In Japan, cooking knives were traditionally sold without blades, so the user could attach a blade sharpened to their liking. While knives today usually come with blades, it is still possible to sharpen them to your liking as long as they are high quality. This article introduces the highest-quality Japanese knives for people who want to have knives sharpened to their liking.
Cheap Knives Cannot Be Properly Sharpened
Knives bought at 100-yen shops (the equivalent of the dollar store) may be sharp initially, but will dull quickly. This is because the blades are often of inferior quality, leading them to be easily worn down by simply cutting meats and vegetables. Furthermore, because the knives are made with inferior materials, any attempt to sharpen them may result in chips that cannot be fixed.
It is important for chef’s knives to be sharp and resistant to wear. Top-of-the-line knives are made with high-quality materials, so they stay sharp longer and are more comfortable to use. You can also sharpen them yourself to create a truly one-of-a-kind knife.
10 High-Quality Knives to Boost Your Everyday Cooking Experience
Top-of-the-Line Japanese Knife #1
Sakai Knife by a Master Craftsman
Takahashi Kusu [Sakai Forged Blades] Ittosai-Kotetsu INOX Swedish Steel Gyuto (Double-Edged Blade) Olive Wood Octagonal Handle 240mm
This is a high-end knife made by one of the top craftsmen in Sakai City, the home of Sakai Uchihamono (one of Japan’s top three kinds of forged blades, used by about 90% of professional chefs in Japan). This knife offers the ultimate combination of sharpness and ease of sharpening, and comes with an olive wood handle with beautiful wood grains. Because the handles are made of natural wood, each knife is distinguished by the unique wood grain patterns of the handle.
This is a versatile knife that can be used for a variety of cooking styles, including Japanese cooking and Western-style cooking. It can be easily sharpened and is one to cherish for a long time.
Top-of-the-Line Japanese Knife #2
Beautifully Rippled Rust-Resistant Santoku Knife
Sakai Takayuki Senkoku Damascus Sword-Type Santoku Knife 160mm V-Gold 10
This knife comes with an urushi-e (“urushi” is lacquer and “e” is handle) made in Kumamoto Prefecture by a lacquer artist applying layer after layer of lacquer over a month’s period. It is an outstanding item treated with a special lacquer that seems to contain a flash of light (“sen”) within the blackness (koku), giving it the name “Senkoku.”
The artistry of the urushi-e is enhanced further by using a special process to cut the end of the handle diagonally. The blade is meticulously polished to enhance the shine of the tsuchime (hammered pattern) and damascus pattern. It contrasts beautifully with the kashishitsue (oak handle with multiple layers of lacquer), making this a truly exceptional knife.
Top-of-the-Line Japanese Knife #3
Easy-to-Maintain Echizen Knife with the Utmost Sharpness
[Echizen Forged Blades] Ryusen Japan Brahma Ryu Wagyuto 210mm
Echizen Forged Blades are designated as a Traditional Craft of Japan. This is a gyuto in the Brahma Ryu series by Ryusen Japan, a knife maker established in Echizen in 1953. The dull, laminated pattern and the design that suits the brown natural wenge handle give the knife a refined appearance that reminds one of a traditional ink wash landscape painting. It has a 210mm blade length that is appropriate for beginners and is relatively easy to polish and maintain, making it the perfect knife for first-time gyuto users.
The core of the blade is the high-grade steel “VG-10,” made by adding the rare metal, cobalt vanadium, to high-quality molybdenum steel. Nickel damascus, which is made by alternately stacking 63 layers of hard stainless steel containing nickel and soft stainless steel, achieves unprecedented strength and brings out the durability and sharpness of the VG10 steel to the maximum. This is a worthwhile hand-forged knife to sharpen to perfection with a beautiful laminated pattern.
Top-of-the-Line Japanese Knife #4
Top-End Seki Knife Combining Lasting Sharpness and Ease of Maintenance
Takahashi Kusu [Seki Forged Blades] Ittosai-Kotetsu Powdered HSS Super Gold (SG2) Santoku (Double Edged) Oak Octagonal Handle 180mm [Made-to-Order]
Takahashi Kusu is a knife manufacturer and wholesaler founded in Seki City, one of Japan’s three top knife-producing areas, in 1917. It has been producing and selling Japanese kitchen knives and a variety of other knives for over a century.
Its Ittosai-Kotetsu knife was given its name as the “knife of Kotetsu,” a famous toko (Japanese swordsmith) active during the Edo Period (1603 – 1868). This is a knife that is sharp and easy to sharpen and is one of Takahashi Kusu’s topline knives.
Top-of-the-Line Japanese Knife #5
An All-Purpose Chef’s Knife for All Your Cutting Needs
Yamawaki Cutlery [Sakai Forged Blades] SLD Steel Interruption Damascus Santoku Knife 180mm
Since 1927, Yamawaki Cutlery in Sakai City, the center of Sakai Forged Blades, has been manufacturing and selling primarily professional chef’s knives as well as a variety of kitchen knives for the home and cooking schools. This is an incredible high-quality Japanese kitchen knife that combines the utmost sharpness and beauty.
The blade is made with powder metal die steel (SLD steel), which is extremely hard and boasts outstanding long-lasting performance. The handle is made of rosewood, which is water-resistant.
Top-of-the-Line Japanese Knife #6
A Super Sharp and Handy Knife by Kai with a Balanced Weight
[Kai] Santoku Knife [165mm] Reinforced Wood Handle Made in Japan Sekino Magoroku
This is a kitchen knife by Japan’s leading knife manufacturer, Kai. It is a 165mm santoku knife that can be used to cut meat, seafood, and vegetables. The damascus make with 32 layers of steel is what allows it to be durable and easy to sharpen. This knife has a rivetless triangular reinforced wood handle that is both functional and beautiful.
Top-of-the-Line Japanese Knife #7
Yanagiba Knife with a Mirrored Finish Enhancing the Rippled Pattern
[Sakai Forged Blades] Go Umanosuke Yoshihiro Shiraji Steel Water-Grilled Honyaki Yanagiha Knife 300mm Mirrored Blade Surface with Ripples and Senbon Black Persimmon Handle Sheath with Gutter
This is a Yanagiba knife from the outstanding Go Umanosuke Yoshihiro “Mizuyaki Honyaki Series” that is designed like a Japanese sword. The flat surface of the blade is mirror finished so that the ripples stand out, and a long groove has been added as an accent. It is made with shironi steel, which is White Steel No. 2.
This Japanese kitchen knife is of the finest quality. It combines a blade made with the outstanding techniques of Sakai Forged Blades and a handle sheath made of Senbon Kurogaki wood (the heartwood of a persimmon tree that has black patterns that appear as if they were drawn in ink; it is so rare that the pattern only appears in perhaps one in a thousand persimmon trees that are at least 100 years old). The knife comes in a paulownia box, befitting such a special gift.
*Honyaki primarily refers to steel kitchen knives made with white steel or blue steel. Mizuyaki means that water is used in the quenching process to make the blade stronger. There is also a process called abura (oil) honyaki.
*Japanese steel can generally be divided into white steel (called shirohagane or shiragami) and blue steel (aohagane or aogami). The carbon content increases from White Steel No. 1 to 3 and further from Blue Steel No. 1 to 3, with Blue Steel No. 3 having the highest carbon content, which means it is the hardest and most difficult to work with.
Top-of-the-Line Japanese Knife #8
Just a Light Stroke To Cut Sashimi with This Takobiki Knife
Yamawaki Cutlery [Sakai Forged Blades] Go Umanosuke Yoshihiro Shiraji Steel Water-Grilled Honyaki Sakimaru Takobiki Knife 330mm Mirrored Blade Surface with Ripples and Ebony Pattern Scabbard
This is a beautiful sakimaru takobiki knife (primarily in the Kanto region as a sashimi knife) from the outstanding Go Umanosuke Yoshihiro “Mizuyaki Honyaki” series. This is an exquisite knife with the flat part of the blade mirror finished so that the blade pattern stands out. It is a Japanese chef’s knife for professionals come to life by the outstanding techniques of Sakai Forged Blades.
It is the perfect knife for preparing sashimi with a long, thin blade that cuts fish into beautiful pieces with light strokes. With a sophisticated ebony pattern and scabbard, it is the highest-quality chef’s knife that anyone who loves to cook would aspire to have.
Top-of-the-Line Japanese Knife #9
An Echizen Deba Knife that Cuts Through Fish Bones and Meat
Iwai Hamono [Echizen Forged Blades] This Forged Wind Crest Deba Knife 180mm
A deba knife is recommended as a second chef’s knife for anyone who already has an all-purpose knife. This is a top-quality item that is individually forged by hand and embodies the characteristics of Echizen Forged Blades. Deba knives are suited for cutting, trimming, and filleting fish, so most Japanese cooks who like fish have at least one in the kitchen. It is a size suited for the family kitchen and is sure to be a useful and cherished tool.
The blade is made of White Steel No. 1 and the edge was made to be incredibly sharp and precise. The handle is made of rosewood, which is a highly durable material and adds a sense of solidity and luxury to the knife.
Top-of-the-Line Japanese Knife #10
A Must-Have Utility Knife
Takahashi Kusu [Seki Forged Blades] Ittosai-Kotetsu Powdered HSS Super Gold (SG2) Petty Utility Knife (Double Edged) Oak Octagonal Handle 150mm
This is a hard and sharp HSS powdered steel petty knife by Takahashi Kusu, the knife manufacturer and wholesaler established in 1917 that produces the first and fourth knives introduced here. All superfluous elements of the blade have been eliminated in this knife so that it cuts smoothly with no resistance.
The handle is made of hard oak so that it does not warp easily. Petty knives are often used by chefs of French and Italian cuisines, primarily to peel the skin off fruits and vegetables, and are handy to have in the home kitchen.
Get Yourself a Knife That Perfectly Fits You
Because kitchen knives are essential everyday tools for anyone who cooks, it is so important to have ones that are comfortable to use. The chef’s knives introduced here have all been lovingly made by hand by veteran craftspeople in the Japanese art of knifemaking. Get just one top-of-the-line chef’s knife and you can sharpen it to your liking. A knife you have personally sharpened will be one that is the most comfortable for you to use.
There is no question your everyday cooking experience can be enhanced greatly by how comfortable a knife is to hold, how well it cuts, and how handy it is.
If you want to give feedback on any of our articles, you have an idea that you’d really like to see come to life, or you just have a question on Japan, hit us up on our Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram!
*These products may not be able to be shipped to certain countries. Please see the retailer’s website for more information.
The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.