Last Updated Nov 2018 – Kamikoto is a Japanese company that manufacturers high-end Japanese-style knives in China and Japan. These knives retail for some pretty high prices, even when compared to brands like Yoshihiro that hand-make their blades using high-quality steel.
But are these knives worth the price? Should you splurge on a Kamikoto, or should you settle for a Yoshihiro or another brand?
Are Kamikoto Knives Worth It?
The answer totally depends on your wants, needs, and budget. Kamikoto knives are excellent display pieces, moreso than virtually any other brand. While they’re not functionally better than any other high-end knives, they come with display stands, have excellent aesthetics, and when your dinner guests Google the brand name, they’ll see a price list with an extra zero. If you’re primarily worried about impressing the people in your kitchen, Kamikoto knives may very well be worth a lot of money.
Truthfully, though, they don’t really retail for full MSRP. Every Kamikoto knife I’ve researched has had a very interesting history of periodic deep discounts. These knives are also used frequently by companies that want to offer gifts or prizes that are worth quite a lot. In other words, they literally have an inflated price.
Once you find a sale for about 50% off of MSRP, these knives start being a lot more attractive. Kamikoto isn’t my favorite knife brand, but they’re still pretty nice high-end knives, and they do come with a bit of a “wow” factor. They’re still not the best bang for your buck when it comes to cutting, slicing, or chopping, but I certainly wouldn’t fault you for picking up a set on sale for half-off (or more).
It’s worth noting that internet sales vary a lot. While these knives have been on sale occasionally in the past, there’s no reason to believe that they’ll be on sale in the near (or distant) future. If you need a knife with any urgency, I’d recommend simply picking up a Yoshihiro (reviewed HERE).
If you want to impress your guests with the more expensive set, however, there’s nothing wrong with waiting and using your favorite sale tracker to pick up a Kamikoto set when the price drops.
Japanese Knives, Chinese Made
Before we dive into individual knife reviews, let’s talk about country-of-origin for a moment. These knives are made in China from Japanese steel. While they’re handcrafted by artisans who have mastered the art of knife making, many people seem to think that their Chinese origin makes them worse than knives made in Japan. Some people even say Kamikoto knives use fake Niigata steel (which is untrue).
People in China aren’t worse at making knives than people in Japan. While these knives might very well be worse than knives from a brand made in Japan, their country of origin has nothing to do with it. Instead, the design and materials of these knives and the manufacturer’s quality assurance determine the quality of the knives that you receive.
Some people also complain that Kamikoto knives aren’t real “traditional” Japanese knives. This is fine too. While some Kamikoto knives are thicker and heavier than you’d expect a Japanese knife to be, they still work great as knives. Japanese knife companies don’t just make super thin, single-beveled blades.
Even Yoshihiro makes a number of knives in thicker styles with symmetrical edges, and they’re about as Japanese as you get. To me, this means that there’s nothing wrong with getting a Kamikoto, even if it’s clearly got some Western influences in its design.
While there are a lot of things you should look for in your kitchen knives, the most important thing is that you want high-carbon forged blades that are easy to sharpen and hold an edge well.
Kamikoto knives are made of excellent steel.
They’re more than durable enough for regular kitchen use, and they’ll stay very, very sharp with occasional maintenance. This makes them quite comparable to knives from Shun or any other high-end brand. I don’t think they’re necessarily better, but you can certainly chop vegetables very quickly with Kamikoto knives.
Kamikoto Knives Reviews
This three-piece Kamikoto knife set comes in a beautiful wooden box. It includes a 7-inch Nakiri knife (for cutting vegetables), an 8.5-inch slicing knife, and a 5-inch utility knife. Unlike some high-end knife sets, these knives are made of a type of steel that resists corrosion. This makes them far easier to clean and care for than other showy knife sets.
The knives in this set have a bit more heft than you’d expect from traditional Japanese knives. This doesn’t diminish their performance in the kitchen (they still chop and cut excellently), but it does mean that this isn’t the right set to buy if you’re a real purist when it comes to Japanese knives. They’re well balanced and handle fairly smoothly in the kitchen, but you may find your arm getting a bit tired if you do several hours of food prep at once.
As far as aesthetics are concerned, this set is quite nice. It features elegant, reserved lines and solid black handles that complement the satin finish of the blades themselves. You can proudly display these knives in the wooden box they come in or leave them out for guests to see. I’d recommend getting a magnetic knife holder so you can show off the brand stamp and the clean exterior of each blade.
Most high-end knives come sharpened right out of the box. This set is no different, although some users have mentioned that they felt like they needed to re-profile the Nakiri knife that comes with this set. If you’ve got some whetstones and a bit of time (or a local knife store), this is a fairly easy process. The other two knives feature excellent edges and are more than sharp enough to make thin tomato slices or perform other difficult kitchen tasks.
Like other Kamikoto knives, this set is probably not worth picking up at full MSRP. On sale, however, it’s fairly comparable to any other high-end knife set. You’ll get beautiful, well-made knives constructed with high-carbon steel. They’re easy to care for, hold an edge well, and work wonders when it comes to impressing your dinner guests.
This is a single-beveled 7″ chef’s knife made from corrosion resistant steel. It comes in a tasteful wooden box and features a unique aesthetic that smoothly blends bold lines with classical stylings. If you’re after a single knife that will make your food prep a bit more fun, this Kamikoto Santoku is a viable choice.
Unlike some Japanese-style knives, this knife is thick, hefty, and has a curved belly. This makes it well-suited for use with a rocking motion. If you’re cutting vegetables or chopping sausage, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better knife. It’s great for almost all other kitchen applications, too, although you might find that the tip is a bit too thick for some tasks.
While this knife is a bit heavy, the balance is superb. It’s very easy to control and maneuver as you chop, slice, and dice. The single bevel means that food doesn’t stick to the knife when it’s used properly and makes it slightly easier to maintain, too.
Like other high-end knives, you’ll have to sharpen this knife occasionally to keep it performing well. You can do this yourself with your favorite set of whetstones, but you can also visit a local knife store or even ship it off to a company that does sharpening remotely. Some users prefer to re-profile the edge of this knife entirely. If you’re not a knife expert, you probably won’t find this necessary, since this knife is plenty sharp right out of the box.
Kamikoto’s knives are made in China, not Japan. This doesn’t change the workmanship that’s gone into this knife at all. Despite its country of origin, it’s handmade by expert craftsmen who have honed their craft under traditional masters. The result is a beautiful knife that’s just as good at looking pretty as it is at food prep.
If you want to pick up a single Kamikoto knife, this Santoku chef’s knife is a fairly good pick. It’s reasonably versatile and will make common kitchen tasks (like chopping onions or potatoes) a bit more fun. Like other Kamikoto knives, you should definitely find it on sale or at a “special” price. At full MSRP, it’s simply not worth it. On sale, however, it’s quite competitive with other leading knife brands.
Kamikoto knives are wonderful to look at. This dual knife set takes things a step further and provides you with a well-designed wooden stand that displays the knives prominently. The stand is functional, too, in that it lets you easily remove the knives when it’s time to use them. You’ll get plenty of jealous comments from house guests with these knives prominently displayed on your counter.
The knives themselves are great for food prep, too.
There’s a 10″ chef’s knife and a 5.5″ utility knife that both come quite sharp out of the box. Like other Kamikoto knives, they’re a bit heavy, but they’re very well balanced and quite easy to use.
If you’re looking for traditional-style Japanese knives, of course, you might want to look elsewhere. These knives are a bit too thick and come with a double-bevel that will surely offend some purists. If you just want elegant knives that you can use in the kitchen, however, this set is perfect.
As far as style is concerned, this set features fairly subdued lines. This isn’t a downside. Instead, it’s an opportunity to showcase the high-gloss steel and the wonderful natural shading produced by the bevel on each knife. Plain black handles draw attention to the clean lines of the blades and gently accent the quality workmanship. To put it simply, these knives perfect the normal form instead of trying to improve on it. This creates a wonderful aesthetic that’s at home in any kitchen.
Like other high-end knives, you’ll have to sharpen these occasionally. For serious chefs, this isn’t a downside, since it means that your knives will stay very, very sharp for as long as you maintain them. The high-quality steel in these knives can easily last for a decade or more. This means that you might be able to cut tomatoes into paper-thin slices with the same knife ten years from now — as long as you’ve sharpened it recently.
The primary draw of Kamikoto knives is their elegant aesthetic and the Kamikoto brand name. The inclusion of a display block in this knife set makes it the best choice when it comes to showcasing both of these elements. Like other Kamikoto knives, it’s not recommended to pay full MSRP for this set. Should you find it on sale, though, it’s a great addition to your kitchen.
Should You Buy Kamikoto Knives?
Kamikoto knives are pretty pricey. On sale, they’re often still a bit more expensive than Yoshihiro knives or knives from other leading brands. At the end of the day, however, they’re still excellent knives that are fairly easy to maintain and hold an edge very well.
They’re also beautiful and have a bit of additional prestige that comes from the high cost of each knife.
If you can afford them, there’s nothing wrong with picking up a set for your kitchen. If you’re on a budget, however, you’ll absolutely want to wait for a sale or choose another brand. Kamikoto knives are absolutely not worth the full MSRP for most households. Luckily, they’ve gone on very deep sales in the past. If you happen to catch them while they’re on one of those deep sales in the future, they’re a lot more cost-effective when compared to other brands.
While Kamikoto’s knives are manufactured in China, this shouldn’t factor into your decision. Plenty of real Japanese knife manufacturers make knives that are very similar to Kamikoto’s knives, and the Chinese artisans that Kamikoto employs are just as skilled as their Japanese counterparts. While the knives Kamikoto makes might not satisfy pedantic purists, they’re still beautiful knives that do great work in the kitchen.