5 Best Japanese Knives

    Japanese knives are coveted for their beautiful and detailed design, as well as the cuts they produce. Their blades are typically thin and delicate, and prone to breaking if you don’t take care of them properly — not ideal for the clumsy chef. They allow for thin, precise cuts and beautiful presentation; the ones you’d find in a five-star sushi restaurant.

    Vincent Lau, the sole knife sharpener at Korin, a Japanese knife store in lower Manhattan, says the reason Japanese knives have become so popular around the world is for the very reason they’re integral in Japanese cuisine: To enhance and preserve the ingredients, and accentuate the flavor of the dish.

    Are Japanese knives better than German knives?

    Japanese knives are generally lighter and sharper than their German counterparts. Since they’re thinner, they’re a little more prone to the tip breaking or the blade chipping, so Japanese knives tend to need more maintenance. Their thin, light construction makes Japanese knives great for fine, delicate tasks, like cutting vegetables or slicing fish. “Sushi is a prime example,” says Lau. “You don’t cook it, so the freshness of the ingredients and how you prep it, is how you distinguish a great sushi chef and a mediocre one.”

    German knives, meanwhile, are often heavy and bulky, but also more sturdy with thicker blades that require sharpening more for good edge retention.. German knives are good for more heavy duty tasks, like breaking down chicken. Ultimately, which knife is better is based on need and preference.

    What is the best Japanese knife?

    The best Japanese knife is the knife that works best for you. When shopping for knives, Lau first asks his customers what they’ll be using their knives for. Professional chefs and home cooks typically have different needs: Professional chefs tend to use their knives upwards of 40 hours of week, while home chefs typically use them for about twenty minutes a day to prep dinner.

    With that in mind, he recommends heavy-duty blades that have better edge retention to professional chefs, like the Korin Special Orange Handle knives. Lau adds that “yanagis” are popular amongst Japanese sushi chefs. They’re traditional Japanese slicers that feature a single edge blade. Unlike Western style Japanese knives that have a double edge, single edge knives can achieve a super sharp cutting edge, perfect for the most clean cuts.

    For home chefs, Lau recommends a kitchen knife that’s easy to sharpen because “a knife you can’t sharpen is just a useless piece of metal,” he says. Inox Honyaki knives from the Suisin brand are a great pick. Aside from ease of sharpening, Lau recommends holding the knife to see what feels right for you. The shape of the handle and heft of the knife are factors to consider.


    • Best Overall Japanese Knife: Shun Classic 8

    • Best Value Japanese Knife: Global 8-inch, 20 cm Chef’s Knife

    • Longest-Lasting Japanese Knife: Miyabi 34373-203 Chef’s KnifeSturdiest Japanese Knife: KUMA 8-inch Chef Knife

    • Best Japanese Knife for Cutting Vegetables: Mac MTH-80 Professional Hollow Edge Chef’s Knife

    BEST OVERALL JAPANESE KNIFE : Classic 8-inch Knife

    A good knife feels solid and sturdy in your hand. It encourages a good grip and rests securely in your palm. It has a good weight that’s light enough for slicing vegetables and heavy enough for meat. The Shun Classic 8-inch Chef Knife embodies all of these details. It has a PakkaWood handle and a very sharp edge. The blade is made out of Shun’s proprietary VG-MAX steel and covered in Damascus steel. It’s designed for precise cuts and the ultimate edge retention, which we can vouch for after using ours for years without sharpening.

    BEST VALUE JAPANESE KNIFE : 8-inch Chef’s Knife

    You’ll notice how Global knives differ from other brands the moment you pick one up: They’re constructed from a single piece of stainless steel, which makes the blade noticeably thinner. The bottom of the 8-inch Chef’s Knife’s blade seems proportionally wider than other Japanese knives with a thinner bolster (the part of the knife where the blade meets the handle), and while the bottom of the blade almost seems unfinished with it’s very sharp edge, it’s good for hacking through meat. The dimpled handle offers slip-proof control and, fun fact: It’s filled with sand for added balanced weight. (No, you can’t hear or feel the sand moving around when you cut.)

    LONGEST-LASTING JAPANESE KNIFE : 34373-203 Chef’s Knife

    In a world filled with dark wood or stainless steel handles, Masur Birch handles stand out. Not only is this Miyabi knife gorgeous, but it feels great in the hand — the wood handle is soft and smooth. The light, marbled color complements the steel blade that features a stunning floral damask pattern. The high quality blade features a powder steel core surrounded by 100 layers of two different steels, which ultimately preserves edge retention.

    STURDIEST JAPANESE KNIFE : 8-inch Chef Knife

    The KUMA 8-inch Chef’s Knife’s thin blade makes it great for cutting vegetables or slicing through delicate cuts of meat. It’s made of 67 layers of high carbon steel, which makes it strong and chip-resistant. The handle is slightly beveled and feels very strong and sturdy in the hand. It also features a full tang (the blade runs through the handle) and good balance. KUMA knives are hand-finished to ensure sharp edges right out of the box.


    Online reviewers rave about how lightweight and sharp this knife is. It has a thin blade and dimples toward the edge to help glide through sticky foods, like potatoes. The Mac MTH-80 makes cutting vegetables easy and enjoyable. Hand washing and drying immediately is recommended, as it is for almost all knives, to help prevent rusting of the high-carbon, aluminum alloy blade.