How to Choose the Best Japanese Chef Knives

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Japanese chef knives are some of the best kitchen knives available in the world. A lot of skill and mastery goes into the manufacturing of knives in Japan. What you may not know as a Western cook who is just looking into the world of Japanese cutlery, is that there are many types and styles of Japanese knives.

The variations make it difficult for a newbie to choose the best Japanese chef knives for their own kitchen. Being a frequent traveler, and having visited Japan myself, I know that a lot of people who visit Japan put finding and buying top-quality Japanese kitchen knives at the top of their list of things to do while there.

japanese chef knife

Whether you’re planning to buy Japanese kitchen knives in Japan or at home, if you don’t have the proper knowledge about what to look for when purchasing a Japanese chef knife, you have a high probability of walking away with the wrong knife for you.

You might also like: How to Select the Best Sushi Knife.

Quick-View Best Japanese Knives

If you don’t have time to read all of the reviews in order to make a decision, we’ve put together a quick list of the top 4 Japanese chefs knives that are available for purchase online through Amazon. These knives are all top quality, reliable knives that meet the criteria laid out below in the details.

Yoshihiro VG10 16 Layer Hammered Damascus Gyuto Japanese Chefs Knife (8.25'' (210mm))
  • Forged and hammered with 16 layers of steel in the Damascus tradition with a Vg-10 Core, the Vg-10 Hammered Damascus Series has been a perennial seller, combining performance, beauty, and extraordinary value.
  • The most versatile and essential of all knives a cook can have is a Japanese chefs knife known as a Gyuto knife. The Gyuto is a Japanese chefs knife with a curved blade that smoothly rocks back and forth and has an extended tip for quick chopping that can be used to cut meat, fish, and vegetables.
  • Proudly made in Japan. This knife is complimented with a premium Western Style Handle that extends to the full tang of the knife and ergonomically welds to the hand for seamless use. The hammered texture of the blade eliminates friction and keeps food from sticking to the blade. Every knife from Yoshihiro is handcrafted by master artisans creating a unique one-of-a-kind work of art.
  • Preparing delicious meals starts with taking wholesome ingredients and using the tools such as a high quality chef’s knife to make every meal into something special. From dicing, slicing, and chopping fresh produce from a farmer’s market to carving a roast chicken straight from the oven, even the simplest tasks are elevated with a handcrafted knife that is as beautiful as it is functional.
  • Traditional Japanese knife making values a sharp edge, which requires attention and care. Sharpening and honing should be done with only water whetstones. Hand wash and dry only, and do so immediately if working with acidic ingredients. Do not use on objects such as bones, nutshells, and frozen foods.
Shun Chef's Knife Cutlery Premier, 8 Inch, Brown
  • JAPANESE CHEF'S KNIFE: The Shun 8-inch Premier Chef's knife is the perfect all-purpose kitchen knife. It's ideal for preparing fruit, vegetables, meat and more.
  • WIDE, CURVED BLADE: This Japanese kitchen knife has a wide blade that keeps knuckles off the cutting board with a curved belly that can be "rocked" through herbs and spices for a very fine mince.
  • HIGH QUALITY CONSTRUCTION: Constructed from Shun's proprietary VG-MAX cutting core and clad in 68 layers of stainless Damascus with a hammered TUSCHIME finish, this knife is corrosion and stain resistant with a strong, razor-sharp edge.
  • BEAUTIFUL, DURABLE HANDLE: The walnut-finished, contoured Pakkawood handle resists moisture, is comfortable to use, and offers precise control.
  • TRADITIONAL, ARTISAN CUTLERY: Inspired by the traditions of ancient Japan, Shun knives are handcrafted by highly skilled artisans to produce blades of unparalleled quality and beauty.
Miyabi Kaizen Chef's Knife, Medium, Black with Red Accent
  • TRADITIONAL DESIGN - Authentic thin Japanese blade profile with 65-layer flower Damascus design with katana edge. 8"" chef style blade
  • HAND-HONED - Using the three-step Honbazuke process to a 9.5 to 12 degree edge. VG10 super steel CRYODUR blade, ice-hardened to Rockwell 60
  • MIYABI KAIZEN SERIES - Japanese for "improvement" or "change for the better." This next generation combines the greatest hardening technology with traditional craftsmanship
  • MICARTA HANDLE - Features linen pattern with a mosaic pin, red accent spacers, and steel end cap. D-shape style in elegant black color
  • JAPANESE MADE - In Seki, Japan " The Beauty of Sharpness" reflects values that are particularly highly prized in Japanese culture
Shun Cutlery Classic Chef's Knife 8”, Thin, Light Kitchen Knife, Ideal for All-Around Food Preparation, Authentic, Handcrafted Japanese Knife, Professional Chef Knife,Black
  • JAPANESE CHEF'S KNIFE: The Shun 8-inch Classic Chef's knife is the perfect all-purpose kitchen knife. It's ideal for preparing fruit, vegetables, meat and more.
  • WIDE, CURVED BLADE: This Japanese kitchen knife has a wide blade that keeps knuckles off the cutting board with a curved belly that can be "rocked" through herbs and spices for a very fine mince.
  • HIGH-QUALITY CONSTRUCTION: Constructed with Shun's proprietary VG-MAX cutting core and clad in 68 layers of stainless Damascus, this chef knife is corrosion and stain resistant with a strong, razor-sharp edge.
  • COMFORTABLE HANDLE: The D-shaped, ebony-finished Pakkawood handle is durable, beautiful, doesn't harbor bacteria, and comfortable to use for both left- and right-handed users.
  • TRADITIONAL, ARTISAN CUTLERY: Inspired by the traditions of ancient Japan, Shun knives are handcrafted by highly skilled artisans to produce blades of unparalleled quality and beauty.

How to Choose the Best Japanese Chef Knives

We’ve put together a list of important criteria to look for to select the best Japanese chef knife. Once you’ve read through this list, you’ll be more familiar with the types of Japanese kitchen knives that are available and you’ll be primed and ready to purchase one that suits you.

Type of Knife

I mentioned before that there are many different styles of Japanese knives, but the one you will likely use most frequently is a gyuto. Gyoto is the basic equivalent of a Western chef’s knife. They generally range from 210mm to 270mm in length, though you’ll find some that are shorter and longer.

They have a very similar style to what you’re probably used to in a chef’s knife. Unless you’re specifically looking for a sushi knife or a fish knife, it’s a gyuto you’ll be looking for.

I personally like a smaller knife blade, somewhere around a 180mm is equivalent to a Western utility knife, but most Japanese Gyuto come in 8″ length.

gyuto knife

Where It Is Made

A Japanese chefs knife should be made in Japan, right? Most of them are, but some are not. Of course if you’re buying the knife in Japan, you don’t need to worry about this. But if you’re buying a knife online, you should check to make sure.

Some are made with Japanese materials that have been imported into another country (like China) to be made cheaper. Want Japan quality? Then buy only Japanese knives. If you’re looking for the highest quality, top of the line materials and construction, you should make sure the knife is manufactured in Japan.

Stainless Steel vs Carbon Steel

For the typical home cook, a stainless steel Japanese knife is recommended over a carbon steel knife. Carbon steel has a tendency to rust when they aren’t thoroughly dried, or if food is left on them. For this reason, carbon steel knifes require a lot more care and vigilance than stainless steel.

Of course, if you have no problem keeping your knives clean and dry all the time, there are benefits to carbon steel, such as staying sharp longer. Both of these materials are better than ceramic knives, which can’t really be sharpened.

>> Read more about the differences between stainless steel and carbon steel knives.


Cost may or may not be a factor for you, depending on how much you are willing to spend. Japanese chef’s knives cost on average $150. You can find ones that are less and more, obviously.

But if you’re willing to spend around $150, you can find a very nice, high-end Japanese chef’s knife that will last for a very long time. The less you spend, the less quality the knife will be.

japanese knives


An 8-to 8.5-inch chef’s knife is the typical and most preferred size for every day tasks in the kitchen, but you may find other lengths available too. How do you choose which is right for you?

I think you have to try them out to be sure which one you like best. If you have smaller hands, you might prefer a smaller blade. You can’t really know until you try it. But it’s recommended to start out with an 8-inch blade.


The tang refers to the way the blade is attached to the handle. You’ll hear this said as either full tang or push tang. A full tang means the knife blade runs the full length of the handle.

This can sometimes indicate better quality because it’s possible that the blade may come lose from the handle on a knife with a push tang, but when considering higher-end knives, it’s likely not going to be a concern, just personal preference.

In Japanese knives, it’s not as important to consider the tang of a knife, because it is crafted differently, with the blade and the handle being two pieces that are welded together. » Want to learn more about full tang vs partial tang?


The handles of Japanese knives are often made of wood which won’t become slippery when wet, as many of the Western knives with plastic fitted handles will.

The wood is fine-grained and porous to hold its shape and improve grip. The general shapes are chestnut (frequently called “D”) and octagon, with a tapering to be slightly larger at the tail end.

Damascus carbon steel Japanese knife
Damascus carbon steel Japanese knife


Cladding refers to a knife that has been wrapped. For instance, the core of the knife is carbon steel, which has been wrapped in another metal like stainless steel.

These are easier to take care of than a full carbon steel knife. Many Japanese knives are clad in a style called Damascus (or Suminagashi), which adds a swirl design to the outside of the knife.

The cladding doesn’t necessarily offer any benefit, but you do want to be aware of the layers and the type of steel used.


As mentioned above, many Japanese knives now come with dual edges, though not necessarily symmetrical. This will be an issue for left-handed people.

You’ll want to check the edge in this case, to be sure that the cutting edge faces the right directly for you. If you’d rather have a single-edged knife, you will also need to take care to look for this specifically on the knives you’re considering.

Our Favorite Japanese Chef Knives and Where to Buy Them

where to buy Japanese knives

If you have a chance to travel to Japan to look for a knife, that’s the best possible way to find one that fits you. I had the opportunity to look at knives in Tokyo in Tsukiji Market and when I saw “the knife” I knew it was the one for me instantly.

Even if you don’t believe in kismet with a knife, you will have a chance to talk to the shop owner about the knife, tell them exactly what you want (now that you’ve learned everything about Japanese knives!) and they can help you make a wise purchase.

There are knife shops all over Japan, but of course it will be easiest to find them in the major cities – Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto.

In Japan

  • Tokyo: One particular shop I like in Tokyo is Kamata. They have both hand-made and factory-made knives to suit all budgets, and they’re beautiful. You can stop by the store if you’re in Tokyo, or you can even order online and have the knives shipped to you. Tsukiji Masamoto is another option in Tokyo, if you’re already going to be in Tsukiji Market.
  • Osaka: You can find a really fantastic selection of knives at Tower Knives (easy to get to by train), they are open from 10am-6pm and regularly receive foreign guests, so no need to worry about a language barrier. Osaka is known as the kitchen capital of Japan. There is a whole street devoted to kitchen and restaurant supplies, called Sennichimae Doguyasuji Shopping Street. If you can’t find a knife there, you aren’t looking very hard.
  • Kyoto: The best place for tourists to find knives is in Nishiki Market: plus, it’s really fun to walk around. There’s a store there called Aritsugu. There are more than 400 knives on display there, so even if you’re not in the market for a knife, it’s a really cool place to explore.

(Note: most of the links above are to Trip Advisor, because the store’s website is in Japanese.)

Plan a Trip to Japan

If you’re thinking about planning a Japan trip, but don’t know where to start, we recommend thinking about a guided tour. The company Japan and More offers a fully escorted 8-day Intro to Japan Tour that’s perfect for experiencing the best of Japan.

The itinerary covers Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, and Nagoya, plus the mountain village of Takayama. The cost of the tour includes all accommodations, transportation, entrance fees, some meals, and pre-departure help and advice. The tour group is small, at just 8 people, so you won’t feel like you’re stuck on a bus or anything.

You may also want to read our guide on taking a cooking vacation in Japan.

Buying Online

It would be great if everyone could go to Japan to pick out their favorite chef’s knife for themselves, but that’s not very practical. Instead, we have to find good options at home that we can trust.

Below are a few of our favorite Japanese chef knifes that are available to purchase from the comfort of home – no flight necessary.


There is a lot of information you need to make a smart decision on which Japanese chefs knives to buy, but now that you’ve read through our guide, you should be able to make a much more informed decision.

We hope you end up with a great knife that will last you a lifetime! If you’re looking to stock your kitchen with better, higher-quality knives, we have a whole guide on how to fill your knife block.

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japanese chef knife

5 thoughts on “How to Choose the Best Japanese Chef Knives

  1. pia says:

    Ceramic knives can be sharpened but only with a diamond sharpening plate. An Edge Pro, or other clone fixed angle sharpener can be used with a wide assortment of stones and diamond plates.

  2. Bobby says:

    Nice choices Laura. Very insightful article and love the story about your trip to Japan! I’m also a fan of the Shun Premier, and its hammered finish. I’m curious, what makes it your favorite over some of the other great Shun Knife Lines? Also, Shun says it is now making the Premier blade’s cutting core out of VG-MAX steel, wrapped in stainless Damascus steel. According to their website, it should be even more durable than the VG-10 steel on the other knives listed because of added chromium (for corrosion resistance) and carbon (improves strength).

    • Laura says:

      I particularly like that they are extremely lightweight (very thin blade), which is easier for me to handle than some of the others since I have small hands. I also think it’s a stunningly beautiful knife. The VG-Max is a perk, but it’s difficult for a layman to tell the difference.

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