Japanese kitchen knives have become a favorite among amateurs and professional chefs around the world. Their super-sharp, thin and light knives make cooking easier and more pleasant. But what’s the best Japanese kitchen knife?
Of course, it’s a very stupid question. There is no better EIN knife, especially when it comes to Japanese knives. The choice of the best knife depends on a number of factors: Your level of knowledge, the style of your favorite knife (e.g. traditional or western), the type of knife you need (e.g., what do you cut?), your budget and many other personal preferences.
There are many types of Japanese knives to choose from, and the selection can be very impressive, especially for amateur chefs (like me). However, whatever your current level of knowledge, you will find that a good knife makes cooking more fun and helps you become a better cook!
In this buying guide, my goal is to highlight the most important factors to consider before buying your own Japanese kitchen knives. I’ll give you some advice on what knives you might consider buying. Please note that this guide is intended for amateur or home cooks. I hope even some professional chefs will find this information useful when choosing a Japanese kitchen knife!
Factors to be considered
Price / steel grade
Japanese knives can be sold at very high prices… from $50 to over $1,000! Depending on your skill level, you may want to spend something else.
More expensive knives are usually made of very carbon steel (i.e. blue or white steel) and can be forged from honyaki. High carbon steel knives are harder, allowing them to retain sharp edges for longer, but if not used or maintained properly, they tend to shred. Knives in the higher price range require good maintenance and regular sharpening. Therefore, these expensive high-carbon steel blades are only recommended for professionals.
Cheap Japanese knives for beginners are likely to use a stainless steel alloy that is more durable, easier to maintain and corrosion resistant. The disadvantage is that cheaper knives do not retain their sharpness as long as the higher-lying knives are used at the same frequency. Most private chefs don’t have to worry about that because they won’t use their knife as often as professionals.
If you just learn to cook, you don’t have to buy an expensive knife. You always want a quality knife, but don’t exaggerate. Think of it as buying a car. If you’re still learning to drive, there’s no point in buying a Ferrari! A decent, usable and cheap Japanese knife probably costs about $100.
Japanese knives come with a double bevel (western style) or a single bevel (traditional Japanese style). Simple conical knives are generally intended for professional chefs as they can make very detailed cuts or have very specific applications (e.g. sushi knife / Yanagi). The feeling you get when using a single-phase knife is very different and it takes a lot of practice to get used to it. If you are not a professional, I advise you to start with a western knife, because it is easier to use.
Five of the many types of Japanese knives
There are many different types of knives for each blade (i.e. western or traditional knives). Many of these types of knives have specific characteristics (vegetables, fish, carving, meat processing, etc.), but there are two Japanese knives intended for general use: the Gyuto (i.e. the Japanese cook’s knife) and the Santoku. Both knives use Western (i.e. double conical) knives and are called utility knives because they can be used for vegetables, meat or fish. I advise beginners to start with an intestine or santoca and then move on. The Gyutomes usually have much wider knives (20 to 25 cm) than the Santocu (15 to 18 cm), so if you normally work in small spaces, you should consider Santocu.
Nakiri vegetable knife with traditional Japanese handle
And the last thing to think about is the kind of catch. Japanese knives can be supplied with a western handle or the traditional Japanese handle. The western hilt is heavier, the shape of the hilt is riveted and locked by a tangent to the blade. They feel stronger and are better suited for cutting with brute force. The traditional Japanese handles are cylindrical, lighter and still made of wood. Traditionally Japanese style pens may be uncomfortable for those who have never used them before, but they can provide a finer touch and control that was accustomed to the feeling. Finally, the choice of handle type is limited to your personal preferences.
Recommendations for Japanese kitchen knives
Below you will find an overview table with some recommendations for Gutho and Santoku knives. This list is by no means exhaustive, but should help you get started. Maybe I’ll add other types of knives in the future.
This list also focuses on cheap entry knives. Read on for a more detailed description of each knife.
Best Japanese chef’s knives (e.g. Gyuto)
Gyuto (牛刀 in japanese kanji ) is a japanese version of a traditional kitchen knife. Compared to the classic French cook’s knife, the Japanese blade generally has a less curved profile, it is lighter, thinner and sharper. The gyuto is a mandatory feature of any professional kitchen, as it is the most widely used and versatile knife of a chef. The typical size of a Gutenau knife can vary from 200 mm to 250 mm (about 8 to 10 inches), although it can be found much longer. A cheap but decent eavestrough will probably cost you $100 or more.
Best knife for silver: Togiro DP Gyuto
The Tojiro DP Gyuto is one of the best discount Japanese kitchen knives on the market.
Tojiro is a well-known brand for the production of authentic, affordable but high-quality Japanese kitchen knives. Because of the entry-level prices, Tojiro knives can often serve as a gateway for chefs to the wonderful world of high-quality Japanese knives.
This Gutto has a wooden handle in western style and a blade made of a triple layer of stainless steel. The heart of the knife is a harder VG-10 stainless steel, which keeps the knife sharp over time. The outer layer is made of softer stainless steel, making it easier to grind and, if necessary, maintain. In general, the knife has a hardness scale of 60 HRC at Rockwood.
The Tojiro DP Gyuto is super sharp out of the box, so be careful! He cuts those soft tomatoes like a butter prawn! If you have never used a good Japanese knife before, prepare to be amazed at how easy it is to cut vegetables and meat.
The Tojiro DP can easily be described as one of the best knives a Japanese cook makes for money. If you are ready to finally try your first Japanese chef’s knife and want the best shot for your dollar, Tojiro DP Gyuto is the place to start.
At Amazon this knife is available in two sizes: 21 cm or 27 cm. The short version costs only about 80 USD, while the long version costs about 120 USD. The price can vary a bit, so take a look at Amazon to see how high it is now.
- Very accessible. The best belly for money.
- Very funny.
- Easy to maintain
- It’s a little heavier than similar Japanese knives.
Other places to buy: Chef’s knife for
Premium selection: Shun Classic 8 cook’s knife
Shun is another much cited brand of high quality Japanese kitchen knives for beginners. Your knives are usually at the top of what the newcomer wants to spend and therefore it is often advisable to wait for a sale or a discount when buying a Shun.
The design of the Shun Classic cook’s knife is a kind of combination of German and Japanese knives. The profile of the blade is more curved than your typical Japanese Gutto. In shape it looks more like a typical Western chef’s knife, but with a much finer and sharper blade. The curved blade makes it more suitable for breaking stones.
The nib is a very traditional Japanese style wooden handle (D-shaped). The hilt is D-shaped, so only for right-handers. If necessary, you can order the special version on the left directly from Shun.
The blade consists of a hard core of VG-10 stainless steel and is covered with 32 layers of softer stainless steel with a damask pattern. The combination of hard and soft steel ensures that the knife retains its sharpness while being easy to maintain and use. The total hardness level on the Rockwell scale is 60-61.
In general, the Shun Classic cook’s knife is a great gutter and can be attractive for those who want to mix Western and Japanese style knives. The only drawback is that it is more economical than most other input options. It’s about $150 right now. The already mentioned Tojiro DP is almost half the price of 80 dollars.
- Perfect looking knife with traditional Japanese handle and wooden blade.
- The profile of the curved blade may be preferred by chefs who like Rock Kroll.
- Very funny.
- Excessive pricing – Expect a discount or a sales price.
Alternative: Yoshihiro VG10 Chef Duto Knife
Another popular gutto for beginners is a knife for chef Yoshihiro VG10 Gyuto. This elegant, handmade knife is very similar to the Tojiro DP Gyuto.
The knife has a three-layer structure with a hard core of VG10 stainless steel, which keeps the knife sharp for a long time. The outer layer is made of softer steel, making it easier to maintain and, if necessary, sharpen. In general, the blade has a hardness of 60 HRC (the same as the Tojiro DP).
One thing that distinguishes Yoshihiro is its unique appearance. The outer cladding is made of forged damask steel, giving it a unique wave pattern. Some users like this style, while others prefer simple steel. It also has an excellent appearance, first class mahogany handles in the western style.
All in all, the Yoshihiro VG10 Guteau is another great knife for a novice chef. It comes super sharp from the box and is highly appreciated by clients. The only drawback is that it’s a bit expensive compared to the Tojiro DP – the 8-inch (21 cm) version costs $130, while the 9.5-inch (24 cm) version costs $160.
- Razor wire
- Handmade with a unique damask steel pattern
- Perfectly ballasted and easy to handle.
- It’s a little more expensive than Togiro DP.
Best Santoku knives
The Santoku knife (三徳包丁) is a small universal Japanese kitchen knife. It is usually much smaller than an intestine and the size of the leaves varies from 150 mm to 180 mm. It often has a flatter blade profile than the Guteau and a less pointed tip. The name of the knife literally means three specialties / vegetables and refers to the ability of the knife to cut meat, fish or vegetables.
The practical size and versatility of the Santoku make it the most common knife in Japanese houses. A smaller size also means that a Santoca is cheaper than a comparable Gutto. There are many beautiful Santoku knives for less than $100. It’s a great way to start your cooking trip.
Best price: Togiro DP Santoku 170 mm
Tojiro always has the cheapest authentic Japanese knives on the market. The Tojiro DP Santoku is no exception to the rule.
The Tojiro DP Santoku is part of the same series as the above mentioned Tojiro DP Gyuto knife. The core of the sheet is made of VG-10 stainless steel. This allows the knife to take a very sharp edge and hold well over time. A softer stainless steel casing is used for the outer part of the blade, making it easier to sharpen the blade if necessary and reducing the risk of cracking. It also gives the knife more flexibility, making it very suitable for amateur chefs.
The DP Santoku thohiro uses a western/hybrid wooden handle, which is securely fastened with three rivets. The handle is strong and durable enough for professional use.
This knife comes out of the box and is by far one of Santoku’s best entry-level knives on the market. If you are looking for a high quality santoku that can be used for the daily kitchen, then you have come to the right place.
The Tojiro DP Santoku, which currently costs just over $50 in the Amazon, offers you an incredible explosion!
If you are interested in the Santoku Tojiro knife with traditional Japanese handle, look for the Santoku Tojiro Shirogami (165 mm).
Alternative: MAC Upper Santoku 6.5 knife
MAC Knife is another long-standing brand that has enjoyed an excellent reputation for the production of high-quality Japanese kitchen knives right from the start. The MAC Superior Santoku is an excellent Santoku head knife.
Unlike most knives on this list, the MAC Superior Santoku uses a monostable construction. This means that it is made from a single piece of stainless steel instead of using different grades of steel for the core and outer shell. Despite the 6.5 inch designation, the blade is actually closer to 6.75 inch (170 mm).
The knife is made in a typical western style of Picca wood and has three rivets. It lies comfortably in the hand and is not too heavy.
The MAC Superior Santoku comes out of the box sharp enough and is a large, durable and versatile Santoku knife. In fact, it was the only Santoku knife recommended in the popular magazine Cook’s Illustrated.
For just $75, this knife offers incredible value and is an excellent choice for enthusiasts who want to work with Japanese knives.
Premium selection: Yoshihiro VG-1 Golden Stainless Steel Santoku
This beauty of the artisan brand Yoshihiro is another beautiful and versatile Santoku knife.
The blade consists of a core of carbon-rich VG-1 steel, sandwiched between the outer layer of softer stainless steel. This design allows the blade to retain its sharp edges, while the outer surface is corrosion-free, durable and easy to maintain. Total hardness of 60 on the Rockwell scale.
The handle is made of beautiful mahogany and the shape is adapted to your hand, in a western style. The knife is very light (about 140 grams), making it easy to handle for most chefs.
The knife is 100% handmade by experienced craftsmen in Japan and is an excellent Santoku knife for beginners. The only real disadvantage is that it is slightly more expensive than the Togiro or MAC-Santoku knife. It is currently being sold in retail for $95 (unsecured) or $110 hedged.
If you don’t mind paying a few extra dollars and prefer the high quality of this knife (the handle is nice), then the Yoshihiro VG-1 Santoku is a good choice.
You may also consider a slightly higher premium, the Yoshihiro VG-10 Damascus Santoku.
Best Japanese knife set
In general, I don’t recommend buying a complete set of knives – certainly not those huge sets of 10 to 20 knife blocks.
First of all, you don’t need that many knives. Secondly, the initial cost is much higher than the purchase of one or two decent knives that you will actually use. Sometimes you can find extremely cheap knife boxes (18 knives for 200 dollars!!). It may seem a lot, but they’re still terrible knives. Stay back! Stay back!
Instead, by purchasing the knives, you can individually put together a tailor-made, high-quality set of knives that is tailored to your level of expertise over the course of time.
You can buy small sets of Japanese knives that contain two and sometimes three simple kitchen knives to get you started. Here are a few examples.
Togiro DP Chef 2-piece knife set
This two-piece set contains the already mentioned Tojiro DP Gyuto (21 cm) and a 10 cm long thin knife.
The small knife is the Japanese version of the Western knife. It is also called a utility knife because it can be used for all kinds of tasks. They are generally used for small, delicate jobs for which the large gutto is not suitable, such as cutting green, small fruits and vegetables.
Both models have a typical three-layer construction – with a VG-10 stainless steel hard core sandwiched between two layers of softer stainless steel. This allows you to take advantage of the razor’s sharp edges and the exterior’s corrosion resistance. The hilt is completely sideways shaped, the western style hilt is firmly attached with three rivets.
There is nothing special about these Togiro knives, which makes them attractive to many users. These are simply Japanese kitchen knives of the highest quality and without any ambiguity. The best part is that this rate is currently for only $120 (at Amazon). This is an incredible value for two very hard knives that you will use often. This is the perfect set of Japanese starter knives.
If you are looking for a better finish, you should turn to the slightly more expensive Tojiro DP Damascus starter kit, which consists of two parts.
Yoshihiro VG-10 Gyuto & Petty Utility knife set
If you are looking for a slightly sexy looking Japanese knife set that will help you get started, then you should consider this set from Yoshihiro.
It includes a Yoshihiro VG-10 Gyuto (210 mm) and the corresponding small knife (135 mm).
Both knives have a VG-10 (HRC 60) stainless steel core and a 16-piece damask steel outer jacket. A strong steel core ensures that the blade retains its super-sharp edges, while the outer layer increases wear resistance and prevents food from sticking to the blade. They are also stain and corrosion resistant and therefore easy to maintain.
The western style handle is made of top quality mahogany and is adapted to your hand.
All in all, they are beautiful and powerful knives. They’re a little higher at $195. If you don’t mind spending a little extra, this two-piece Yoshihiro set is an excellent choice for those who want to immerse themselves in the world of Japanese kitchen knives.
Where to buy Japanese knives
If you want to buy even more for your own favourite knife, there are many possibilities.
You can try to go to a knife shop or local dealer and see if they have authentic Japanese knives for sale. This way you can take the knife in your hand before you buy it and use it if necessary.
If you are in Japan, you are sure to find some good local shops. Many department stores also offer a selection of decent knives. You can even visit famous knife cities like Sakai or Seki and see how knives are made in person.
If you’re unlucky to be in Japan, or if you have a good local knife shop, or if you’re just too lazy to leave your home, here are some recommended websites to buy online. Most stores are shipped worldwide. If I miss a good knife deal on that list, let me know!
Online Japanese knife shops
Amazon. The good old Amazon. They sell everything, including Japanese kitchen knives. Amazon offers a selection of Japanese entry-level knives, but not enough high-end knives. Caution is also advised with inferior sellers and brands disguised as authentic Japanese knives.
eBay – If you know what you’re looking for, you can find great deals on eBay for buying new or used knives.
Chef Knives to Go is a very popular website for knife lovers. They offer the HUGE range of high-quality Japanese knives and brands. Here you will find knives from the first to the highest level. They also have many hard to find knives that are not worn elsewhere. It’s really worth a look!
Chubo – Another large online store offering a very large selection of authentic Japanese knife brands. They offer everything from entry knives to high-quality knives for professional use. They also offer knife sharpening services. Orders are shipped directly from Japan!
Knives and Stones is an Australian retailer that sells a wide range of Japanese knives and other high quality dishes. Knives are generally more expensive, so prices are a little higher if you are looking for boarding options.
Corinne – Corinne, based in New York, sells everything from knives to dishes to sushi robots. They have their own brand of knife and several other brands. You have your own store in Manhattan, New York, if you’re around.
Japanese Knife Import is an American retailer that mainly offers high-end Japanese knives, although there are several entrances. If you’re around, you’ve got your store in Beverly Hills, California.
Yoshihiro – Offers a wide choice of knife types and price ranges. All knives are sold under the brand name Yoshihiro, but in fact they are supplied by various knife manufacturers throughout Japan. In Yoshihiro you’ll find knives ranging from $100 to $1,000.
MTC Kitchen – a very large retailer/commercial company that sells everything related to Japanese cuisine and restaurant equipment – knives, bowls, pots, pans and even chefs toques!
Knifewear is an excellent Canadian retailer offering a very wide range of authentic Japanese knives. You’ll find everything from entry knives to superior knives. Offers a very cool forge search option.
This beautiful Japanese knife makes cooking more fun and helps you become a better cook. There are many factors to consider when choosing your first Japanese knife, and the options / variations can be quite amazing. The type of steel, the type of blade, the type of handle, the type of knife and the price are some of the main points to consider when purchasing.
As an amateur chef, I recommend to start with a good basic knife (cook’s knife) or a santoku (knife with retractable blade), and then continue with the infinite variety of knives (nakiri, yanagi, deba, etc.). I hope this guide helped you choose a Japanese kitchen knife!
best japanese knife block set,best japanese knives on amazon,types of japanese knives,best japanese carbon steel knives,japanese knife set,japan knife shop,japanese damascus knife,japanese knives sale
Disclosure: We are a professional review company & our reviews are not biased towards any of the products we review. We test each product thoroughly and give marks to only the very best that is given by our author. We are very independently owned & the opinions expressed here are our own. However, if you purchase anything after clicking the links present in the articles then we get some commissions for it which help maintaining the websites expenses like servers, security etc.