Best Japanese Knife Set From Budget to Premium – 2021 Update

A collage style image showing two Japanese knife sets and a man's hand cutting a tomato with a Yaxell chef knife from Japan.

Great Knife Sets from Japan For The Home Kitchen Cook From Cheap to Expensive in 2021

We tested a lot of Japanese knives and knife sets for this article and listed our favorites. We also made sure that every set listed is made in Japan. If you are a serious cook or even a chef who is looking for a good Japanese cooking knife or set on a bit of a budget this post should be helpful. We will start with the more affordable Japanese cooking knives and save the more expensive knives and knife sets for the end of the article. Many of Japans Cutlery brands like Shun and Kyocera are household names, because they deliver amazing performance, but we added some lesser known quality brands to this article.

A lot people believe that good Japanese Chef knives or full knife sets are really expensive, but there are  some excellent mid range knives from companies like Yaxell and Tojiro that deliver great value in 2021. If you are looking to get started with Japanese cutlery this guide will help you find what you need regardless of your budget.

We have included a brand summery at the end of this article that gives a brief description and history of the Japanese cutlery companies that make the kitchen knife sets we recommend. Most of the companies are based in Seki, Japan which is one of the most famous knife making cities on earth.

Currently our picks for the best Japanese knife sets are as follows:

Yaxell Mon 6 Piece Knife Set

Yaxell Mon 6 Piece knife set with a dark ash storage block. This is a good budget option for a quality Japanese knife set in 2021.

Specifications

  • Set Includes –  one 3.25″ paring knife, one 4.75″ utility knife, one 6.5″ santoku knife, one 8″ chef knife, one 9″ bread knife and one dark Ash storage block

Pros

  • Lifetime Replacement Warranty
  • Full Tang
  • Very sharp right out of the box
  • Forged not stamped
  • VG-10 stainless steel
  • Great edge retention
  • Micarta handles
  • Rockwell hardness of 61
  • 12° blade angle

Cons

  • No empty slots In the storage block

This is an excellent Japanese knife set at a great price. Yaxell has been making high quality kitchen cutlery for almost 100 years in Seki, Japan. They have a great mix of traditional knife making combined with modern manufacturing that has resulted in knives that perform at a high level, but are still relatively affordable.

Check Price on Amazon

The Yaxell Mon 8 inch Japanese chef knife on a cutting board over a black background.
We love the look of the Katana wave and micarta handles on the Mon series of Yaxell knives.

The layered VG-10 stainless steel blades of this set are incredibly sharp and hold their edge well. They also look great thanks to the sandblasted finish and Katana sword wave. The handles are made of micarta which is my all time favorite handle material. The handle end caps look good and help give these knives their excellent balance. This really is an incredible set at it’s current sub $300 price point, but I do wish it shipped with a storage block that had some empty knife slots, so more Yaxell knives could be added later.

A man's hand shown dicing green onions on a wooden cutting board with the Yaxell Mon Chef knife.
The Yaxell Mon chef knife impressed us with it’s versatility and slicing prowess.

The Yaxell Mon series of knives seem to be growing in popularity, but they don’t offer a lot of set options. Hopefully that will change soon to give consumers more options.

Check out our Yaxell Knife Guide if you want to learn more about Yaxell knives. We also did an in depth review of the Yaxell Mon chef knife that is worth checking out  if you think you might want to start with a single knife rather than a set.

Check Price on Amazon

 

Shun Classic 6 Piece Kitchen Knife Block Set

High end six piece knife Set from Shun.

Specifications

  • Set Includes – one 3.5″ paring knife, one 7″ santoku knife, one 8″ chef knife, one pair of herb shears, one honing steel and one dark wood storage block.
  • Weight – 11.75lbs
  • Size – 17.6″ x 13.7″ x 9.2“

Pros

  • Lifetime Replacement Warranty
  • Full Tang
  • Very sharp right out of the box
  • Forged not stamped
  • VG10 core blade with 34 layers of stainless steel Damascus cladding
  • Great edge retention
  • Pakkawood handles
  • Rockwell hardness of 61
  • Empty slots in the wood block, so more knives can be added later
  • Made in Seki, Japan

Cons

  • No steak knives
  • Relatively small set at this price point

The knives in the Shun Classic 6 piece knife set are obviously a work of art from an aesthetic standpoint, but they also deliver in the performance department. It may seem like the price point is a bit steep for a set that doesn’t include steak knives, but these are high end knives designed to last a lifetime or more.

Check Price on Amazon

Shun Classic 8 Inch Chef knife with a Damascus layering pattern and Pakkawood handles on a white background.
The Shun Classic 8 inch chef knife has Pakkawood handles and a real Damascus layered blade.

The blades are made of Damascus stainless steel  layered over Shun’s impressive VG-10 steel, and the results are a well balanced, lightweight blades that are a joy to use. The classic D shaped handles are made of ebony pakkawood which is widely respected for it’s durability.  The block that ships with this set includes several empty slots which is a practice I wish more cutlery companies would adopt. It is really nice to have the option to add to your set as your home cooking needs change.

A close up of a man dicing an onion with the Japanese made Shun Classic Santoku knife.
Dicing this onion was a breeze with the Shun Classic Santoku knife.

While this Shun set is certainly impressive,  I personally would not choose it over the Tojiro set mentioned later in this article, because to me it just isn’t worth the extra 150 bucks. However, I am far from a professional chef or even  a great home cook, so my needs may be far different from yours, and the Shun Classic 10 Piece Essential Cutlery set is definitely an excellent product. It is also far better from an aesthetic standpoint than the more budget friendly sets mentioned in this article.

If you want to learn more about Shun knives and knife sets, check out our Shun Knife Guide. We also did an in-depth Shun Classic Santoku knife review that is worth checking out if you are building a custom set.

Check Price on Amazon

 

Shun Sora 6-Piece Knife Set

The Shun Sora six piece knife set shown with the knives next to the wooden storage block.
This set from Shun ships with a ceramic and diamond blade sharpener.

Specifications

  • Set Includes – one 3,5″ paring knife, one 6″ utility knife, one 8″ chef knife, one 6″ utility knife, one pair of herb shears, one 9″ honing steel, one diamond and ceramic retractable sharpener and one eleven slot Bamboo wood block.
  • Weight – 9.58lbs
  • Size – 17.5″ x 13.6″ x 9.3“

Pros

  • Lifetime Replacement Warranty
  • Full Tang
  • Very sharp right out of the box
  • Forged not stamped
  • VG10 cutting core blade
  • Great edge retention
  • Rockwell hardness of 61
  • Empty slots in the wood block, so more knives can be added later
  • Made in Seki, Japan

Cons

  • No steak knives
  • Relatively small set

The Sora series of knives from Shun is their more budget friendly line. They do not have the the excellent aesthetics and top end materials of the Shun Classic collection listed above, but they are durable, and they perform extremely well considering their relatively low price point.

Check Price on Amazon

A close up of a man's hand using the Shun Sora chef knife to cut through a yellow onion.
We were impressed with the overall performance of the Shun Sora knives.

Shun is able to keep the price down on the Sora series without sacrificing edge retention making the cutting edge of high end VG10 steel and the upper part of the blade out of more affordable 420J steel. The end result is a great looking San Mai cutting edge. This is a technique used by a lot of Japanese companies, and Shun’s parent company, Kai, has even used this technique in Kershaw pocket knives.

The TPE handles of the Sora series of knives are comfortable and grippy, but they do not have the same great look of Shun’s Classic series of knives. This set ships a Kai diamond and ceramic retractable sharpener, so keeping the knives in this set sharp is pretty easy.

Check Price on Amazon

Enso HD 7-Piece Knife Set

The Enso HD seven piece kitchen knife set shown with the knives inside the storage block on the left and outside the storage block on the right.

Specifications

  • Set Includes – one 3,25″ paring knife, one 6″ utility knife, one 6.5″ santoku knife, one 8″ chef knife, one 9″ bread knife, one six slot storage bloack and one pair of stainless steel kitchen shears.
  • Weight – 6.65lbs

Pros

  • Lifetime Replacement Warranty
  • Full Tang
  • Very sharp right out of the box
  • Forged not stamped
  • 37 layer VG10 steel
  • Great edge retention
  • Canvas micarta handles
  • Rockwell hardness of 61

Cons

  • Not dishwasher safe (Please do not put these beautiful knives in the dishwasher)
  • No honing rod included
  • No empty slots in the storage block

Enso is a well respected Japanese knife company that has been making high quality, hand crafted knives since 1932. This great looking sixteen piece set has blades constructed with 37 layers of stainless steel over the top of a VG10 core. The unique look of the knives come from the hammered sashimi finish. The result are knives with tough blades with a distinctive look. The 12° cutting angle of Enso knives  makes them some of the most impressively sharp knives on the market right out of the box.

Check Price on Amazon

The hammered Damascus steel Enso HD chef knife sitting next to a tomato on a wooden cutting board over a black background.
The hammered Damascus steel of the Enso HD series of knives looks great.

While the blades of the knives in this set are certainly impressive, it was the handle material that first caught my eye. The handles are made of canvas micarta which is an extremely durable and grippable material often found on premium survival knives. Canvas micarta is my personal favorite knife handle material, but it is not often found on kitchen knives.

A man's hands dicing a tomato with the Enso HD santoku knife.
The 6.5 inch santoku knife is one of the best knives in this set, and we thought it outperformed several other more expensive santoku knives we have tried.

The Enso HD series offers excellent all around quality and performance at a relatively low price when compared to other high end Japanese knife brands. I personally appreciated the comfortable oval shaped handles of the HD series. I found them to be for comfortable than the D shaped handles often found on Japanese cutlery.

Check out our in-depth review of the Enso HD santoku knife to learn more about the Enso HD series.

Check Price on Amazon

Global Kabuto 7 Piece Knife Block Set

The 7 Piece Global Kabuto Block Set is a grea mid range knife set that should last for many years.

Specifications

  • Set Includes – one 3″ paring knife, one 4.5″ utility knife, one 5″ chef’s prep knife, one 5.5″ Nakiri vegetable knife, one 8″ Chef knife, one 8.5″ bread knife, one 6 slot acrylic knife block.
  • Weight – 7.5lbs
  • Size – 14.6″ x 10.3″ x 5.7

Pros

  • Lifetime Replacement Warranty
  • Sleek modern design
  • Lightweight
  • Very sharp right out of the box
  • Great balance
  • Great edge retention
  • Ergonomic handle design
  • Easy to sharpen
  • Easy to clean

Cons

  • No steak knives
  • Develops spotting a little easier than similarly priced knives.
  • Stamped not forged

A Global 8 inch chef knife on a wooden cutting board surrounded by Brussel sprouts.

Check Price on Amazon

I always sort of had a negative view of Global knives prior to actually using them. I knew they were popular with a lot of chefs and busy home cooks, but I just thought they looked uncomfortable. Man, was I was wrong. Global knives are light, well balanced and the weird looking perforated handles are extremely comfortable. The word, “nimble, probably best describes the way these knives feel when they are being used.

The unique feel of Global knives cause many people to fall in love with them  including my wife. At any given time we have scores of kitchen knives to choose from at our house thanks to this site, but my wife consistently reaches for Global knives when she is cooking.

Normally I would not include a knife set with stamped blades in a premium kitchen cutlery review, but Global’s manufacturing and quality assurance standards are so high that they have managed to create kitchen knives with stamped blades that more than compete with many of the high end forged knives from well known brands.

A close-up of a man's hand slixing Brissel sprouts with a Global chef knife.

The lack of a bolster on the handles make the knives easier to clean and sharpen. The unique handle shape of the Global knives make them popular with people who dislike the sometimes square feel of Western style cutlery handles, and they seem to be a great alternative for those who experience discomfort  when using conventional knives for long periods of time.

Another unique feature of the Global knives is their convex edge which seems to help with edge retention even though they are slightly lower on the Rockwell harness scale than some of their competitors. Overall the Global makes high performance knives that are a lot of fun to use in the kitchen. However, they do seem to develop rust spots a little easier than other knives at this price point. As a result they should never be cleaned in the dishwasher, and they should also be dried immediately after being hand washed.

Check Price on Amazon

Tojiro DP 8-Piece Slim Knife Set

This image shows the Japanese made Tojiro DP slim knife set in the wood block and outside the block on a white background.

Specifications

  • Set Includes –  one 8.25″ Chef’s knife, one 6.5″ Nakiri knife, one 3.5″ straight paring knife, one 4″ paring knife, one 6-inch utility knife, one pair of kitchen shears and one Acacia wood storage block

Pros

  • Lifetime Replacement Warranty
  • Full Tang
  • Very sharp right out of the box
  • Forged not stamped
  • 3 Ply Clad Construction
  • Great edge retention
  • Triple Riveted
  • Rockwell hardness of 60

Cons

  • Tojiro often sells out of this set
  • No empty slots In the storage block

The Tojiro DP 8 piece set is one of the absolute best buys in the cutlery world. There are many kitchen knife sets that cost much more than this one that do not come close to the Tojiro DP set from a quality and performance standpoint. One of the benefits of the DP series of knives is that they are a well designed hybrid consisting a Japanese style blade and a Western style handle. This East meets West combination has resulted in a line of knives that have become extremely popular with home cooks and professional chefs alike.

Check Price on Amazon

The Tojiro DP F808 chef knife slicing a tomato on a wooden cutting board.
We always enjoy testing out Tojiro knives, because they are so fun to use.

From an aesthetics standpoint the knives in the Tojiro DP set won’t turn any heads. This set is all about performance. Tojiro’s impressive forging technique for these knives has resulted in three ply clad blades with a tough VG-10 steel core. From a performance and durability standpoint this set is tough to beat. Ultimately if you are looking for a high performance Japanese kitchen knife set at a great price the Tojiro 8-piece block should be at the top of your list from a value standpoint.

At it’s current sub $350 price it is tough to find fault with the Tojiro DP set other than the fact that the storage block has no empty slots. The set is relatively small, but that is a trade-off I am happy to make to get this level of quality. All the knives in this set feel like they should be part of a much more expensive set.

For some reason Tojiro seems to run out of this set on a regular basis. However, I think it is worth the effort to build this knife set by buying the knives individually if that is the only option. This process is a bit tedious, but it can also be fun. A good starter knife storage block for this process is the Coninx Magnetic Knife Holder.

Check out our in depth review of the Tojiro DP F808 chef knife if you want to learn more about the excellent chef knife included in this set.

Check Price on Amazon

Tojiro DP Damasus 3-Piece Slim Knife Set

The 3 piece Tojiro DP Damascus knife set on a white background with the Tojiro logo in the top right

Specifications

  • Set Includes –  one 8.25″ Chef’s knife, one 8″ bread knife and one 4″ paring knife

Pros

  • Lifetime Replacement Warranty
  • Full Tang
  • Very sharp right out of the box
  • Forged not stamped
  • 37 layers of high and low carbon steel over a VG-10 core
  • Great edge retention
  • Triple Riveted
  • Rockwell hardness of 60
  • Great looking knives

Cons

  • Only three knives in the set
  • No storage block included

The three knives in this set are exactly like their counterparts in the 8 piece Tojiro DP set mentioned above except that they have Damascus steel blades. These blades are made of 37 layers of high and low carbon steel folded over a VG-10 steel core. This results in knives that not only perform at a high level but also look great. With a blade angle of 9 – 12 degrees these knives are effortless slicers.

I really wish Tojiro would offer a storage block with this set, but those can be bought separately. Even though the DP Damascus knives cost a bit more per knife than the conventional DP knives they are still really well priced for Japanese Damascus steel knives, and this set is a great way to get an excellent Japanese knife set started.

Check Price on Amazon

Miyabi Kaizen 10 Piece Block Set

This Japanese knife set has a steep price tag, but it is worth it it you want amazing comfort and quality.

Specifications

  • Set Includes – one 3,5″ vegetable knife, one 4.5″ paring knife, one 5.5″ santoku knife, one 6″inch chef’s knife, one 8″ chef’s knife, 5″ bread knife knife 9.5″ slicing knife, and a 9″ sharpening steel, and one bamboo wood block.
  • Weight – 8lbs
  • Size – 16.8″ x 5.5″ x 9.8

Pros

  • Lifetime Replacement Warranty
  • Full Tang
  • Very sharp right out of the box
  • Forged not stamped
  • Micarta Handles
  • Great edge retention
  • 64-layer flower Damascus
  • VG10 Steel COre
  • Comfortable D-shaped handles
  • Empty slots in the wood block

Cons

  • No steak knives
  • Included Shears are not as high quality as the rest of the set

This excellent Japanese knife set from Miyabi has a relatively steep price tag, but if you are looking for premiere quality and classic Japanese styling this set is tough to beat. These knives have a VG10 steel core wrapped in a 64 layer flower Damascus pattern. Then the blades are hardened using the CRYODUR ice hardening treatment to ensure they are durable and hold an edge extremely well. Finally the blades are hand honed to a very sharp 9.5 to 12 degree edge.

The black linen micarta D shaped handles are extremely comfortable and a great choice for a busy home cook. If your current knife set causes discomfort after extended use this set may be the perfect upgrade.

The craftsmanship of these knives is obvious the minute you pick one up. There are no gaps or raised edges in the handle or bolster, and the balance is superb. Because they are totally made by hand there are no quality assurance problems. The only problem with this set is that the included shears and honing steel are not on the same quality level as the rest of the set.

Check Price on Amazon

Check Price on Blade HQ

MAC SK-201 Santoku Knife Set

This great Sntoku knife set from MAC is an excellent start to building out a great cutlery set for your kitchen.

Specifications

  • Set Includes – one 6.5″ santoku knife and one 5″ mini santoku knife 
  • High Carbon Steel Blades
  • Pakkawood Handles

Pros

  • Extremely sharp
  • Full Tang
  • Very sharp right out of the box
  • Forged not stamped
  • The  high carbon blades hold their edge extremely well for knives at this price point
  • Well balanced
  • 60 degree Rockwell hardness

Cons

  • Only 2 knives included
  • No knife storage block included

This is a great set for anyone who really likes Santoku knives. They have been growing in popularity for years, and this 2 knife set would be a great start for a Santoku fan looking to build out a full kitchen cutlery set. Both of the included knives are extremely well balanced. This will be especially noticeable if you are moving up from cheaper knives. The high carbon blades hold there edge really well. However the downside of high carbon blades is that they must be hand washed and immediately dried to avoid rust spots. This slight inconvenience is worth it for the impressive performance and edge retention of these knives.

The Pakkawood handles of these knives are very comfortable and easy to grip. The impressive ergonomics of theses knives make them a great choice for busy cooks who experience hand pain or discomfort with lower end kitchen knives.

Like many Japanese knife sets the this MAC Knife set does not include any type of storage block, but there are many magnetic or conventional storage blocks available that will work for these knives.

Check Price on Amazon

Summaries of the Knife Brands In This Article

If you are new to Japanese cutlery you may not know about the companies mentioned in this article. While most of us have heard of famous Western cutlery companies like J.A. Henckels or Wusthoff, many people have never heard of Shun, Tojiro or even Ginsu. With that in mind I figured it would be a good idea to give a quick summery of the Japanese cutlery companies whose products are highlighted in this post.

 

About Tojiro Knives

Tojiro knives are a great mid range option for cooking.

Our personal favorite Japanese knife company here at Nothing But Knives is Tojiro, because they are a great compromise between quality and price. While they are arguably not on the same quality level as Shun they certainly offer very impressive knives at great prices. You will always get more than you paid for when you buy a Tojiro knife. This is especially true of their F-737 bread knife. It is a relatively cheap bread knife at $22, but it cuts as well as many of the $100 bread knives. If you are looking for a small good quality set the DP Deluxe 3 Piece Starter set is well priced high performance Japanese cutlery kit.

Tojiro offers a huge variety of cutlery that includes both traditional Japanese style knives like their Shippu Black DP Damascus Series and Western style Japanese knives like their VG10 Clad Steel. Tojiro is obviously better at making knives than they are at naming them. If you are just considering making the jump to Japanese cutlery you may want to start out with one knife and the popular Tojiro DP Gyutou 8.2 inch Chef’s knife is a good option. It is a Japanese style knife with a Western style contoured handle, and it is a relatively inexpensive way to test the waters of Japanese cutlery.

Check Price on Amazon

 

About MAC Knives

MAC Knives are all manufactured in Japan, and they have developed a reputation for quality and performance over the years.

The MAC Corporation was established in 1965. Since that time the company has manufactured over 30 million knives and developed a reputation for performance and quality. All MAC knives are made in Japan. The blades of every knife are hand ground and hand sharpened on water cooled stones. The attention translates into an impressive performing tool for the busy home cook or professional chef.

Rather than using the traditional beveled chisel edge of most Japanese knives, Mac blades utilize a slightly of center edge with an angle around 45 degrees. This edge is partially responsible for the knives great performance, but it also means that extra care needs to be gives when sharpening them to ensure the integrity of the edge is maintained.

MAC offers a complete cutlery lineup that covers a wide range in cost from relatively inexpensive too fairly pricey. The MAC product series are as follows: Original Series, Superior Series, Chef Series, Professional Series, Ultimate Series, Japanese Series and Damascus Series.

Check Price on Amazon

 

About Shun KnivesShun DMS284 Classic Knife Set which includes a 4 inch paring knife and an 8 inch chef's knife

Shun Knives are known for their beauty and sharpness light weight and incredible balance. Shun knives offers a variety of different product lines that vary in quality and price. The top of the line Shun product line is their Reserve knives which are expensive, but the offer unmatched quality and craftsmanship that includes a SG2 stainless steel core and 32 layers on each side (64 total)  of nickel silver/stainless steel using the Damascus ladder design. This labor intensive technique gives the Reserve and Classic series knives their  distinctive looking blades as you can see in the picture above. Shun’s Classic series knives are similar to the Reserve series in many ways, but lack the contoured handle designs and they use a VG-Max stainless steel core rather than the VG2 stainless steel. The classic series Shun knives have a D shaped handle that many people prefer to contoured especially if they are used to using Japanese knives.

Check Price on Blade HQ

Check Price on Amazon

 

 

Shun Reserve 6 inch Chef's Knife

Shun sells knives individually or in sets. Many people like to build their own set of Shun knives, and they usually start with a Chef’s knife like the one pictures above. All of Shun kitchen cutlery set blocks ship with empty slots that allow you to customize your collection. If you would like to learn more about Shun’s sets check out our blog on the best high end kitchen knife sets.

 

About Global Knives

Global Knives was establisshed in 1985, an they have deeloped a reuptaion for performance.

Global Knives was started in 1985 which makes them a relative new comer in the Japanese cutlery world. However, they have been around long enough to establish themselves as a trusted manufacturer who makes high performance knives with unique and practical designs.

Global uses a proprietary version of  CROMOVA 18 stainless steel. The steel is ice hardened and maintains it’s edge well in spite of the fact that it is easier to sharpen than other kitchen knives. Another unique feature of the Global knife blades are their acute edge. The lack of a bevel seems to help with edge retention and makes sharpening with a stone a little easier. The downside of the steel Global uses is that is seems to be a little more prone to discoloration or rust spots than other high end cutlery. This can of course be avoided with proper are, and Global offers a lot of great information on the care and maintenance of their knives.

What really sets Global knives apart from their completion are their lightweight and excellent balance. They are the sports car of the cutlery world. Like a sports car these knives require a little more maintenance and upkeep, but if performance is your number one goal Global is hard to beat.

Check Price on Amazon

About Enso (Yaxell) Knives
This photo shows both Enso knife series. Enso HD series knives are on the left and SG2 series knives are on the right.
Enso HD and SG2 Series knives.

Enso has been making high quality cutlery since 1932. Currently Enso knives are manufactured in Seki, Japan by Yaxell which is another highly respected Japanese knife company with a long history that has combined old world craftmanship with modern manufacturing to produce some truly impressive knives.

About Miyabi Knives

Miyabi Cutlery is an excellent Japanese knife company that combines classic Japanese knife making techniques with modern German engineering.

The Myabi factory is located in Seki, Japan which is the center of Japanese knife production. Myabi knives are all crafted with a hard steel core that is surrounded by softer steel layers. This gives the knives the strength of a hard steel without the problem of chipping that would be an issue if the entire blade was made of hard steel. The layering method also results in an aesthetically pleasing pattern that helps make the knives a work of art.

In 2004, Myabi Cutlery was acquired by Zwilling J.A. Henckels which is a highly respected German knife brand that has been manufacturing quality knives for over 100 years. The combination of these two companies had the best possible result for Myabi, because Henckels began using it’s patented CRYODUR ice hardening treatment to make Miyabi knives even more durable. The resulting combination German engineering with Japanese craftsmanship has made Myabi Cutlery one of the most respected and well known names in the cutlery world.

Check Price on Blade HQ

Check Price on Amazon

2 thoughts on “Best Japanese Knife Set From Budget to Premium – 2021 Update”

Leave a Comment