Knives are the backbone of every kitchen. If you’re cooking anything at home, you need to have a reliable blade to slice and dice ingredients. There are two styles to choose from: Western knives, which are made in Germany and France, and Japanese knives, which are made in Japan.
Western-style knives are known for their durability and heft, but Japanese knives are known for their razor-sharp edges, nimble precision, and lightweight handling. Japanese knives are some of the best in the world, but they can also be some of the most expensive.
Japanese knife types are also thin yet durable, meaning they can last longer and are easy and comfortable to use. Are you ready to add the best Japanese knives to your cutlery collection?
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We’ve been researching and testing many kitchen knife brands, and our team has over 50 years of combined experience in the food service industry. In 2018, we spent 80 hours testing 21 different kitchen knives from 13 different brands.
To find the best Japanese kitchen knives, we consulted different chefs and got their opinions about what to look for in a quality Japanese knife. We also read online reviews from people who have purchased and used Japanese knives in their own kitchens.
Read on to learn some of the best Japanese knives money can buy, according to chefs and cooking experts.
Top Picks for Japanese Knives
- 1. Best Quality - Regalia Emperor Series 8-Inch Chef’s Knife
- 2. Best Overall - Shun Cutlery Premier 8-Inch Chef’s Knife
- 3. Best Value - Global G-48 7-Inch Santoku Hollow Ground Knife
- 4. Best All-Purpose - Shun Classic 6 Piece Slim Knife Block Set
- 5. Best Budget - MAC Knife Series 8-Inch Hollow Edge Chef’s Knife
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1. Regalia Emperor Series 8-Inch Chef’s Knife
There are many types of kitchen knives made in Japanese style available on the market, each with a specific purpose.
If you’re looking for a top-quality Japanese chef’s knife, the Regalia Emperor Series 8-Inch Chef’s Knife is a great option. This knife is made with high-carbon stainless steel and has a hardness rating of HRC 60-62, making it one of the sharpest and most durable knives on the market. The versatile curvilinear blade performs well at mincing, slicing, chopping vegetables, slicing meat, filleting fish, cutting gourds, and disjointing large cuts.
It also features a hammered tsuchime pattern, which besides adding an exquisite beauty, it improves the functionality of the blade by preventing sticking and helping release food easily. The knife is also full tang, meaning the steel of the blade extends all the way to the end of the handle for exceptional strength, balance, and control.
The Regalia Emperor Series 8 Inch, Chef’s Knife features a cutting core forged from the finest AUS10V Japanese steel with an unbelievable 62+ on the Rockwell Hardness scale for ultimate edge retention. It has 66 layers of high carbon stainless Damascus steel cladding to shield against corrosion, stains, and rust while giving the blade its magnificent rolling wave Damascus pattern, which is unique to every knife.
2. Miyabi Birchwood SG2 8-Inch Chef’s Knife
If you’re looking for one kind of kitchen knife to rule them all, the Miyabi Birchwood SG2 8-Inch Chef’s Knife is it. This superbly designed and constructed knife can take on any food prep task you throw its way, whether you’re chopping vegetables, slicing meat, or mincing herbs.
The Miyabi Birchwood SG2 8-Inch Chef’s Knife is made with a super-sharp micro-carbon steel blade that holds its edge exceptionally well. Also, many traditional Japanese knives are made with carbon steel, but for ease, look for a stainless steel knife. Miyabi knives are finished using traditional Japanese Honbazuke honing, and blades are sharpened and polished by hand in three stages to ensure maximum sharpness.
The blade is crafted with 101 layers of steel layered on top of a MicroCarbide steel core yielding exceptional sharpness and outstanding edge retention. The SG2 steel is extremely hard, measuring at 64 Rockwell on the hardness scale.
3. Mac Knife Series 8-Inch Hollow Edge Chef’s Knife
If you’re looking for an affordable Japanese knife that works for both right and left-hand users, the Mac Knife Series 8-Inch Hollow Edge Chef’s Knife is a great option.
The blade is made of high carbon stainless steel and is razor sharp right out of the box. The hollow edge creates pockets of air that prevent food from sticking to the blade, making slicing and dicing a breeze.
The ergonomic handle is comfortable to hold, and the knife is well-balanced, making it a pleasure to use. The blades are rust resistant, hand sharpened, hand ground, and hand cooled to create razor-sharp edges that will stay sharp longer. The Mac Knife Hollow Edge Chef is a thin, lightweight, affordable option, making it suitable for anyone seeking a workhorse Japanese knife.
4. Shun Cutlery Premiere 8-Inch Chef’s Knife
This is one of the most popular and versatile Japanese kitchen knives available. The Shun Cutlery Premiere 8-Inch Chef’s Knife is perfect for slicing, dicing, and mincing all kinds of food. The blade is made from VG-10 stainless steel, which is known for its durability and strength. The blade is also coated with a 16-degree angle edge, making it extremely sharp.
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Another important design that comes with this knife set is the pakkawood handle, which is an extremely durable walnut-colored handle that won’t harbor bacteria. This knife is also a great option for those with big and small hands as its thinner, the lighter blade makes it comfortable to use for long periods of time without getting tired.
5. Shun Classic 4 Piece Steak Knife Set
Shun knives are some of the best in the business, and their steak knives are no different. The Shun Classic 4 Piece Steak Knife Set comes with four beautifully crafted steak knives that will make quick work of any steak, no matter how tough it is.
The blades on these knives are made from VG-MAX stainless steel, which is known for its incredible hardness and ability to hold an edge. And, with a Rockwell hardness rating of 60, you can rest assured that these knives will stay sharp for a long time. It also contains higher levels of tungsten which creates a strong, finer grain with a razor-sharp edge.
In addition to their impressive blades, the Shun Classic steak knives also feature PakkaWood handles that are comfortable to hold and won’t harbor bacteria. Plus, the Shun knives have traditional Japanese straight handles, which add to the modern aesthetic.
6. Kikuichi Ginsan Sanmai 7 Inch Gyuto Knife
This Kikuichi Ginsan Sanmai 7 Inch Gyuto knife is one of the best Japanese knives for those who are looking for a great all-purpose knife. It’s made with a high carbon steel blade that has been layered with softer stainless steel. This creates a harder cutting edge while still allowing the knife to be resistant to rust and corrosion.
The Kikuichi Ginsan Sanmai 7 Inch Gyuto knife also features a traditional Japanese-style handle that is made from Ho wood. This gives the knife a comfortable and secure grip. The blade of this knife is also extra thin, which makes it perfect for slicing and dicing.
7. Shun Classic 6 Piece Slim Knife Block Set
The Shun Classic 6 Piece Slim Knife Block Set is another great option for those who are looking for a great all-purpose Japanese knife set. This set includes six different knives, each of which has a unique purpose. The set includes a paring knife, a utility knife, a Santoku knife, a chef’s knife, honing steel, kitchen shears, and a bread knife.
Each of these knives is made from high-quality Japanese steel, and they each feature a traditional Japanese-style handle. The handles are made from Pakka Wood, which is a durable and comfortable material.
8. Global G-48 7-Inch Santoku Hollow Ground Knife
If you’re looking for a Santoku knife that is both sharp and durable, the Global G-48 7 Inch Santoku Hollow Ground Knife is a great option. This knife is made from high-quality Japanese steel, and it features a hollow ground blade.
The blade is also extremely sharp, making it a great option for slicing and dicing. The handle is made from Pakka Wood, which is a comfortable and durable material. Global knives are also known for their excellent balance, and the G-48 is no exception. The Santoku knife is known as a multipurpose blade in the field of Japanese knives.
Unlike traditional Japanese knives, Global knives are sharpened on both sides of the blade like Western-style knives. This sharpening style is unique to Global; while Western knives have a beveled edge, they’re sharpened straight to a steep, acute angle.
Factors to Consider When Buying Best Japanese Knives
Type of Knife
The four most common types of Japanese kitchen knives are the gyuto, santoku, paring knife, and nakiri.
- Gyuto: The gyuto is a versatile chef’s knife that can be used for chopping, slicing, and dicing. Gyuto knives are lighter, have thinner blades, and have a higher degree angle than a Western chef’s knife.
- Santoku: Also known as the multipurpose knife, the santoku is perfect for chopping, slicing, and dicing vegetables. Santoku knives have a flatter edge and are shorter than gyuto knives. There’s an article on best santoku knife already covered by us.
- Paring knife: The paring knife is a small knife that is used for peeling and slicing fruits and vegetables. Paring knives have short, sharp blade that is ideal for maneuvering around small objects.
- Nakiri: Also known as a vegetable knife, the nakiri knife translates to cutting greens which is what it is designed to do. Nakiri knives have a straight blade edge that is ideal for chopping vegetables. The flat edge ensures a clean cut with no straggling tomato skin. They’re crafted specifically to cut vegetables and are really good at it.
Material is also another consideration in choosing the right knife. Traditional Japanese knives are made with carbon steel, which is harder than stainless steel but requires more maintenance to prevent rusting. Stainless steel is easier to care for but not as sharp or durable as carbon steel. For those who want the best of both worlds, there are knives made with a combination of carbon and stainless steel.
The best kitchen knives in Japanese style are tested and proven to be extremely sharp, and they’re designed to delicately yet precisely slice meat, fish, vegetables, and more
No matter what kind of knife you choose, it will require some maintenance to keep it in good condition. Japanese knives should be sharpened regularly with a whetstone or honing rod. They should also be cleaned and dried after each use to prevent rusting. Stainless steel knives can be placed in the dishwasher, but carbon steel knives should be hand washed.
When choosing a Japanese knife, it is important to consider what material you want the blade to be made of. Carbon steel is sharper and more durable than stainless steel but is also more susceptible to rust. Stainless steel is easier to maintain but doesn’t retain its edge as well as carbon steel. Ultimately, the decision comes down to personal preference and how you plan to use your knife.
Storage is also an important consideration. Japanese knives should be stored in a dry place and away from moisture to prevent rusting. It is also important to store them safely, so they don’t become dull or damaged. The best way to store Japanese knives is in a knife block or on a wall-mounted magnet strip.
FAQs on the Best Japanese Knives
How often you sharpen your knife is always dictated by how frequently you use it. A good rule of thumb is to sharpen your knife every time you use it. If you notice that your knife is starting to feel dull, then it’s probably time for a sharpening.
Cleaning Japanese knives is similar to cleaning any other type of knife. You should always hand wash your knives with soap and warm water. Avoid putting them in the dishwasher, as this can damage the blades.
To clean, rinse the blade under warm water and then use mild dish soap to remove debris. Gently scrub the blade with a soft sponge or brush. Rinse the knife again and dry it with a clean towel.
It’s important to store your Japanese knives properly to keep them in good condition. When not in use, always store your knives in a safe place where they will not be damaged.
Overall, Regalia Emperor Series 8-Inch Chef’s knife is the best quality knife you can ever have. This is a top-quality knife set made of high carbon stainless steel with a hardness rating of HRC 60-62, making it one of the sharpest knives. Shun Cutlery Premiere 8 Inch Chef’s knife follows next as the next big Japanese knife. It’s a versatile knife brand that’s perfect for dicing, mincing and slicing. You can check most expensive shun knife as well on our site
Finally, the MAC knife series 8-inch hollow edge chef’s knife is the best budget Japanese knife brand for those looking for a budget-friendly knife set. Despite its amazing features, it still offers superb operation as its counterparts.
When choosing the best Japanese knife, it is important to consider your needs and how you will use the knife. There are many different types of Japanese knives available, so it is important to choose one that is well-suited for your specific needs. Whether you’re a novice or professional chef, all these knives are tried and tested and can stand the kitchen chores you throw to them.
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Kristina is an expert DIY home remodeler and mom to three. When she's not cooking or experimenting with new recipes, you can find her working on new home improvement projects or writing about her favorite kitchen appliances or DIY projects on Kitchen Infinity blog.