Japan’s Best Chef Knives: A Cut Above

By on December 17, 2016

Highly skilled sushi chefs in Japan will tell you that one way to tell a great chef from an amateur is by looking at his knife. Japanese sushi chefs take pride in using professionally crafted extra thin, extra hard and sharp steel blades that slice, dice, or sculpt food with unmatched precision. Chef or not, foreigners in general, seem to agree. In fact, one of the popular items on every shopper’s list according to Mr. Saito, a store owner at Kappabashi, is a high quality chef’s knife.

Guillaume d L’isle of Montreal, Canada, says in the Montreal Gazette, that his favorite knife when he cooks is an angled ‘santoku’ knife crafted in Hakata, Japan. “I like the fluid motion when I use it, and how I can push away the already-chopped vegetables with its slanted edge,” says Guillaume.

Japan’s centuries-old knifemaking industry dates back to the 14th century in Sakai, Osaka, the center of katana production.

Knife craftsmen in Japan lead the pack when it comes to handcrafted knives because of their advanced knowledge in metallurgy and katana-making. The pursuit of excellence for which the Japanese are known and selective use of high quality steel and special nickel cladding, is Japan’s formula for producing premium grade long-lasting knives. Case in point – the HRC rating (a measurement of hardness in knives) of a Japanese blade between 58-65, beats a typical German brand’s HRC 52-56. This means that even with frequent use, the edge stays exceptionally sharp and requires less maintenance and sharpening. The former is also generally lighter and has a thinner blade than the latter.

Knives sold in Japan come in different types but handmade ones are often expensive. Traditional ones made with carbon steel are considered in Japan as the “top class”.  If you are shopping for a good knife, here are some of the best types  loved by overseas chefs.


This is an improved version of a German kitchen knife brand. It is a multi-purpose knife with a warp-resistant straight blade.

Bob · Kramer Euro stainless steel kitchen knife 18 cm
43,200 yen


by Samurai Saji

Created by a third generation craftsman of Echizen Knitting Blade, Saiji Samurai,  this forged knife is made from ultra hard, gold high steel blade.

Outside Japan, it’s simply called “Chef’s Knife” and it can be used for all kinds of meat, fish or vegetables. The center of gravity of this knife is in the tip, useful in doing detailed sculpting. You can also get a “Yutaku” cut knife that has its center of gravity on the handle.

NENOX IW Cowhide
47,000 yen

This is a high-grade model using Hiroshi, a high-carbon special steel blade that’s sharp and does not bend. The pattern was designed based on ergonomics using a beautiful desert ironwood that stays strong even when wet.


It is a smaller version of a bovine sword with 90 to 150 mm blade width. Easy to handle and is suitable for detailed work. Choose something that fits well with the size of your hands.

5,500 yen

This 120-mm long blade comes in an innovative design integrating everything from blade to grip using Echizen knife blade technology. It is dirt and rust-resistant.

It is not a popular item for household use in Japan but is used abroad as a meat-only slicer. Although it is a Western knife, the blade can be pulled out thinly.

With special steel reinforcement
Simple design loved by cooks. It is made of ultra hard long lasting V1 steel blades.
16,700 yen

Kansai’s favourite sashimi knife, a Yanagiba bocho has a thin and long blade perfect for deboning a fish without messing up the flesh.
It is one of Sakai region’s known brand named after the Kamakura era. It features a beautiful good-quality blade, a Damascus pattern in black ink on blue steel. The handle has a lacquer finish that preserves the wood’s decorative beauty.
Yamawaki hamono seisakusho
Lacquer finish designed by Masayoshi Yoshihiro
108,000 yen


Yanagiba knife is a long sashimi knife with a wavy cutting blade and slanted point that is used too for slicing vegetables.
Inheriting the techniques and soul of Sakai, contemporary craftsman Yui Doi combined high grade Yasugi Bio Steel and traditional design in this “Hayan” series. The handle comes in an elaborate Kurodan octagon pattern.
Saito Hamono
63,396 yen      http://saitouhamono.com/tak-a2hien.html

About Ted Tanaka