Last Updated Jan 2020 – Japanese-style chef’s knives are beautiful, sharp, and highly functional in the kitchen. They’re a bit lighter and sharper than their traditional European counterparts, meaning that they have to be wielded with skill and grace (which basically just means you should cut boned meat with another knife).
With a plethora of knife manufacturers on the market, however, it can be difficult to decide which Japanese knife to buy. How does Miyabi stack up against other manufacturers, and which of their knives are the best?
A Safe Choice
Miyabi is a J Henckels imprint that makes high-end Japanese knives. This means two things: the knives are subject to strict quality control, and you get the very best customer support around. Henckels is a worldwide brand with plenty of experience handling returns, warranty issues, and other customer issues with class and ease.
Traditional Japanese knives are only sharpened on one side. This is known as a “single bevel.” Single-beveled knives are fantastically sharp cutting tools, but they’re also a bit of a headache.
You have to cut some food slightly differently to keep your slices straight and each knife can only be used by a right or left-handed person.
Miyabi doesn’t want you to have to worry about that. Instead, they put an INCREDIBLY sharp double bevel on their knives. Miyabi knives usually have a 9-degree factory grind. This is noticeably far sharper than what you’d see on a typical German knife and a fair bit sharper than many competing Japanese-style knives.
The word “honbazuke” is thrown around a lot in Miyabi’s marketing material. This is a term that refers to a specific three-step sharpening process that each knife goes through before it leaves production. The gist is that the knife is sharpened with a rough whetstone, then a finer whetstone, then stropped until the edge is razor sharp.
The result of all of this is that you can take a Miyabi out of the box for the first time and cut a tomato into slices thinner than scotch tape. You can take knives from other brands to this sharpness level yourself with a few whetstones and a bit of experience, of course, but it takes a bit of effort to get them there. With a Miyabi, it’s your starting point.
Miyabi vs Shun
I don’t normally like to declare a brand as “better” than another, but in this case, there’s a pretty clear victor. Miyabi’s knives are cheaper, sharper, and have better customer support than Shun’s. Shun knives can be more attractive (in some individual cases), but on the whole, I think they’re simply inferior to Miyabi in every way.
Miyabi Knife Reviews
Let’s take a look at a few top knives (and knife sets) so you can see what I mean.
This incredibly beautiful knife features a core of highly sought-after SG2 steel. It’s got beautiful Damascus patterns running down both sides of the blade and a straight, round birch handle that combines elegance and functionality.
As far as performance numbers go, this knife has a Rockwell hardness of 63, which is pretty high for a kitchen knife. It’ll hold an edge for a long time. It is going to be slightly more brittle than other knives, however, so you shouldn’t use this for cutting pineapples or bones.
The factory edge is between 9.5 and 12 degrees, depending on where on the knife you check. As I said earlier, this is crazy sharp. You’ll probably spend a very long time slicing vegetables for fun when you open up this knife. While this edge is fairly delicate (because it’s so darn thin), it doesn’t require much sharpening due to the high hardness of the steel. You can go for months between sharpenings with proper use of a honing steel.
I think that this Miyabi is a top choice as far as premium Japanese-style chefs knives go. It’s got Damascus styling, a beautiful wooden handle, it’s made of tough steel, and the edge is incredible. It’s also surprisingly affordable, given the quality.
If you’re after something a little more basic, this VG10 knife has got you covered. It’s not quite as hard as the SG2 steel above (60 Rockwell for this VG10 knife vs 63 Rockwell on the knife above) but it still keeps an edge for a pretty darn long time.
You still get beautiful Damascus patterns and a Western handle that will feel right at home. If you’d prefer a Japanese-style handle, check out the Miyabi Kaizen instead — it’s basically the same knife with a composite Japanese handle.
While the steel is slightly softer than the SG2 knife above, the factory edge is identical. This means you’ll have lots of fun in the kitchen whenever you can find an excuse to bring this knife out. 9.5 degrees is crazy sharp, and the European-style double-bevel means that you don’t have to re-learn any knife skills in order to get the most out of this Miyabi.
The only real downside to this knife is that the handle is made from a boring black composite. Sure, it’s sanitary and easy to clean, but it doesn’t look quite as good as an artisan wooden handle.
Again, I think that this is a wonderful choice for anyone looking for a Japanese style knife, especially if you don’t want to spend a huge amount of money. It’s made from high-quality steel, it’s got a great factory edge, and the Damascus patterns look incredible.
If one knife just isn’t enough, this 10-piece knife block comes with two Kaizen chef’s knives (which are the same as the knife above but with Japanese-style handles) and a full range of utility knives to keep you covered in the kitchen. All of the knives in this block feature the same VG10 steel and Honbazuke-sharpened edges as the Kaizen chef’s knife. This means that you get a beautiful, premium Santoku, paring knife, two chef’s knives (6″ and 8″), a 9.5″ slicing knife, a sharpening steel, and a beautiful block to keep all of them together.
Just like the chef’s knife above, there are a bunch of versions of this knife block on the market. You can get one with a few less knives for slightly cheaper, or you can elect to go with European-style handles if that’s more your thing.
Admittedly, this block is pretty expensive, but that’s because you’re getting a ridiculous number of high-quality knives. The cost of getting a Santoku and two chef’s knives alone is pretty high, so it makes sense that this high-end knife block would be pretty pricey too.
While it’s not for everyone, this Miyabi knife block is a perfect way of ensuring that you have a beautiful Damascus-patterned answer to every kitchen problem. You’ll love breaking out your utility knives with the incredibly sharp factory grind that Miyabi specializes in.
This Miyabi Santoku is a perfect kitchen workhorse that can supplement or replace a normal chef’s knife. It’s got a thin Japanese style blade in the same VG10 steel as the Fusion chef’s knife above and the same incredibly sharp factory grind.
The key difference is the way the blade is shaped. Instead of having a pointed tip, this knife focuses on having a broad, thin edge that’s easy to rock back and forth on your cutting board. Otherwise, it’s very similar to the chef’s knife above.
Many chefs use Santoku knives like this one as their go-to all-purpose knife. Whether you’re one of them or you just want a knife that’s fun to use for quickly chopping vegetables, this Miyabi is a perfect choice.
Miyabi – An Overlooked Great
The Japanese-style knife market is flooded with brands that offer beautiful knives with single-beveled edges at crazy high prices. Miyabi isn’t one of them. Instead, it offers great customer support, great steel, and more “normal” double-beveled edges that are incredibly sharp right out of the box. Even though their knives are pretty affordable, you still get to show off beautiful Damascus patterns each time you cook. If you want to pick up an incredibly functional Japanese knife, be sure to give Miyabi plenty of consideration. It’s one of the best brands on the market.