When it comes to cutlery, Japanese knives are known for being some of the best cutting tools in the world. Chefs and home cooks alike agree that their dedication to quality and craftsmanship makes them well worth the price tag, though there are plenty of affordable options out there, too. Whether you’re on the hunt for the perfect chef’s knife or need a special blade for slicing meat, vegetables, or fish, these blades are some of the best Japanese cutlery on the market right now.
Note: Many of these knives are made with carbon steel, which requires extra care to avoid staining and rusting. Make sure to read up carefully on the care instructions when purchasing one of these blades to ensure it has a long life in your kitchen. You certainly don’t want to spend a couple hundred bucks on a knife only to have to not usable after a few months.
Aritsugu is one of the oldest knife shops in Japan; it started out making swords for the Imperial Family in 1560. This Yanagi knife is handcrafted by forging carbon steel with iron, which creates a knife that is less brittle and easier to sharpen. It’s ideal for slicing raw fish, carving meat, or cutting vegetables into paper-thin slices. If you happen to visit Kyoto, make sure to check out the shop in Nishiki Market where you can have this knife custom-engraved with purchase.
This do-it-all knife is great for chopping vegetables, mincing garlic, and everything in between. The inner core is forged with carbon steel and finished with two layers of stainless steel on the outside. Not only does the hammered texture look beautiful, it creates friction so food sticks to the blade less.
As one of the most prestigious Japanese knife brands, you can’t go wrong with a Masahiro. The blade is asymmetrical — 80 percent of the cutting edge is on the front side of the knife, which gives you the power to make more precise cuts. The ergonomic laminated wood handle makes this lightweight 6-inch knife as durable as it is user-friendly.
This knife is designed with a High Speed Powdered Steel (HSPS) core, which is an extraordinarily hard material that’s used to make tools like drills and power saws. For the true meat enthusiast, the blade’s pointed tip makes it ideal for running along cartilage, bones, and joints when breaking down larger cuts of meat. Takamura knives have extremely sharp edges, so be sure your knife skills are advanced before purchasing this blade.
Misono is known for their high-quality knives that are a perfect hybrid of Japanese and Western-style cutlery. This paring knife has a thin, lightweight blade that’s perfect for everything from de-veining shrimp to removing the seeds from a chili pepper. For a tool that you’ll likely use every day, you can’t beat the price of this kitchen essential.
A multi-purpose knife, the second knife from Yoshihiro on this list is part of their Mazaki series, which offer quality at reasonable prices (for Japanese knives). Meant for dicing, slicing, or chopping, this slicer knife can make short work of vegetables as easily as it can a whole roast. The handle is made of handcrafted chestnut wood with a water buffalo horn bolster.
An all-purpose chef’s knife, the Tojiro DP Gyutou knife features a full tang 3-ply construction that ensconces a core of VG-10 super steel with a 60+ Rockwell hardness. A triple-riveted handle adds weight and balance to the knife, allowing you to do just about anything you need to in the kitchen.
If your knife set is going to be complete, then you’re going to want to have a vegetable knife on hand. Made for rapid chopping, this Nakiri Vegetable knife not only gets the job done, but it does so with beauty and easy. Made in the traditional three-step Honbazuke method, the blade is made of 66 layers of AUS-10V Japanese super steel, which has a 62+ Rockwell hardness. With an ergonomic handle and a blade spine made for the standard pinch grip, you’ll be able to chop, slice, and scoop without danger to your digits.
While you may not make sashimi every day of the week, if you are invested in learning more about Japanese knives and Japanese cuisine, you might come to a point where you do indeed need a sashimi knife. Single-edged, the Masamoto Sashimi Knife is made of cobalt alloy stainless steel; in other words, you’ll have to spend less time on maintenance (that being said, any high-quality knife should be attended to regularly).
Made from Cobalt stain resistant steel, this Santoku knife from Masanobu was developed using both traditional Japanese knife-crafting methods and contemporary laser technology. Being a Santoku knife (“Santoku” meaning “three virtues”) the knife can break down meat as easily as it can fish or vegetables. As a bonus, you can also find a left-handed model if needed.
Editor’s Note: This article is part of The Manual’s larger Journey to Japan travel guide. Over the course of a month, our writers had the pleasure of experiencing Japan in all its forms, from high-rise bars in Tokyo to traditional tea ceremonies in Kyoto. We hope this series will not only inform but inspire you to take your own trip to the Land of the Rising Sun.
Article updated December 2018 by Sam Slaughter.