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The Best Santoku Knife that I Did Not Test by Cutting Paper (Not One of the Three Purposes)

I am going to provide you with almost every top Japanese santoku (which means “three virtues/purposes”). That way you can come up with your own metric to determine which knife best suits you, like for cutting paper.

If you have no idea that there are eight knives or twenty-plus brands of Japanese santoku knives available to you, you would not be able to make the best decision. So that is what I will do to help you, and I will help to break things down by price segments. That is how most of us shop because if I told you the best knife was $3,290, most of you would not care unless you have a panda fur rug, an R34 out of your many cars, and a kitchen filled with Wolf, Miele, and Sub-Zero appliances.

This is an aggregation of all the top/popular Japanese santoku knives (only Japanese brands) from the top 4 knife dealers in the world, so that you can shop all in one place for the best santouku knife for you.

It cannot get any easier than that.

Disclosure: I only recommend products I would use myself and all opinions expressed here are my own. This post may contain affiliate links that at no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission.

Photo Description: the best santoku knives (one bunka is depicted on the lower left).
Top Left: Fu-Rin-Ka-Zan Aogami Super Custom Damascus Series FASD-3 Wa Santoku 165mm (6.4 inch), Top Right: Hatsukokoro HAP40 Ladderback Damascus Santoku 180mm, Bottom Left: Tojiro Oboro Santoku 175mm, Bottom Right: Masakage Zero Bunka 170mm

Shown above are styles of santoku knives with a mix of Japanese and Western handles made of red sandalwood and a black pakkawood ferrule (top left), ironwood (bottom right), to Micarta (top right). The bottom right image I threw in as an example of a variation of a santoku, a bunka.

One major characteristic when selecting a knife is the handle type. The “wa” is a Japanese handle and is lightweight, with the weight further toward the blade. The “yo,” is Western style and is overall heavier and riveted.

On another note, “washoku” is traditional Japanese cuisine, and “yoshoku” is Western-influenced cuisine. The more you know 🌈.

Types of steel/brands used by Japanese blacksmiths

Aside from the production methods, the type and quality of Japanese steel used by Japanese knife makers are partially why Japanese knives are popular.

knife icon

Japanese steels are known globally for their quality and it is partially what sets Japanese knives apart from all other knife makers.

The steels used are not exclusively Japanese, and some producers such as Misono have sought out and utilized Swedish Stainless Steel for their line of products, although most use Japanese steel.

The top Japanese knife makers use steel from the leading Japanese steel producers, from Aichi Steel Corp, Hitachi Metals Ltd., to Takefu Special Steel Co. Ltd.

  • The types of steels used (the spectrum) by Japanese knife makers: on one end is stainless steel (where chromium is added for corrosion resistance/prevent rusting). The other end are high carbon knives which are prone to rusting, but are very hard (sharper and longer lasting edge retention).
  • Here are a few of the Japanese steels used by Japanese knife makers: SLD (by Hitachi), VG-1, VG-10 (by Takefu), AUS-10, ACUTO440 (Aichi), Shirogami 1/2/3 and Aogami 1/2 (white and blue steel by Hitachi), and ZDP-189 (also by Hitachi), a Japanese super steel made of a powder metallurgy, R-2 (Kobelco).

The top 4 online Japanese knife dealers in the world

These are the top Japanese chef knife websites in the world by approximate web traffic.

  1. JapaneseChefsknife.com, Seki, Japan
  2. Chefknivestogo.com, Fitchburg, WI
  3. Knifewear.com, throughout Canada
  4. Hocho-knife.com, Hyogo, Japan

Disclosure: Only 1 out of the 4 is an affiliate (I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you), and I do not blatantly stack the odds in my favor because good content is legit content.

The metrics on deciding on a Japanese knife brand

  • Specialized blade steels for their intended use: entry-level knives utilize quality proprietary and world-class Japanese steel brands, but the more you spend, opens up the metallurgy door.
  • Price: if it were not an issue, 60 hours a week as line cook would be unheard of.
  • Looks: yup, we choose knives just like we choose significant others.
  • Feel of the knife in hand: this is why the in-store experience is critical.
  • Handle material and finishing details: also falls under the looks and price category.
  • An appropriate blade size: is dependent on your needs and size of your workstation.
  • Heritage: there is a coolness factor when buying a product that goes back 25 generations to a Japanese swordsmith.

For the record, the paper test is a legitimate way to test the sharpness of a knife, although for a large-scale product review, it can be somewhat arbitrary without a controlled testing process.

Price and material are more definitive.

Santoku blade lengths

Like any tool, you go with the tool that is most comfortable for you to use.

  • 135mm (5.3″)
  • 145mm (5.7″)
  • 164mm (6.5″)
  • 170mm (6.6″)
  • 180mm (7.1″), a very popular size.
  • 190mm (7.4″)

4 santoku price segments

Regardless of how much you spend, you will get a quality knife at each price segment.

  1. $50-$150
  2. $150-$350
  3. $350-$750
  4. $750-$1,250+
Photo Description: Iseya I-series 33 Layer VG-10 Damascus Hammered Japanese Chef's Santoku Knife 180mm ($92.99).
Iseya I-series 33 Layer VG-10 Damascus Hammered Japanese Chef’s Santoku Knife 180mm ($92.99).

Santoku knives from $50-$150

At this price, there are several top-selling knives because a quality knife at a reasonable price is what defines Japanese products. Many of these knives you will find in kitchens to the BOH of restaurants worldwide.

BRANDPRICESIZE/BLADE MATERIAL
Masutani$69.95170mm/6.7″
VG1 Santoku, Red.
Made in Echizen, Japan.
Tojiro$70170mm/6.7″
VG-10(Core), Cobalt Alloy Steel by 3-Layers Stainless Steel.
Made in Japan.
Tojiro$88165mm/6.5″
VG10 Stainless Steel with Stainless Steel Cladding
Made in Tsubame-Sanjo, Niigata, Japan.
Iseya$92.99180mm/7.0″
33 Layer Nickel Damascus-Hammered(Tsuchime) Stainless Steel, VG-10 Core.
Made in Japan.
Fujiwara$93165mm/6.5″
White Steel No.2
Harukaze$99.95165mm/6.5″
G3 Stainless Steel (AKA Ginsan) and a stainless steel cladding.
Made in Tosa, Japan.
Kohetsu$100165mm
Kohetsu Blue #2 Nashiji Santoku
Iseya$103.99180mm/7.0″
33 Layer Nickel Damascus Stainless Steel, VG-10 Core
Yahiko$109.95165mm/6.5″
Ginsan Nashiji Hand Engraved Santoku
Tojiro$112175mm/6.8″
 VG10 Stainless
Sanjo City, Japan
Tadafusa$119170mm/6.7″
SLD Semi Stainless Steel
N/A
Fujiwara$120165mm/6.5″
White Steel No.2 w/Damascus laminate
Shikisai$123.99180mm/7.0″
33 Layer Damascus Stainless Steel, High Carbon Molybdenum Vanadium AUS8 Steel Core
Sakai Takayuki$135.99180mm/7.0″
33 Layers Damascus Hammered Stainless Steel, VG10 Alloy Core.
Made in Japan.
Kanetsune$140.99185mm/7.2″
AUS10 Stainless Steel Core / Damascus 45 Layers.
Made in Japan.
Fujimoto$141165mm/6.5″
Aogami #2 (Blue Carbon Steel) with Stainless Steel Cladding.
Tsubame-Sanjo, Niigata, Japan
Haruyuki
$149165mm/6.5″
White Steel No.2 w/Damascus laminate
Pricing and availability are subject to change. Also, due to the popularity of these knives, they go quick (often out of stock).
Photo Description: Iseya G-series 33 Layer VG-10 Damascus Japanese Chef's Santoku Knife 180mm (only $103.99)
Iseya G-series 33 Layer VG-10 Damascus Japanese Chef’s Santoku Knife 180mm (only $103.99)

The Japanese santoku knife is a popular knife because it is cut-out to be a multi-purpose (“3 purposes”) knife for fish, beef to mutton, and vegetables.

Comparable to a chef’s knife.
Photo Description: Takeshi Saji R2 Mirror Hammered KRN Japanese Chef's Santoku Knife 180mm with Karin Lump Handle ($336.99).
Takeshi Saji R2 Mirror Hammered KRN Japanese Chef’s Santoku Knife 180mm with Karin Lump Handle ($336.99).

Santoku knives from $150-$350

In this segment, you start to see more attention to the details, such as the type of materials (micarta) and woods (magnolia to mahogany) used for the handle and ferrule (buffalo horn vs plastic). The blade materials also get more specialized and purpose-specific.

BRANDPRICESIZE/BLADE MATERIAL
Masakage
Yuki
$165165mm/6.5″
Shirogami #2 (White Carbon Steel) with Stainless Steel Cladding.
Made in Echizen, Fukui, Japan
Mizuno
Tanrenjo
$165165mm/6.5″
White Steel.
Fu-Rin-
Ka-Zan
$178
$190
$275
170mm/6.7″
Aogami Super with Stainless Steel Cladding
165mm/6.5″
Aogami Super Damascus
190mm/7.5″
Aogami Super Clad
Fujimoto$192165mm/6.5″
SLD Semi-Stainless Steel with Stainless Steel Cladding.
Made in Tsubame-Sanjo, Niigata, Japan
Takamura
Akagouhan
$201165mm/6.5″
R2 Powder Stainless Steel
Yaxell$229.99180mm/7.0″
69 Layer Nickel Damascus Stainless Steel, VG-10 Core.
Made in Japan,
Masamoto$234170mm/6.7″
Aogami #2 (Blue Steel #2) 
Hinoura$245170mm/6.7″
White Steel No.1
Masakage
Koishi
$251165mm/6.5″
Aogami Super (Blue Carbon Steel) with Stainless Steel Cladding.
Made in Echizen, Fukui, Japan.
Yu Kurosaki$332.99165mm/6.5″
SG2 (Super Gold 2 or R2) Micro Carbide Powder Stainless Steel.
Made in Japan.
Takeshi
Saji
$336.99180mm/7.0″
Mirror Finished SG2 (Super Gold 2 or R2) Micro Carbide Powder Stainless Steel Core, Stainless Steel Clad.
Made in Japan.
Hatsukokoro$340180mm/7.0″
HAP40, Stainless Ladderback Damascus
Made in Seki, Japan
Pricing and availability are subject to change. Also, due to the popularity of these knives, they go quick (often out of stock).
Photo Description: Fu-Rin-Ka-Zan Aogami Super Kurouchi Series FAB-4 Wa Santoku 170mm (6.6 inch, Octagon Shaped Red-Sandal Wood Handle)
Fu-Rin-Ka-Zan Aogami Super Kurouchi Series FAB-4 Wa Santoku 170mm (6.6 inch, Octagon Shaped Red-Sandal Wood Handle, $178).

As the price increases, your handle materials will vary from wood (rosewood, ebony, magnolia), resin (Micarta), to blue turquoise. Additional components include plastic, wood, metal (stainless steel to brass) and buffalo horn ferrules.

Buffalo horn is widely used, and if you want to know if it is ethically sourced, the answer appears to be a “yes” according to Hathorway (SF Bay Area) and their products and a “possibly” with Abbeyhorn products (England).

Santoku knives from $350-$750

In Japan, you really do not have to pay much to get stellar service or great food, so when you do pay, you get world-class service and a product that is usually beyond that of most competing products (one example, the Lexus LS400 when it debuted for $45k, it outdid a $150k Bentley).

BRANDPRICESIZE/BLADE MATERIAL
Masakage$397170mm/6.7″
Aogami Super (Super Blue carbon) Steel clad with Stainless Steel
Masashi
Kuroshu
$461165mm/6.5″
SLD Semi-Stainless Steel with Stainless Steel Cladding.
Made in Tsubame-Sanjo, Niigata, Japan.
Sukenari$620190mm/7.5″
ZDP-189 Nickel Damascus.
Fujiwara$623165mm/6.5″
Aogami Super (Blue Carbon Steel) with Stainless Steel Cladding.
Made in Tokyo, Japan.
Mizuno Tanrenjo$650180mm/7.0″
White Steel, says included.
Made in Japan.
Sakai Takayuki
Homura 

(Itsuo Doi)
$657.99195mm/7.7″
High Carbon Steel [Aoko or Blue Paper (Aogami) 2 steel].
Made in Japan.
Pricing and availability are subject to change. Also, due to the popularity of these knives, they go quick (often out of stock).

Mr. Yoshimi Kato, one of the most promising blacksmiths, received the certification of the traditional craftsmen on February 2008 and took over his father’s company as KATO UCHI HAMONO (KATO Knife Manufacturing Inc.) at Takefu city, Fukui in 2018.

His father, Mr. Kintaro Kato started kitchen knife production in 1928 and founded his company KANEHIRO UCHI HAMONO in 1958. He was awarded the Order of the Sacred Treasure, Silver Rays in 1987.” 

– Hocho Knife
Photo Description: Yoshimi Kato R2 Black Damascus REWOK Japanese Chef's Santoku Knife 170mm with Metal-Ring Oak White-Resin Handle ($956.99)
Yoshimi Kato R2 Black Damascus REWOK Japanese Chef’s Santoku Knife 170mm with Metal-Ring Oak White-Resin Handle ($956.99)

Santoku knives from $750-$1,250+

At this price point, it would not be odd to mount your knife to your wall as a showpiece due to the craftsmanship and as an appreciation to metallurgy (and yes, people collect knives).

BRANDPRICESIZE/BLADE MATERIAL
Takeshi Saji

$808.99180mm/7.0″
Multi-Layered Damascus & Diamond Finished SG2 (Super Gold 2 or R2) Micro Carbide Powder Stainless Steel Core.
Made in Japan.
Yu Kurosaki$848.99170mm/6.7″
SG2 (Super Gold 2 or R2) Micro Carbide Powder Stainless Steel
Made in Japan
Yoshimi
Kato
$956.99170mm/6.7″
Multi-Layered Damascus SG2 (Super Gold 2 or R2) Micro Carbide Powder Stainless Steel Core
Made in Japan
Mizuno
Tanrenjo
$1,600240mm/9.4″
Blue Steel No.2, say included.
Pricing and availability are subject to change. Also, due to the popularity of these knives, they go quick (often out of stock).

If you are a person of questionable morals, know that whichever knife you choose, your santoku is a virtuous knife (behavior showing high moral standards).

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