While there are many pieces of gear that have the potential to be well-built regardless of where they are from, there are also specific regions known for certain types. Japan, for instance, is known for making superb denim. But there is also something else for which the Asian island and its native craftsmen are known: knives.
More specifically, some of the best kitchen cutlery in the world comes from that small island nation on the eastern side of the Pacific ocean. And that’s a pretty huge deal, considering that a knife is arguably the most important tool any cook can have in their arsenal. It is with this in mind that we put together the following list of the 10 best chef knives made by Japanese craftsman, in Japan, and/or from Japanese materials. If you count yourself a foodie, these kitchen tools are not to be missed.
Kyocera Advanced Ceramic Chef Knife
Perhaps better known for their electronics, Kyocera also makes a number of solid products out of ceramic — this chef’s knife being one of them. And it’s an impressive cutting tool for a number of reasons, including its stark black blade which boasts the ability to stay sharp 10 times better than traditional steels, is completely rustproof, and is remarkably lightweight. For a unique kitchen cutting tool that won’t break the bank, you can’t go wrong with this one.
Blade: Zirconia Ceramic
Handle: Pakka Wood
Yoshihiro Aoko Petty Chef Knife
Blue Paper Steel is heralded around the world as one of the best steels, especially when used to create kitchen cutlery. And that’s one of the many reasons the Yoshihiro Aoko Petty chef knife is worth consideration for any serious cook. It also boasts a durable and lightweight Pakka wood handle, can be purchased with or without an optional cover, and comes with a limited lifetime warranty.
Blade: Blue Steel #2
Handle: Pakka Wood
Masahiro 14904 MVH Chef Knife
Though we certainly wouldn’t call it flashy, the Masahiro 14904 MVH chef knife wins points for its solid and reliable construction. This no-nonsense kitchen tool features a blade shape that’s ideal for utilitarian cutting tasks ranging from thinly slicing vegetables to carving the perfect cut of meat. It also has a blade made from steel that comes from the VG-10 family (like many high-end EDC knives), has a unique and remarkably slim asymmetrical edge, and boasts a bacteria-resistant plastic composite handle.
Handle: Plastic Composite
Miyabi Artisan SG2 Chef’s Knife
Significantly more flashy than some of its low-end counterparts, Miyabi’s Artisan SG2 chef’s knife is a lot more than a pretty face — with its durable cocobolo Pakka wood handle, marvelous hand-crafted stainless steel blade, and ergonomic shape. The perfect workhorse kitchen blade, this knife was made by master craftsmen in Seki, Japan (the nation’s knife-making capital), it comes with a lifetime warranty, and it is definitely of the caliber to become both a beloved heirloom cutting tool and a lifelong workhorse.
Handle: Cocobolo Pakka Wood
Miyabi Mizu SG2 Chef’s Knife
With a striking contrast between its black, textured Micarta handle and hand-hammered SG2 stainless steel blade, this remarkable kitchen cutting tool is handsome enough to make you do a double take. But, with its premium materials, superb construction, and lifetime warranty, it’s ready for double duty — even if you’re a professional chef who doesn’t take days off.
ZDP-189 Bunka Black Chef Knife
Anytime a maker or brand spends literal years perfecting a design, you should expect it to be something special. But, even then, sometimes our expectations are surpassed — as is the case with Sharp Edge’s ZDP-189 Bunka Black chef knife. With a remarkably handsome stylistic geometric design, this knife is their bestseller. And it isn’t just looks, either, as the rosewood handle is mated to a remarkable ZDP-189 blade. And that’s not all, it was also handmade in Japan by craftsmen who specialize in the same traditional techniques once used to build samurai swords.
Shun Hiro SG2 Chef’s Knife
One of the brands under the same umbrella as everyday carry brands Kershaw and Zero Tolerance, Shun has built their Hiro SG2 chef’s knife with a blade crafted from a whopping 32 layers of Damascus steel — a blade material of legendary proportions for its ability to hold and maintain a razor-sharp edge. It also features a remarkable black and red striated Pakka wood handle with an inlaid mosaic samurai family crest. Furthermore, the tsuchime finish on its VG-10-family steel blade — as handcrafted by master artisans in Seki, Japan — makes for a gorgeous and insanely reliable cutting tool.
Handle: Pakka Wood
Hinoki S1 Gyuto Chef’s Knife
From a design standpoint, the Hinoki S1 Gyuto chef’s knife might just be the most beautiful and minimalist of the offerings on our list. But it’s also one of the most remarkably crafted — the result of a black-finished carbon steel blade made from White Steel #1 (the closest material to that used in traditional Japanese swords) and an ergonomic wood handle. The perfect meshing of high-quality construction and eye-catching style, this stunner is sure to be your go-to knife for years and years to come.
Blade: Black Carbon 1
Handle: Charred Walnut, American Walnut, or European Oak
Korin Ginsan-Ko Kiritsuke
Don’t let its spartan appearance fool you — this is a high-end knife used by some of the finest Japanese chefs the world has ever seen. Named for its resemblance to a Japanese sword, the Korin Ginsan-Ko Kiritsuke is capable of making some of the finest and most precise cuts a human hand can manage, is rust-resistant for a long functional life, and serves as a symbol of prestige unlike any other that will set your kitchen apart to anyone with a discerning eye and palate.
Handle: Yew Wood
Togiharu Ao-Ko Suminagashi Hogasumi Yanagi
While its long, thin blade might make it look like a sword, this is actually a precision-crafted premium chef knife made from some of the finest materials in the world — including a Blue Paper Steel blade made via a process called suminagashi, a Japanese marbling commonly seen in paper art. The blade is painstakingly hand-crafted from 16 layers of folded steel, making this one of the most impressively crafted knives of all time. If you’re the type for whom only the best will do, go no further than this Japanese chef knife.
Blade: Blue Paper Steel
Handle: Magnolia Wood
10 Best USA-Made Chef Knives
Perhaps the only county that can rival Japan when it comes to well-built chef knives is the USA. If your kitchen is missing a high-quality American cutting tool, look no further than the ones on our list of the best USA-made chef knives.