A sharp set of knives is a must-have for both professional chefs and passionate home cooks. For many, a knife set is an investment: A high-quality set can last a lifetime.
Japanese knives have earned a stellar reputation for their sharpness, precision, and quality. The best Japanese knife set includes a range of sharp and versatile knives for daily cooking tasks. Keep reading to learn more about the qualities of the best Japanese knife sets and explore some of the top picks on the market.
- BEST OVERALL: Shun Classic 6-Piece Slim Knife Block Set
- RUNNER-UP: Imarku Japanese Knife Set, 16-Piece
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Kepeak Kitchen Knife Set 5-Piece
- UPGRADE PICK: Dalstrong Knife Set Block—Shogun Series Elite Set
- MOST VERSATILE: Ginsu Gourmet Chikara Series Forged 19-Piece
- MOST DURABLE: Global 7-Piece Ikasu Knife Block Set
- ALSO CONSIDER: Yatoshi 7 Knife Set—Pro Kitchen Knife Set
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Japanese Knife Set
A delicious meal starts with prepping ingredients, usually calling for some chopping or dicing. A sharp, well-balanced, and versatile knife set makes prepping a breeze, whether for slicing tomatoes or deboning poultry. When choosing a Japanese knife set, consider the types of knives and their material, durability, size, weight, versatility, and any included accessories.
Japanese knives come in a wide range of knife types, each designed for a different purpose. Below are some of the types of knives shoppers can expect to see in a set:
- Gyuto: This larger knife is equivalent to a European chef’s knife and is a general utility knife for cutting meat or vegetables. With a slightly curved blade, it can cut in a chopping or rocking motion.
- Santoku: With a slightly smaller size and shorter tip than a Gyuto knife, a Santoku knife is another all-purpose knife but usually cuts with a chopping motion. The Santoku is excellent for cutting vegetables, meat, and fish.
- Sujihiki: These knives are similar to European slicers but typically have a thinner blade that allows for a more precise cut. They are ideal for filleting or carving meat.
- Honesuki: A Honesuki knife is the Japanese version of a boning knife, intended for deboning and preparing poultry.
- Nakiri: This sturdy knife has a rectangular shape with a straight blade. The blade is popular for slicing vegetables and for chopping hard produce, such as squash and melons.
- Usaba: Another type of vegetable knife, this traditional model has a very thin and sharp blade for precisely slicing vegetables to create very thin or decorative cuts.
- Petty: Similar to a paring knife, this smaller knife is ideal for cutting small fruits and vegetables and for delicate cutting work, such as chopping fragile herbs and produce.
- Yanagiba: Most popularly used for slicing blocks of fish, this angled knife is often used to prepare sashimi and nigiri sushi since it allows for clean, smooth cuts in a long drawing motion.
- Deba: With a thick spine and a weighty design, this knife is used for gutting, filleting, and preparing fish.
Quality and Durability
When shopping for a Japanese knife set, there are a few features that can contribute to quality and durability, including the tang, cutting edge, material, and manufacturing process.
- Tang: High-quality knives are made from a single piece of steel that extends into the handle for stability. The section of the steel that extends into the handle is called the “tang.” Full-tang knives have a steel piece that extends the entire length of the handle, while partial-tang knives extend partially into the handle. A full-tang blade tends to be sturdier and more durable.
- Cutting edge: On a double-bevel blade, the cutting edge tapers symmetrically to each side. Single-bevel blades taper to only one side. Single-bevel blades often have a narrower cutting angle, which helps them make very precise and thin cuts. Many Western knives have a double-bevel blade, while traditional Japanese knives have a single-bevel blade. However, when it comes to newer Japanese knives, options are available in both double- and single-bevel blades. Double-bevel blades are easier for the average home cook to use.
- Material: Common materials include carbon steel, stainless steel, and high-carbon stainless steel. Carbon steel is a hard material that is easier to resharpen. However, it is prone to rust, stains, or chips without proper care, which involves carefully cleaning and drying the blade after each use. Traditional Japanese knives are made of a type of carbon steel called “hagane.” Since carbon steel is harder to maintain, modern residential knives are often made from other kinds of steel. Stainless steel is an easy-to-maintain blade material that is rust- and stain-resistant. The material is less fragile than carbon steel, requiring less maintenance. Another popular material for modern Japanese-style knives is high-carbon stainless steel. As its name suggests, this type of stainless steel has a higher carbon content than regular stainless steel. This higher carbon content provides many of the benefits of carbon steel, such as its ability to maintain a razor-sharp edge, but makes the blade less prone to rust or stains.
- Forged vs. stamped: Knife blades are manufactured in either a forging or stamping process. To make forged blades, a bar of steel alloy is heated up and pounded to form the knife shape. Forged knives tend to be heavier and have a bolster (the thick ridge of steel between the blade and the handle). On the other hand, stamped blades are cut or stamped out directly from a sheet of steel. These knives typically feel lighter and usually don’t have a bolster. Forged knives tend to have a better reputation when it comes to quality, but some well-made stamped knives now rival the quality of forged knives.
Japanese knife sets often include knives of varying lengths, depending on the knife types included. Different kitchen-knife lengths are well suited to different food-prep tasks.
For example, a short petty knife (similar to a paring knife) is excellent for cutting delicate produce or for making small, decorative cuts. On the other hand, a Sujihiki (which resembles a slicer) has a long blade ideal for carving meat, since it can create long, smooth strokes.
Depending on the knife set, a range of knife lengths may be included. Users should consider choosing a set that best covers their daily food-prepping habits.
The ideal handle material depends on personal preference. Common handle materials include wood, plastic, and stainless steel.
Wood handles have a smooth grip and an attractive look. However, since wood is a porous material, these handles can hold on to bacteria. These handles can also crack or warp with water exposure, so they need to be hand-washed. They also benefit from an occasional polish to maintain their attractive sheen.
Plastic handles are less porous and won’t absorb germs but can become brittle or crack over time. These handles tend to be lighter and may feel too light in hand for some users. Plastic handles can come in a range of attractive colors and patterns.
Stainless steel is durable and sanitary but can feel slippery. The presence of indents can help make a handle safer to use. Stainless steel handles tend to make a knife heavier.
When it comes to handle design, Western knives typically have a bolster and tang with a riveted handle. Generally, these handles are smaller but heavier, placing more weight on the knife handle. They can be made of a range of nonporous materials such as plastics, steel, or cured wood.
Traditional Japanese knife handles often have a hidden tang with no rivets, which gives them their sleek look. Compared to the handles of Western-style knives, they tend to have a lighter and larger cylindrical handle that is commonly made of wood. The lighter handle means the weight distribution is toward the blade.
Weight and Balance
For many chefs and serious home cooks, the weight and balance of a knife is an important feature. Factors such as the knife tang, distal tapering, and bolster can affect a knife’s weight and balance.
A full tang, where the metal extends throughout the handle, will contribute to a heavier knife. Thicker distal tapering (the blade tapering as it nears the handle) and the presence of a bolster will also make for a heavier knife. Each of these features helps to balance a knife and make it feel nicer to use. Since these features are often closer to the handle, they can create a weightier handle, which affects balance. Knives without these features tend to have a lighter handle and are more blade heavy.
Japanese knives are typically lighter than Western knives and balanced toward the blade. Western knives are heavier and have a more neutral balance. The ideal weight and balance will depend on personal preference.
One benefit of buying a knife set is that it will include a range of versatile knives for different cooking needs. A Japanese knife set with three to five knives may be enough for a beginner cook or everyday cooking, but those who spend a lot of time experimenting in the kitchen may want to consider a knife set with more pieces.
Multipurpose knives like the Gyuto and Santoku are common in Japanese knife sets because they perform well for chopping common foods like vegetables and meats. A smaller knife like a petty knife is also very useful for slicing fruits or small cutting jobs that don’t call for a larger knife.
Style and Accessories
Most Japanese knife sets are rather subdued in style, with a classic look and neutral colors. Materials such as silver steel blades and stainless steel, black plastic, or natural wooden handles give them a clean look that should suit most kitchens.
Knife sets can include a variety of useful accessories. Many knife sets include a knife block to store knives safely and prevent damage to the blade. Scissors are another useful tool that may come with larger sets.
Some knife sets include honing rods for knife maintenance. These steel rods help to realign the sharp cutting edge of a knife.
Our Top Picks
A high-quality set of Japanese knives will live up to its reputation of having razor-sharp blades and balanced handles for precise cutting. The following top picks are sharp and versatile Japanese knife sets to help make preparing food easy and enjoyable.
Handcrafted in Seki, Japan, this knife set brings Japanese craftsmanship to residential kitchens. This six-piece set from Shun includes three knives, a pair of scissors, and a honing steel. This simple set enables the home cook to tackle a range of food-prepping tasks as well as maintain the knife set.
The blades are made from Shun’s proprietary VG-MAX steel with layers of stainless Damascus steel over the top. The steel layers add durability and stain resistance as well as give the blade its rippled pattern. To maintain the sharp knife edge, a 9-inch honing steel is included. All of the pieces are stored in the included knife block.
Each double-bevel blade is razor-sharp for safe chopping and dicing. The black pakkawood handles are smooth to the touch and moisture-resistant for sleek durability.
- Knife types: 3.5-inch paring, 7-inch Santoku, 8-inch chef’s
- Materials: Stainless steel blade and pakkawood handle
- Accessories: Kitchen shears, honing steel, and knife block
- Stylish set
- Includes honing tool and scissors
- Handcrafted in Japan
Get the Shun Japanese knife set on Amazon.
Made from high-carbon German stainless steel, this 16-piece knife set from Imarku is crafted in the Japanese style to provide high-quality knives that even professional chefs can enjoy at home. The rugged pakkawood handles are durable and feel sleek in the hand while providing great counterweight to the blade.
The set also includes a pair of kitchen shears and a honing steel, which are stored together with the knives in the stylish wooden block. Two chef’s knives and a Santoku are the standout knives here, along with the smaller slicing, paring, and utility knives. To complete the set, there are six steak knives that are sure to impress guests at a dinner party.
To maximize longevity, it is recommended that users clean these knives by hand and avoid the dishwasher if possible.
- Knife types: 8-inch chef’s, 8-inch slicing, 8-inch bread, 7-inch Santoku, 6-inch chef’s, 3.5-inch paring, 5-inch utility, and six 5-inch steak knives
- Materials: Stainless steel blade and pakkawood handle
- Accessories: Kitchen shears, a honing steel, and knife block
- Stylish set
- Includes honing tool and scissors
- High-quality German steel
Get the Imarku Japanese knife set on Amazon.
Designed with Damascus steel in mind, this five-piece knife set is made for daily cooking tasks. The set includes a chef’s knife, two Santoku knives, a cleaver, and a paring knife. Each knife is made with high-carbon stainless steel but is not genuine Damascus steel. This limits their longevity compared to pricier options but allows shoppers a stylish set of knives to start with at an accessible price point.
The polished handle is made of smooth pakkawood, which shows a sophisticated natural-grain pattern. Although this set does not include a knife block, each knife comes with a protective sleeve that helps to maintain the sharp edge of the blade.
- Knife types: 3.5-inch paring, 5-inch Santoku, 7-inch Santoku, 7-inch cleaver, 8-inch chef’s
- Materials: High-carbon stainless steel
- Accessories: Blade covers for each knife
- Great aesthetic
- Suitable for most kitchen tasks
- Not dishwasher recommended
- Included blade covers can break easily
- Not made with real Damascus steel
Get the Kepeak Japanese knife set on Amazon.
Made with AUS-10 steel—a strong type of steel produced by Aichi Steel in Tokai, Japan—these precise knives from Dalstrong perform beautifully in the kitchen. Five knives are included in this set: an 8-inch chef’s knife, a 7-inch Santoku knife, a 6-inch utility knife, an 8-inch bread knife, and a 3.5-inch paring knife. The knives all fit in the acacia wood knife block for storing.
Each knife has a steel core surrounded by 67 layers of high-carbon stainless steel, providing strength and stain resistance. The hammered-blade finish gives each knife a dimpled look that is sleek and upscale, combining utility with aesthetics. These small divots not only look nice but also prevent food from sticking to the blade while chopping.
The handles are made out of G-10, a fiberglasslike material that is nonporous and smooth. The full-tang design and triple-riveted handle provide even more durability for long-term use.
- Knife types: 8-inch bread, 8-inch chef’s, 7-inch Santoku, 6-inch utility, 3.5-inch paring
- Materials: High-carbon stainless steel blade, G-10 handle
- Accessories: Acacia wood block
- Stylish hammered-metal design
- Sleek, modern knife block included
- Includes a blade for virtually all needs
Get the Dalstrong Japanese knife set on Amazon.
Serious home cooks need a few specialty knives for tasks such as filleting fresh fish or deboning poultry. For those who spend a lot of time in the kitchen, consider this versatile 19-piece knife set from Ginsu.
This set includes the following: an 8-inch chef’s knife, an 8-inch slicer, an 8-inch bread knife, a 7-inch Santoku knife, a 6-inch cleaver, a 6-inch boning knife, a 5-inch utility knife, a 3.5-inch paring knife, a honing rod, a set of kitchen shears, and eight 4.5-inch steak knives.
Each knife is made from Japanese stainless steel, sharpened to a razor edge. The handles are made of water- and heat-resistant black resin for a hygienic and smooth cutting grip. The knives come in an included bamboo-finish knife block, which ensures safe and organized storage.
- Knife types: 8-inch chef’s, 8-inch slicer, 8-inch bread, 7-inch Santoku, 6-inch cleaver, 6-inch boning, 5-inch utility, 3.5-inch paring, and eight 4.5-inch steak knives
- Materials: Stainless steel blade with resin handles
- Accessories: Bamboo block, kitchen shears, honing steel
- Full set of steak knives included
- Relatively affordable
- Feel well balanced in the hand
- The wood block can feel quite flimsy
Get the Ginsu Japanese knife set at Amazon, The Home Depot, Target, or Wayfair.
Rather than manufacturing a separate blade and handle, these steel knives from Global are constructed from a single piece of steel. This design eliminates the chance of breaking between the blade and handle. Each knife is handcrafted in Niigata, Japan, using Global’s signature CROMOVA 18 stainless steel that is tempered, hardened, and sharpened to a thin razor edge.
This seven-piece set includes six knives and a stylish bamboo and acrylic knife block. The knives include a 3-inch paring knife, a 4.5-inch utility knife, a 5-inch chef’s knife, a 5.5-inch vegetable knife, an 8-inch chef’s knife, and an 8.5-inch bread knife.
The knives have a molded hollow handle that is filled with the right amount of sand for optimal balance. Each handle has a dimpled grip, which provides a comfortable and slip-resistant surface.
- Knife types: 3-inch paring, 4.5-inch utility, 5-inch chef’s, 5.5-inch vegetable, 8-inch chef’s, 8.5-inch bread
- Materials: Stainless steel blade and handle
- Accessories: Bamboo block with transparent side
- Modern aesthetic
- Sturdy 1-piece construction
- Enough knives for most tasks
- Full metal construction may be prone to rust
Get the Global Japanese knife set on Amazon.
A nice, stylish set of knives not only makes food prep easier but also can look great on the kitchen counter. Made from high-carbon steel and with a dark-brown pakkawood handle, these knives look as sleek as they feel.
This set includes an 8-inch chef’s knife, a 7-inch Santoku knife, a 5-inch Santoku knife, an 8-inch bread knife, an 8-inch slicing knife, a 5-inch utility knife, and an 8-inch paring knife. A block is not included with this set, so users can invest in their preferred storage method.
Each high-carbon stainless steel blade is durable and ultrasharp. The knives are resistant to corrosion, rust, and stains and are finished with a striking waved pattern. For comfortable chopping, the knives have a smooth pakkawood handle, giving them a traditional Japanese-knife look while offering a secure, lightweight grip.
- Knife types: 8-inch chef’s, 7-inch Santoku, 8-inch slicing, 8-inch bread, 5-inch Santoku, 5-inch utility, 8-inch paring
- Materials: High-carbon steel blade with pakkawood handle
- Accessories: None
- Sleek dark wooden handle
- Ergonomic shape
- No block or blade guards included
- Imitation Japanese knives
Get the Yatoshi Japanese knife set on Amazon.
Shoppers looking for a superb set of knives can scarcely go wrong with the Shun Japanese knife set, which includes a knife to cover the majority of kitchen tasks, as well as a stylish wooden block, kitchen shears, and a honing steel.
Those on a stricter budget but who would also like to experience a stylish set of knives could consider the five-piece Kepeak Japanese knife set, which comes at a more accessible price point. Note that this set does not include a block or blade guards, which should be purchased separately.
How We Chose the Best Japanese Knife Sets
When gathering our top picks for the best Japanese knife sets, we looked at a range of products on the market and did our research to ensure that our recommendations are from reputable brands.
We also made sure to provide shoppers with options for both premium quality knives—at a premium price—while also providing more budget-conscious choices for those just starting in the kitchen. Note that our top picks on the lower end of the budget are not genuine Damascus steel knives from Japan but more affordable Western-style Japanese-knife alternatives that provide a similar Japanese-knife style and aesthetic.
That said, all other options included on our list are from the highest reputable Japanese-knife artisans, including the renowned Shun brand. While most of the knife sets we recommend include accessories such as kitchen shears, honing steels, and wooden blocks or blade covers, some options are just the knives alone. For these picks, users can opt to purchase their preferred storage method.
A good set of knives is a worthwhile kitchen investment. A well-crafted knife set can make all the difference while chopping, slicing, and mincing food. Before choosing a set of Japanese knives, consider the following frequently asked questions and answers below.
Q. What is a Japanese-style knife?
Japanese-style knives are food-preparation knives inspired by traditional Japanese knife-making techniques and knives.
Q. Do Japanese knives have single- or double-bevel blades?
It depends on the knife. Traditional Japanese knives have single-bevel blades, while modern Japanese knives can have single-bevel or double-bevel blades.
Q. Can I put Japanese knives in the dishwasher?
No, it is best to hand-wash Japanese knives to prevent any damage.
Q. How often do I have to sharpen Japanese knives?
Since it depends on the frequency of use, it is best to sharpen Japanese knives once they start to dull—it is easier to get a relatively sharp knife back to exceptionally sharp rather than sharpening a dull knife. If you have trouble slicing through a delicate fruit such as a tomato, that is one sign that the knife is starting to get dull and needs to be sharpened.
Q. How long do knife sets last?
A high-quality and well-maintained knife set has the potential to last many decades and create a lifetime of recipes.
Q. How do I sharpen Japanese knives?
A whetstone is the recommended method for sharpening Japanese knives. This is usually stone with two different grit sizes on either side that users submerge in water and then slide the knife back and forth to sharpen the edges.
Q. Does a honing steel sharpen Japanese knives?
A honing steel is not used to sharpen knives. It’s used to retain a knife’s sharp edge between sharpenings.