The 9 Best Japanese Knives of 2019

Find a specialized blade for your kitchen

A variety of Japanese knives

kazushige hattori / Getty Images

Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.

Our Top Picks

Best Overall: Shun Premier 8-Inch Chef's Knife at Amazon

“Layered steel blade is perfect for slicing, chopping, and more.”

Best Budget: Kessaku 7-Inch Santoku Knife at Amazon

“This affordable knife is easy to hold and looks attractive.”

Best Ceramic: Kyocera Advanced Ceramic Knife at Amazon

“Ceramic knives are extremely sharp and they stay sharp longer than steel.”

Best Set: Shun Classic 6-Piece Slim Knife Block Set at Amazon

“Includes three useful styles and a narrow knife block.”

Best for Beginners: Zelite Infinity Santoku Knife at Amazon

“The handle has a shape that makes it easy to hold and it’s durable.”

Best Design: TUO Cutlery 7-Inch Cleaver Knife at Amazon

“This knife might look intimidating, but this design makes it easy to use.”

Best Cleaver: Damascus 7-inch Cleaver at Amazon

“Can be used for cutting meat or mincing and dicing vegetables.”

Best for Vegetables: Knife Yoshihiro Vegetable Knife at Amazon

“The hammered surface keep foods from sticking to the blade.”

Best for Sushi: Traditional Japanese 8-inch Gyuto Knife at Amazon

“It’s similar to a Western chef’s knife with an 8-inch blade.”

  • 01 of 09

    Best Overall: Shun Premier 8-Inch Chef's Knife

    Shun Premier Chef's Knife

    Courtesy of Amazon

    Shun is known for high quality, well balanced, and well designed knives, and this chef’s knife is no exception. It has an 8-inch blade that’s the perfect length for all-around cutting, slicing, chopping, and dicing, while the handle is designed for a comfortable and almost effortless grip. The blade is made from layered Damascus steel with a hammered finish that gives it a stunning look when in use, or hanging on your knife rack.

    The hammered finish isn’t all about looks, though. Like the more common granton edge, the hollows in the uneven surface helps keep food from sticking to the blade as you cut. While this knife is dishwasher safe, it’s recommended that you hand wash it, along with all of your other quality knives.

  • 02 of 09

    Best Budget: Kessaku 7-Inch Santoku Knife

    Japanese knives don’t have to be expensive, as this Santoku proves. It’s made in Japan using high-carbon stainless steel with a shiny finish and a granton edge that helps keep food from sticking to the blade. It’s resistant to corrosion, easy to hold, and it looks attractive enough to display proudly.

    The handle is made from pakka wood with a seamless finish and a full tang for great balance. The knife comes in a box with a magnetic closure that can be used for storage. A cleaning cloth is included for polishing the blade.

  • 03 of 09

    Best Ceramic: Kyocera Advanced Ceramic Revolution 4.5-inch Utility Knife

    Kyocera was one of the pioneers of ceramic kitchen knives, and this 4 1/2 inch utility knife is a great example of the quality of their knives at a budget price. Ceramic knives are extremely sharp, so you can slice tomatoes with ease, and you can peel those tomatoes, too. The blades won’t rust, corrode, stain, or retain odors, and they minimize browning when cutting foods like lettuce, potatoes, and apples.

    While ceramic knives are extremely sharp and they stay sharp longer than similar steel knives, they are more brittle than steel knives, so they shouldn’t be used for cutting frozen foods or for prying around bones. They can also break if dropped, but if handled with care, they can last just as long as metal knives.

  • 04 of 09

    Best Set: Shun Classic 6-Piece Slim Knife Block Set

    Even if countertop space is limited, you’ll be able to find space for this narrow knife block and its contents. These knives—from the renowned Shun Cutlery—include three very useful styles: a 3 1/2 inch paring knife, a 7-inch santoku knife, and an 8-inch chef’s knife. A nine-inch honing steel, a pair of kitchen shears, and a knife block complete the set. The block has eight slots for knives, so you’ll have plenty of space to store new knives as you add to your collection over time.

    The knives are handmade in Japan using 34 layers of Damascus stainless steel cladding on each side over the knife’s core material. The handle is pakka wood, which is moisture resistant. These knives should be hand washed and dried immediately.

    Continue to 5 of 9 below.
  • 05 of 09

    Best for Beginners: Zelite Infinity Alpha-Royal 7-Inch Santoku Knife

    Santoku knives are becoming more common in American kitchens, yet they still seem a bit more special than standard chef’s knives. This santoku has a gently curved blade that should be familiar to cooks who are comfortable with the rocking motion of American blades, while the tip, granton edge, and Damascus pattern make it unique.

    This is made from imported Japanese steel with 16 layers of metal that create the pattern. The handle has a shape that makes it easy to hold, no matter how much cutting you have to do, and it’s triple-riveted for durability. The knife has a full tang that provides great balance and a tapered bolster for a proper grip.

  • 06 of 09

    Best Design: TUO Cutlery 7-Inch Cleaver Knife

    This cleaver knife might look large and intimidating, but this design makes it a pleasure to use, whether you’re portioning whole chickens or chopping onions. The 7-inch blade and ergonomic handle give the knife great balance and efficiency, while the depth of the knife keeps fingers away from the blade and knuckles away from the cutting board, no matter how enthusiastically you’re cutting.

    The blade is made from two types of steel, with a hard carbon steel at the core and 66 layers of a softer steel on the outside. Because of the use of two metals, the blade offers great resistance to rust along with excellent sharpness and long-lasting performance in the kitchen.

    The handle is made from pakka wood that resists moisture, while the finish shows off the beautiful grain of the wood.

  • 07 of 09

    Best Cleaver: Damascus 7-inch Cleaver

    Made from Japanese steel, this heavy-duty cleaver is the one you want when you’re doing some serious chopping, whether you're cutting through chicken bones for the best stock or halving a roast duck. Held sideways, it can crush whole heads of garlic or flatten chicken breasts for cutlets, or use it to scoop up the chopped food to move it to your cooking vessel.

    This cleaver can be used for more than heavy work, though. It has a sharp edge, so it can be used for mincing, dicing, and slicing everything from meats to vegetables.

    It boasts a 7-inch blade with a comfortable handle that promotes a proper grip so you can hang on securely—even when you’re chopping with force. The blade is made with 67 layers of stainless steel from Japan and heat treated for excellent hardness.

  • 08 of 09

    Best for Vegetables: Knife Yoshihiro Hammered Damascus Nakiri Vegetable Knife

    This knife shape may not seem as familiar as chef’s knives or slicers, but it’s known in Japan as a Nakiri knife, and is used for cutting vegetables. This one has 16 layers of steel over a core metal, with a hammered surface that looks stunning and helps keep foods from sticking to the blade as you work.

    Unlike chef’s knives, this has a flat cutting edge, which means the entire length of the blade can make contact with the cutting surface at the same time. Because of that, it’s easier cut all the way through vegetables without leaving them attached to each other where the cut wasn’t finished.

    While this is hand made in Japan and each is a one-of-a-kind creation, the handle is Western style and made from beautiful mahogany, so it will feel familiar and comfortable. This should be hand washed and dried, particularly if it’s used with acidic ingredients.

    Continue to 9 of 9 below.
  • 09 of 09

    Best for Sushi: Traditional Japanese Professional 8-inch Gyuto Knife

    While this knife is designed for sushi, it will be an excellent slicer and utility knife for most of your kitchen work. The blade is heat treated for hardness, edge retention, and the ability to take a super-sharp edge. Known as the Gyoto, or beef sword, it is most similar to a Western chef’s knife, with the ability to dice, mince, and chop, while the thin, 8-inch blade is perfect for slicing your Sunday roast.

    This knife is sharpened on just the right side of blade at a 15 degree angle, while the other side is flat. This results in a much sharper edge, while the flat side helps to separate food slices as you cut.

    The handle is made from rosewood that will look good for years, and it has a full-tang for security and excellent balance. 

Our Process

Our writers spent 4 hours researching the most popular Japanese knives on the market. Before making their final recommendations, they considered 18 different knives overall, screened options from 12 different brands and manufacturers, read over 9 user reviews (both positive and negative), and tested 2 of the knives themselves. All of this research adds up to recommendations you can trust.