So, you want a new gyuto (i.e. Japanese chef’s knife), but you don’t want to spend much money?
… Or, maybe you just don’t have much money??
Welcome to my world, friend. The world of begging choosers. 😅
Most high quality Japanese chef knives are well over $100 (USD), but if you search hard enough, there are some budget-friendly gems out there.
Fortunately for you, I have done the research, and put together a beautiful list of the best Japanese chef knives for under $100!
The Best Japanese Chef Knives Under $100 – Recommendations
When you are on budget, you are going to have to compromise on a few things. Usually, the handle will use a cheaper composite wood / plastic material. The blade steel will usually be some lower end stainless steel. But, just because we are a bit more budget conscious (i.e. cheap 🤓), doesn’t mean we have to compromise on everything! For this list, I looked at the best chef knives with the following features:
Things to look for:
- Japanese style chef’s knife — i.e. gyuto (What’s the difference between Western and Japanese knives? Read Japanese Knives 101)
- Preferably, hand made in Japan
- Decent blade steel (most budget friendly knives will use some sort of stainless steel like Molybdenum-Vanadium alloy, although there are a couple of budget friendly carbon steel choices)
- Reputable brand
- Sharp out of the box (who wants to have to sharpen a brand new knife??)
- Under $100 (USD) … of course!
To keep things comparable, I also chose knives with similar sized blade lengths (around 210mm / 8.2 inches).
Tojiro DP Gyuto (210 mm)
The Tojiro DP is one of the most popular, and best overall entry-level Japanese kitchen knives. It is also under $100. The price seems to be getting more and more expensive (probably due to its popularity), so snatch one up while it’s still worth it.
The Tojiro DP gyuto is completely made in Japan, and features a wooden Western-style handle, with a triple layer stainless steel blade. The core of the blade uses a hard, high-end stainless steel (VG-10) while the outer layer uses a softer steel for easier sharpening and maintenance. The blade has a rating of 60 HRC on the Rockwood hardness scale. This is quite hard for such a budget friendly knife.
The blade edge’s symmetrical makes this knife suitable for either right handed or left handed users. The blade profile and overall balance also makes it easy to use, and adaptable to all basic cutting techniques. The knife also comes sharp straight out of the box, so you don’t need to waste time sharpening when you get it. Just start chopping away!
One slight downside of the Tojiro DP gyuto is that it is a bit heavier compared to similar sized Japanese knives (180 grams / 6.3 oz). It will still feel lighter than most Western equivalents if that is what you are used to.
Overall, the Tojiro DP is easily one of the best Japanese chef knives on the market. If you are looking for a solid gyuto to get started with, you really can’t go wrong with this knife. At time of writing, the Tojiro DP 210mm version currently sells for just over $80, although the price seems to be rising slightly every so often. There is also a 240mm version for just over $100, and a 180mm version for around $70.
- Excellent blade steel (VG-10) compared to other entry-level knives
- Easy to maintain and sharpen
- Super sharp out of the box
- Slightly heavier than other Japanese knives
Fuji Narihira Chef’s Knife (210mm)
The Fuji Narihira gyuto is another often recommended Japanese chef’s knife that sells for a fair bit cheaper than the above mentioned Tojiro. It comes in a few blade sizes, and all sell for well under $100 USD — the 210mm is currently around $50!
The Narihira brand is actually made by the same parent company that manufactures the Tojiro brand knives — Fuji Cutlery. They are famous for making great entry-level Japanese kitchen knives, so you know that this will be a quality knife. The Fuji Narihira and Tojiro DP look almost identical, so why is one cheaper?
The main difference between the two is the blade material and construction. While the Tojiro DP uses a triple layer VG-10 stainless steel, the Narihira uses a pressed mono-steel (single piece) construction with Molybdenum-Vanadium (MV) stainless steel. This is a slightly cheaper steel and construction method which allows for the lower price point. The MV steel is also a bit softer (~58 HRC) than VG-10, so it will dull a bit faster. The knife comes sharp out of box though, so you don’t need to worry about sharpening right away.
Another major reason for the Narihira brand knives being cheaper is that they are mainly manufactured in China, and then sent to Japan for finishing and final quality control. Some people may be put off by this, but it is how the pricing can be so cheap. iPhones are also mainly manufactured in China and then inspected by Apple afterwards. So, I guess, take that for what it’s worth?
Overall, the Fuji Narihira is an excellent chef’s knife that sells for WELL under $100. The 21cm version sells for around $50, and the longer 24cm version sells for only $60. If you are on a tight budget, but looking for a quality gyuto, then the Fuji Narihira might be the one for you.
- Extremely budget friendly ($50 for 21cm version, $60 for 24cm version)
- Quality construction, made by same parent company of Tojiro DP brand
- Very sharp out of the box
- Softer/cheaper steel type than Tojiro DP
- Not really made in Japan — manufactured mainly in China
MAC Chef Series HB-85 Gyuto ( 215mm / 8.5″ )
MAC is an extremely reputable Japanese knife brand that is known for making high quality, super sharp knives used by both professionals and home chefs.
The HB-85 gyuto is MAC’s most affordable chef knife options, retailing for just $82.50. It is also MAC’s lightest chef’s knife, weighing only 4.9oz (139 grams). Compare this to the above mentioned Tojiro DP which is similar in length, but weighs nearly 30% more at 180 grams.
The lightness of the HB-85 is mainly due to its very thin blade. The edge of the blade is sharpened at around 15 degrees, which is much more acute than the typical 18-20 degrees you find on many other brands. This razor sharp edge is a signature feature of all MAC knives, which helps set it apart from many competitors.
Despite the thin edge, the MAC knife is durable and not prone to chipping thanks to its proprietary rust-resistant Molybdenum steel alloy. The hardness of the steel (58-60 HRC) also helps it stay sharp for a long time, especially when compared to most German/Western-made knives.
One other factor that contributes to this knife’s lightweight is the handle has no bolster connecting it to the blade. The simple Western style handle is made of pakkawood (engineered/composite wood). Although the appearance of the handle is nothing to write home about, it is durable and great for daily use.
One small downside of this knife is that the blade height is slightly shorter than average (1.63″ / 41.4mm). If you have very large hands, this may be an issue as you will have less knuckle clearance when cutting. Compare this with the above mentioned Tojiro DP (43.7mm) and the Fuji Narihira (46mm).
Overall the MAC HB-85 is a well balanced, excellent entry-level Japanese chef’s knife for less than $100 (currently $82.50).
- Super lightweight
- Razor sharp edge
- Very internationally reputable brand
- Shorter than average blade height
Ikkaku Donryu Molybdenum Gyuto (210mm)
The Ikkaku Donryu gyuto is a lesser known, but solid entry-level Japanese chef’s knife. It sells for well under $100..in fact, at time of writing it was only $54!
The blade is made of rust-resistant Molybdenum Vanadium steel. This is a slightly cheaper and softer steel (56 HRC) compared to many Japanese knives, which helps bring the cost down a bit. It will still be harder and sharper than many of your typical German / Western made knives. The softer steel does make it easier to sharpen, and less prone to chipping, which may be good for beginners, or if you treat your knives a bit roughly.
The knife is also extremely lightweight at just 4.96 oz (140grams). This is basically the same weight as the aforementioned MAC HB-85. A lightweight knife is nice for day to day use, as it will require less energy to wield about (as long as you keep the blade sharp).
One other unique point about this knife is that the blade bevel is grinded at a 60/40 angle ratio. This basically means one side of the blade edge is steeper than the other, and makes it more effective for right handed users. If you’re a lefty though, this is obviously a downside.
One other small downside of the Ikkaku Donryu is its cheapish handle, which is made of POM resin (i.e a hard plastic). It is very durable though, which is good if you’re worried about damaging a nice wooden handle.
Overall the Ikkaku Donryu is a great choice for those looking to try their first Japanese chef’s knife, and is super affordable at only $55. It is also available in longer sizes, all for less than $100.
- Extremely affordable ($55 for 210mm version)
- Very lightweight, and sharp out of the box
- Durable, easy to sharpen for beginners
- Favors right-handed users
- Cheap handle material
Fujiwara Kanefusa FKM Series Gyuto (210mm)
The Fujiwara Kanefusa FKM gyuto is another often recommended option for people looking to purchase their first authentic Japanese chef’s knife. It is quite light (5.8oz / 165g), and has a classic gyuto blade profile, making it great to practice your basic knife skills..
The thin, mono-steel blade is made with the popular AUS-8 Molybdenum Vanadium stainless steel. This is one of the most common blade steel choice for entry level Japanese knives, as it is hard enough to keep a sharp edge (57~58 HRC), but not too hard such that it is difficult to sharpen for beginners. Many of the other knives on this list also use some variation of this steel.
The Western-style handle is made of standard pakkawood secured with three rivets. It is extremely durable and comfortable to hold for day to day use. It is also available in a couple different colors — black or “Wine Color” (i.e. brown) — just in case you’re bored of only having knives with black handles. The brown version is slightly more expensive.
One thing to note about this knife is that the blade edge has a 70/30 bevel. This allows for a sharper edge, and better cutting performance … but only if you’re right handed. Left-handed versions are available by custom order from some retailers (like Japanesechefsknife.com).
Overall, the Fujiwara FKM Series Gyuto is an excellent, well balanced knife that is one of the best Japanese chef knives under $100. The 210mm version currently retails for around $80 (black handle version). It is actually available in a range of sizes from 150mm to 300mm. The 240mm version is also less than $100.
- Well balanced, classic gyuto design
- Different handle colours available (black or brown/”wine-color”)
- Designed for right handed users only (70/30 bevel)
Misono Molybdenum Steel Series Gyuto (210mm)
Misono is a very well established, and extremely reputable Japanese knife maker that is popular among professional chefs around the world. They are famous for their extremely strict quality control, and for keeping 100% of their knife production process in house. As a result, Misono knives are generally on the higher end (i.e. well over $100). Fortunately for us, they do have one chef’s knife that cost less than $100 — the Misono Molybdenum Steel Series Gyuto.
Similar to the above Fujiwara FKM, this knife’s blade uses a Molybdenum Vanadium stainless steel (AUS-8), which offers excellent durability and sharpness, while also being easy to resharpen when necessary (HRC 57).
Also, similarly to the Fujiwara FKM, this Misono knife is designed specifically for right-handed users as it has an edge bevel of 70/30. If you are looking for a left-handed version, you can custom order through some retailers, but it will cost 10-15% more.
The Western style handle uses the familiar, standard pakkawood secured with two rivets (or three if larger blade size). It is waterproof, and durable which makes it suitable for everyday use.
The Misono Molybdenum Gyuto is very lightweight (156g / 5.5oz ), and comes super sharp out of the box. Overall, there is not really much downside to this knife, and it is easily one of the best Japanese chef knives at this price point. If you are looking for your first authentic Japanese kitchen knife, and want a reputable brand, then this Misono may be perfect for you!
The 21cm (8.2″) version currently retails for around $85 It is also available in shorter and longer versions (180mm – 360mm), though the longer versions are all over $100.
- Super reputable and established Japanese knife brand
- Very lightweight
- Designed for right handed users only (70/30 bevel)
Best High Carbon Japanese Chef Knives for under $100
These days, it is a bit rare to find a gyuto that does not use a stainless steel blade. Most chefs will prefer a stainless steel knife for their day-to-day use because of ease of maintenance. The advance in stainless steel technology has also resulted in blades with excellent cutting performance.
Some chefs though, who are looking for extreme cutting performance will prefer a high carbon steel blade. A true high carbon knife will still offer slightly better cutting performance versus a comparable stainless steel one.
The main downside of carbon knives is they are more difficult to maintain. Mainly, they will rust/discolor quickly if not kept dry or if exposed to acidity. The steel is also typically much harder (i.e. higher HRC), which means it will hold an edge better, but will also be more difficult to sharpen when needed.
With that being said, here are a couple of the best carbon steel Japanese chef knives for under $100. These knives use the most budget friendly carbon steel, which make them slightly easier to sharpen than higher-end/harder carbon knives. They will still discolor quickly though.
Fujiwara FKH Carbon Gyuto (210mm)
The Fujiwara FKH Carbon gyuto is sort of the carbon version of the previously mentioned Fujiwara FKM gyuto.
The blade uses SK-4 high carbon steel, which is one of the lower-end (i.e. most budget friendly) carbon steel options. This basically means that the steel has the lowest carbon content relative to other high carbon steels used for Japanese knives (e.g. White Steel, Blue Steel, etc.). It therefore measures slightly lower on the hardness scale (59 HRC) relative to other high carbon knives. This makes it a bit easier to sharpen though, which could be good for beginners looking for their first venture into the world of high carbon knives.
The Fujiwara FKH is average weight for a Japanese gyuto (174g / 6.13oz). The Western handle is made of a typical black pakkawood, which is durable and comfortable for everyday use.
The blade edge has a 70/30 bevel, and is meant for right-handed users. Left-handed versions need to be custom ordered for a 10-15% increase in price.
Overall, the Fujiwara FKH Gyuto is well balanced, and a great entry-point into high carbon steel kitchen knives. There is nothing super exceptional about it, but it is quite cheap (for carbon knife) — selling for around $80 (210mm version). This is basically the same cost as the comparable stainless steel version. If you are interested in learning how to use/maintain a high carbon steel knife, then this is an excellent choice.
Suisin High Carbon Steel Gyuto (210mm)
Suisin is an extremely well-respected Japanese knife maker based in the famous knife making town of Sakai. They tend to focus on much higher-end, traditional style Japanese kitchen knives, but luckily for us, they do have one budget friendly line of knives — generically named “Suisin High Carbon” or “Suisin Japanese Steel”. The 210mm gyuto from this line falls just under the $100 mark (at time of writing $97), and thus qualifies for our list!
The “Nihon-kou” carbon steel used for this knife allows it to keep an extremely sharp edge, while not being too hard to sharpen (HRC 58~60). I am pretty sure the steel is some variation similar to SK carbon steel, but can not find much information on it. In any case, the slightly softer carbon steel makes it a great choice for those looking to take their first leap into the world of high carbon blades.
The handle is a made of a typical black composite wood material that you find on most budget friendly knives.
Similar to the Fujiwara, the 70/30 edge bevel is designed for right-handed users. You may be able to custom order left-handed blades from certain retailers.
If you are looking for an entry-level carbon knife from a very reputable Japanese brand, then this gyuto from Suisin may be the knife for you. Users rate it highly, and it also comes with a free wooden case cover (if ordered from Korin) .
The current retail price is $97, but Korin has a 20% discount going on now, so you can snatch one up for just $77! (September 2020).
Also on Amazon (but currently out of stock)
There you have it — 8 of the best Japanese chef knives for under $100! There are 6 stainless steel options, and 2 high carbon steel options for you adventurous ones. All of these gyutos are great entry-level options, so the final choice really just comes down to your own preferences.
If you are simply looking for the cheapest Japanese chef’s knife, then you may want to go with the Fuji Narihira or Ikkaku Donryu, as both are around $50. For the most reputable brand, then the Misono, MAC, or Tojiro would be your best bet. If you want an extra lightweight knife, the MAC or Ikkaku are both under 150 grams. If you want a nicer handle, then the Fujiwara FKM is the only knife on the list that has an option other than the typical black pakkawood.
Every stainless steel knife on the list uses some variation of Molybdenum steel, except for the Tojiro DP, which uses the higher end VG-10 steel. So, if you want a better steel, then the Tojiro may be the best chef knife under $100.
As for the two carbon knife options (Fujiwara FKH and Suisin); they are quite similar, although Suisin is the more recognized brand. It is also a bit more expensive, but comes with a nice blade cover.
I am sure there are a few great knives that I missed — let me know in the comments if you have any recommendations!
What to read next:
Once you choose the knife, make sure you know how to maintain it.
If you want to see a couple more choices (not necessarily under $100), then check out the best Japanese kitchen knives article.