is limited and you want to test the waters of Japanese knives, the Ginsu Gourmet Chikara Series Forged 12-Piece Japanese Steel Knife Set is a good starter set. 

Best of All

Once you are hooked on Japanese knives, we suggest that you put the YU KUROSAKI R2/SG2 Steel-Hammered Japanese Chef’s Bunka Knife on your wish list. Having this knife in your kitchen will truly set you apart in the culinary world. While you wait for someone to surprise you with this special knife, you won’t go wrong with any of the selections on our review list of the best Japanese kitchen knives.

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