Japanese kitchen knives are some of the most beautifully crafted, high-performing knives a chef could own but what is the the best Japanese knife set available today?
First let me give you a little reminder (if you're not already familiar) with why Japanese knives are incredible and so popular...
A Japanese knife is typically distinguished by its high quality lightweight build and stamped blade. These blades also tend to have very sharp edges, although they are often steeply sharpened, because of how hard the steel is.
Popular types of Japanese knives include the Gyutou (all-purpose chef’s knife), the Sujihiki (slicer knife), and the Santoku (multi-purpose knife), amongst others.
Because each type of Japanese knife is meticulously crafted to perform ergonomically and efficiently at its designated task, having a whole set of Japanese knives in your kitchen is a great way to keep your culinary game (if you’ll excuse the pun) on point.
In this article, we’ll be taking a look at the best Japanese knife sets (see the best Japanese cookware sets here too) on the market.
Based on this research the conclusion is that these are the top 3 Japanese Knife choices available today...
OUR TOP PICK
This 5-piece Japanese knife set from EUNA contains, of course, 5 different knives.
These knives include a traditional 8-inch chef’s knife (Gyutou), an 8-inch slicer knife (Sujikihi), a 7-inch multipurpose Santoku, a 5-inch serrated utility knife, and a 3.5-inch paring knife, known in Japanese as a Petty knife.
The construction of these knives is impressive, using high-carbon forged stainless steel for the blades to ensure hardness, extended sharpness, and corrosion resistance.
The rust-resistance of the blades is enhanced by the coating EUNA has applied to the steel, which also helps to facilitate cleaning.
Some customers, however, have noticed that the coating has a tendency to begin to peel away after repeated use, which negates the ease of cleaning slightly.
Each blade is sharpened to between 13 and 15° on both sides, ensuring both precision and toughness.
The polypropylene knife handles feature a gray, wood-textured pattern that makes this knife set visually appealing and surprising at the same time.
These handles are also very comfortable and ergonomic to use and, thanks to the material used, durable, and easy to clean.
The design takes aspects of traditional Japanese knife construction and marries them to the appearance of the Western kitchen knife to create a unique product.
A protective sheath is provided for each knife with the purchase of the set, and the whole set comes in premium box packaging that makes this set a perfect gift.
- 5 pieces giving you all the Japanese knifes you'll ever need.
- High-carbon stainless steel blades for ease of cutting and easy cleaning afterwards.
- Coated for rust-resistance and easy cleaning so they'll stay in good condition for a long time.
- Ergonomic polypropylene handles making it easier to grip and reducing chance of the knife slipping which could be dangerous.
- Unique gray wood texturing means they look good.
- Includes protective sheaths to protect knives and you.
- Premium packaging which looks good in your kitchen.
- Coating may start to peel over time.
This set of Ultra Sharp Japanese Knives from DFITO is a 5-piece set, including an 8-inch chef’s knife (Gyutou), 2 Santoku knives (5 inches and 7 inches) a 7-inch cleaver (Chukabocho), and a 3.5-inch paring (Petty) knife.
While some might initially question the need for 2 Santoku knives in a 5-piece set.
Having such a well-crafted multipurpose knife in 2 sizes is a huge advantage because it maximizes the versatility and precision of your meat, fish, and vegetable slicing.
Sharpened to between 13 and 15° per side, the blades of these knives are made of high-carbon forged stainless steel to ensure hardness and anti-corrosiveness.
Additionally, the blades are textured in a way that not only looks appealing.
But is also functional in that it helps to enhance the non-stick quality of the blades.
The ergonomic pakkawood handles can sit comfortably in the user’s palm and fingers for hours on end and have the added advantage of looking absolutely beautiful with their rippling wood patterns.
The finger guards between the blades and handles, meanwhile, provide extra protection.
- 5 pieces giving you a full set of Japanese knives (also see the best Japanese Whetstones).
- 2 Santoku knives which is rare in 1 set.
- High-carbon stainless steel which cuts well and last a long time.
- Textured, non-stick, blades for easier cutting.
- Comfortable pakkawood handles so your hands don't hurt afterwards/
- Protective sheaths included
- Not for professional use just for home cooks.
If you’re looking to get quantity as well as superior quality out of your Japanese knife set, consider the 12-piece Ginsu Gourmet Chikara Series!
Included in this knife set are a Gyutou 8-inch chef’s knife, 4 stamped steak knives, a 7-inch Santoku knife, 2 5-inch utility knives (serrated and non-serrated), and a 3.5-inch paring (Petty) knife.
A pair of shears and a honing rod are also included. With this extensive set, you’ll always have the right utensil for any job in the kitchen!
With the exception of the steak knives, which are stamped, the sharp knife blades are forged from Japanese stainless steel for strength and rust-resistance. Moreover, the blades are full-tang, allowing for extra stability and durability.
All that being said, however, some customers have reported rust spots on the blades, so cleaning will need to be done carefully.
The handles of these knives are made from plastic resin, which isn’t the most aesthetically appealing or high-end option.
However, the construction still looks high-quality and the plastic material ensures easy, relatively low-maintenance cleaning.
Additionally, the plastic handles enable this set to be sold at a more affordable price than it otherwise would be if other handle materials were used.
A bamboo storage block is also included with this set, with enough slots to store and protect all of your new Japanese knives on a permanent basis.
This set contains so many knives of high quality that you can expect to pay a premium for that luxury.
- 12 piece set containing every Japanese knife you could need.
- Very sharp and will cut most things with ease.
- Japanese stainless steel which is typically very high quality.
- Shears and honing rod included
- Easy to clean saving you time after cooking.
- Includes bamboo storage block which often doesn't come as standard.
- Prone to rust spotting
- If you're a casual cook this may be out your price range.
The knives included in this 5-piece kitchen knife set from Yatoshi are as impressive in terms of functionality as they are in appearance.
Including an 8-inch chef’s knife, or Gyutou, plus a 7-inch and 5-inch Santoku, a utility knife, and a paring knife, this set is ergonomically and beautifully designed to facilitate enjoyable and high-quality cooking.
The high-carbon stainless steel blades are finely sharpened to 15° and textured with a flow pattern to make cutting through both meat and vegetables even easier.
The handles, meanwhile, are made of pakkawood and have a comfortable, soft feel as well as a balanced grip, enabling a combination of comfort and precision.
Between the blades and handles, Yatoshi has placed sloped bolsters for finger protection and to encourage a pinch grip for ultimate control and a more comfortable grip.
- 5 pieces
- 2 Santoku knives
- High-carbon stainless steel blades
- Textured flow pattern
- Soft pakkawood handles
- Sloped bolsters for control and comfort
- Some reports of quick rusting
Looking for a beautifully-crafted, yet minimalistic set of Japanese knives that will cater to the majority of your culinary needs with just 4 blades?
Then this set from Findking Dynasty is the one for you!
In this set, you will receive an 8-inch chef’s knife (Guykou), a 9-inch Kiritsuke (a high status, longer, and angled version of the Guykou, ideal for cutting fish), a 7.5-inch Nariki (straight-edged knife for cutting vegetables), and a 5-inch utility knife.
The blades are made from 3 layers of clad dimpled steel for excellent non-stick blade strength.
These blades are sharpened to 16° and will cut through just about anything with the exception of bone and frozen foods.
This knife set features octagonal rosewood handles which look simple, yet elegant and encourage a comfortable and stable grip.
The full-tang construction of the blade runs through the handle for added stability and precision.
The set comes in a red-lined gift box, so this is a perfect gift idea for anyone you know who loves to cook!
If we had to name a single drawback to this knife set is that it contains the fewest knives of all the sets we’ve reviewed in this article but is towards the higher price bracket.
Of course, the quality you receive for this price is outstanding, but this set is priced at a level that will be inaccessible to many people, especially for only 4 knives.
- Includes a Kiritsuke fish knife
- Dimpled clad steel blades
- Octagonal African rosewood handles
- Arrives in lined gift box
- Rusts easily
- Quantity of knives in the set compared to price is not great.
Best Japanese Knife Set Buying Guide
As you can see, there are some really excellent-quality Japanese knife sets currently available on the culinary market.
However, no two chefs work in exactly the same way, so every cook will have different preferences and priorities when it comes to the construction and features of their knives.
This buyer’s guide will separate the most important features of Japanese knife sets into sections to help you decide what you personally need or want in a set of Japanese knives.
Before all else, you will need to have an idea of what kind of knives you want to have in your set, as well as quantities.
We briefly touched on some of the most popular types of Japanese kitchen knives earlier, but to reiterate, most Japanese knife sets will include a Gyutou knife, which is the Japanese version of a standard Western-style chef’s knife.
Often, a paring knife (or Petty knife) will also be included, as well as a multi-purpose Santoku knife.
Other types of Japanese knives you may find in a Japanese knife set include a Sujihiki (slicing knife), a Nakiri (vegetable cleaver), and a Kiritsuke (fish knife). Some sets may also contain steak knives.
You will need to decide which knives you want to be included in your Japanese knife set based on what you usually cook (or want to cook).
You may also wish to think about whether you might want several versions of the same knife - for example, a Santoku knife in 2 different sizes for executing an even wider range of multipurpose cooking tasks.
Not all Japanese knife blades are made from the same material, so it’s important to take this factor into consideration before you make any final decisions.
Most Japanese knives are made from high-carbon stainless steel (or Japanese stainless steel, which has roughly a 1% carbon content). The use of stainless steel, in theory, prevents rusting, while the addition of carbon adds extra strength to the blade.
However, blades may still rust when exposed to water, so it’s important to perform the cleaning process properly every time (see FAQ section).
Additionally, blades can be stamped or forged. Stamping is the traditional method of blade construction for Japanese knives.
Stamped knives do tend to be less strong than forged knives, but they have the benefit of also being less expensive.
The lower strength rating of stamped knives isn’t necessarily a drawback, either; forged, high-carbon knives are very hard but may also be brittle, making them more likely to snap.
A slightly ‘weaker’ knife, on the other hand, will have more flexibility, which may help to make breakage less likely.
Sharpness is one of the most crucial things in a knife or set of knives for cooking. A dull knife will significantly slow your cutting speed and negatively impact your precision, so all blades should be carefully and finely sharpened.
Japanese knives are usually sharpened to anywhere between 15 and 20°, which is significantly sharper than your standard Western kitchen knife.
Most of the Japanese knives within the sets on our list are sharpened to between 13 and 16°.
If you want to sharpen your knives further upon receipt or after use, consider investing in a Japanese knife set that contains a honing rod (see Additional Features section).
If you want your Japanese knives to be comfortable to use for long periods of time (which we’re assuming you do), you will need to pay special attention to the handle material.
Many Japanese knives are constructed using expensive, high-quality handle materials such as pakkawood or African rosewood.
These materials are aesthetically appealing and contribute several structural benefits to the knife set overall.
Pakkawood, for example, is a form of human-engineered wood that is partially made with plastic resin.
Because of the added resin, pakkawood is more water-resistant than natural wood, so the cleaning process will be less of a concern in terms of damage risks.
African rosewood, meanwhile, is an entirely natural wood material. It is, however, an incredibly hard wood, so its use in the handle of a Japanese knife will contribute durability. It’s also quite a heavy type of wood, so it will add some weight to the knives for a more stable and satisfying grip.
Japanese knife handles made entirely of plastic resin are also available in some cases.
These might not necessarily be the most visually pleasing handles in the world, but they can still have a high-quality, professional feel and appearance.
Plastic resin handles are also very easy to clean thanks to the resin’s water-resistance.
Alternatively, you could opt for a polypropylene handle construction. Polypropylene, although again, not the highest quality material, is waterproof and resistant to heat and chemicals, which makes it ideal for knife handles.
It’s also a semi-rigid material, which means it’s strong but not so rigid as to be completely inflexible and brittle. This is an excellent balance of factors when it comes to durable knife construction, which is why our top choice knife set features polypropylene handles.
The good news is that all of these materials feel comfortable to use, so you can make a selection based on durability and easy cleaning knowing that you will also enjoy actually using the knives.
Along with the knives that make up a Japanese knife set, you may be lucky enough to receive some additional accessories or features.
Some Japanese knife sets will also include other cutting or sharpening utensils, such as shears and honing rods. If you do a lot of cooking with herbs and poultry, a pair of shears could be really useful to you.
If you’re one of those cooks who likes an extra sharp edge to their blades, a honing rod will probably be a worthwhile investment for you since you’ll be able to sharpen your blades as they dull with wear.
Some knife sets also come with accessories for storage. We recommend opting for sets that offer protective storage accessories in some capacity because high-quality Japanese knives are, generally speaking, quite costly, so protection between uses is essential.
This protection could take the form of individual sheaths or if you prefer, a solid knife block in which to keep all the knives in your set.
If you’re looking for a gift for somebody, a set of Japanese knives is a great choice, not only because they’re such beautiful, high-quality kitchen utensils, but also because they often come in appealing gift boxes or packaging!
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I clean my Japanese knives?
The first thing to remember when it comes to cleaning your new set of Japanese knives is that they should not be put into the dishwasher.
Even if they have been finished with a rust-resistant coating or are made with anti-corrosive materials, Japanese knives should be cleaned gently (but thoroughly!) and exposed to as little water and as few cleaning chemicals as possible to ensure longevity.
After you have finished cooking, we recommend immediately handwashing your Japanese knives in warm water with gentle washing up liquid.
If any food remnants are particularly stubborn, we would advise using a minimally abrasive scouring pad very gently to lift the food away.
Once the knives are clean, it’s best to dry them as soon as possible with a cloth to prevent any water from being absorbed by the handles or staining the blade.
Once clean and dry, the knives can be stored away either in their individual sheaths or in a knife block to keep them protected until the next use, as is the norm in Asian kitchens.
Why Are Japanese Carbon Steel Knives Popular?
Japanese carbon steel knives are popular and for good reason, here's why...
- Japanese carbon steel knives have a higher carbon content than most other carbon steel knives including German made carbon steel knives which means the Japanese knives are thinner yet sharper.
- They hold their sharp edge much longer than stainless steel will.
- They are lighter than other countries carbon steel knives.
- The Japanese are master craftsmen and take pride in EVERYTHING from the smallest ritual like making tea right through to forging steel, they believe if something is worth doing then it's worth doing right.
So that's why Japanese carbon blades are so popular.