When we started testing Japanese Kitchen Knives for this article, we wanted to explore the fabled world of what are considered some of the best knifes for cooking in the world. Although Japanese Kitchen Knives are famous for their razor sharp edges – the term has grown to more specifically refer to the angel that the blade is actually sharpened on the knife. In other words a German or Swiss knife manufacturer can ( and is ) now producing what is termed a Japanese kitchen knife.
Japan is famous for it’s fish based cuisine including sushi which is as much presentation as it is for consumption. Because of the artistic nature of Japanese cooking – the importance of razor sharp knives is more important than its German Steel cousin which isn’t finished as sharp as the Japanese steel knives. Typically Japanese Knives are sharpened to a 16 degree angle – making them very sharp. ( German steel is usually sharpened to 22 degrees ). The drawback is that the blade is more susceptible to nicks and damage to the blade and tip.
Japanese knives are created in two different classes of construction which are called Honyaki and Kasumi. Honyaki knives are made from a single compound – often most evident in what appears to be blue steel. The Kasumi forged blades are often made from high carbon steel such as blue or white steel and then forged with a soft iron called Jigane. Both types of construction are considered equal depending on who you talk to but generally the Kasumi knife is more ridged and there for more tolerant to being dropped or cutting bone etc.
When Japanese knives are made, the blade construction is called San Mai and refers to the blades edge and is the process of hardening the edge of the blade. Japanese chef’s refer to something called Kirenaga which is how long the blade can keep it’s edge before sharpening.
Many of the Best Japanese Chef’s Knifes are Made By Hand Using Thousand Year Old Techniques.
In ancient times, all Japanese Knives were made from carbon steel ( Katana ) and over the centuries these knives have taken on new construction techniques depending on the craftsman. Stainless steel is often used for Japanese knives in modern times, but San Mai – or a laminated blade are still used in the best knives.
All Japanese knifes originate from the Sakia – the capital of where the famed Samurai swords were created in the 14th century. After Samurai sword production was banned in the late 1800’s, many sword manufacturers turned their skills to knife production.
This creates a level of fascination in the Western World for Japanese kitchen knives that are made with the same techniques and tradition that the ancient sword makers used to create the sharpest, most feared swords in the world – which legend says can cut a single hair in half.
Larger Japanese Kitchen Knives often have a hammered finish to the blade which is called Tsuchime. This process eliminates food sticking to the blade as well as knife drag ( when suction to the material being cut causes resistance )
In helping our readers find the best Japanese Knives in the world, we wanted though to stay true to the tradition of a knife from a Japanese manufacturer. There are a variety of excellent brands on the market that we will cover in depth below.
- Yoshihiro Cutlery Hammered Damascus Gyuto Knife, 7-Inch: The Yoshihiro Damascus Chef knife is made of 16 layers of VG-10 Gold and has a hand hammered finish ( also called Japanese Super Steel ) The knife features a mahogany handle and double edged blade finished at 16 degrees for a razor sharp cutting edge.
- Shun Premier Chef’s Knife, 8-Inch: This beautiful 8 inch Japanese Kitchen Knife is as beautiful as it is functional. tasks. The knife features an 8-inch blade with a carefully engineered curve that allows for smooth rapid cutting. Built from layered Damascus steel, the knife’s blade comes with a hand-crafted hammered finish that reduces suction and knife drag when cutting and prevents food from sticking to the blade. The handle is finished with Pakkawood which offers a secure and comfortable grip.
- YOSHIHIRO – Japanese blue steel Kuro Uchi chef knife Gyuto 9.5″:This Gyuto Hand crafted Blue Japanese high carbon steel with beautiful hand carved Shitan Handle is made by the famed Yoshihiro Knife Company. Double edge blade sharpened to a 16 degree finish. Highly recommended for Sushi preparation.
- ZHEN Japanese VG-10 Damascus Dragon Gyuto Chef Knife, 9.5-Inch: Made of VG-10 67 layer Damascus stainless steel knife features 33 layers of steel on each side of the knife. The damascus pattern on the blade reduces drag and sticking food. Handle constructed of oval shaped Pakkawood.
- Shun Edo BB1503 8-1/2-Inch Chef’s Knife: A classic combination of tradition and modern design, this 8.5 inch Japanese Chef knife is precision forged from a single piece of VG10 Super Steel. The knife is balanced and features a hammered tshchime blade finish. Handle is made of resin impregnated Pakkawood.
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