The 10 Best Japanese Knives – East Meets West!

Chris Starks
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The best Japanese Chef knives are truly some of the best knives in the world. In fact, some western countries look to Japan for their culinary culture and knife skills.

Japanese knifemakers have been making steel since long before western countries were honing their metal.

Jikikiki molybdenum steel is known in Japan as “white steel” (referring to the color of the blade when still under construction). It’s a combination of carbon, molybdenum, and cobalt with just a hint of tungsten. This is the metal of choice for yanagiba and usuba.

What is most intriguing about this blade, though, is the way in which the steel is made. The molybdenum and cobalt elements are combined and hardened using cryogenic pressure; the steel is then put through a heating process. The result is a blade that is rust-resistant, flexible, and hard all at the same time.

What’s more, if properly cared for, a good Japanese knife can last up to 400 years … talk about a quality investment!

NameCategoryProduct
Global 8" Chef's KnifeBest OverallGlobal 8" Chef's Knife
TUO Cutlery Cleaver KnifeBudget PickTUO Cutlery Cleaver Knife
Shun Cutlery Premier 8” Chef’s Knife; LightweightUpgrade PickShun Cutlery Premier 8” Chef’s Knife; Lightweight

1. Global 8" Chef's Knife

Our rating: 9 / 10

Global 8" Chef's Knife

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Pros:

  • Very sharp out of the box
  • Outstanding edge retention
  • Beautiful design
  • Great soft grip handle
  • Carbon steel core
  • Beautiful hamon lines

Cons:

  • Dulls easily
  • Can rust quickly

Global knives are made with highly durable materials, to make sure they can withstand the wear and tear in the kitchen. The Damascus blades are hand-forged, and the layered composition giving these blades their unique, alluring luster.

Just like with the rest of the Global knives, the Chef's knife is made of high-quality VG-10 stainless Damascus steel with two different grain structures on either side of the blade. The VG-10 steel composition makes these knives highly durable, and the high carbon content ensures that the knives will hold their edge for a long time.

Made in Japan out of top quality materials, these knives are sharpened at a 45-60 degree angle on both sides, making them functional and easy to use right out of the box. Global's proprietary EDM (electric discharge machining) technique allows for a sharper edge with greater edge retention.

2. Shun Classic 8” Chef’s Knife

Our rating: 9 / 10

Shun Classic 8” Chef’s Knife

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Pros:

  • Premium knife for professional chefs and home cooks that delivers professional results
  • Created with Japanese traditional techniques for the utmost sharpness and edge retention
  • The stainless steel blade is imbued with Vide-X technology for incredible edge retention
  • Pakkawood handle is shaped to provide a comfortable grip and prevents the handle from heating up with friction
  • Pakka wood blend is a strong, attractive, and durable material
  • Comes in a beautiful package and includes a matching blade guard

When it comes to fine Japanese kitchen knives, Shun is at the top of the list. One of the best things about them is their beautiful Damascus blade design that adds style to an already great chef’s knife.

This 28-degree blade is made of VG-10 stainless steel and has a cutting core made of VG-MAX steel for sharper blades and amazing edge retention.

With its high-quality Damascus steel blade and comfortable grip, the Shun Classic Chef’s Knife is the best knife for virtually any cutting task, from slicing fruits to chopping bones.

3. Yoshihiro VG10 16 Layer Hammered Damascus Gyuto Japanese Chefs Knife

Our rating: 9 / 10

Yoshihiro VG10 16 Layer Hammered Damascus Gyuto Japanese Chefs Knife

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Pros:

  • VG-10 core steel, which is tempered to 58-60 Rockwell hardness
  • Excellent balance
  • Well-balanced, perfect for point-action tasks – dicing, mincing, and slicing
  • Amazing edge retention

When it comes to Japanese knives, Yoshihiro is one of the leading brands, and for good reason: their products are of high quality. This VG-10-based knife from Yoshihiro with 8.25in (210mm) blade is one of their best bang for your buck knives. The VG-10 core steel is tempered to a hardness of 58-60 Rockwell. The blade has an HRC rating of 59 and has a well-balanced weight.

The blade comes with an outstanding edge retention as well as durability. Even though the knife uses the VG-10 core steel, it’s not as difficult to sharpen as other high-carbon-containing core steels. The blade is of a classic Japanese Gyuto shape, which you can chop, mince, and slice with without a problem.

4. Shun Cutlery Premier 8” Chef’s Knife; Lightweight

Our rating: 9 / 10

Shun Cutlery Premier 8” Chef’s Knife; Lightweight

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Pros:

  • High-quality blade made of VG1 steel (superior to 400 stainless steel)
  • Handle is comfortable and shaped for an effortless grip
  • Uses a Scalloped look that is eye catching and absolutely beautiful
  • Almost 15 inches long

Cons:

  • Very expensive
  • Blade is thin making it difficult to cut thicker items

Shun is one of the most popular knife brands in Japan. They have a reputation for making some of the finest cutlery in the entire world.

The Ten Best Japanese Knives are just the tip of the iceberg compared to everything else that is available. But we picked the Shun Premier 8-inch Chef’s Knife because it’s a popular choice for chefs and home users alike.

A lot of people have very strong opinions on this type of knife or that type of knife. The best way to find a great knife is to sample a variety of styles and brands. Remember to take your personal preferences into account.

5. Shun Cutlery Classic 6.5” Nakiri Knife; Kitchen Knife Handcrafted in Japan; Hand-Sharpened 16° Double-Bevel Steel Blade

Our rating: 9 / 10

Shun Cutlery Classic 6.5” Nakiri Knife; Kitchen Knife Handcrafted in Japan; Hand-Sharpened 16° Double-Bevel Steel Blade

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Pros:

  • Classic 6.5 inch size that is small enough to do detailed work yet big enough to do a lot of prep and chopping
  • Comes with a lifetime warranty
  • A beautiful balance between a kitchen knife and a design showpiece
  • A sweetly sharp and well-made blade
  • A beautiful pakka wood handle that has a suprisingly good grip

No hand-crafted Japanese kitchen knife collection is complete without a Nakiri knife. The No. 1 choice for professionals and home cooks alike, the Nakiri is ideal for vegetable prep and chopping. We love this one from Shun, which comes in a classic 6.5 inch size (slightly smaller than most other Nakiris), completing the aesthetic and elegance of any kitchen.

Out of the box, this knife is extremely sharp and comes with a razor-edge that will remain sharp for a long time. However, this knife is not dishwasher safe – hand wash only.

What we love about the Shun Classic Nakiri is that it’s incredibly versatile and can be used in any kitchen. Cooks who love carrots and root vegetables, for example, will love the way you can create finer and more delicate cuts … ideal for salads and side dishes.

6. Zelite Infinity Santoku Knife 7 Inch

Our rating: 8 / 10

Zelite Infinity Santoku Knife 7 Inch

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Pros:

  • Very sharp right out of the box
  • Great for learning the art of knife sharpening
  • Master piece
  • Incredible edge retention
  • Superb Damascus steel
  • Fantastic grip

Cons:

  • Scratches easily
  • Feels cheap
  • No edge bevel

At a first glance, it may look like this knife is rough around the edges, but it’s the foundation of a master piece, and everything else about it is exquisite!

This Japanese made knife from Zelite is a fantastic choice for anyone who has ever wanted to learn the art of knife sharpening. This is a fairly hard knife, so if you’re just starting out, keep that in mind. The thin blade profile gives you a wider range of motion, so it’s ideal for beginners.

The rice pattern damascus steel will help you learn how to sharpen your knives, which in turn, will help you determine which blade is best for your needs.

7. MAC MIGHTY Mac Professional Hollow Edge Chef's Knife

Our rating: 8 / 10

MAC MIGHTY Mac Professional Hollow Edge Chef's Knife

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Pros:

  • 1085 High Carbon Steel with Damascus cladding
  • Full tang-style for impeccably balanced performance
  • Sharp, superb edge stays sharp longer
  • Beautifully designed Japanese style blade
  • Incredible price considering the superior quality

Cons:

  • High carbon steel rusts easily (keep on the drying rack)
  • Damascus pattern may flake off
  • Small handle for large hands

The MAC MIGHTY knife is powered by super high-quality parts. The blade is made from solid 1085 (high carbon) steel which is layered with Damascus to form an incredible blade. This makes it incredibly sharp and resilient as Damascus has been used for hundreds of years to make some of the sharpest knives known to man. It is full tang toward the tip, which means it won’t get loose as you perform heavy chopping and stabbing. It has a handle made from top-grade Pakka wood.

There is a lot of value in that price. The MAC MIGHTY is an everyday carry knife made from the highest quality parts.

8. TUO Cutlery Cleaver Knife

Our rating: 8 / 10

TUO Cutlery Cleaver Knife

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Pros:

  • Balance in the hand
  • Sharp edge
  • Blade material & hardness

The knife is a simple and essential cooking tool, and since ancient times, it has also become a traditional art form. It also tells a story as an heirloom and a family treasure.

What many Westerners miss out on when it comes to owning and using a quality Japanese knife is the difference between a Japanese style blade and forged Western style blades. Western style blades are often forged using hammer and anvil, using a different and more expensive process than the typical Japanese blades. Western blades are more dramatic in style, with ridges and layers separating different sections of the steel. Ridges, of course, make it easier for the blade to hold onto food as you cut. The extra steel in the blade from forging also gives it weight and helps create that drama.

Japanese blades, in contrast, are usually only one long slice of steel. The process used to make them is called by the Japanese word “San Mai,” which means “three layers.” Steel is folded in degrees … San, Ni, and Ichi … and the processes bring it to the final stage of what will become a Japanese blade.

9. KUMA Professional Damascus Chef Knife

Our rating: 8 / 10

KUMA Professional Damascus Chef Knife

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Pros:

  • The blade is made of VG-10 Damascus stainless steel
  • Razor sharp blade makes chopping and dicing a piece of cake
  • Handcrafted by KUMA professionals with a lifetime warranty
  • The bonus carrying case and cleaning cloth give it additional value

Cons:

  • Only one handle color to choose from – black or red
  • Some have problem with blade thickness
  • The blade is a bit heavy for some people

Looking for a new chef knife? The KUMA Professional Damascus chef knife is perfect if you love cooking or if you want to treat yourself to a new nice-looking knife. The 8-inch blade is handcrafted with VG-10 Damascus stainless steel and designed by a team of KUMA professionals.

The VG-10 is a modern super-steel that’s tough, hard, and corrosion (rust) resistant. It blends a carbon core with a highly pure VG10 steel on the outside. The end result is extraordinary: a blade that’s super sharp and can retain its edge even after years of heavy use. The Damascus steel is wrapped with a stainless steel bolster for good balance and safety.

The 6-inch tang goes into a contoured and natural-colored (black or red) hardwood handle that combines Western aesthetics and Japanese aesthetics.

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

Our rating: 8 / 10

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

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Pros:

  • Great design
  • High-quality and sharp blades
  • Very easy to clean
  • The feel and look of the Classic Series Ginsu Knives
  • Sharp as a samurai sword

Cons:

  • The finish on the boxes may get damaged
  • The handle on the chef’s knife is a bit too short
  • The knives are quite heavy

If you want a light and sharp knife that you can use for plenty of kitchen tasks without having to worry about it, the Ginsu Gourmet Chikara Series may be what you’ve been looking for. It’s a Japanese set of four classic-style Ginsu knives that you can use for the simplest of jobs, up to slicing up whole chickens and more.

This exciting post-modern knife set comes with a sleek and ergonomic design with a hard, but flexible handle that will assure you good grip. It’s also very easy to clean and maintain and it’s dishwasher safe.

The blades are made from Japan’s famous AUS6 high-carbon stainless steel that has great edge-retention. This high-quality steel blade is powder-coated with a textured black finish and makes a great kitchen addition with its comfort and its sharpness.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is the best Japanese kitchen knife?

A Japanese kitchen knife is judged by two characteristics; sharpness and durability. These traits are unique to a fine Japanese kitchen knife. Japanese kitchen knives are designed to hold up well over time.

This section is all about finding the best fit for your needs. We'll take you through some of the most popular and highly reviewed knives.

Wazoo Cutlery offers pro quality, high-end Japanese knives. The Wazoo brand options are forged and flow through different stages of the forging process, resulting in a better knife. The knives are made of VG-10 steel and it is sharpened to a 16 degree angle.

The Wazoo brand offers knives from 8 inches all the way up to 20 inches. Either size is great for most home cooks.

What are the best Japanese knives?

Japanese kitchen knives have been forging a reputation for quality and design for over 300 years. It all started in the 18th century when the first quality steel from England was imported to Japan. With the introduction of superior steel technology into a feudal society, the high quality of contemporary Japanese knives was hammered out.

Japanese knives became highly regarded when Westerners discovered them. The first ever cookery book to be written in the English language, in 1747, The Experienced English Housekeeper, featured several Japanese kitchen knives as essential pieces of kit.

Japanese knives are a modern descendant of traditional Japanese blades that, at one time, were considered a samurai’s most treasured possessions.

What are the top 10 chef knives?

What are the best kitchen knives on the market?

There are literally thousands of kitchen knives to choose from but we're going to give you the top rated Japanese kitchen knives. Why? Simple, they're among the sharpest available and the easiest to use.

We're going to show you where to buy them and for which price range. We've included some favorites from internet retail giants as well as smaller, more specialized shops.

The 10 Best Knives that are Japanese:

Conclusion

Blending together the best of Old World knife making and the best of New World knife making designs and manufacturing techniques has resulted in some excellent cutting tools. Benchmade certainly has produced a line of excellent knives that we can recommend to anyone who is looking for a Japanese style knife made in America. For the money, they are probably the best value you can find in a well designed Japanese style blade. The designer of the Native 5 and Native 5 Lightweight, Warren Osborne, truly has created a knife that we can recommend to anyone looking for a dependable EDC tool. They are superbly designed, with excellent styling.

Our Recommendation

NameCategoryProduct
Global 8" Chef's KnifeBest OverallGlobal 8" Chef's Knife
TUO Cutlery Cleaver KnifeBudget PickTUO Cutlery Cleaver Knife
Shun Cutlery Premier 8” Chef’s Knife; LightweightUpgrade PickShun Cutlery Premier 8” Chef’s Knife; Lightweight