Japan has a long history of excellence when it comes to bladed tools. After all, it’s where the Samurai hailed from. And while that elite warrior class has since died off, the Japanese are still abundantly talented when it comes to making knives – a fact that’s especially apparent in the culinary world.
But, while most people are probably familiar with Japanese chef’s knives, there are also a number of everyday carry blades to come out of the land of the rising sun that are more than worth consideration. Whether you’re looking for an incredibly simple but reliable friction folder or an heirloom EDC knife to be passed down for generations, there’s one from Japan or inspired by the Asian island nation that fits the bill perfectly. And that’s what we’ve put together in the following list: ten of the best everyday carry knives made in or inspired by Japan and the islands’ rich culture.
There is beauty in simplicity. Or at least that’s the case with the Nagao Higonokami folding knife. This brass and blue paper steel knife is about as simple and straightforward as it gets: a metal handle with a hinged reverse-tanto blade, It has no lock, no extraneous styling, and even the lever deployment is just an extension of the blade. But still, this friction folder is a superb EDC knife for those who don’t want to fuss around with a bunch of stuff they don’t really need.
Kershaw 2155 Indian Forge
While Kershaw is almost certainly more well known for their modern-styled EDC folders, this deep cut from their past is a supreme example of the grace in both form and function this brand has to offer. This unfortunately discontinued blade is 6 1/8″ in overall length, features a sturdy AUS6 stainless steel blade mated to a stainless steel handle with rosewood inlays, and the whole thing closes down to just 2 3/4″ total. It’s an unusual design from Kershaw, but it’s one we’re glad can still be found for purchase.
Best Made Japanese Higo Knife
Another simple-yet-beautiful Japanese-style friction folding knife, Best Made’s Higo features a hand-hammered laminated white steel blade attached to a simple one-piece metal handle. And, one of the coolest things about this offering from Best Made, is that each of these knives is made exclusively for the brand by a Japanese father-son team. Plus, if you pick one of these gorgeous friction folders up, it will ship alongside a knife handbook loaded with info on care and sharpening.
Shun DM5900 Higo Nokami
Interestingly enough, Shun is actually the kitchen cutlery off-shoot of the parent company of both Kershaw and Zero Tolerance. So it’s a little bit surprising that they would make a Japanese folding knife. Still, the execution is spot-on. Not only does this stellar higonokami offer excellent cutting power, but it’s also fitted with a simple lever deployment and no lock of which to speak. And while the brand’s intention with this knife is for people to use it as a portable steak knife, we are of the mind that it would certainly function just as well as an EDC blade.
Certainly one of the more modern offerings on our list, CRKT’s Raikiri was designed by Dew Hara out of Seki, Japan – the island nation’s mecca of knife-making. It shares its name with a legendary sword said to have cleaved a lightning bolt in two. And while the merits of that tale are questionable, this knife is formidable nonetheless. It’s equipped with a stainless steel wharncliffe blade, a cold-forged aluminum handle, and it features CRKT’s Field Strip Technology – which allows you to take the knife apart for cleaning without the use of tools.
If you are going to make a knife called the “Katana,” you’re setting a pretty high bar. Thankfully, Mcusta ended up with this superb blade that more than fits the part. With a design mimicking the swords of the samurai, this gorgeous EDC knife features a superb VG-10 tanto blade sure to keep a razor-sharp edge. And it’s mated to an anodized aluminum handle with a built-in liner lock. The Katana is equal parts high-quality EDC cutter and a beautiful piece of gear anyone could be proud to carry around daily.
Made by hand, each Moki Kronos manual-deployment pocket knife features a VG-10 3-inch blade. And it’s mated to a unique metal and jigged bone handle sure to make an impression on everyone that sees it. Best of all, the incredible quality of this Japanese-made knife will ensure that it will last for generations of use. And, in case you want to keep it protected for as long as possible, each of them comes with a carry pouch. Fun fact: this knife is actually a recreation of a Spyderco knife released some years ago.
Al Mar Eagle
Some EDC knives see a lot of punishment. But not all are equipped to deal with it. The Al Mar Eagle, however, is as tough as they come. This lock back folding knife is fitted with a sturdy AUS8 stainless steel blade that’s mated to a G10 handle. That means the blade will survive through extensive use and the lightweight handle can bear plenty of punishment, as well. While some might think the materials of this knife are not reflected in its cost, the Eagle is a workhorse that’s worth every penny.
Seki Cut SC-100B Bob Lum Large Encounter
This limited edition folding blade is an older model, but its still one of the best Japanese folders that money can buy. A part of that is because, with its all-black facade, it’s a handsome tool. But more of the value can be credited to the materials used in its construction – like D2 steel for the blade and an anodized aluminum handle. If you like this blade, it’s worth pointing out that you might want to act quickly, as they likely won’t be making it again.
It might seem like a big jump to shell out almost $800 for a Japanese folding knife, but this one is definitely worth all of it. From the gorgeously crafted YXR7 DLC polished blade to the duralumin handle, this pocket folder is the definition of excellence. It’s also worth noting that the process by which the blade is given a mirrored finish is a meticulous one, requiring five different stages of sanding and an incredibly amount of attention paid to the details. If you wan’t a Japanese knife and only the best will do, this one is definitely up there.
Best Heirloom EDC Knives
When you’re ready to invest in a really good everyday carry blade, consider picking up one that will last for generations – like one of these 10 best heirloom EDC knives.