For centuries, Japan has been at the center of making some of the finest blades in the world. They have strength, hardness, and are legendary for retaining their cutting edge. So, it comes as no surprise that some of the best kitchen knives come from Japan. 

We look at four Japanese knives to determine their pros and cons, and crown the Dalstrong Santoku 7-inch Shogun Series as our HowToHome pick for durability, sharpness, balance, and the strength of the blade.

  • 67 layers 
  • High-carbon stainless steel
  • G-10 military-grade handle
  • Rockwell hardness of 62+
  • Scalpel-like edge
  • Lifetime warranty

  • 45 layers
  • High-carbon stainless steel
  • G-10 handle
  • Rockwell hardness of 61
  • Lifetime warranty

  • 46 layers
  • High-carbon stainless steel
  • Magnolia wood handle
  • Rockwell hardness of 60
  • Lifetime warranty

  • High-carbon stainless steel blade
  • Wooden handle
  • Rockwell hardness of 56-58
  • Lifetime warranty

Dalstrong is an industry leader in kitchen knives, and their Japanese range is highly regarded around the world. This Santoku knife (Japanese for “three virtues” or “three uses”) is no exception.

It has almost anything you could want in a quality Japanese knife; full tang for better control and balance, meaning the entire knife is constructed from one piece of metal, with the two sides of the handle grip bolted to it. This is the strongest of all the tang types. 

Also, the handle is a military-grade G-10 type, which is crafted from a fiberglass composite that is applied in layers to create a tactile, high-grip surface.

This Dalstrong scores highest on the industry standard Rockwell Hardness Scale, at 62, which is an excellent measure of the resilience of the blade. The fine cutting edge is created using the ancient hand-finished 3-step Honbazuke method, which our buyer’s guide explains in more detail. 

This knife also has the most layers, at 67, meaning that the blade is super-strong. And because it’s nitrogen-cooled during the manufacturing process, it adds to the durability of the steel, protecting the cutting edge.

On the downside, because of the sophisticated way this knife is sharpened, when it finally dulls you are going to have to learn the complexities of sharpening techniques to continue to protect the blade. It is possible to use a knife sharpener, but it you value your cutting edge, the traditional methods are still the best.

That said, investing in this premium knife is worth it because it gives you the best balance, strength, sharpness, and control. That’s why we made it our HowToHome pick.


  • Strength
  • Super-sharp
  • Double-edged blade
  • 67 layers
  • Ergonomic military-grade handle


  • Needs complex sharpening

Zelite Infinity is the other dominant name in the Japanese knife industry, giving Dalstrong a run for their money. 

This 8-inch chef’s knife is an excellent example of what they can produce, not least because it is elegant and would look good in any kitchen, but because it is a chef’s knife, it is the most versatile of all the choices in the review. It can handle almost every task in the kitchen, and that’s why we chose this as our versatile pick.

It has a full tang, and G-10 handle, just like the Dalstrong Santoku 7-inch Shogun Series. And when it comes to the Rockwell Hardness Scale, it scores an impressive 61, which is just short of the 62+ scored by the Dalstrong. 

Zelite also uses the ancient Honbazuke sharpening method  to achieve the best results. Plus, the blade is nitrogen cooled to protect the cutting edge.  

But where the Dalstrong has the upper hand is in the number of layers the steel blade has. This Zelite Infinity has 45 layers, so is still a quality tool, but if you compare that to the HowToHome pick, with 67, you can see that the Dalstrong just edges it in a couple of crucial categories.

On the downside, the blade is broader and the handle longer than most similar knives in its class, meaning that it’s more cumbersome to use. If used for long periods, it could put added strain on your hands and wrists.

Overall though, this Zelite is stylish, performs well, and holds its sharpness, so although we chose this as our style pick, it proves that this knife is more than good looks.


  • Great styling
  • Honbazuke sharpened
  • Nitrogen cooled
  • Hardness score of 61


  • Heavier than other knives in its class

Yoshiro makes knives the old fashioned way by handcrafting each one to keep the traditions of Japanese knife making alive. This Gyuto knife, or “beef knife” if you use the literal translation is the equivalent of a European French chef’s knife. 

It has a full tang, like the Dalstrong and the Zelite, but it also has a traditional hexagonal magnolia handle, rather than the military-grade G-10 variety. The Rockwell hardness score is impressive at 60, but still short of the HowToHome pick. And the Damascus steel blade is hand-hammered to create all those dimples, for less friction when cutting ingredients.

Because the blade is made in the traditional way, modern innovations like nitrogen cooling are not employed; however, the 46 layers of high-carbon steel does beat the Zelite Infinity by one layer.

On the downside, because Yoshiro makes each knife individually by hand, expect to pay artisan prices. As beautiful and tactile as this knife is, it is by far the most expensive in the review. 

That said, if we are making a case for Japanese knives, then we would be remiss if we left out the traditional handcrafted option, especially when you consider the skills needed to craft such a knife.


  • Handcrafted
  • Totally individual
  • Traditional Magnolia handle
  • Hardness core of 60


  • Very expensive
  • No nitrogen cooling to protect the blade edge

When you consider that to purchase a premium-grade kitchen knife, you would expect to spend $100 or more, which makes this Augymer chef’s knife all the more remarkable given the price. It retails at almost 1/10th of the Yoshiro Gyuto Japanese Chef’s Knife.

So, because of the price tag, this knife will be lacking some of the crucial things that distinguish a quality Japanese knife from a budget option. This knife has no full tang, so don’t expect the same balance and control as the other three featured. Also, it isn’t constructed from layered steel, but instead uses a single piece of high-carbon stainless steel, so it shouldn’t rust, but lacks the strength that layered steel brings. 

The patternation on the blade is lasered on to give the appearance of Damascus steel, but it’s only there for decoration, and the wooden handle is ergonomic to make the cutting experience more comfortable. 

The Rockwell Hardness score is a respectable 56-58. When you compare it to the more expensive models in the review and consider that it is by far the cheapest model featured; it is worth noting that it still has an extremely high approval rating on Amazon for such an inexpensive item. 


  • Great price
  • High-carbon stainless steel
  • 56-58 hardness score
  • Ergonomic wooden handle


  • Damascus pattern is lasered on
  • The blade dulls easily
  • Build quality issues
  • No layers

Comparison Chart

Dalstrong Santoku 7-inch Shogun SeriesZelite Infinity 8-Inch Chef’s KnifeYoshiro Gyuto Japanese Chef’s KnifeAugymer 8-Inch Chef’s Knife
Type of knifeSantokuGyutoGyutoGyuto
Rockwell score62+616056-58
Full tangX
Damascus steelX
Nitrogen cooledXX
Honbazuke sharpenedXX
Weight 8.5 oz10.1 oz4.8 oz6.9 oz
Dimensions 12.2 x 1.8 x 0.113.5 x 0.9 x 2.314 x 0.1 x 1.813 x 2.6 x 1.2
Corrosion resistance
Handle materialG-10G-10Wooden Wooden
Warranty LifetimeLifetimeLifetimeLifetime

Buyer’s Guide:

Japanese Knife

Japanese steel is among the finest in the world. The traditional skills that have been handed down over the generations, coupled with innovative techniques like nitrogen cooling, has made Japanese knives highly desirable. 

The Japanese perfected the art of layering the steel, so now, when you buy a Japanese knife, you can count on its strength, resilient cutting edge, and its balance. Couple that with the traditional ways of honing and sharpening the blade, like the Honbazuke 3-step method, and you get the ultimate cutting tool. 

Owning a Japanese knife means you can employ less effort in preparing your ingredients and spend less time sharpening the blades. 

LayersLayering steel makes it stronger and incredibly resilient, meaning that it won’t chip or scratch as easily, and the blade edge stays super-sharp. Three of the four in our review have layered steel blades, but the budget option does not. However, the Augymer 8-Inch Chef’s Knife is so cheap that we think you can overlook the lack of layers in the blade as a trade-off for the fantastic price. 

High-Carbon – This is a feature of all the knives we have chosen, and what it means is that the carbon element of the blade adds to the strength of the steel. 

Stainless Steel – All modern Japanese knives are constructed from stainless steel to keep the blade looking good for as long as possible. Stainless steel doesn’t rust or discolor.

Nitrogen-Cooled Blade – It is sometimes referred to as cryogenic hardening and it is the process of cooling the steel to a temperature of around minus 301 degrees Fahrenheit to improve the crystal structure of the metal to increase its durability and hardness. 

Blade Type – Consider what the knife is going to be used for and then think about the style of blade. If you want the knife for chopping, think about a blade that has a curved cutting edge to give a rocking motion. Alternatively, for better slicing and dicing, a flat edge would be better for that cleaner cut. 

Ergonomic Handle – If the blade is sharp yet the handle uncomfortable, then the chances are that you are going to suffer from aches and strains as you use it. Ergonomic handles make the cutting experience a more comfortable one, meaning that you don’t tire as quickly. 

Rockwell Hardness Score – The higher the number attributed, the harder the steel blade. Our HowToHome pick comes out on top with a score of 62+, so you know that this knife can withstand the most robust uses. Expect to see a score of around 56-62 for most Japanese knives.

Named after the capital city of Syria, Damascus steel is forged using an ancient method with Wootz steel ingots from Northern India to form super-sharp and flexible steel blades that hold their cutting edge. In ancient times, this steel became legendary for its strength and beautiful patternation, said to be reminiscent of flowing water.

Wootz steel, from India, is the key ingredient, but the original methods of production are no longer known, so the modern versions are an amalgam of what is known of the old techniques coupled with science. 

The upside is that while they are not the original Damascus steel blades, so revered throughout history, these newer Damascus steel blades are the closest to the original, with enhanced strengths that surpass the old blades.

It was invented by two engineers, who shared the surname of Rockwell, in 1914 and was patented in 1919. The test works by applying downward pressure to an object, with a “Dwell time” to allow for an indentation to form and come to a halt. The object, a knife in this instance, is then released from the downward pressure and the indentation is measured to give it the hardness score. 

To give you a comparison of how durable these Japanese knives are, the recommended hardness scale of a typical Japanes blade is 55-65, whereas an axe has a hardness score of just 45-55. 

That’s impressive, and one reason why you should consider investing in a Japanese knife.

There are many types of Japanese knives, and each has a specific use, except for the two most commonly used cutting implements in Japanese kitchens, the santoku and gyuto knife. We chose to feature them exclusively in this review because of their all-round ability, popularity, and ease of use.

Santoku – The literal translation in English is the “three virtues” or “three uses.” It means that this knife is useful for three things; cutting fish, vegetables, and meat. Santoku knives are generally smaller than Gyuto knives and have a blade that ranges from five inches to seven inches. 

The beauty of the santoku knife is that it is more of an all-rounder in the kitchen and not specific for one function. Also, they are lighter and more nimble to control, making them a popular choice for Japanese households.

Gyuto –  Gyuto knives are a Japanese version of the chef’s knife, akin to the western chef’s knife. The Japanese version is usually sharper, with a thinner and lighter blade. Typically, gyuto knives have blades that measure between eight and ten inches, and are the preferred choice of both kitchen professionals and families in Japan. 

Sashimi – These knives are thinner and lighter to use, and are often the go-to knife for cutting and filleting fish. They are sometimes referred to as “Yanagi,” which translates as “willow leaf,” describing their long, thin blade shape. 

Also, these sashimi knives are commonly beveled on one side only for greater precision and cutting edge.

Usuba – This is the closest Japanese knife to resemble a western-style mat cleaver. However, there are differences; a cleaver tends to have a thicker, heavier blade, ideal for hacking and chopping, whereas a usuba knife has a thin, super-sharp blade that is ideal for slicing fresh fruit and vegetables cleanly. 

Deba – This knife is shorter and has a curved spine and tip, meaning that the ultra-sharp single-beveled blade is ideal for cleaning and working with fish. And because the blade is thicker than most Japanese knives, it is useful for chopping through tougher fish bones. 

Plus, it also makes this knife the perfect candidate for preparing meat and vegetables. However, it is not suitable for cutting through thicker animal bones.

Blade Types Explained

The two most common Japanese knives, santoku and gyuto, employ both western-style double bevel blades and traditional single bevel blades. 

Double Bevel Blade –  This is a western-style blade and is the easiest to use. It is the choice of budding cooks and households across Japan because it is versatile and simple to master. It also means that left and right-handed people can use this knife.

Single Bevel Blade – Sometimes referred to as asymmetrical, this traditional Japanese blade requires a degree of skill to get it right, and is usually found in knives used by professionals because of its more detailed cutting action, especially in the preparation of delicate dishes like sushi. 

A key feature of the single bevel blade is the shinogisuji line that tapers towards the cutting edge and defines the bevel angle for accurate sharpening.

Tang Explained

Tang refers to the stem that extends from the blade and forms the core of the handle. There are many variations on the tang, but typically there are two in use:

Full Tang – This is the most common type of tang in Japanese knives because it is the strongest. The blade is constructed in one piece, with the scales, or handle, bolted to the stem that extends from the blade. It means that the knife and handle are one, and super-durable.

Half Tang – This is where the stem, or tang, only runs part-way along the handle. Typically, this type of knife has a handle that is either formed to immerse the tang, or resin and glue are used to bolster the strength. 

Handles Explained

The handle, or scales as it is traditionally referred to, is crucial for a comfortable cutting experience, and forms a vital part of why you should choose a particular knife. Japanese knives come with either a western-style handle or a traditional wooden handle.

Western Handle – These handles are grip-formed and usually much heavier. They are excellent for brute force cutting and hacking, and because many are ergonomic, they are comfortable to hold and don’t place your wrists under any undue strain.

Traditional Handle – Japanese handles are always made of wood, and are cylindrical in shape, so may feel uncomfortable to the untrained user. They are lighter and more agile, giving the user greater control over the knife.

Other Components of a Japanese Knife

The Heel – The heel of the knife is located where the scales meets the blade and is the widest part of the knife. It is designed to make heavier cuts and gives you greater leverage when using the knife.

The BolsterThis is a feature of western knives and not something you would find on traditional Japanese knives. The bolster is designed to add weight and balance, but with Japanese knives, the weight and balance are spread evenly throughout the implement, negating the need for the bolster.

The Butt – The butt is located at the end of the handle.

What is the 3-Step Honbazuke Method of Sharpening?

Every blade is sharpened in three stages using complex and traditional methods. The first involves coarse grinding using a vertically rotating sharpening stone. Second, after cleaning the blade of metal filings, a finer horizontal sharpening stone is used to hone the blade further. The blade is cleaned once more, and using a stropping leather or block, it is honed until it becomes razor sharp.

These methods are centuries old and take practice and dedication to master, and while you may not possess the specific tools, you can emulate this technique using a wet/dry stone with two grades of coarseness, and a stropping board or leather.

Japanese Knives Vs. Western Knives

American knives don’t have layered steel blades and are traditionally constructed from high-carbon German stainless steel. They are, in the main, much cheaper and come in greater options for things like knife-block sets. Japanese knives tend to be sold individually. 

Japanese knives
  • Weighted and balanced perfectly
  • Damascus steel for added strength
  • Sharpest blades in the world
  • Expensive 
  • Require skills to sharpen
Western knives
  • Cheaper to buy
  • High-grade German steel
  • Easier to sharpen
  • Dull more quickly
  • Weaker blades
  • Lower Rockwell score

  • Are Japanese knives better balanced than western knives?
  • Japanese knives are lighter than western knives and so tend to have a better balance. Often, western knives rely on a bolster to add weight and even up the balance, whereas Japanese knives have the weight distribution perfectly spread throughout the entire knife.

  • Which Japanese knife has the thinnest blade?
  • The thinnest blade belongs to the usuba knives. Usuba literally translates to mean “thin blade.”

  • Which style of Japanese knife is the most versatile?
  • The most versatile style of Japanese knife is the gyuto. It is the workhorse of Japanese kitchens and useful for almost every cutting, slicing, dicing, and mincing job.

Final Thoughts

Owning a Japanese knife brings advantages and makes life in the kitchen that much easier, so if you want to invest in a quality Japanese knife, look no further than the Dalstrong Santoku 7-inch Shogun Series. It is durable, beautiful to use and to look at, has 67 layers, and above all scores the highest on the hardness scale. This had to be our HowToHome pick!

For a budget option, the Augymer 8-Inch Chef’s Knife is an excellent pick, because it is a fraction of the price, yet delivers a level of performance far above the price tag.

If you are looking for a traditional handcrafted Japanese knife, then the Yoshiro Gyuto Japanese Chef’s Knife will be the one for you. It is made using old techniques passed  down from master to master, and each knife is unique. 

For those who want an all-round performer, capable of almost any task, the Zelite Infinity 8-Inch Chef’s Knife delivers a level of performance and reliability and looks great in the bargain. This Zelite is only second to the Dalstrong by a whisker, and it means you are not compromising on the quality when you buy this knife. 

We get that the choices seem endless when shopping for a Japanese knife, but hopefully, we have made that search a little easier.

Further Reading