A Beginner’s Guide to Choosing Your First Japanese Knife: A Newbie’s Essential Advice

Are you a complete knife newbie looking to buy your first Japanese knife? Congratulations on taking the first step towards enhancing your culinary journey! Japanese knives are renowned for their exceptional sharpness, precision, and craftsmanship, making them a popular choice among chefs and home cooks worldwide. In this beginner’s guide, we will provide you with essential advice to help you choose the perfect Japanese knife that meets your needs and preferences.


1. Start with a Santoku Knife

As a newbie, it’s best to begin with a versatile all-purpose knife that can handle a wide range of tasks. The Santoku knife is an excellent choice. Its name translates to “three virtues,” referring to its ability to slice, dice, and mince with ease. The Santoku knife features a shorter blade and a flat cutting edge, allowing for precise control. It’s perfect for everyday cooking and a great introduction to Japanese knife techniques.

  • The Santoku knife is known for its versatility and can handle various ingredients, from meats and vegetables to herbs and fruits.
  • Its shorter blade makes it easier to maneuver and control, ideal for beginners who are still developing their knife skills.
  • The flat cutting edge allows for efficient chopping and slicing, providing consistent results in the kitchen.

2. Consider the Knife’s Feel and Comfort

When choosing a Japanese knife, it’s important to consider how it feels in your hand. Look for a knife with a comfortable handle that provides a secure grip. Pay attention to the weight and balance of the knife as well. As a newbie, you may prefer a lighter knife that allows for better control and reduces hand fatigue during extended periods of use.

  • Look for a handle that feels comfortable and suits your hand size. It should provide a secure grip to ensure safety and precision while cutting.
  • Consider the weight of the knife. A lighter knife is easier to handle, especially for beginners who are not accustomed to the weight of heavier knives.
  • Balance is crucial for control and maneuverability. Hold the knife at the handle and check if it feels well-balanced. The knife should not feel overly heavy or tip forward or backward when held.

3. Explore Stainless Steel Options

sakai kyuba santoku gyuto nakiri petty knife
Our bestsellers, Sakai Kyuba stainless knives. From top: gyuto (chef’s), santoku (chef’s), nakiri (veggie), petty (pairing) knives.


For a beginner, stainless steel knives are a great choice. They offer low maintenance and are resistant to rust and staining. You won’t have to worry about constantly drying the blade or oiling it to prevent corrosion. Stainless steel knives are easy to clean and maintain, making them ideal for those who are just starting to build their knife skills.

  • Stainless steel knives are made from an alloy that includes chromium, which provides corrosion resistance.
  • They are easy to clean and require minimal maintenance. Simply hand wash them with mild dish soap and warm water, then dry them thoroughly.
  • Stainless steel knives are available at different price points, making them more affordable for beginners.

4. Get Familiar with Knife Care

Proper knife care is essential to maintain the longevity and performance of your Japanese knife. As a newbie, it’s important to establish good habits from the start. Here are a few tips:

  • Handwashing: Always handwash your knife with warm water and mild dish soap immediately after use. Avoid soaking it or leaving it dirty for extended periods.
  • Drying: Thoroughly dry the knife with a clean towel or cloth to prevent moisture from sitting on the blade. Moisture can lead to rust and corrosion, particularly with high carbon steel blades.
  • Storage: Store your knife properly to protect the edge and prevent accidents. Consider using a knife block, a knife magnet strip, or a blade guard to keep the blade safe and secure.
  • Sharpening and Honing: While stainless steel knives retain their sharpness for longer, they will eventually require sharpening. Learn how to use a sharpening stone or consider professional sharpening services. Additionally, regular honing using a honing steel will help maintain the knife’s edge between sharpenings.
  • Avoid Misuse: Japanese knives are designed for specific tasks. Avoid using them on hard materials like bones, frozen foods, or dense vegetables, as this can damage the blade.
king kw65 1000 6000 sharpening stone whetstone waterstone
With a little bit of practice, sharpening your knives at home takes 5-10 minutes and brings the full sharpness back. We recommend combo King 1000/6000 sharpening stones for the those starting their journey with Japanese knives. You can buy this stone in our shop. 

5. Take Advantage of Online Resources and Reviews

Many shops which operate only online pass rent savings (which are a substantial part of any product brick and mortar shops sell) straight to the customer, offering more affordable high quality products. However, it can be overwhelming to navigate the world of Japanese knives, especially when you don’t have a way to ‘feel’ the knife in your hands. Fortunately, there are many online resources and reviews available to help you make an informed decision. Read product descriptions, watch tutorial videos, and seek out reviews from reputable sources or other knife enthusiasts. This will give you valuable insights into the different brands, blade materials, and styles available, including the highly recommended Sakai Kyuba Santoku.

  • Research the different types of Japanese knives, such as Gyuto, Nakiri, Yanagiba, and Deba, to understand their purposes and features.
  • Read product descriptions and specifications to learn about the blade material, handle construction, and overall quality.
  • Watch tutorial videos or read articles that provide guidance on knife selection, care, and proper cutting techniques.
  • Seek out reviews from trusted sources or online communities to gather feedback and recommendations from experienced users.

6. Set a Realistic Budget

Japanese knives can vary significantly in price. It’s important to set a realistic budget based on your needs and expectations. While there are high-end options available, you can find excellent entry-level Japanese knives that offer quality craftsmanship without breaking the bank. Determine your budget range and explore options within that range to find the best knife for you.

  • Research different brands and price ranges to get an idea of what is available within your budget.
  • Consider the long-term investment of a quality knife. A well-maintained Japanese knife can last for decades, making it a worthwhile purchase.
  • Don’t be swayed by flashy marketing or expensive brands. Focus on the knife’s performance, materials, and user reviews to make an informed decision.

7. Try Before You Buy, if Possible

If you have the opportunity, visit a local kitchenware store or a cooking supply shop to handle and test different Japanese knives. This hands-on experience will give you a better understanding of how different knives feel in your hand and how they perform. Pay attention to the weight, balance, and overall comfort. If possible, try out a few cutting techniques to see which knife feels most natural to you.

  • In-store experiences allow you to gauge the knife’s comfort, weight, and balance.
  • Test the knife on different ingredients or practice basic cutting techniques to get a feel for its performance.
  • Take note of any specific preferences or requirements you may have, such as blade length, handle style, or overall aesthetic.

Choosing your first Japanese knife is an exciting step towards enhancing your culinary skills. By starting with a versatile Santoku knife, considering the knife’s feel and comfort, exploring stainless steel options, and practicing proper knife care, you’ll be well on your way to enjoying the precision and performance of a Japanese knife. Remember to take advantage of online resources and reviews, set a realistic budget, and if possible, try before you buy. Embrace the journey of discovering the joys of Japanese knife craftsmanship and elevate your cooking experience to new heights. Happy cooking!

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