What is Japanese Steel?

Steel has been produced for years, and when compared to iron, it was much stronger and less expensive.

The Japanese steel was core to the extraordinary progress of the age, and it has been used in the construction of ships, buildings, and railroads.

Japanese steel is the steel of choice for exclusive and premium tools such as knives, scissors, and blades.

Japanese steel is known for its strength and precision, showcased in infomercials, mostly the chopping capabilities of Japanese knives. Here is a guide that sheds light on Japanese steel.

Types of Japanese Steel

Types of steel and its processes determine the quality of Japanese steel. When iron and carbon are mixed, you get steel. There are two types of Japanese steel, namely:

Carbon steel – It is easy to sharpen, hard, sharp but rusts easily.

Stainless steel – It does not rust easily and is not as sharp as a carbon steel knife. Recent processes have led to some stainless steel being hard and sharp as carbon steel.

How to look at Steel Types

There are many different types of steel to choose from with different properties, and when buying one, it can be daunting.

To know which knife or blade you will buy depends on the task you will be performing, and these properties make a huge difference.

Hardness and Grain Structure

The performance of Japanese steel is determined by hardness and grain structure. The level of sharpness, how long it can hold that sharpness, and durability that can be achieved are all determined by hardness and grain structure.

Harness Rockwell C is the common scale of hardness and it is usually abbreviated as HRC. This common scale works by the higher the number the harder the steel

is. Japanese steels always range between 58 and 68 HRC, while other knives range between 52 and 68 HRC. Most western knives don’t surpass 59 HRC explaining their quality level.

The lower-end scale gives you durable steel that is less likely to chip. However, its disadvantage is that the steel will not hold an edge over a long time and will not be as sharp as other steels that are harder.

The other end of the common scale gives you very hard steel, which holds a fine edge for a longer time, and it will also be sharper. The only disadvantage is that the steel will be more prone.


The durability of Japanese steel is its ability to withstand damage such as bending, cutting something hard, or twisting. A softer steel is more durable, whereas harder steel is less durable.

The bad thing about a durable knife is that it will not be that sharp for a long time.

Comparatively, a durable knife is ideal for performing harder tasks such as slicing blocks of cheese, cutting winter squash in half, and cutting the bonus.


Nobody likes using a blunt knife. Sharpness is the ability of a Japanese knife to cut through something. When steel is harder, it has a better edge.

Gain structure comes in handy in this criteria. When the gain structure is finer, then the edge will become sharper.

A good example is VG10 and Silver Steel which has a much finer grain. It improves its ability to become much sharper.

Edge retention

As the name suggests, the steel can hold its edge over a long time. It determined by many things, among them the hardness of the steel.

For example, hard Japanese steel holds an edge over a long time, whereas soft steel quickly becomes dull.

This property has made Japanese steel to be long-lasting and increase its usability.

Ease of sharpening

The ease of sharpening is determined by the hardness and grain structure. The harder the Japanese steel is, the more difficult it will be to sharpen it.

When the grain structure is finer, then it will sharpen easily.

To explain the ease of sharpening, white steel No. 1 is hard, has a fine grain structure, and is easy to sharpen.

On the other hand, AUS-10 is Japanese steel with a bigger grain structure and is hard to sharpen.

Final thoughts

If you are looking for cutlery made from Japanese steel, there must be varying degrees of quality.

Do your little research, take great caution of imposters and work with trustworthy vendors.

When choosing Japanese steel, it is important to consider the following things, they include:

  • Hardness and grain structure
  • Durability
  • Sharpness
  • Edge retention
  • Ease of sharpening

When you buy a piece of equipment made from Japanese steel, it’s a safe bet investment that will guarantee you of quality.