The Best Affordable Japanese Chef's Knives

The world of kitchen knives can be a confusing place. On the one hand, you can find German, Japanese, and Korean kitchen knives for hundreds or even thousands of dollars. And on the other? Bargain basement knives that may cost $10 or less. We've put a quick guide together to help you make a more informed decision.
Best Affordable Japanese Chef Knife

The Best Affordable Japanese Chef's Knives

As purveyors of fine Japanese knives, we receive many questions about price. What makes one knife more expensive than another? What grade and composition of steel is used? Is the knife hand or machine forged? If you read our blog post about Tokyo's Kitchen Town Kappabashi, you know that there are thousands of Japanese knife brands being sold every day.

 

Generally speaking, in the world of Japanese kitchen knives you get what you pay for. But there are also different types of qualities and pedigrees that impact the price. It's important to recognize how a Japanese chef's knife is being priced before you make a purchase, as different characteristics may be more or less important to you.

When you're hunting for an affordable Japanese chef's knife, you should consider the following points:

What is your budget for a single knife?

Like many things in life, you can spend as much or as little as you want on a Japanese kitchen knife. Many Japanese knives are considered works of art, and can cost in excess of $1,000. For the typical home chef, that's just not feasible, nor is it advisable as the more expensive the knife, the more specialized care it requires.

You should decide on a budget that you are comfortable with spending. Make sure that the budget allows you enough room to shop for quality as well as overall value.

If you need an idea of range, check out our Japanese knives on sale for a larger view of what's available.

What do you plan to do with the knife?

Japanese knives tend to be specialized. Like many things in Japan, knife making has been refined over hundreds of years by master and often multi-generation family craftsman. This has resulted in a number of innovations in knife making, and you should be aware of these features.

There are special knives for vegetables, fish, and red meat. There are also many other types of Japanese kitchen knives for paring, slicing, and chopping. Generally speaking, most home chefs need only a single good quality chef's knife to get the daily job done.

Single or double edge. Traditional (and usually more expensive) Japanese chef's knives have a single edged blade, or bevel, built for right-handed chefs. There are advantages to this type of blade when cutting fish and vegetables. If you have ever wondered how Japanese chefs make paper thin slices of soft meats and vegetables you aren't alone. The single bevel allows for the "shaving" technique to be practiced.

In reality, maintaining a single bevel blade requires special sharpening technique and many hours of practice to use properly. It is not recommended that home chefs with no experience in single bevel use start on a pricey Japanese knife.

Western or Japanese shape. Japanese knives have their own unique blade and handle shapes. These shapes are often considered challenging for home chefs used to a Western style. The Santoku is considered a general purpose Japanese kitchen knife comparable to a Western-style Japanese chef's knife. The Santoku's hoof-shaped blade is quite different from what most people are used to seeing.

In addition, traditional hand made Japanese knife handles are often made of more porous natural woods in an octagonal cut. This shape can certainly feel different in the hand of a Western chef. More expensive knives require special care to maintain the fit and finish of the wood handles.

How will you care for the knife?

Japanese chef's knives may require special care, and certainly deserve to be treated with respect. Blade sharpness should be maintained, and depending on blade composition regularly treated with oils. Professional Japanese chefs oil and maintain their blades every day to prevent rust and corrosion from taking hold. This can add up to a great chore for home chefs.

The best option for the bargain hunter is opting for stainless steel. These types of blades are not as hard as high end Japanese knives, but weather the test of the home kitchen just as well if not better, and for a fraction of the price. Carbon steel and untreated knives may seem more professional, but are also extremely challenging to maintain over the long term.

The good news for you is that we've selected our favorite Japanese chef's knives in three price categories. Our selections balance ease of use and maintenance with high quality cutting power. Read on to see which Japanese knife you should buy.

The Best Japanese Chef's Knife Under $50

Japanese kitchen knives don't have to be incredibly expensive. On the contrary, many of the best knives are priced well under $100. Though you can try go even lower, we do not recommend it. Our first pick comes in at just over the $70 mark, and offers a sharp blade and the durability we expect from a Japanese brand.

If you're a bit more flexible with your budget and are willing to pay a little more for a knife worthy of recommendation, read on. 

The Best Japanese Chef's Knife Under $100

Moving up the price ladder brings us to a category with many options. Shopping for a Japanese knife under $100 offers many opportunities to add a bit of luxury to the experience.

The Meguro Japanese Chef's Knife adds a handsome hammered steel texture to the large Western-style blade. The air pockets created by this hammered texture keeps food from sticking to the blade when sliced.

Hammered Steel Japanese Chef Knife

The Best Japanese Chef's Knife Under $200

Our best selling knife comes in at under $200, and is a favorite of home chefs around the world. At this price point you are getting a very high quality product that has a handmade look about it, but is most certainly machine made.

The Shun Classic 8-Inch Chef's Knife is a Western-style Japanese all-purpose cutting machine. At $199.99, it comes in just under our target price.

Shun Classic Chef's Knife on Sale

The Best Japanese Chef's Knife Under $400

Crossing over into the high end Japanese knife market is not for everyone. At nearly $400 one may not even want to unbox their knife, let alone wield it at the cutting block. Knives at this price point require a bit more care, and should be hand washed, dried, and stored properly after each use.

The Kamikoto 7-Inch Santoku knife is a work of art. It's smooth matte blade is made to last, and the classic styling of a traditional single-bevel Santoku is one of the most beautiful knife profiles in the world. The price may be steep, but you're paying for a knife meant to last a lifetime.

Kamikoto Knife Review