If you are looking for Japanese knives, you probably want to swap the wedged edge of Western knives for a thinner, sharper edge. Maybe you prefer the lighter, thinner Japanese blade or a knife that will maintain its edge longer, so you don’t need to sharpen it all the time. Regardless of your reason, it will be a massive disappointment if you end up with a knife branded as Japanese without any of these capabilities.
The best way to avoid being duped by dishonest sales pitches is to know the best Japanese knife brands which produce the highest quality of Japanese knives. This article is a compilation of top brands based on experience, market share, positive reviews, retailer feedback and what Japanese knife I should buy. While there might be some excellent Japanese knife makers that we will not feature, these have established distribution channels that protect you from imitations and where to buy Japanese knives online.
The Kai brand is world-renowned for its experience and prowess in Japanese knife-making craft. The company was founded in 1908 in the City of Seki, Japan. Seki has been at the center of Japan’s rich blade-making culture for more than eight hundred years, so we can safely conclude Kai has had at least 113 years of refining their craft.
Its current portfolio has more than 10,000 products worldwide, including fine cutlery, pocket knives, beauty care, and medical products. They acquired Kershaw Knives, a famous sporting knife brand in the United States in the 1970s, and established Kai USA Limited, which saw them introduce their products to the US market.
Kai houseware products are produced worldwide, but its Shun knife line is handcrafted exclusively in Japan, where the craft has been passed down generations. They introduced the Shun classic cutlery brand to the US in 2002, along with knife designs that the North Americans were unfamiliar with.
Famous Kai products include the Pure Komachi and Pure Komachi 2 series and the Wasabi line, which combined the western blade shapes Americans are used to with Japanese blade shapes in traditional Japanese styling. They introduced ultra-sharp knives whose blade edges were sharpened at 16°, making them thin and lightweight.
They also introduced the Japanese traditional Tsuchime blade finish, which involves hammering the blade so that food releases easily and there is minimal drag. This came with the Luna and Inspired series of knives. All Kai knives use high-carbon stainless steel.
Their latest series is the Kai PRO, designed for professional-level performance for professional chefs or cooking at home. They feature a rugged yet comfortable ergonomic POM handle and Kai’s razor-sharp cutting edge on a lightweight blade. They are even NSF-certified for professional use.
Buy: Kai Wasabi Series 8-Inch Chef’s Knife on Amazon
This brand’s story begins with the ZWILLING Group’s acquisition of a knife factory in Seki in 2004. They have since been able to infuse German engineering excellence that they had perfected in their workshops in Solingen, Germany, with the best Japanese craftsmanship to create a formidable Japanese knife brand.
ZWILLING is home to many other premium brands worldwide, including the flagship ZWILLING IN Germany, France’s STAUB, Italy’s BALLARINI, and Belgium’s DEMEYERE. Each has its unique traditions, but the quality control cuts across them. They are reputed for premium construction, which spares no effort, so you should be ready to part with a few extra bucks to acquire the quality.
Miyabi knives are a merger of the exceptional sharpness associated with Japanese traditions and contemporary kitchen knife designs. The precise cutting ability will help retain the taste and texture of delicate dishes like raw fish, while the contemporary designs enhance their durability by strengthening the blades.
They are exclusively handcrafted in Seki, Japan, using quality Japanese materials. Every single blade under the Miyabi brand is taken through more than 100 stages of production and takes at least forty-two days to complete. This gives more than sufficient room for quality control.
Other installments of Miyabi knives include the Artisan, Mizu, Koh, Evolution, Fusion, Kaizen, Black, and Birchwood. This video overviews the different series of Miyabi knives and how they differ from each other.
Buy: Miyabi Kaizen Chef’s Knife on Amazon
3. Shun Cutlery
Shun is another reputable Japanese knife brand under the Kai Group which might be relatively new, but its pedigree dates back to 113 years ago when Saijiro Endo set up the first Kai shop in Seki. It started as a project of a direct descendant of Saijiro Endo, Kai chairman and CEO, Koji Endo. He sought to introduce high-quality Japanese cutlery to the United States and European markets.
Koji designed the logo the brand used to date and named it ‘Shun,’ about the Japanese tradition of fresh seasonal eating. The brand is now famous in kitchen cutlery circles all over the world. They have incorporated modern materials and state-of-the-art technology to improve the designs. They still maintain the handcrafting tradition and each Shun knife goes through at least 100 handcrafting processes in Japan to complete.
Shun knives bear the lightweight precision of Japanese cutlery, featuring thinner blades with sharper edges that can maintain. Heavier knives are unable to match these performance standards.
Shun is one of the best Japanese knife brands because it has products for all classes. The Sora and Kanso series is at the entry-level level, whose knives are under $200. Then we have the Classics and the Premiers between $200 and $300 and finally the Dual Core series, with prices above $400.
The Sora series have unique composite blades whose cutting edges are Japanese San Mai VG-10 steel with exceptional cutting power and endurance, while their uppers, going all the way to the spine, are polished 420J stainless steel. The Kanso series focuses on the essentials; high-performance steel and razor-sharp edges for precision cutting.
The Classic series comes with 69-layer Damascus-clad blades that are exceptionally sharp and lightweight. The Premier blades have the Tsuchime finish, a mirror polish, and an intricately layered Damascus. The end product is rustic and sophisticated without losing Japanese performance and agility.
Their dual-core series is the high-end installment with 71 alternating layers of high-carbon, high-chromium stainless steel that extend to the blade. They are the most rugged lot, but you can’t tell by looking at the elegant finishing.
Buy: Shun Sora 8-Inch Chef’s Knife on Amazon
Yoshihiro has been a powerhouse in handcrafted premium Japanese knives for more than 100 years, and its performance has been affirmed numerous times by professional chefs. It expanded its operations from Japan to the rest of the world in 2008 and is based in Beverly Hills, California.
Artisans handcraft all Yoshihiro knives with knife-making lineages spanning centuries. They remain true to their Japanese knife-making traditions with over 600 selections of premium Japanese knives on offer. Their wide selection of knives can be overwhelming, so we’ll stick to an overview in this forum.
Yoshihiro knives are broken down into four general categories; double-edged stainless steel, single-edged stainless steel, double-edged high carbon stainless steel, and single-edged high carbon stainless steel. While there may be variances in construction, materials used, and prices within the categories, their price tags generally increase in the same order.
Their prices also have an incredible range, so you must be clear about where you draw the line between functionality and class. The 29.5-inch Yoshihiro Heisei Hongasumi Aoko blue steel single-edged Maguro Bocho tuna knife will need an investment of $15,000. The Yoshihiro Kasumi white steel Funayuki Deba fish fillet chef’s knife, which is also single-edged high carbon stainless steel, is offered for under $250 on the other hand.
Their entry-level stainless-steel double-edged knives will generally cost below $500. They are still incredibly sharp and made from quality stainless steel. They have an optimum hardness level that doesn’t veer far away from 60 HRC. This allows them to retain their razor-sharp edges for prolonged periods.
Buy: Yoshihiro 8.25-Inch Damascus Gyuto Japanese Chef’s Knife on Amazon
Korin is based in the heart of lower Manhattan and serves New York’s culinary community. It makes professional-quality Japanese knives, tableware, kitchen appliances, tools, and barware. This brand started in 1982 and gained prominence over the last forty years.
Their Tribeca showroom has one of the world’s most extensive collections of Japanese knives (Japan included). They showcase a combination of time-tested favorites and cutting-edge designs.
Korin branded knives offer a variety of designs, not limited to layered Damascus steel with different types of colorful handles, smaller paring knives for training, and specialized knives for different purposes. All the knives are crafted in Japan by master artisans who have honed skills handed down through generations.
The crafting process is closely monitored by Korin’s founder Saori Kawano who has extensive knowledge of the Japanese knife crafting tradition to ensure they are refined and in tune with professional kitchen requirements.
They have something for all skill levels, including the Korin Inox child knives for teaching children how to cook in a safe environment so they can nurture their hand-eye coordination. You can get these for under $100. Their mahogany series will retail at less than $200, the Tsuchime hammered Damascus between $100 and $200, and the nickel Damascus between $100 and $300.
They also have high-end knives where they partnered with other knife makers like the Korin X Masamoto, who partnered with Masamoto Sohonten. You will part with upwards of $1,000 for this blade.
Buy: Korin White Hongasumi Yanagi (fillet knife) on Koris Site
This successful world-renowned Japanese knife brand’s first knives were designed by the visionary designer Komin Yamada in 1985. Yoshikin commissioned him to develop revolutionary kitchen knives that would appeal to both a professional chef and an at-home cook. The knives were fashioned using the latest technology and the best materials available.
Komin did not disappoint; his unique design is the signature look for global knives to date, more than 35 years later. The iconic dot pattern on the handle that he introduced to get buyers curious is still applied. The knives have received numerous awards over the years as they continue to use the best materials while improving the designs.
Global knives are still crafted by hand in Yoshikin’s factory in Niigata, Japan, applying the age-old expertise they used to make sharp and solid blades for the feared Japanese Samurai. There are incredibly high standards for precision. They are weighed to confirm they balance optimally in your hand.
The cutting edge is the feature that stands out besides their handles and the optimal balance. Unlike most traditional Japanese knives, Global knives are sharpened on both sides of the blade like Western-style knives. The sharpening style is unique to Global; while Western knives have a beveled edge, they are sharpened straight to a steep, acute angle.
This creates a sharper knife that retains its sharpness longer yet still has the thickness of the blade to absorb shock and provide tensile strength. The significant edge of a Global knife extends up to a quarter of an inch from the tip. Consequently, they stay sharp even when the edge starts to dull. The blades also have molybdenum and vanadium, enhancing their strength and ability to retain an edge.
They have the classic series with the most significant number of knives, the Sai and Ukon collections. The Ukon and Classic collections are typically under $200 and the Sai below $300.
Buy: Global Classic 8-Inch Chef’s Knife on Amazon
These knives are products of the Tojiro Company, established in 1953. It was not until 1955 that they produced their first stainless steel fruit knife. The notion, at the time, was that stainless steel blades were not as sharp as carbon steel blades, so they had to improve and innovate continuously to keep up with the market demands.
This was the origin of the Japanese knife companies‘ culture of looking beyond sharpness to other ways of improving the knife’s functionality. It also focuses on comfort and balance to produce versatile knives everyone can use.
Their knives are produced in its factory in Tsubame, Niigata, Japan. The region is famous for producing metal products, so its metal processing technology has dramatically improved in nearly seven decades. They can produce sharper knives with enhanced efficiency.
Modern machines allow them to press out sheets of clad steel that are tough and durable, but they still rely on their artisans’ skill and instincts which they consider the foundation of all best Japanese knife manufacturers. Tojiro also produces Western knife styles, Chinese knives, knife sharpeners, and other kitchen tools. Their knives are distributed all over the world through partnerships with online stores.
The Tojiro brand has close to 150 Japanese knives under its wing, specializing in different areas. They are relatively affordable, with a general price below $200 for most of their knives.
Buy: Tojiro 9-Inch Bread Knife on Amazon
8. MAC Knives
While the company is based in Sacramento City, California, the entire knife-making process is in Seki, Japan using Japanese products, including shaping, assembly, polishing, and sharpening. They make use of professional Japanese craftsmen to retain that Japanese authenticity.
They have been providing Japanese knives since 1964 and have sold more than 25 million knives to date. Their fame and popularity can be attributed to their razor-sharp edges, comfortable handles, and elaborate balancing. Numerous positive reviews from MAC knife owners online corroborate their position as one of the best Japanese knife brands.
The blades are forged from rust-resistant high carbon steel fused with molybdenum to add hardness and tensile strength. They are then hand-ground and hand-sharpened on water-cooled stones so that the finished blade is both smooth and sharp. This increases efficiency by reducing drag as you cut and preventing the ingredients from sticking to the knife.
The cutting-edge design (pun intended) is a fusion between the traditional Japanese single-sided blade and the Western edge sharpened on both sides. It is slightly off-center, enabling versatility in application. You can cut thin slices and straight cuts with ease.
Their Rockwell hardness, which ranges between 57 and 61 HRC, means they are just hard enough to maintain a sharp edge without being hard to sharpen. They will also spare your cutting board without compromising their cutting ability.
They have four Japanese knife series; the molybdenum steel series, the sub-zero tempered steel series, the HO series, and the SE series. Their prices are typically below the $200 mark.
The molybdenum steel series is the entry-level knife featuring the high-carbon molybdenum-fused steel we mentioned earlier. The sub-zero tempered steel goes through an extra production process, enhancing its ability to retain its edge without making it harder to sharpen.
HO series features Japanese magnolia wood handles and a laminated white steel (Yasuki Shirogami) blade supported by softer steel. Yasuki Shirogami is reputed for its exceptional edge-holding capacity.
Knives in the SE series come with black ebony handles featuring silver accent rings and a buffalo horn cap. Their Honyaki-style blades use from single pieces of Yasuki Shirogami, which allow their edges to be sharper than most other knives.
Buy: MAC Knife Japanese Series 6.5-Inch Vegetable Cleaver on Amazon
Seisuke knives are made by experienced craftsmen spread throughout Japan, collaborating with Japanny, who owns the brand. Japanny is an online platform promoting traditional and high-spec handmade Japanese kitchen knives worldwide.
They currently promote numerous other brands, although Seisuke was their original brand. It has numerous knives with varying blades, handles, and designs. They range from affordable workhorses to unique art pieces and can be used at home or for professional culinary applications.
We will not commit the injustice of lumping all Seisuke knives together because the artisans are spread all over Japan in cities like Toyama, Miki, Takefu, Sakai, Seki, and Sanjou. They all have their unique contributions to the Seisuke brand. They have successfully maintained Seisuke’s reputation as one of the best Japanese knife brands. Besides the brand, the other thing they have in common is they craft knives by hand in Japan using the best Japanese materials.
Seisuke opened a store in NE Alberta, Portland, Oregon, in 2016, where they display a variety of knives from renowned Japanese artisans. They host many events where customers meet the actual artisans involved in knife making.
Buy: Seisuke AUS-10 Hammered Kiritsuke Santoku Knife on Amazon
The knife-making foundation of this brand goes way back to 1866 before the name was even conceived. This is when the founder, Minosuke Matsuzawa, started making cooking knives in Osawa, Bushu (in present-day Tokyo). He had just gotten back home from learning the secrets of a genuine knife forging from the seasoned artisans of Osaka.
The brand is a registered trademark of Masamoto Sohonten, the company’s current identity. They are based in Azuma-Bashi in Tokyo, Japan, and produce both Japanese knives and Western-style knives alongside other kitchen tools like whetstones and vegetable cutters.
More than 155 years later, they have perfected high-level hardening, so Masamoto knives are durable and can maintain their sharp edges. It is a premier brand for professional-quality Japanese knives. The blades are tempered to add strength and polish to make sharpening easier.
Japanese knives have never fallen short of accolades for their efficiency, making them a prime target for false advertising. Many knives fronted as actual Japanese knives are either low quality or don’t even comply with the structure of real Japanese knives. Here are some essential tips for identifying questionable brands.
Before getting to the quality, the first thing is knowing how to identify actual Japanese knives. This way, you can tell from the product specifications or the physical knife if you are being ripped off.
Japanese knives have thin blades, and the spine thickness shouldn’t exceed two millimeters. They are sharpened at acute angles between 15 and 16 degrees. Many are only sharpened on one side, though modern designs have incorporated some double edges. They are made intentionally hard, so they can maintain these thin cutting edges, so they should be no less than 57 HRC on the Rockwell scale.
The information is likely left out on purpose if you can’t tell where the knives are manufactured. Some countries have lax production standards, and what is advertised as an actual Japanese knife might not have been subjected to the desired quality control.
Be wary of such devious Japanese knife brands. If they state any other country, make sure they have internal means of quality control and don’t depend on state regulations. We selected brands that manufacture their knives in Japan for this review.
A brand that does its distribution carries the bulk of responsibility regarding the buyer’s knife quality at the end. The follow-up process is more straightforward if you don’t get what you purchased, which keeps them honest as their reputation is on the line.
Use this article as a guide instead of an instruction manual when looking for the best Japanese knife set. We linked to the actual manufacturers so that you can choose from their extended assortments of knives depending on your needs and available resources. Whether you want a chef knife, paring knife, bread knife, or vegetable knife, you’ll find what you’re looking for.
The listing order doesn’t represent superiority, as individual knives from different brands will be superior or inferior to others. These Japanese knife brands are collectively safe places to shop as they have been vetted by the best in the culinary industry.