Japanese knives have shot through the ranks in popularity over the years, and for good reason. When you’re traveling Japan and witnessing firsthand the precision and skill that sushi chefs display when slicing through fish, you’ll be immediately enraptured.
Unlike the heavier counterparts that you may be used to at home, Japanese knives are lighter and slimmer than most. Traditionally, chefs in Japan tend to favour sharpness and precision over heaviness and durability. Some say that Japanese knives were initially inspired by the long-revered Samurai sword. If you think of samurai swords in movies, they can easily slice through a tree trunk in one motion!
Now, think back to the Japanese dishes you experienced in Japan; you’ll notice how almost every dish contains minute details of every ingredient. Even the smallest of garnishes would have been prepared with utmost care to ensure perfect presentation.
That is the result of using Japanese knives.
Why Japanese knives are so popular?
You’re probably thinking, any proper chef would be able to re-create that! Well, that may be true, but most of us are normal beings who just want to prepare good home cooked meals for our families and friends. Most of us haven’t had years of training under chefs who have been slicing fish for 30 years!
That’s where Japanese knives come into play. The intense engineering and thought process that has gone into creating these small, lightweight pieces is beyond what people can imagine. Using these knives to prepare food in your kitchen is bound to elevate your cooking skills to the next level.
When you hold a Japanese knife for the first time, you’ll immediately notice that they’re thinner, lighter, harder, and see that they’re sharper than most. You’ll also find that, although the handle is majestic (they’re traditionally designed after Samurai swords, after all), it’ll feel almost perfectly balanced in your hand.
So, when exactly did the world shift their attention to Japanese knives? It most likely started when interest in cooking shows such as Iron Chef and Chef Morimoto boomed. Watching these master chefs completely owning it in their kitchen is nothing short of inspiring.
If you can’t cook like them, what’s the next best thing? To prep like them, of course!
If this is your first time coming across Japanese knives and you’re feeling overwhelmed, fear not. Below we’ve listed off 9 of some of the best Japanese knives you can purchase right now to elevate your kitchen skills.
1. Shun Cutlery Premiere 8” Chef’s Knife
This is one of the most popular and versatile Japanese knives out there. For anyone wanting a general preparation knife that can be used across a wide range of foods, this Shun option is the best one.
It’s touted as being the perfect knife for slicing, dicing, and chopping. Users have praised it for being lightweight, its assuring grip, and beautifully intricate design. One of its key design aspects is the Pakkawood Handle, an extremely durable walnut coloured handle that won’t harbor bacteria.
It’s a great option for those with big and small hands as its thinner, lighter blade makes it comfortable to use for long periods of time without getting tired.
If that hasn’t convinced you, maybe this review headline on Amazon will: “In the time it took me to write this I will have split 10 strands of hair in half with this knife.”
Buy It Now: Shun Cutlery Premiere 8” Chef’s Knife
2. Zelite Infinity Nakiri Chef’s Knife 6”
This popular Japanese knife which is made of premium Japanese steel is a super popular option amongst those who prepare vegetables on the daily. It’s quite the chef’s knife, boasting high carbon stainless steel, tsunami rose Damascus pattern, hammered tsuchime finish (a traditional Japanese finish leaving marks on the knife), and liquid nitro cooling to give the knife an incredible solid finish.
Rest easy knowing you’ll slice through most foods in one motion, with a knife that’s stain and rust resistant. For those who often find larger knives a bit more cumbersome to handle, know that the Nakiri knife 6” has a handle that has been designed to provide a comfortable and secure grip whilst still being steadfastly durable and strong.
Buy It Now: Zelite Infinity Nakiri Knife 6”
3. Shun Classic 6-piece Slim Knife Block Set
The Shun classic 6-piece slim knife block is perfect for those looking to start their new kitchen off on the right foot. This set contains a 3.5” paring knife, the 7” Santoku knife, 8” Chef’s knife, 9” combination honing steel, multi-purpose kitchen shears, and a stunning 8-slot slim design dark wood knife block.
In simple words, it basically has all the knives that you need to prepare anything and everything you need right there in your kitchen. Each knife boasts stainless Damascus cladding (layered steel), hand-sharpened double bevel blade, and Pakkawood handles.
As with all Shun knives, these things are a force to be reckoned with. They are super sharp for easy preparation, super light for everyday use, and are of substantial quality in that you’ll be using them for many years to come (with the right maintenance).
This also makes for a great gift!
As someone on Amazon said, “This knife is a weapon of mass laceration”.
Buy It Now: Shun Classic 6-piece Slim Knife Block Set
4. Shun Classic 8” Chef’s Knife
If you’re looking to add a chef’s knife to your kitchen, look no further than the Shun classic 8” chef’s knife. I mean, the word “classic” in its name should give it away. This is one of the most popular preparation knives across the Shun collection.
Made with VG-MAX cutting core and boasting a beautiful Pakkawood handle, this chef’s knife is the greatest all-rounder knife. It slices through all foods seamlessly with its beautiful curved blade.
In order to use this knife to its max potential, push the knife forward and slice down whilst cutting through food, then pull it back up immediately and repeat if necessary. This motion will prevent this knife from chipping.
Buy It Now: Shun Classic 8” Chef’s Knife
5. Global G-2-8” Chef’s Knife with Custom Engraving
For the perfect gift idea, this Global chef’s knife is perfect! This particular knifes allows for personalised engraving so you can pop a name on it and really make it something special.
Aside from the lovely idea of engraving it, this knife is also a fantastic addition to any kitchen. The Global G-2-8” chef’s knife is super ergonomic and light with a comfortable handle that provides a secure grip. It’s also super sharp, allowing for preparation of most foods to be easy and quick. Its stainless-steel composition makes it a cinch to clean and maintain as well.
Buy It Now: Global G-2-8” Chef’s Knife with Custom Engraving
6. Miyabi Chef’s Knife 8”
This beautiful Miyabi knife made of stainless steel with a birch handle is quite the looker – and it performs extremely well too. The blade and the handle are made of the most precious metal materials, making it not only beautiful but one of the most durable knives as well. The blade itself is formed of 100 layers of micro-carbide powder steel!
It boasts the flower Damascus pattern along the blade thus further enhancing its durability and the Karelian Birch handle is lightweight with a comfortable grip.
Buy It Now: Miyabi Chef’s Knife 8”
7. Yoshihiro NSW 46 Layers Hammered Damascus Gyuto Chef’s Knife 8.25”
This knife’s name is quite a handful, and its list of features is just as long, if not longer.
Yoshihiro’s Gyuto chef’s knife is one of the most popular knives across the entire Yoshihiro brand. This knife has been proudly forged with 46 layers of steel in the Damascus style, using VG-10 stainless steel (Japanese rounded), is stain resistant, boasts a handcrafted octagonal Shitan Rosewood handle for comfort, and also comes with a protective wooden sheath called a Saya – a stunning unique touch.
The knife is crazy light and thin yet still super strong so you can comfortably and quickly slice through any foods without anything sticking to the knife or leaving any residue.
This one is definitely one of the most aesthetic knives on this list!
8. Shun Sora 6” Chef’s Knife
By now, you should recognise that Shun is one of the most revered brands in the Japanese knife scene. Any knife aficionado will know that Shun equals quality, and it’s the truth.
The Shun Sora 6” knife is no different. In fact, based on the hundreds of reviews online, this knife embodies the quality, durability, strength that the Shun brand is all about.
It’s also one of the most affordable ones!
This knife is an all-purpose kitchen knife that can be used across all foods. Seriously, it slices through anything with its 16-degree blade. Its 6” blade means that it’s exceptionally agile and your task of preparation will be over before you know it!
This knife is lightweight, with a curved blade that enhances versatility, and a basic but comfortable grip.
Buy It Now: Shun Sora 6” Chef’s Knife
9. Kyocera Advanced Ceramic Revolution Series 7” Professional Chef’s Knife (Black Blade)
First thing’s first, this knife looks like a boss. Its black handle and black blade make it a standout in terms of looks. If you’re after an affordable Japanese knife that will turn heads, this is the one!
Other than that, it’s a seriously versatile and surprisingly affordable knife you can add to your kitchen. Its blade is made from zirconia material produced in Japan, meaning it boasts superior quality. It’s lightweight, ultra-sharp, with a comfortable ergonomic handle that balances on most hands comfortably.
It’s also rust-proof, resistant to acids, and easy to clean. Have we mentioned it’s super affordable as well? What’s there not to love?
After reading this article, we are even tempted to purchase every single one on the list.
Japanese knives have reputations that far exceed them. Given that these knives are meant to have lifespans of many, many years, it may take us a few decades to try every single one on this list. It seems that once you lay your hands on one and slice your first item, you’ll never look back.
Purchase it and never dread food preparation again. Gift it and know your gift will be far superior to anyone else’s.
Who’s up for the challenge?
For more useful kitchen tools, feel free to also read this blog post: Japanese cookware.