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You Love Your Vegetables, so Here Is the Japanese Knife That Can Mince, Chop, and Cut Them Up Into a Million Lovable Pieces.

Featured image: Sakai Takayuki GINGA, for under $200 with a ZA-18 alloy core by Aichi Steel Co.

I did not forget julienne, but the title was running long.

I love vegetables, and I am not a vegetarian or vegan, and I simply love food. Although many of you may be of the only plant eating type looking for a tool to help make your life a whole lot easier. A knife designed specifically for vegetables by the Japanese called a nakiri (if you are Beatrix Kiddo you will say “nah-kee-re,” although if you are Lt. Aldo Raine “nawwwkeeeyreeee”).

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This is the ultimate Japanese-made nakiri (vegetable knife) buyers guide from the top three specialized Japanese knife sellers worldwide of their top sellers, from Fitchburg, Wisconsin, to Seki City, Japan.

How does this list differ from others? I do not list only products listed on Amazon, and I list the top knife sellers globally, along with one big box seller on Amazon.
Photo Description: You do not have to spend much for a Japanese knife, and this knife by Kanetsune is under $50 USD.  For visually impaired, from the naked eye and the pic, the wood texture  of the handle looks great, but it is a laminate. Except what sets this blade apart is the "dimpled" upper portion of the blade which prevents food from sticking to the blade.
Value is why Japanese knives are popular because this is what you get for less than $50 USD (made in Japan).

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. So a big fat thank you to everybody who does purchase through my affiliate link because it is very much appreciated.

The Japanese are no stranger to vegan and pescatarian cuisine due to Buddhism, shojin ryori (Buddhist cuisine)

Like a million and one things in Japan, it came from China in the 13th century (I also think Chinese and Indian cuisine kill it with their vegetarian dishes). If you want to read more about the cuisine, Savor Japan, like usual has a great article on it “Shojin Ryori: Japan’s Sophisticated Buddhist Cuisine.

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Due to Shinto and later Buddhist beliefs, eating meat was forbidden in 675 CE (the Tenmu era). It was not till the Dutch, the Japanese trading homies, in the late 19th century, in the Meiji restoration era, was like, “bro, put some meat on your bones.”

Not strictly the Dutch, but Western influence led to lifting the ban on eating meat (Kristi Allen has a more in-depth article on Atlas Obscura ). Also, I cannot help but think of Martin Scorsese’s movie Silence which takes place in the 17th century.

Nakiri versus an usuba

A nakiri is a double-beveled rectangular profiled design for ease and ambidextrous use. Whereas, the usuba is an ultra-sharp single-bevel design, which I will not get further into the differences because the focus will be solely on the more versatile nakiri.

The ultimate vegetable cutting and chopping knife not suited for a slasher flick

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A nakiri is not a meat cleaver and is on par with a vegetable cleaver. Although, in comparison to a nakiri, the cleaver is great if the bulk of what you are working with has tough skin/rinds and bulky vegetables like pumpkins and melons because of its heft. 

The nakiri is sharper and lighter, which means more control and less fatigue working it (work it baby).

The nakiri is not for butchering or cutting meat and is only meant for vegetables because of the design of the blade. Like many Japanese knife blades, they are light, and ultra-sharp whereas they are lighter and smaller compared to their European counterparts, they also are not over engineered and do not have the durability to double duty in a slasher flick.

Photo Description: I think one of the most telltale and signature looks of a Japanese knife is the "wa" or a Japanese handle. This handle is made of Magnolia which is a very light colored wood, a very light beige.
Beatrix Kiddo sought out Japanese steel for a reason and for upwards of $200 USD, this is what you get. A blade core of Hitachi White Steel No.2 (Shiro-ko #2; HRc. 62-63), which is forge-welded and sandwiched with soft iron (mmmh, sandwich).

Many of these Japanese nakiri brands are multi-generational

There are a lot of unscrupulous brands who will imply they are a Japanese made knife because they are in the shape of a Japanese knife profile (a gyuto, nakiri, or yanagiba). So to help make it easier on you, I will be providing genuine Japanese brands with a centuries and decades of tradition and heritage in bladesmithing.

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KPCC/Off-Ramp® has an excellent piece on Michael Cimarusti, the 2-star Michelin chef and his experience in Japan where he got to experience the thousands of years behind Japan’s food and knife culture (you can listen to it here).

The late LA Times Jonathan Gold has had named Providence the best restaurant in LA.

Here are a few of the Japanese companies and blacksmiths behind the knives:

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 family in Seki City, Japan.
  • Misuzu: is a family run operation, and if you want to hear more about the family, Hamono Studios has a great write-up on them.
  • Sakai Takayuki: a brand by Aoki  Hamono Seisakusho Co.,Ltd., a company out of Sakai city.
  • 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.
Photo Description: a close-up a VG-10 blade with 33 layer Damascus. This knife by Iseya was crafted by Seto Knives, in Seki City, Japan.
$50-100 USD range, is the Iseya I-series which I can guarantee prepped that slaw you just ate with those perfect cuts (it was not a mandolin).

Nakiri blade lengths

Unlike a gyuto (a Japanese chefs knife) to a yanagiba (a slicing knife), a nakiri’s blade length does not vary much due to the way the tool is utilized. Those other blades all use a pulling motion that utilize the entire length of the blade whereas a nakiri is a down and upward motion with minimal forward motion.

  • 165-170mm (6.5″-6.7″): the typical and most popular size range.
  • 180mm (7.1″): when 6.7″‘s will not do, and you need that almost extra half-inch.

Specialized nakiri online retailers

If you are not going to purchase online, I have US-based Japanese knife retailers listed here.

  • The three specialized Japanese knife dealers are: 1). JapaneseChefsKnife.com, Seki, Japan, 2). ChefsKnivesToGo.com, Fitchburg, WI, and 3). Hocho-knife.com, Hyogo, Japan.
  • For Amazon shoppers (via Cutlery and More): Global, a Japanese brand you will find in William Sonoma, Sur la table, and like those copywriters say, “other fine retailers.”
$50-100 USD range: want something unique? This is it, a Vietnamese family, the Nhat family created this Nakiri out of recycled leaf springs taken from old cars and trucks (that is probably the reason why this is such a popular seller).

Nakiri and price ranges

Price ranges also differ with nakiri’s, and the $750+ range are usually filled with single-beveled usuba’s, so I am limiting the range unlike my other listings which usually have four price segments.

  1. $30-150: affordability and quality go hand-in-hand with many Japanese products, which is why many of these knives you will find in home kitchens, and in the hands of line cooks around the world.
  2. $150-350: want a knife that will standout from the crowd? If you do, this is the segment where you have something a little more distinctive from more specialized steels, and a variety of woods and naturally sustainable materials used in the details.
  3. $350-$750: when standard and being basic is just not your thing.

The best nakiri from the best Japanese knife brands and sellers in the world

All aggregated all in one place.

Nakiri’s from $30-$150

A quality product at an affordable price range which utilize world-class proprietary and Japanese steels and production methods (a popular range with a lot of value).

Photo Description: a very distinctive looking blade because the upper half is blackened. It is offset with a Magnolia wood handle and black ferrule thet is in between the handle and the blade.
What other product for under $100 gets you so much history, heritage, and craft all rolled into one? I think maybe some Jamón ibérico may come close (well, only 2.5 lbs of it, and not an entire ham).
BRAND/
SERIES
PRICESIZE/BLADE & HANDLE
MATERIAL
Narihira
(Fuji Cutlery)
$36.99
HOC
160mm (6.3″)
• Stainless steel.
Kanetsune
$45.99
HOC
165mm (6.5″)
• DSR-1K6 high carbon stainless steel with a hardness of 59-60 HRC.
• Plywood (laminated wood).
Tojiro
(Fujitora)
$47
CKTG
165mm (6.5″)
• Shirogami #2 steel hairline
D Ho Wood
Daovua
Nhat family 
$65
CKTG
175mm (6.9″)
• Their blades are fashioned from recycled leaf springs taken from old cars and trucks. This is not as bizarre as it sounds as many top-flight blacksmiths dip into this widely available source to make their highly prized blades. But unlike these fancy and often expensive works of art, the Nhat family makes more down-to-earth creations that are more function than form. 
Tojiro
(Fujitora)
MV
$68.99
HOC
170mm (6.7″)
• Molybdenum Vanadium Stainless Steel to successfully prevent from rust
• Magnolia wood
Masutani $69.95
CKTG
165mm (6.5″)
• VG1, hammered stainless.
Kohetsu
$75
CKTG
165mm (6.5″)
• Blue (Aogami)  #2
• Yo Pakka Wood
Misuzu
$83.95
CKTG
165mm (6.5″)
• SKS93 is a carbon alloy steel.
• Ho wood.
Sakai
Takayuki

$86.99
HOC
180mm (7.1″)
• INOX stainless steel (AUS-8).
Iseya
I-Series
$88.99
HOC
180mm (7.1″)
• 33 layers of Damascus-Hammered (tsuchime) texture blades with a core of high carbon VG-10 stainless steel
• D-shape black laminated wood, Engraving of bamboo grass
Fujiwara Kanefusa
FKJ
$93
JCK
165mm (6.5″)
• White Steel No.2, which is sandwiched with soft iron.
• Magnolia wood.
Global
(Yoshikin)
$99.95
AMZ
180mm (7.1″)
• Proprietary CROMOVA 18: molybdenum/vanadium stainless steel.
• Tapered handle molded for lightweight comfort, dimpled for safe grip
Suien
$124
JCK
165mm (6.5″)
• Hammer forged VG-10 Damascus.
• Black pakka wood handle with stainless steel bolster.
Price and availability are subject to change (many of these are the most popular selling models, so they are often sold out).
Photo Description: I had to have this one shown because it utilizes a "yo" or Western (European) style handle which is riveted and heavier than their Japanese counterparts.
I did not get into it, but you may have noticed the differing styles of handles. The riveted style is a Western (European) whereas the Japanese style is lighter due to less metal running the length of the blade.

Nakiri’s from $150-$350

Line cook bling

Photo Description: There are all too many features that makes this a stellar looking blade. The first part being the karin wood blade that has a distinctive wood pattern with two gold rings for the ferrule. The blade itself is dimpled in a decorative pattern and that is not the only standout, it is the entire look of this piece for a little over $300+ USD.
Over $300: the Takeshi Saji uses Karin wood (花梨) which is also Pseudocydonia sinensis or Chinese quince (only a Karin could complain about how this wood handle turned out).
BRAND/
SERIES
PRICESIZE/BLADE & HANDLE
MATERIAL
Mizuno
Tanrenjo

Akitada Hontanren
(a top seller)
$160+
JCK
165mm (6.5″)
• White Steel No.2; HRc. 62-63
• Magnolia wood.
Tamahagane
(Kataoka &
Co)
$151.99
HOC
160mm (6.3″)
•  The Core layer is VG-5, High Carbon Molybdenum Vanadium Steel, is enveloped by 31 layers of SUS410 (13 Chrome Stainless Steel) on one side with soft and hard stainless steel.
• Corrosion resistant made from compressed laminated stylish-brown wood.
Tamahagane
(Kataoka &
Co)
$161.99
HOC
180mm (7.1″)
• The Core layer is VG-5, High Carbon Molybdenum Vanadium Steel, is enveloped by 31 layers of SUS410 (13 Chrome Stainless Steel) on one side with soft and hard stainless steel.
• Compressed laminated stylish-brown wood.
Fu-Rin-Ka-Zan
$165
JCK
165mm (6.5″)
• Carbon steel “White Steel No.1″ (SHIROGAMI #1) and is hardened to HRc. 63. Unlike the stamped, die-cut or laser-cut blades of machine-made production knives, these hand forged blades are shaped with a hot forging process called “Hidukuri”
• Water-resistant black pakka wood.
(pictured below)
Masamoto
KK series
$186
JCK
165mm (6.5″)
• Uses a blade core of Hitachi White Steel No.2 (Shiro-ko #2; HRc. 62-63), which is forge-welded and sandwiched with soft iron (hand-made).
• Magnolia wood.
Sakai Takayuki
GINGA
$188.99
HOC
165mm (6.5″)
• 69 Layers Damascus Stainless Steel, ZA-18 Alloy Core
• Octagonal wenge wood with buffalo horn.
Takeshi
Saji


Takeshi
Saji

Nature
Series
$321.99
HOC

$340
JCK
170mm (6.7″)
• Damascus-patterned blades with a core of SG2 (Super Gold 2 or R2) Micro Carbide Powder Stainless Steel for professional with a hardness of approx. 63 HRC, which provides excellent rust resistance and a long-lasting edge as well as its beautifulness and unique design.
• Karin lump wood with stainless bolster. 

165mm (6.5″)
• The hammer forged R-2 blade (HRc. 62 to 63) is clad with soft stainless steel and features a very natural-looking Tsuchime Hammered texture, which is created with simple round dimples.
• Karin (Quince) burl wood handle.
Price and availability are subject to change (many of these are the most popular selling models, so they are often sold out).
Photo Description: this has got to be the most mundane looking of the bunch, but do not let the looks fool you because there is a lot of craft involved with this blade. The dull finish and blade are hand forged.
Mid $150 USD: This mundane looking blade may look just that, but master blacksmith Teruyasu Fujiwara, who is a licensed Swordsmith based in Tokyo produced these knives. For over 4 generations, the Fujiwara family has maintained their traditional blade smithing techniques and processes. Image courtesy of JapaneseChefsKnife.com

“His desire is to make heirloom-quality knives that can be passed down for generations, allowing many people to experience and enjoy their exceptional cutting performance and the soul of traditional Japanese craftsmanship.”

JapaneseChefsKnife.com, about Fu-Rin-Ka-Zan and Teruyasu Fujiwara.

Nakiri’s from $350-$750

A price segment for the ultimate gift to yourself or for some very lucky person.

Photo Description: this knife just stands out from the blade (31 layers), to the overall "sheen" of the overall look which I think the black canvas Micarta contributes immensely too.
Mid 300’s: why do I equate the Tamahagane with a sharkskin suit, the sheen? Well, probably for no legit reason although equally as cool is blogger, graphic designer, Matt Spaiser blogging about every James Bond suit and the navy blue sharkskin suit James Bond wore in Spectre.
BRAND/
SERIES
PRICESIZE/BLADE & HANDLE
MATERIAL
Tamahagane
Kataoka & Co
$356.99
HOC
160mm (6.3″)
• The 63 Layers Damascus and it’s beautiful design must impress you by the details of it’s well calculated, meticulous design. The Core layer is VG-5, High Carbon Molybdenum Vanadium Steel, is enveloped by 31 layers of SUS410 (13 Chrome Stainless Steel) on one side with soft and hard stainless steel. 
• Constructed of black canvas-Micarta (multilayer linen/resin combo).
Nigara$445
CKTG
165mm (6.5″)
• SG2 Stainless Steel.
• Custom ebony octagonal.
Takeshi Saji
Limited
Edition
$510
JCK
165mm (6.5″)
• Powdered Metallurgy High Speed Tool Steel, called “R-2” (Manufactured by Kobelco).
• Handmade hybrid wood handle.
Price and availability are subject to change. Also note, Japan is a geriatric society (65+) and a number of the producers listed here are in their 70-80’s, so product availability has been an issue, even with charcoal production.
Photo Description: this one belongs hanging on a wall when not in use due to the handle and powdered metallurgy blade.
$500 plus you get forge-smith & Master craftsman, Takeshi Saji who was born in 1948 which makes him 74 years old this year.

Now go dream of cutting up that poor defenseless zucchini soon.

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