Best Japanese Knife Set: Sharply Cutting and Slicing in 2022

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I've researched eight of the top sets of Japanese knives. Which one is my favorite? The Shun Classic 6-Piece Slim Block Set.

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If you’re ready to take your cooking to the next level, a good set of Japanese knives can do the trick. Japan has a long history of hand-crafted blades, excelling in both quality and performance.

But with so many knives on the market, how can you tell the sharpest tools in the shed from the dull duds? It can be difficult. Fortunately, I’ve done a lot of the legwork for you.

I like the Shun Classic 6-Piece Set for its quality and efficiency. You won’t buy a bunch of knives you don’t need or won’t use. And Shun is an established brand with unsurpassed craftsmanship.

But there may be other considerations that weigh heavier for you. For instance, do you want a specific knife included in your set? Or do you prefer a dimpled finish over a Damascus steel finish? I detail all the specifics of each set so you can make the right decision.

Ready to find out which set of Japanese knives is right for you? Let’s dive right in.

Best Japanese Knife Set Reviews

Shun Classic Knives, 6-Piece Slim Block Set: Best Overall

Shun Cutlery is one of the best-known and most respected Japanese knife brands out there, and for good reason. The name Shun is synonymous with quality, and it’s no different with this Shun 6-piece Slim Block Set. Here is what you get:

  • 3.5-inch paring knife (8.9 cm)
  • 7-inch Santoku knife (18 cm)
  • 8-inch Chef’s knife (20 cm)
  • 9-inch honing steel
  • Multi-purpose kitchen shears
  • 8-slot slim design dark wood block

These knives have a beautiful aesthetic, featuring Damascus-clad steel and ebony D-shaped Pakkawood handles. As with all Shun knives, these are handcrafted in Seki City, Japan.

While this is a smaller set, it prioritizes the most important and versatile pieces. The Chef’s knife and Santoku knife can both be used for cutting fish, meat, and vegetables, while the paring knife is useful for smaller, delicate tasks.

In addition to the kitchen knives, this set includes a pair of shears and a honing rod. The shears are great to have in any kitchen. The honing rod is especially helpful for keeping these Japanese steel knives their best.

Each blade features a VG-MAX steel core with 34 layers on each side and that iconic Damascus cladding. The knives have been hardened to a 60-61 on the Rockwell hardness scale.

These Shun knives are sharpened to a 16-degree angle and feature a double bevel for maximum cutting strength. While the blades are incredibly sharp, they perform better with professional sharpening. However, their excellent edge retention means they won’t need sharpening that often.

It’s important to use and store these Shun knives correctly. Otherwise, they are susceptible to chips. Of course, this set includes a wooden block for safe storage. Plus, the slim design saves you kitchen space.

This set of Shun knives got rave reviews from customers. They were impressed with the level of sharpness and the included blades. They liked the angled design of the block, too.

The Shun Classic Knife Set is pricey for the size, but the premium quality and longevity of the blades make the price worth it for many people.

Pros

  • Razor-sharp edge
  • Full tang
  • Forged blade
  • Pakkawood handle
  • Great edge retention
  • Space for more knives in the block
  • Made in Japan

Cons

  • Not suited for left-handers
  • Pricey for a smaller set

Shun Premier 7-Piece Essential Block Set: Best Runner-Up Set

The Shun Premier line is similar to the Classic line in many ways. They’re both made in Seki city, Japan. Both lines feature Pakkawood handles and VG-MAX cutting core clad with 68 layers of steel.

Finally, both sets have a double bevel sharpened to 16 degrees on either side. Here is what this Shun Premier 7-Piece Essential Set comes with:

  • 4-inch paring knife (10.2 cm)
  • 6.5-inch utility knife (16.5 cm)
  • 8-inch Chef’s knife (20 cm)
  • 9-inch bread knife (23 cm)
  • Herb shears
  • Honing steel
  • 11-slot bamboo block

Even though the Premier and Classic lines are similar, they have some key differences. For starters, this Premier line features a swirly Damascus pattern near the edge and a stunning hammered finish on the top half.

In contrast to the Classic line’s straighter D-shape handles, the Premier handles are slightly contoured from the blade to the end. Additionally, the grip is round and symmetrical.

The handles on the Premier line are lighter, with a walnut wood look and a brass ring accent on the end cap. And lastly, the Premier line is more expensive than the Classic line.

Customers confirmed that these knives are super sharp. They loved the beautiful appearance and the perfectly balanced weight. These knives made easy work of slicing and dicing vegetables and meat.

It is important to avoid using these knives on frozen produce or bone-in meats, however. Some users experienced chipping after using them in that way.

But for run-of-the-mill cooking tasks like slicing tomatoes, making sushi, and cutting boneless meat? You’ll have no problem.

The biggest drawback of this set is the price. It’s expensive compared with other knife sets. But when you consider Shun’s long history of premium quality, you may find the extra cost worth it.

Pros

  • Superb edge retention
  • Super sharp cutting edge
  • Thin, flexible blades
  • Usable for either hand
  • Made in Japan

Cons

  • Pricey

Shun Classic Knives, 10-Piece Block Set: Best Large Set

If you like the Shun Classic 6-Piece set but want a larger set, this Shun Classic Block Set includes 10 pieces. Here is what’s included:

  • 3.5-inch paring knife (8.9 cm)
  • 4.5-inch Honesuki knife (11.4 cm)
  • 5-inch hollow-edge Nakiri knife (12.7 cm)
  • 6-inch utility knife (15.2 cm)
  • 7-inch Santoku knife (18 cm)
  • 8-inch Chef’s knife (20 cm)
  • 9-inch hollow-edge carving knife (23 cm)
  • Honing steel
  • Multi-purpose shears
  • 13-slot Bamboo knife block

This set also features steel blades with a VG-MAX cutting core clad with 68 layers of Damascus cladding. These knives have a Rockwell hardness of 60-61 and a hand-sharpened double-bevel blade sharpened to 16 degrees on each side.

The D-shaped ebony Pakkawood handles are comfortable and well-balanced. They have a stainless steel end cap.

The bamboo knife block has 13 slots, so there are four extra spaces for any additional knives you plan to purchase.

The honing steel is great for keeping the knives sharp between uses. However, it will be necessary to sharpen the knives periodically for optimal performance.

These knives, like others of similar quality, are not dishwasher-safe. Hand wash and dry them immediately to protect them from damage or dulling.

Customers raved about these knives. Several said it was the best set of knives they’d ever owned. They loved the superb edge retention and the sharp cutting edge.

Users did emphasize proper use and care. If you stay away from cutting frozen meat or produce and clean them gently, these knives should serve you well for a long time.

Pros

  • Excellent edge retention
  • Razor-sharp blades
  • 68 layers of Damascus steel
  • Beautiful design
  • Ebony handles
  • Made in Seki, Japan

Cons

  • Not designed for lefthanders
  • Pricey

Miyabi Birchwood 7-Piece Knife Block Set: Best Splurge

Miyabi is one of the brands owned by Zwilling, joining the ranks of Henckels, Demeyere, Zwilling, and Staub. Miyabi handcrafts each blade in Seki City, Japan.

This Miyabi Birchwood 7-Piece Knife Set includes the following pieces:

  • 3.5-inch paring knife (8.9 cm)
  • 7-inch Santoku knife (18 cm)
  • 8-inch Chef’s knife (20 cm)
  • 9-inch bread knife (23 cm)
  • Birchwood honing steel
  • Stainless steel shears
  • 12-slot bamboo block

Each blade features a core of SG2 micro-carbide powder steel protected by 100 layers of steel. This allows for maximum durability and flexibility.

The steel has a Damascus pattern and is ice-hardened to Rockwell 63. The edges are hand-honed to a degree of 9.5 to 12 on each side for precise cutting.

Miyabi uses the Japanese tradition of Honbazuke to hone the edges. First, a vertical rotating sharpening stone creates an edge by knocking off the excess metal. Then manufacturers hone the blade to the desired angle. Lastly, they polish the blade using a leather strop.

The handles are traditional Japanese birch D-shaped handles. The rounded spine and heel make for comfortable cutting.

There are extra slots in the bamboo knife block in case you want to add knives to your collection.

Customers agreed that these knives are gorgeous and crazy sharp. They were impressed with the quality and the balanced feel of the cutlery.

Some were apprehensive about the care and maintenance that wooden handles require. But honestly? Any Japanese knife worth its salt will require some maintenance and care.

The biggest drawback for this set? Its exorbitant price. If you have flexibility in your budget, go for it. Otherwise, you might choose to go with a more affordable option.

Pros

  • Beautiful appearance
  • Flexible but durable thin blades
  • Comfortable handles
  • Damascus pattern steel
  • Sharp edges

Cons

  • Hand wash only
  • Expensive

Mac Knife Original Series 4-Piece Starter Set: Best Starter Set

Mac Knives have an almost 70-year history and are known for premium craftsmanship and characteristic rounded tips. This Mac Knife Original Series 4-Piece Starter Set is made in Japan with extra care. Here is what the set includes:

  • 4-inch paring knife (10.2 cm)
  • 6.5-inch utility knife (16.5 cm)
  • 6.75-inch fillet knife (17.1 cm)
  • 9-inch carving knife (23 cm)

Each knife features razor-sharp edges to make cutting food a breeze. The hole at the end helps you hang the knives after cleaning them.

But because these are designed for hanging, this Mac Knife set does not include a wood block. If you don’t plan on hanging these Japanese knives, I’d recommend getting sheaths to store them.

Each kitchen knife is made with a steel alloy. The thin, flexible blade makes slicing through food smooth, while the rounded tips provide safety.

The Pakkawood handles are comfortable, and they are secured to the blade with rivets. The elevated handles give you extra clearance when cutting food.

Customers were pleased with the craftsmanship and the sharp edges. Slicing tomatoes was a piece of cake for users.

You will have to sharpen these knives periodically. Mac also sells a ceramic sharpener that works well. But whatever route you go, just know that sharpening the knives is part of keeping them at their best.

If you want to “dip your toe” into the world of Japanese knives without sacrificing quality, the Mac Knife set is a great choice.

Pros

  • Thin, flexible blade
  • Lightweight
  • Double bevel
  • Razor-sharp
  • Hole for easy hanging
  • Rounded tip for safety

Cons

  • No block included
  • Needs occasional sharpening

Famcüte 5-Piece Japanese Chef’s Knife Set: Best Budget Starter Set

Next up on my list of Japanese knife sets is this Famcute Chef Knife Set. Although smaller in size, this set packs a lot of utility in just five pieces. Here is what it includes:

  • 5-inch utility knife (12.7 cm)
  • 7-inch Santoku knife (18 cm)
  • 7-inch Nakiri knife (18 cm)
  • 8-inch Gyuto knife (20 cm)
  • Wooden Storage Block

The kitchen knives included in this set are all targeted to cover most kitchen tasks. The Nakiri kitchen knife is for slicing vegetables, while the Gyuto and Santoku knives can cut meat or vegetables. The utility knife is suited for smaller or medium-sized tasks.

This Famcute Japanese knife set features African rosewood handles with the weight toward the blade for efficient dicing, chopping, and slicing.

The blade is made of high-quality steel with clad dimple for easy release of vegetables when cutting.

Customers were impressed with the sharpness of these knives. They liked the grip of the handle and the ease with which they could cut through food.

Some did have issues with rusting. I recommend drying these knives immediately after washing them. Of course, no dishwasher for these, either.

This set is affordable, pretty good quality, and has an elegant appearance. It may not be as durable as other sets, but the price point may balance that out.

Pros

  • Includes storage block
  • Includes most-used knives
  • Dimpled cladding releases food when slicing
  • African rosewood handles
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Smaller set
  • Lack durability
  • Susceptible to rusting

Imarku 16-Piece Japanese Knife Set: Best Budget Large Set

Imarku makes Japanese kitchen knives, with manufacturing plants in Japan and China. This Imarku 16-Piece Knife Set is comprehensive and comes with the following 16 pieces:

  • 3.5-inch paring knife (8.9 cm)
  • 5-inch utility knife (12.7 cm)
  • 6-inch Chef knife (12.2 cm)
  • 7-inch Santoku knife (18 cm)
  • 8-inch slicing knife (20 cm)
  • 8-inch Chef’s knife (20 cm)
  • 8-inch bread knife (20 cm)
  • 6 steak knives
  • kitchen shears
  • Sharpening steel
  • Wooden block

This is the only Japanese knife set on my list that includes steak knives. But these knives more closely resemble German-style or Western knives in many ways than traditional Japanese knives.

For instance, this Imarku knife set features German standard steel. And while they’re sharp out of the box, many users found them to dull rather quickly. Some also had issues with rust.

The handles are ergonomic and made of red Pakkawood. The full-tang blades are attached to the handle with double rivets. Again, rivets are not typical of Japanese knives, but rather of Western knives.

Users remarked on the good balance of the knives. They found the handles to be comfortable to hold when cutting food.

Several did caution against letting the knives soak. This can damage the handles. Instead, it’s best to hand wash and dry these knives immediately after use.

If you want a budget set of knives and you’re willing to sharpen them frequently, this Imarku knife set would work well for you.

Pros

  • Well-balanced
  • Includes steak knives
  • Sharp blades
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Not like traditional Japanese knives
  • Poor edge retention

TUO 8-Piece Fiery Phoenix Knife Set: Best Blend of Western & Japanese Style

Tuo Cutlery (literally “to explore and adventure”) is based out of Yangjiang, China. The company manufactures a range of high-quality kitchen cutlery.

This Tuo Knife Set is from the Fiery Phoenix line and is designed with restaurants and home kitchens in mind. It comes with the most commonly used pieces, including the following:

  • 4-inch paring knife (10.2 cm)
  • 7-inch cleaver knife (18 cm)
  • 7-inch Santoku knife (18 cm)
  • 8-inch Chef’s knife (20 cm)
  • 9-inch bread knife (23 cm)
  • Honing steel
  • Multi-purpose shears
  • Wooden block

These Tuo knives feature German high-carbon stainless steel, which I admittedly found odd. However, many customers confirmed that these blades are super sharp. They’re tapered at a razor-sharp 16 degrees for precise cutting.

The full-tang blades extend through the Pakkawood handles, which are ergonomic and feature a wood-grain look.

The wood knife block has an interesting design. The slim profile is great for saving space on the kitchen counter. The blades are partially exposed, which is unique. But don’t worry about getting cut; the blade edges are covered!

Users praised the Tuo knife set. They liked the sharp edge, the space-saving block, and the good balance. They said the knives felt comfortable to hold and use.

Customers did emphasize proper use and care. These blades should never be used on glass, concrete, granite, etc. Always use a plastic or wooden cutting board. It’s also important to wash the knives by hand. No dishwasher for these blades.

A couple of customers had knives with the end caps handles stamped upside down from the other knives, and others had problems with chipping.

Other than that, however, the reviews were quite positive. If you need a basic set at an affordable price? This Tuo set is a great choice.

Pros

  • Super sharp
  • Well-balanced
  • Holds an edge well
  • Comfortable handle
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Reports of end caps stamped upside down
  • Susceptible to chipping

What to Consider When Buying Japanese Knives

Knife Types

There are several specialty Japanese knives. The knives you want to be included in your set heavily depend on the types of foods and cuts you plan to make. Learn more about some of these specialty knives:

The Gyuto knife is akin to a European chef’s knife and is a general utility knife for cutting meat or vegetables. This knife features a slightly curved blade and cuts in a chopping or rocking motion.

A Santoku knife is slightly smaller than a Gyuto and has a shorter, rounded tip. This all-purpose knife cuts in a chopping motion and can be used for meats, vegetables, and fish.

The Nakiri knife has a rectangular shape and a straight blade. This knife is popular for slicing vegetables and chopping hard produce. Many people refer to this as a vegetable knife.

A Honesuki knife is the Japanese equivalent of a boning knife and is used primarily for deboning and preparing poultry.

The Yanagiba knife is an angled knife used to prepare sashimi and nigiri sushi. It’s extremely sharp and allows for a clean, smooth cut.

Blade Material

Common blade materials include stainless steel, carbon steel, and high-carbon steel.

Stainless steel is rust-resistant and stain-resistant. It’s easy to maintain, but a stainless steel knife is softer and won’t get as sharp an edge as carbon or high-carbon steel.

Carbon steel is harder and maintains a sharper edge than stainless steel. But it’s more susceptible to rust, stains, and chips. Maintaining a carbon steel blade requires more care and maintenance.

High-carbon steel is a popular choice and seems to provide a balance between the two other materials. The high carbon content allows for a harder, sharper blade, but it’s less prone to rusting and stains than carbon steel.

Construction

A knife’s construction has a large impact on the quality and durability of the knife. All knife blades are either forged or stamped.

Forged blades are made when a single bar of steel alloy is heated and pounded to form the knife shape. Forged knives are generally heavier and have a bolster. Stamped blades are cut or stamped out directly from a sheet of steel. These are lighter and don’t typically have a bolster.

Forged blades have a better reputation for quality and durability, but some stamped knives can stand the test of time.

Additionally, the tang of a knife influences its sturdiness. A full-tang knife has a piece of steel that extends the entire length of the handle, whereas partial-tang knives only extend partially into the handle. Full-tang knives are typically sturdier and more durable.

Cutting Edge

All blades either feature a single bevel or a double bevel cutting edge. A single-bevel blade tapers to only one side, which gives them a narrower cutting angle. These knives are suited for very precise and thin cuts.

Many Western knives (and Japanese knives made for Western markets) have double-bevel blades. These blades have a cutting edge that tapers symmetrically to each side.

Although traditional Japanese knives have a single-bevel blade, many newer Japanese knives are available in both options. The double-bevel blades are more appealing to the average home cook.

The sharpness of a blade is another important consideration. Generally speaking, the sharper the blade, the more precise and delicate the cuts it can make. A blade’s sharpness is described using the angle at which it is sharpened. The smaller the angle, the sharper the blade.

Most Japanese knives will be sharpened to an angle between 12-18 degrees on each side.

Handles

The best handle material depends on personal preference. Common handle materials include wood, stainless steel, and plastic. Pakkawood, an engineered wood/resin composite, is also quite popular.

Most western knives have a full tang with riveted handles. Traditional Japanese knives, however, feature a hidden tang with no rivets. They tend to have a larger cylindrical handle, with the weight distribution toward the blade.

Many knives are made for both right and lefthanders, but some D-shaped handles are made for one-handed use. If you’re lefthanded, be sure to confirm that the grip can work for either hand.

The Best Japanese Knife Set: Final Verdict

Which set of Japanese knives is the best for your kitchen? I found the Shun Classic 6-Piece Slim Block Set to be the best option for most people.

Shun’s established reputation for hand-crafted cutlery and superior performance makes them an obvious choice. This set includes all the best pieces without breaking the bank, either.