Food & Drink

What is the best Japanese chef knife?

  • Last Updated:
  • Feb 1st, 2016 10:55 pm
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Deal Guru
Sep 2, 2008
10516 posts
825 upvotes
Don't worry too much about the brand. The brands we buy here from Japan are different usually from what you see in Tokyo. A lot of stuff in Tokyo is "unbranded" and the rest you won't even know who makes it. Spend an afternoon at kappabashi or tsukiji, if you are really into food go to both. If not, just tsukiji., look around the stores there and just pick something you like. There is no such thing as "the best Japanese chef knife".

You aren't going to Japan to buy a shun so that's out of the question. There is a masamoto store at tsukiji but I heard there are two different brands that go under masamoto name but not sure how that works.

To get an idea more of Japanese style knives in a Japanese store setting, I'd get familiar with the websites aframestokyo and metalmaster-ww. Unless you speak Japanese or have a translater I found it very hard to get info on knives at any store, but that was okay because I knew what i was looking for.

If you want more of a department store experience go to kiya. They sometimes sell unbranded shigefusa which are still $$ but the easiest way to get a shigefusa.
Sr. Member
Nov 4, 2006
780 posts
71 upvotes
I just came back from Japan, so I can offer some more intimate advice.

Knives in Japan are basically broken down to style and steel. With style, it's either Japanese or Western. With steel, you have:
1) European Stainless Steel
2) Japanese Carbon [blue or white]
3) Damascus
4) VG10 [stainless]
This is just a general guide and doesn't cover all the different types of steel. Each has it's pros and cons, but from what I've seen Japanese Carbon seems to be the most popular among tourists and professionals in Japan. Personally for the domestic cook, I would recommend VG10, which is a newer type of stainless steel with slightly less strength, durability and edge retention as Japanese Carbon, but is much more stain and rust resistant. In terms of style and handle, don't feel pressured into getting a Japanese style knife just because you're in Japan. Choose a knife with a handle that's comfortable in your hands, that has a nice weight to it and good balance.

A standard good quality Japanese kitchen knife will set you back between 10,000-30,000yen (approximately $120-325CDN), depending on make, quality and finish. More customized knives will run you an additional $50-100CDN. What's unique about Japan and the variety of knives available is the fact that the Japanese are specialists and make unique/specific knives for certain jobs. For example, they produce a short thick knives for cleaning and gutting eels, or long sharp blades for slicing whole loins of Tuna, etc.

If you're only going to Tokyo, than definitely check out Kappabashi (Kitchen town), as well as the outer boroughs of Tsukiji Market. More specifically in Kappabashi, you should check out Union Commerce, Tsubuya World, Kamata and Niimi. I would recommend you stay away from Kamaasa and Zwilling J.A. Henckels shop, both of which are overpriced imho. Though Kamaasa does offer great customer service, with multiple staff speaking perfect English, but if you look carefully, you'll notice the same knives at the aforementioned shops for 10-20% cheaper.
Deal Fanatic
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Sep 1, 2005
6133 posts
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Markham
The Canterbury Tail wrote:
Jan 22nd, 2016 8:59 am
Go to Kappabashi in Tokyo and go around the knife stores there. Find a knife that speaks to you and feels good in your hands. It's easy for everyone to say "this is the best Japanese knife" or that one is, but it's all individual preference. Feel them, look at them, you'll find one that calls to you and get that one.
+1

Best advice here. Unless you're buying just to impress as opposed to cook.
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Deal Addict
Feb 13, 2007
1169 posts
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nanobu wrote:
Jan 22nd, 2016 2:27 am
What did he charge?
No idea. This was a couple years ago, and part of a larger sharpening job. You can always call and ask.
Deal Addict
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Jan 20, 2009
1682 posts
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Toronto
If you have money then below lol;

Bob Kramer Knives

"That was 1994. Since then I have become one of 120 Master Bladesmiths in the US. To earn this title from the American Bladesmith Society, one must undergo years of study and then pass a Master's Test. The test required building a 10" Bowie knife made of 300+ layers of steel. This one knife had to cut through a 1" free hanging rope in one swing, chop through a two-by-four twice, shave a swatch of arm hair (after the two-by-four), and finally, bend the blade at a 90 degree angle without the blade breaking. If you succeed, then you submit five flawless knives (including a 15th century Quillion dagger, a very difficult knife to make) to a panel of judges."

It's pretty impressive LOL. there are some people on youtube trying to forge a knife knife by doing the above tests mentioned. Pretty neat documentary also on blade forging.
Newbie
Dec 2, 2006
8 posts
3 upvotes
Been using my Global knives for at least 10 years now and have never needed sharpening.
Always amazed at how they can maintain their sharpness for so long.
Deal Addict
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Oct 9, 2010
2117 posts
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Windsor
I have a Shun Classic 8" and a Santoku Premier; stay sharp a long time, easy to sharpen (seems like a stupid thing to say, but they're just easy to keep a nice edge when sharpening), nice weight, and they look nice.

Note: I've never used any other "good" knives, so my comparison is against Wusthoff, Henkells, etc. , not the calibre of knives you are comparing.
Deal Guru
Sep 2, 2008
10516 posts
825 upvotes
Deeman wrote:
Jan 29th, 2016 10:56 am
Been using my Global knives for at least 10 years now and have never needed sharpening.
Always amazed at how they can maintain their sharpness for so long.
You should get them professionally sharpened anyways and be amazed at the difference.
Deal Addict
Aug 4, 2007
1130 posts
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Toronto
Like others have mentioned none of the ones you were thinking. Those are mass production knives with nothing "special" to them. With the traditional Japanese knife you will not be looking at stainless and will need better upkeep. I would suggest you reconsider if you want to blow the money without the knowledge of what constitutes a good knife coming out of japan. For something unique with tradition at the low end you will be looking at $3-500 CAD per knife, and if you don't truly appreciate it I'd stay with a production knife and just keep it sharpened.

Bob kramer has a decent line with henckles that I'm a fan of, super sharp out of box as it's below 15 degree edge, keeps your stainless, and pricepoint isn't wallet breaking. A true Bob Kramer is... well... as much as a car...
Deal Expert
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Nov 15, 2004
16250 posts
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Toronto
Deeman wrote:
Jan 29th, 2016 10:56 am
Been using my Global knives for at least 10 years now and have never needed sharpening.
Always amazed at how they can maintain their sharpness for so long.
I'm very happy with mine as well. I just need to learn how to sharpen them myself.

I was gifted a Misono chef's knife that I use pretty regularly as well, but the Globals are prettier and work about the same.
Could HAVE, not could OF. What does 'could of' even mean?
Deal Addict
Jan 19, 2008
1696 posts
224 upvotes
you might find knives easier just buying online imo, most sought after makers/knives are usually also hard to find locally in japan... last long time with min maintenance is tricky as most good knives require regular touchups to keep you over until you need to put a new edge on it. You would be looking a stainless or semi stainless instead of Carbon if you want a knive you don't need to take care of while you use it. SG2 is powdered metal and would be on the chippier side of things since they are usually at a higher HRC, but then again it depends on your use and technique.
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Deal Addict
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Sep 23, 2014
1679 posts
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Toronto, ON
The brands that you mentioned are mass produced & marketed knives and are not a true representation of Japanese knife making skills by traditional artisans. While they are good, they come nowhere close to true hand forged, shaped and polished knives such as Shigefusa or Takeda. I also suggest you NOT buy the knives during your trip to Japan as you may run into communication issues with the local dealers. The places that cater to tourist usually do not carry the real deal and you might walk away disappointed. There is a local Japanese knife shop in downtown toronto called Tosho Knife arts - https://toshoknifearts.com/ and the owner (with deep understanding of the local Japanese blacksmith culture) imports the hand forged knives directly from the blacksmith in Japan and his prices are very reasonable.

He'll even teach you know to properly maintain the knives to keep them in tip top condition. Lastly, unless you are going for stainless steel Japanese knives which are far inferior than true carbon steel (tendency to rust), you'll need to learn how to sharpen and maintain them with Japanese wetstones. It can quickly become addictive and once you've experience true carbon steel knives, you'll never look back :) The beauty of Japanese knives and hand sharpening one can change the cutting profile of the blade based on your personal preference.

Below are some pictures of my own Shigefusa knives after six months of heavy use and about 1 hour of sharpening and polishing:

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6foYJB0ip_A
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Sr. Member
Feb 26, 2009
748 posts
116 upvotes
I use a Global SAI 7.5" chef knife. Heavier than the Global Classic chef knife.

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