The Best Yanagiba Knife aka “the Best Sushi Knife” and the “Best Sashimi Knife”

“Best sushi and best sashimi knife” in my title are eluding to a yanagi or a yanagiba (the translation means “willow-leaf blade”) knife, which are for slicing boneless protein, like fish fillets or a Fillet-O-Fish. It is also what most sushi chefs are wielding behind the sushi counter, aside from tatted sleeves.

I am guessing you could be a home cook, but my main assumption is that you work BOH as a sushi chef or line cook. Whichever it is, you want a sushi-specific knife (a slicing knife), and this list has all the most popular yanagiba’s sold by the top five Japanese knife dealers in the world. 

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I put in the time and effort to provide you with the most comprehensive research (yea, bro, I do that) to help you deliberate on the best yanagiba knife because this is the level of information I expect.

I can not stand buying something and regretting it because I did not know all my options or was uninformed.
Photo Description: one of the yanagiba by Kadafusa hocho kobo. This is just one of the best yanagiba knives on aesthetics alone. The overall knife has almost a minimalist look to it. The handle is made of a semi-charcoaled chestnut wood.
UNDER $150: Tadafusa Hocho Kobo HK-7, SLD Semi-Stainless Steel with Stainless Steel Cladding, by Fumie Shibata, an industrial designer (what I initially went to school for). Image by Knifewear.

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: icon that represents Japanese brands/products.
Japanese Brands

All of these products are by Japanese owned and operated brands.

Photo Description: icon that represents vetted dealers.
Vetted Dealers

The top 5 online Japanese yanagi knife dealers in the world
Seki, Japan, 2003
New York City, NY, 1982
Fitchburg, WI, 2002
throughout Canada, 2008
Hyogo, Japan, N/A

A made in Japan yanagiba

BTW, does a knife have to be Japanese-made? Nope, and I have included an American brand, Cangshan, with products made in China. They are one of the only legitimate brands with products made in China because they are an American-based company, and they are not like all the Chinese marketing brands that deceptively imply they are Japanese.

I do not have Chinese brands because too many bloggers, media outlets, and narcissistic influencers ho themselves out for Chinese marketing brands out to fool their buyers (pretending to be Japanese).

So I am providing Japanese craftsmen a chance to compete because they have no clue what content/digital marketing is (in Japan, they still use fax machines and Yahoo is a top website). Yes, I am like the Luke Skywalker of the knife world, bringing balance.

Before I produce a blog post, I look at what is already out there

I started this blog because Bon Appetit and countless others were and still are producing some of the dumbest content. They cannot help but produce ad-driven content (sensationalism) or affiliate marketing-driven content (to sell products on Amazon).

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Most of the questionable content online have links to ONLY Amazon (these are the hack media outlets and bloggers), so that these entities can cash in on being an Amazon Associate which often promote deceptive Chinese marketing knife brands.

American, Japanese, and Canadian knife dealers do not carry Chinese marketing brands, so Chinese brands can only sell exclusively online or on Amazon.

Although, sometimes I come across decent content which I always highlight even if it is in direct competition with my Google ranking (yea, I don’t care, and I will always hype others that do good chit).

Types of steel/brands used by Japanese bladesmiths

Aside from the production methods, the type and quality of steel used by Japanese knife makers are partially why Japanese knives are popular. The steels used are not exclusively Japanese, and producers such as Misono will utilize Swedish Stainless Steel, although most use Japanese steel.

The top Japanese knife makers/blacksmith use steel from leading Japanese steel producers such as Aichi Steel Corp, Hitachi Metals Ltd., Kobe Steel, Ltd/Kobelco, 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).
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Why is this page quickly becoming the best yanagiba buyers guide? Trust and integrity are why foo and having every top-selling yanagiba in one place. Along with vetted sellers with a couple to four decades in business.

Legit content means not producing self-serving content strictly for a buck (like only listing Amazon products).

Tonkotsu/tonkatsu, bonsai/banzai confuses many people, so let me clear up yanagi vs. yanagiba

So here are a few similar or related terms you should know:

  • Yanagi: means “willow” in Japanese.
  • Yanagiba(bocho): means “willow leaf blade” in Japanese.
  • Sujihiki: means “flesh slicer” (how is that for a name).
  • Bocho/hocho: means “knife.”
  • Sashimi: raw fish or meat often eaten raw with soy sauce.
  • Taniguchi: means “opening to the valley” (I thought I’d toss this one in).
  • No mames wey: if you work as a line cook, I do not need to tell you.

Yanagiba (the sashimi knife) vs. sujihiki (the slicing knife)

So which one do you buy?

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If you are an avid cook with moderate knife skills looking to slice, I would highly suggest purchasing a double-bevel variant of the yanagiba, the sujihiki. Yes, I have a top sujihiki knife list here.

I got you covered either way.
  • The yanagi is a single bevel blade angled on only one-side for an ultra super sharp blade. The side it is beveled on depends if you are right or left-handed. 
  • The sujihiki is a double-beveled blade which means it is ambidextrous for right and left-handed users. It is also easier to use than the yanagiba.

If you’re a sushi chef, a yanagiba is your go-to (must have), but if you are the average Joe/Jane that wants an all-around slicing knife to slice da fock out of some boneless protein, the sujihiki is what you need. Also note, I left out a kiritsuke, takohiki, or a fuguhiki to not overcomplicate things because the above two are more than adequate.

Photo Description: this knife stands out because this kiritsuke has a black and white motif (handle). The saya is a matte black finish with a slight texture to it (almost like stucco drywall).
Not a yanagiba, and this is a kiritsuke which is like if a daddy yanagi made a baby with a mommy gyuto (what I own).
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There are two Amazon links because I included Shun and Cangshan. Shun is a massive big box brand from Japan (sold in Sur la Table to Williams Sonoma), and Cangshan is an American brand with a products made in China, but they are unlike the deceptive Chinese marketing brands.

Shun is a brand by the KAI group founded in 1908 in Seki city, Japan, and Cangshan is headquartered in Chino, CA, the land of chicken/dairy farms and a prison.

Here are a few of the Japanese companies and blacksmiths

There are several regions of Japan where blades are produced, but the most famous of them all is Seki city, a region with over 800 years of tradition and history of bladesmithing.

  • Fujiwara Kanefusa: a 26th generation old sword making (nihontō) family in Seki City, Japan. 
  • Sakai Takayuki: a brand by Aoki  Hamono Seisakusho Co.,Ltd., a company out of Sakai city. They are also the largest in their hood with a history that goes back several hundred years as a swordsmiths.
  • Takeshi Saji: is a leading blacksmith in Echizen. Saji was born in Takefu in 1948 in a family of second-generation smiths. In 1992, he was officially certified as a “Traditional Master Craftsman” by the Japanese Ministry of International Trade & Industry.

Four yanagiba price segments

I have structured the price segments to match previous affiliate sales made through which are a lot of sales in the several hundred dollar range. My guess is because I have vetted all the products and dealers, so you can rest assured that your money is not being spent on a crapshoot (like a sketchy brand on Amazon or ad claiming was $2,700, now only $299).

  1. $50-$150
  2. $150-$350
  3. $350-$750
  4. $750-$1,250+

Yanagi knives from $50-$150

If you work as a line cook, or you are an avid cook, this price range offers up a solid range of products with world-class proprietary and Japanese steels and production methods. Regardless how much you spend, a quality product at an affordable price is what you can expect from Japanese knife brands.

Photo Description:
$50-$150 RANGE: (Top Left) Cangshan, (Top Right) Iseya, (Bottom Left) Fu-Rin-Ka-Zan, (Bottom Right) Kanetsugu 

With Japanese products, you get what you pay for. They do not play a smoke and mirrors game where you are getting a $2,700 product for only $49.95 with a fancy box (I have a blog article about how this is part of the culture and what “made in Japan” means).

Photo Description:
$50-$150 RANGE: (Top Left) Masahiro, (Top Right) Fujiwara Kanefusa, (Bottom Left) Tojiro, (Bottom Right) Shikisai.
Stainless steel.
Made in Japan.
Kanetsugu$70210mm to 270mm, 3 sizes
Hybrid Wa Bocho Series Yanagiba.
MV Stainless.
Made in Sanjo City Japan.
I-series 33 Layer VG-10 Damascus Hammered.
Made in Japan.
Japanese-Style Shirogami White.
Made in Japan.
$121180mm to 300mm, 5 sizes
V Gold stainless steel (HRc. 60).
Fu-Rin-Ka-Zan$135240mm to 300mm, 3 sizes
Kurouchi White Steel No.2 Series Yanagiba (D Shaped Red-Sandal Wood Handle with Black Pakka Wood Ferrules).
J Series 62786 X-7 Steel Sashimi Chef Knife With Walnut Sheath.
Made in Yangjiang, China.
(Hocho Kobo)
Kobo HK-7, SLD Semi-Stainless Steel with Stainless Steel Cladding.
Made in Tsubame-Sanjo, Niigata, Japan.
MIYAKO 33 Layer Damascus (AUS8). 
Pricing and availability are subject to change. Also, due to the popularity of these knives, they go quick (often out of stock).
Photo Description:
UNDER $150: Tojiro Japanese-Style Shirogami White Steel Chef’s Yanagiba (Sashimi) 210mm
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If you are like Ned Flanders (the Simpsons), and you are left-handed, make sure you buy the correct knife for a left-handed user.

The flat part of a single bevel blade is on the left-hand side which means it pulls to the left slightly when slicing (think of the blade in the shape of a chisel).

Yanagi knives from $150-$350

Line cook bling, and in this price range, expect more details in the handle and ferrule materials, along with the types of steels used, will match the price point.

Photo Description: over $250 is the Masamoto yanagiba made of Shirogami (white steel number 2) by Hitachi. Made in Japan (shown with the saya).
OVER $250: Masamoto made of Shirogami No. 2 (white steel by Hitachi).

“…Now, six generations later, Matsuzawa’s vision has been realized and professionally crafted Masamoto knives have become known as the best knives in Japan and are widely regarded as some of the finest knives made for use by professional chefs worldwide. “

33-Layer VG10 Damascus Hammered Stainless Steel, VG10 Alloy Core.
Made in Japan.
White #2 (Hitachi), the blade is formed from a combination of two different steels, a softer outer jacket of steel wrapped around an inner core of harder steel.
210mm to 330mm, 5 sizes
KK Series Kasumi White Steel No.2.
Shirogami White 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).
OVER $200: Sakai: (Left) 270mm Damascus blade out of VG10 and (Right): 300mm of a Hitachi White no. 2 which needs to be completely dried after use.
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These are the most popular products by the 4 TOP dealers in the world. I do not cite 5, because Korin only carries a handful of brands, and they are primarily in the high-end price range ($350-$750), so they have been included regardless of their popularity.

The other products listed are the most popular in the overall product line-up.

Yanagi 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.

Photo Description:
$350-$750 RANGE: (Top Left) Sakai Takayuki, (Top Right) Yauji, (Middle Left) Shun, (Middle Right) Sakai Takayuki, (Bottom Left) Suisin Inox, and (Bottom Right) Masamoto.
Blue (Aogami) #2 Damascus
Made in Echizen (Takefu), Japan.
Special hongasumi, white Steel #2.
Byakko, shirogami #1 (White Carbon Steel) core with Carbon Steel Cladding.
Sohonten White #2 (carbon steel) Kasumi Yanagi.
Dual Core, 71 layers of two alternating, premium-quality stainless steels.
Honyaki, Stain-Resistant Steel.
Ginryu Dragon Premium Honyaki, Top Class Swedish High Carbon Stainless Steel by Bohler-Uddeholm.
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).

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READ THIS BEFORE YOU BUY: If you have never had a high-carbon knife before, requires that you completely dry your knife after use.

Seed and vegetables to specialized oils are also applied periodically.

Yanagi 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.

Photo Description:
$750+ RANGE: (Top Left) Sakai Kikumori, (Top Right) Masamoto, (Bottom Left) Sakai Takayuki, (Bottom Right) Yoshihiro.
Aogami No.1 Damascus Suminagashi B1SN-E, High Carbon Steel [Aoko or Blue Paper 1 steel] Core with Multi Layered Damascus Texture.
Made in Japan.
KH Damascus Honkasumi Gyokusei-ko, High Carbon Steel [Gyokusei-ko (Blue #2 Steel)] with Multi-Layered Damascus texture.
Made in Japan.
Sakai (Takayuki)$1,294300mm/11.8″
Mirrored Honyaki Water-Quenched Fuji-on-Wave Yanagiba and Saya SET, with Ebony Handle.
Kikumori Shiroichi (white carbon) honkyaki fujiyama hamon .

Pricing and availability are subject to change. Also, due to the popularity of these knives, they go quick (often out of stock).

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