10 Best Japanese Knives You Can Buy Right Now
Many consider Japanese knives to be works of art. Even today at the peak of industrialization and mass production premium Japanese knives are still being handcrafted. Even more impressive is the fact that for some companies like Yoshihiro the tradition of knife making is 700 hundred years old.
The practice of making such high-quality knives started because of Japan’s tradition of sword making. We’ve all seen one at least one samurai movie in our lives. So, we know exactly how they look like: wooden sandals, kimono, and Katana. However, samurais always carried two swords. The Katana, and the Wakizashi, a backup medium-length sword. This was the original knife.
When samurais and their weapons were banned, master blacksmiths turned their attention to make the next best thing, tiny swords, so tiny in fact, they became knives. Recently in fact, there have been a ton of specialty companies honoring this amazing legacy.
Now that you know the origins of the Japanese knife, know that several factors influence the quality. Most importantly, the steel and its handle.
For example, an SG2 steel with a wooden handle will cost more than a VG-10 with a plastic one. If all of this sounds too confusing don’t worry we will go step by step explaining everything you need to know. Now, without further ado, here are our picks for the 10 best Japanese Knives.
1. Shun Classic 8
As the name implies this is Shun’s classic 8-inch knife. Going back to the importance of steel, Shun uses its proprietary VG-MAX with a Damascus coating. This knife should take care of 99% of everything you need to do. Whether it be slicing, or dicing any kinds of fruits, vegetables, or protein, the knife is incredible. The PakkaWood handle—which is a combination of wood and plastic is comfortable, durable, and moisture resisting.
Shun is a world-class brand. Not only are their high-end models handcrafted they also come with a lifetime limited warranty. One of their most solicited services under their warranty is their “free” (you have to pay shipping) resharpening.
The only downside is that the steel is so hard if you try to cut through bone or squash it will chip or break. If you use it for its intended purpose, it will last you a lifetime.
2. Tojiro DP Gyuto
A full-tang VG-10 stainless steel knife that is only 2mm wide for reference, a nickel is 1.95mm. So this is a thin blade. However, it’s exactly because of its thinness that this knife can perform general and precise jobs. Best of all our number 1 pick retail for about $150, this one is less than $100 and it’s extremely comparable.
A constant complaint of Japanese knives is their low weight. They are so light they feel like it can fly off the cutting board and cause an accident. You also have to make more of a push going down since you can’t rely on the weight of the knife to naturally guide you. The good news is, the Tojiro DP is heavier than the average Japanese knife, so you should not have this problem at all.
In other words, you will not find such a powerful knife at a better price.
3. Global 8-inch Chef’s Knife
The full-tang blade is extremely thin, with a handle that is both wide and porous. This interesting design is said to make it slip-proof and help keep its sharpness. These unusual combinations come together to make a unique, strong, and versatile knife.
While it is a little more expensive than the Tojiro budget powerhouse by about $10, its aesthetics and unique construction are enticing factors to consider. Going back to their origins, a blade is not only a functional tool, but it’s also a work of art.
4. MAC MTH-80 Professional Series 8-inch Chef’s Knife with Dimples
The NY Times recommended this knife for its sturdy stainless steel construction that keeps its edge for longer compared to other brands. Without a doubt, though, the most beneficial thing about the MTH-80 has to be the inclusion of the dimples. If you haven’t used a knife with this kind of construction before, it is a game-changer.
One of the most annoying things when prepping is always having to remove food from your blade. The dimples take care of that problem.
5. MAC Professional Series 6 1/2″ Santoku with Dimples
While many consider the Chef’s knife to be the ultimate weapon, the Santoku doesn’t stay far behind and can work better in certain scenarios. The word “Santoku” translates to “three virtues” or “three uses” chopping, dicing, and mincing. The power of the Santoku comes from its ease of use, and ability to create thin slices that can improve your dishes’ aesthetics. Not only that but because of its shape your hand naturally moves forward and you can cut straight down if you desire something counterproductive with a Chef’s knife.
Going back to the Santoku MAC, it offers the same quality as its big brother with the only difference being its shape. If you do a lot of prep work where precision is key then you should consider a Santoku.
6. Shun Classic 7” Hollow-Ground Santoku
Now that you know the benefits of a Santoku, we can recommend an even more revered knife. It has everything the number 1 spot has. Proprietary VG-MAX, PakkaWood handle, handcrafted, and the limited lifetime warranty. What makes this model shine are its hollow-ground or “dimples” and the Damascus steel coating that gives it that amazing wavy pattern and prevents food from sticking.
Damascus steel, believe it or not, comes from the Middle East. While it adds nothing to the blade in terms of hardness or durability, it gives it that beautiful twisty pattern and naturally slips away sticky food.
7. Shun Cutlery Premier 8
In reality, there is not that much difference in terms of performance from our number one pick. In terms of price, however, this is $50 more expensive. They both feature the VG-MAX core and PakkaWood. The crucial difference comes from the blade’s shape. The classic has a D-shaped blade that favors right-handed individuals, while the premier is asymmetrical. Therefore, it doesn’t matter if you are left or right-handed.
To be honest, though, it comes down to aesthetics. The premier is just a much better-looking knife with its walnut-colored handle, and raindrop hammered blade pattern.
8. Yoshihiro VG10 16 Layer Hammered Damascus Gyuto Japanese Knife
Remember that company that we mentioned that was over 700 years old. This is that company and guess what? they still make their products by hand.
The handle is made of luscious Mahogany wood. PakkaWood is sturdy and functional, but when you grab genuine wood, you immediately feel the difference. As the name mentions, this is a VG-10 stainless steel core, but with outer layers that make the blade keep its edge for longer. It is also easier to sharpen because of said layers. The blade also sports the Damascus pattern which makes this one of the most affordable premium knives out there.
9. Miyabi Chef’s Knife, 8-Inch, Birch/Stainless Steel
We’ve been talking a lot about VG-MAX and VG-10, now it’s time for a new term SG2. Both metals are similar, but without a doubt, the SG2 is more durable and sharp.
This is by far the most expensive and premium knife in this list up to this point. This is because of its SG2 steel construction and beautiful Birchwood handle. This does what all the other picks on this list do, except better, all while looking prettier.
10. Yoshihiro Suminagashi Blue Steel #1 Yanagi Kiritsuke
Without exaggerating this is a work of art, the only downside is… the knife is $1000.
If you think that’s a ridiculous price, let me tell you why it isn’t. The blade is made out of Blue Steel. Blue Steel only happens when you mix Iron, Carbon, Tungsten, and Chromium these metals reinforce each other and make the sharpest blade.
Tungsten and Chromium are not rare by any means. So the high price doesn’t come from the materials themselves. It comes from the fact that very few blacksmiths can work such a complicated combination.
Most people will not need a Kiritsuke knife in their arsenal since it’s for a very specific purpose: sushi. How else do you think they get that thin, perfect slice of fish every time? But if you are studying to be a sushi chef, or just want to own a piece of art, then this is for you.
Some Closing Tips About Owning a Japanese Knive
We hope that after this list you are ready to choose your favorite Japanese knife and to know exactly why you are choosing it. Is this steel good enough, is the shape right for me, dimples or no dimples? You can’t go wrong with any of our picks, whichever you choose though take care of it.
Wash it by hand only, no dishwasher. Immediately dry it if you have a high carbon blade, otherwise, it will rust. When you sharpen it, get a high-quality sharpening stone, or have a professional do it.
These tools are a time-and-effort saving investment, so cherish them. We promise you if you take care of the knife, the knife will take care of you.
If you’re interested in Japanese knives and culture, make sure to check out our article on the most popular Japanese foods.
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