Top 10 Best Japanese Kitchen Knife: 2020 Review & Buying Guide

When it comes to debating about the best knife in the world there is one small country with few islands that rule the charts with its charismatic, elegant, sharp and everlasting kitchen knives which are popular all over the world. Japanese kitchen knife types are the best in the world and there is no denying in that. The rich heritage of the Japanese has a very special place for its knives and it’s quite evident with the fact that Japanese do pride themselves being the best kitchen knives creators of the world.

But what makes Japanese kitchen knives the best in the world? Well, the answer lies in the attention to details, extreme precision, sharp edges to slice any food item, ability to make the thinnest of cuts, multiple variants of a knife designed for specific tasks and long-lasting properties are what makes Japanese knives the best in the business. Another answer to the same question is that the Japanese were so precise about making their food that they developed their very own styles of best kitchen knives which are now being used by the top chefs around the world.

It’s a pretty huge deal because if you ask a chef or a housewife who loves cooking both of them can tell you that the most important kitchen tool in their arsenal is the knife. Keeping this in mind we have created a list of top 10 Japanese knife types that are not to be overlooked if you count yourself a foodie. But without further ado lets head straight to our top 10 Japanese kitchen knives.

Top 10 Best Japanese Kitchen Knives of 2020

1 – Gyuto / Japanese Chef’s Knife: Enso Large Chef’s Knife – VG10 Hammered Damascus Stainless Steel Gyuto (Best Pick 🥇)

Gyuto is the most popular Japanese kitchen knife among home cooks and professional chefs. Its blade is thinner and holds a sharper edge. It is also known as the Japanese version of the Western chef’s knife. But Gyuto is a lot more different from the Western chef knife. Gyuto is a multipurpose knife that can do mincing, chopping, slicing fish, meat, cutting vegetables and fruits and so many tasks to mention here. The Gyuto knife is known for its lighter weight and easy to handleability. It has a flatter edge which provides it faster push-cutting abilities.

The Enso HD Gyuto Knife is crafted for perfect chopping, slicing and dicing a whole range of vegetables, fruits and more. The Enso HD Chef’s Knife can produce very fine mince because of its curved belly. The Enso Large Chef’s Knife – Made in Japan – HD Series – VG10 Hammered Damascus Stainless Steel Gyuto – 10″ is a perfect example of expertise, advanced technology and unsurpassed knowledge of the traditional craftsmanship.

Key features

  • Rockwell Hardness 61
  • VG10 Japanese Damascus steel
  • Double bevel edge
  • Handcrafted in Seki City of Japan

Pros

  • The Enso HD Gyuto Knife let chef perform trademark straight slicing motion seen on cooking shows 
  • The 37-layer stainless Damascus blades with hardness make it a perfect kitchen knife. 
  • Its blade has a hammered or sashimi finish
  • The black canvas micarta handle doesn’t crack like a wood handle 
  • The Enso HD Gyuto Knife is perfect for homemakers and chefs on a limited budget

Cons

  • The Enso HD Gyuto Knife is not the right choice for peeling
  • This knife requires expert skills to handle

2 – Santoku Knife: Shun Cutlery Premier 7”

Japanese knife to buy. Santoku performs all the three tasks in exemplary fashion. Features of Santoku make it the best choice in our guide for buying the best Japanese knives. Santoku knives are known to create very thin slices of food. Thus if you are someone who loves to decorate your food with precision then Santoku will help you improve the overall aesthetics of the completed dish.

Santoku is not good if you are looking for slicing bread, peeling, chopping large meat bones. It is best used for cutting meat, creating fine slices, slicing cheese, mincing meat or herbs, chopping or dicing vegetables, fruits, and nuts, scooping food off a cutting board due to wide blade, especially useful for vegetables and seafood. Santoku has a very seamless handle to blade design best fitted for people with small hands.

The Shun Cutlery Premier 7” Santoku Knife is an exquisite beauty with premium performance. The most attracting thing about this Shun Cutlery Premier 7” Santoku Knife is its stunning Tsuchime finish. It is perfect for chopping, slicing, peeling, cutting and grilling out.

Key features

  • Originated in Japan
  • Its standard length is 5 to 15 inches
  • It has a thinner blade than a Chef’s Knife 
  • It has wide sheepsfoot blade with no tip 
  • It can have single or double bevel 
  • Balanced weight
  • Lightweight
  • 34 layers on each side of stainless Damascus cladding
  • Premier’s mirror blade polish
  • Hammered finish
  • Hand sharpened

Pros

  • The Shun Cutlery Premier 7” Santoku Knife is less curved than its Western World cousin’s
  • It is very agile and very easy to manoeuvre
  • The Hammered Tsuchime finish helps release food quickly
  • It is known for its efficiency and its characteristic chopping motion
  • Its precision and speed is embraced by top chefs worldwide 

Cons

  • Not fit for slicing bread, peeling, chopping large meat bones 
  • It is thin so extra care has to be taken while pressing it down

Check out our review & buying guide on the Top 10 Best Santoku Knives for more information and discover why the Shun Cutlery Premier 7” is our top pick!

3 – Petty / Utility Knife: Yoshihiro Inox Petty Utility knife Shitan Handle 6″

Petty means “petit” in French which generally means small. It is a double ground utility knife that is designed to do small delicate works that a chef’s knife cannot handle. It generally accompanies Gyuto for in-hand paring work. It is ideal for works like peeling, slicing, shaping and producing herbs, fruits and vegetables, making garnishes and so on. The efficacy of the Petty knife is so important that it has become the backbone of professional western kitchens. A petty knife is the most ideal kitchen tool for doing smaller jobs on a cutting board. The small and compact size with the fairly narrow blade of the Petty knife makes it very nimble and controllable. This is the reason it is a perfect knife for making precise cuts.

The Yoshihiro Inox 6″ stain-resistant Aus-10 steel ice-hardened petty utility knife with Shitan handle is a perfect helping hand for Chefs and home cooks but is also a pretty handy tool for bartenders for cutting small fruits and garnishing things. The Yoshihiro ice-hardened high carbon stainless steel petty knife is 2mm thin and lightweight. The knife has a pronounced heel. Though Yoshihiro ice-hardened high carbon stainless steel petty knife is a perfect knife for the chopping board. However, its lightweight and maneuverable ability make it work well for hand-cutting.

Key Features

  • Exceptionally thin and light
  • Japanese style handcrafted
  • AUS-10 Stain Resistant Steel
  • Double Bolster
  • Quenched in temperatures below sub-zero
  • Hardness Rockwell C scale: 61
  • It is light in weight relative to the blade
  • Ice Hardened High Carbon Steel
  • Best for slicing and chopping

Pros

  • Yoshihiro ice-hardened high carbon stainless steel petty is ideal for slicing herbs, chopping vegetables, slicing bagels and buns, slicing meat, general kitchen work with precision 
  • Its spine is slim for perfect intricate slicing
  • It is lightweight and very versatile 
  • It is a good companion to hold alongside a Gyuto and Bunka knives
  • It has a very refined curve along the edge for swift rolling and chopping
  • It has a classic western double bevel approach

Cons

  • Yoshihiro petty knife is not ideal for cleaving meat bones
  • It requires skills for precision tasks like peeling and mincing

We also tested 10 different utility knives to see which is the Best Utility Knife of 2020. Check it here!

4 – Deba Knife: Yoshihiro High Carbon Shiroko Kasumi Deba Japanese Fillet Chef’s Knife 6″

Deba knives are designed not just for cutting, dicing and chopping but they were created keeping in mind the Japanese food tradition. Japanese food mostly contains rice, fish and vegetables hence Deba became an integral part of the three knives collection comprising of Nakiri, Yanagiba or Sujihiki and Deba. It was originally created in Sakai, Osaka- Japan.

The Yoshihiro High Carbon Shiroko Kasumi Deba Japanese Fillet Chef’s Knife is a high-quality knife that offers exceptional performance with exceptional value. Available in 6 inch (150mm) to 8.75 inch (225mm) with a limited lifetime warranty. The best thing about the Yoshihiro Kasumi knives is its craftsmanship and performance. It is perfect for household use because it’s easy to handle and also comes at a lower price. It is often said that Deba knife is a timeless utility knife for those who love the sea.

Key Features

  • High carbon steel 
  • Single-edged blade
  • Made with white Steel
  • Fit and finish is solid
  • Japanese style handcrafted Magnolia wood handle
  • Hardness Rockwell C scale: 62-63
  • Sturdier than double blade knives
  • Available in a variety of sizes
  • Light in weight relative to the blade

Pros

  • It is a perfect choice for chopping meat, filleting fish, and even for cutting bone 
  • The blade is very thick, therefore it is a perfect fit for cutting whole chicken or other meat with small bones
  • It doesn’t rust for a long time
  • Its heel is fairly classic. If you look at the anatomy of it, you can notice a small curve and a drop-down at 90 degrees. This makes the heel of the blade perfect for chopping when cutting anything hard 

Cons

  • Can be a problem if the size of the fish is big
  • It is one of the Japanese knife types which is specifically for filleting fish

5 – Usuba Knife: Yoshihiro Shiroko Kasumi Edo Usuba Vegetable Japanese Chef’s Knife 7”

In Japanese “Usui” translates into thin and “ha” means blade. Usuba knife is known for its thin blade. It is comparatively very thin and is generally used for cutting firm vegetables without cracking them. Usuba is generally seen in the hands of a professional chef because it requires expert skills to handle it precisely. Usuba has a straight flat edge and square tip and is commonly used for making specialized cuts like Katsuramuki.

The Yoshihiro Shiroko high carbon steel Kasumi Edo Usuba vegetable Japanese chef’s knife takes the legacy forward. It is perfect for push cutting, chop through root vegetables, slicing delicate vegetables. Its flat grind on the front side, concave grind and a flat rim on the back enable it to cut food with minimal damage to the surface and cells.

Key Features

  • Hardness Rockwell C scale: 62-63
  • Proudly made in Japan
  • Single Edge Angle
  • Wa-style handcrafted D-Shaped Handle 
  • Magnolia Saya Knife Cover 
  • High Carbon White Steel #2

Pros

  • It is the best knife for decorative vegetable carving, more refined edge for thin slices
  • It ergonomically welds to the hand for seamless use
  • Its super fine cutting performance makes slicing and cutting super easy. Not only is it perfect for professional chefs but also ideal for regular home cooks

Cons

  • It is not stain resistant
  • It requires precision and only suitable for specific tasks

6 – Nakiri Knife: Shun Cutlery Classic 6.5”

Nakiri is a vegetable chopper knife. In Japanese “Na” means “vegetable” and “Kiri” means chopper. Nakiri is one of the Japanese knife types which have been around a long time. The story behind the evolution of Nakiri knife is also very exciting. In the Edo era consuming a four-legged animal was strictly prohibited so all of the diets were built around vegetables, rice, and fish. Since then Nakiri knife has been serving the purpose quite professionally and is still one of the most popular knives in Japan. In fact, Nakiri is one of the rare Japanese knife types that is barely changed from a design perspective in its 400 plus years history.
Shun Cutlery Classic 6.5” Nakiri knife has a slim blade with a straight edge and is perfect for vegetable preparations. It is very close to the Usuba knife but unlike the Usuba knife, the Nakiri has double beveled. The Shun Cutlery Classic 6.5” Nakiri knife has a 16° double-bevel steel blade which is good for swift and easy precision work.

Key Features

  • VG-MAX steel 
  • Swift, sharp and clean
  • Durable
  • Versatile 
  • Hand-Sharpened
  • D-Shaped Ebony PakkaWood Handle
  • Looks a little bit like a meat cleaver
  • Swift, sharp and clean
  • Hammered finish
  • Straight blade edge and squared-off tips

Pros

  • Shun Cutlery Classic 6.5” Nakiri knife is crafted for chopping rather than rolling 
  • It has a deep belly and straight edge which makes it a perfect chopping knife 
  • It is perfect for the preparation of salads because everything can be very thin 
  • Shun Cutlery Classic 6.5” Nakiri knife cut is more controllable
  • It is thin and light in weight
  • Fluid Chopping and best for delicate vegetables

Cons

  • It is not for deboning and meat cutting or fish cutting. It can only be used for fruits and vegetables 
  • Its blade will get damaged if tried on meat or bone

7 – Sushi Knife: Kai Wasabi Black Yanagiba Knife 8 1/4-Inch

When it comes to sushi the only thing that comes to mind is vinegar-infused rice rolls Japanese dish decorated on a plate that looks intriguing and close to perfection. It is quite fascinating how cleanly the dish is prepared and how much precision it requires. Besides the Chef’s expertise in the preparation of sushi the credit also goes to the sushi and sashimi knives. There is a very long history of tradition surrounding how sushi knives are made. Today there is a very wide variety of sushi knives crafted for a specific job. In fact, the knife style of many sushi knives is associated with particular Japanese regions.

Kai Wasabi Black Yanagiba Knife Sushi knives are created to deal with vegetables, rice, fish, and rolls. The preparation of sushi and sashimi is taken very seriously in Japan and requires extremely sharp knives for making delicate and precise cuts and Kai Wasabi Black Yanagiba Sushi knife is perfect for that. Cutting ultra-thin slices of sushi is a breeze with Kai Wasabi Black Yanagiba Sushi knife.

Key Features

  • Superior edge retention 
  • Handle is sturdy
  • Attractive blades finish
  • Dishwasher safe Extremely sharp
  • Mostly hand-crafted
  • Made with Daido 1K6 high-carbon 
  • Has single beveled edge

Pros

  • Kai Wasabi Black Yanagiba Knife, 8 1/4-Inch Sushi Knife delivers remarkable stability and better handling
  • Most sushi knives are made with high-carbon steel because of which Kai Wasabi Black Yanagiba Knife have an incredibly sharp edge
  • It swiftly goes back and forth with an all-inclusive tip for snappy hacking

Cons

  • Prone to rust 
  • Require expert skills and is not common for home chefs

Check out our review & buying guide on the Top 10 Best Sushi Knives for more information and discover how we came to our top pick!

8 – Bread Knife: Tojiro Bread Slicer 270mm F-687 

The prime objective of a bread knife is to cut through the bread loaf with precision without compressing the tender crumb within. General purpose knives are not suitable for cutting tough crust because hard crust can damage the finely sharpened blade edges. Besides this, the blunt knife also doesn’t work well for bread cutting as it requires a considerable amount of downward pressure which can crush the airy bread.

Bread knives like Tojiro Bread Slicer can also be used for leveling the subtle and tender layers of a cake. There are many bread knives that are very precise in cutting even the softest of bread or slicing through it but knives like Tojiro Bread Slicer 270mm F-687 make slicing bread a breeze.

Key Features

  • Tojiro bread knife has a long blade 
  • The handle in line with the blade
  • The thin profile is perfect for slicing
  • Perfect for baguettes and brioche to bagels and biscuits

Pros

  • It is perfect for slicing soft dough without damaging the tender portion of the bread 
  • Offset serrated is better which means that you will never crash or bang the knuckles on the cutting board

Cons

  • It is just for bread and not for other household stuff

9 – Honesuki knife: Shun Premier Honesuki Knife 4.5 inch

In Japan, Honesuki knife is used for boning red meat and chicken. It is not just a heavy duty knife but Chefs have found that it is very good at filleting fish and red meat. It is an amazing general purpose utility knife and its blades make it an optimal chopping knife. It shares an almost similar triangular blade profile of the larger Garasuki which is thicker and heavier.

Shun Premier Honesuki Knife 4.5 Inch is not the general knife because it is used for doing a tougher jobs like deboning and breaking down poultry. Shun Premier Honesuki Knife 4.5 Inch is thinner and lighter and has a tough and durable edge. The Shun Premier Honesuki blade shape provides finger clearance over a cutting board.

Key Features

  • Hand-hammered finish 
  • 34 layers each side stainless Damascus cladding 
  • 16° double-bevel blade
  • VG-MAX steel
  • Strong and sturdy knife
  • Hand-hammered finish reduces drag when cutting

Pros

  • Shun Premier Honesuki Knife keeps food from sticking to the knife blade
  • It allows for a variety of comfortable and secure grips
  • It’s a straight handle and blade angle makes it move every fine when boning, trimming or frenching
  • It can easily pierce the skin, make detailed cuts in tight spaces such as joints
  • Shun Premier Honesuki Knife is narrow enough and can swiftly be turned when cutting around the bone 
  • It easily removes bones from fish, meat, and poultry

Cons

  • It does not possess the flexibility of a Western boning knife
  • It cannot be used for cutting through the bones 

10 – Japanese Kitchen Knife Set: Ginsu Gourmet Chikara Series Forged 12-Piece Japanese Steel Knife Set

In the past, the best Japanese kitchen knife was crafted from the same carbon steel which was used to craft Katana blades the iconic swords of the samurai warriors. But nowadays stainless steel is used for crafting most Japanese knife types. The reason why Japanese kitchen knives are the best set of knives in the world is that they are forged through two different techniques. Honyaki and Kasumi techniques are responsible for making Japanese kitchen knives the best in the world. In Honyaki one material is used to forge knife while in Kasumi two materials are used to forge knives much like a samurai sword.

Today there are many popular brands of the best Japanese kitchen knife set to buy and Ginsu gourmet chikara series forged 12-Piece Japanese steel knife set is one of them. This Japanese steel knife set has every type of knife to let you prepare and serve delicious and complex meals.

Key Features

  • These are razor sharp and stay sharp
  • High quality set of forged knives
  • Require low-maintenance
  • Keep their edge for a long time
  • Thin and lightweight
  • Made of the best types of steel
  • The hardness is unmatchable

Pros

  • The Ginsu gourmet chikara series forged 12-Piece Japanese steel knives weighs minimal because the steel of the Japanese blade quickly tapers off in size once it enters the handle 
  • These Japanese kitchen knives are handmade with steel 
  • The sharpening can be done at home also through a how to guide 

Cons

  • Ginsu gourmet chikara series forged 12-Piece Japanese steel knife set is not for you if you don’t love cooking different dishes and creating your very own culinary style 
  • Budget is the only factor to consider while thinking about this best Japanese kitchen knife set to buy

If you are looking for a knife set you must checkout our Top 10 Best Knife Sets under 100!

Difference between Western and Japanese knives

The basic difference between Japanese knives and Western knives is the sharpening of both sides of the blade. Western knives have what is called asymmetrical bevel which is missing in Japanese knives as they are sharpened on one side of the blade. 

Sharpening Angle of Edge

For a Western knife, the combined angle of each edge is the total angle. The manufactured edges for Western knives lies between 18 to 28 degrees which are way higher than that of Japanese knife types

Curvature

Many of the Western style knives have curved along the blade. This design helps in the easy back and forth motion while chopping. The curves let the user apply different amounts of pressure to particular blade areas. 

Blade Thickness 

Japanese knives are more sleek and lean as compared to their counterparts. Western knives are made with softer steel but to make it look robust more material is added. Western knives made with softer steel tend to dull faster than average Japanese knives. 

Sharpness

Japanese knives are sharper than Western knives. The obvious reason for it is that Japanese knives have a single bevel. Most Japanese knives have a bevel angle of around 5 degrees. 

Material

Western knives as mentioned above are made from softer steel but when it comes to Japanese knives harder steel is used. Harder steel means that the edges will hold sharper for longer besides withstanding normal wear and tear than the Western knives. 

Looking at the differences between both the knife styles it is quite certain that the Japanese knives have an upper hand. So this raises another question of why to choose Japanese knives irrespective of the fact that Western knives have also evolved a lot.

Why choose a Japanese Kitchen Knife over a European Style knife

Hagane which is a type of carbon steel is used to make traditional Japanese knives. Thus the cutting implements of Japanese knives hold an exceptionally sharp edge. An interesting fact about Hagane is that it is the same carbon steel type from which the popular Samurai Swords (Nihonto) were used to be forged. 

Japanese knives are not just knives to cut, mince and chop but they are work of art with razor sharp blade. If you look at the hardness parameter than average Japanese knife hardness starts from 58 Rockwell and goes up to 66 Rockwell. These parameters clearly indicate why Japanese knives are incredibly strong. 

Advantages of a Japanese blade

  • Sharper grind
  • Retains its sharpness longer
  • Less resistance when you use it

The best part about Japanese knives is that there is a specific knife for every specific task while preparing the food. There is that knife which cut, mince and chops vegetables like no other knife in the world does, at the same time there is that all-rounder Japanese knife which performs most kitchen tasks, then there is that heavy knife which is used for deboning and removing flesh and cutting fish. 

From all of the above mentioned points, it is quite clear that the Japanese knives are not so easy to beat by the Western knives. So let’s go through the list of top Japanese Knives and know what function each of the top knives performs and what features they have. 

Factors to consider when buying a Japanese Kitchen Knife

Japanese knives are surely the most well-crafted kitchen tools in the world. So would you buy any of the Japanese knife types without knowing what to consider before making the decision? Our guide for buying the best Japanese knives will help you understand the different aspects of Japanese knives so that you can select the best one to enhance your culinary style.

1 – Carbon steel vs stainless steel

Carbon steel is a good consideration for kitchen knives because of the ease of re-shapening. But carbon steel can rust while stainless steel doesn’t rust. 

2 – Damascus blades

Damascus blades are long associated with best Japanese kitchen knife.   

3 – Hardness

Major difference between Western and Japanese knives is the hardness. If you need harder knife then choose any of the Japanese knife types.  

4 – Weight

Most of the best Japanese kitchen knife has hardness property and because of this hardness they can be crafted thinner and lighter. 

5 – Cost

If you want a Japanese Chef’s knife then you have to shed some hundred and fifty dollars. It’s on you what Japanese knife types you choose; there are many economical Japanese knife types available but for high end Chef’s knife you have to pay more.  

6 – Size

Japanese kitchen knives are available in so many sizes that it is up to you which knife type you choose. Japanese knives are suitable for all hand sizes and fits perfectly. You just have to choose a knife designed for a specific task which you perform regularly.

How Japanese Kitchen Knives are made

Have you ever wondered how the famous Japanese kitchen knives are made? Well it’s not a rocket science as the same forging technique is followed which is used to create many metal tools and equipments. In Japan cities like Sakai, Seki and Echizen are known to craft the World famous Japanese knives designed to perform specialized tasks.
The most fundamental steps that are used to create Japanese knives are mentioned below:

Step 1: Forging the Blade
Step 2: Kilning the Knives
Step 3: Finishing the Knives

Tips for using and maintaining Japanese Kitchen Knives

  • Use the right knife for the right job 
  • When you have to use a lot of force during cutting, something is not right 
  • Keep your entire knife dry, not just the blade
  • Keep your knife sharp always 
  • Avoid lateral movement with the knife 
  • Do not use the cutting blade as a can opener, chisel etc. or any task for which your knife was not designed
  • Always use a plastic or wooden cutting board 
  • Avoid bones, grates, frozen food and hard seeds 
  • Regularly apply a small amount of lubricant to the working parts of your kitchen knives
  • Only use high-quality sharpening tools like natural stones or whetstones
  • Don’t put your knife in a dishwasher, ever

Some Frequently Asked Questions regarding Japanese Kitchen Knives

Even after having a good knowledge about some of the best Japanese kitchen knife there may be some questions which can creep up on you. Below we have tried to answer some common questions which will clarify a lot of things for you. 

How to sharpen Japanese Kitchen Knives?

Use natural stones instead of synthetic stones to sharpen your kitchen knives. Before starting the sharpening process read your knife first then keeps the stone flat and in the end use a stable surface while you sharpen.

How to use Japanese Kitchen Knives?

The simplest answer to this question is that you have to stick to the basics. You just have to use the right knife for the right job, air dry the knife after wash, clear off stubborn stains before sharpening etc.

Are Japanese Kitchen Knives Better?

Yes, Japanese Kitchen knives are better than Western Knives. Japanese knives are long lasting, harder, lighter, sharper and designed for performing even the sleekest of tasks.

Why are Japanese Kitchen Knives so sharp?

Most Japanese knives are single beveled and the use of carbon steel/ stainless steel makes them harder yet lighter with extreme sharp edge.  

The Final Verdict

Now that you have complete insight of the best Japanese knife to buy its time to evaluate which one is better based on certain factors. But the end result directly depends on personal preference and the cooking style. For example people with smaller hand tend to like Santoku knife because its smaller size and finesses cutting action is unmatched. For people with larger hands Chef’s knife is an ideal choice.

But if we have to reach to a sure conclusion as to which knife is the best tool in your kitchen arsenal then based on different aspects like the types of cuts, blade weight/thickness, edge angle, blade shape, blade length, material hardness, grip, technique, cutting and motion, etc. It can be said that the Santoku is the best all-rounder kitchen knife to buy. If you have used Chef’s knives for years then we would recommend you to give Santoku a shot. If you can afford to have two good knives in your kitchen then Santoku and the Gyuto are the must have Japanese knives that deserve a place in your kitchen.