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Shun vs. Kamikoto: Which Knives Are Better?

Are you in the market for new kitchen knives but can’t decide between Shun and Kamikoto?

Both make elegant and eye-catching knives, but which brand is better? What are the major differences?

In this comparison of Shun vs. Kamikoto, you’ll learn how the knives compare in terms of materials, design, performance, price, and more.

Ready to learn more about these knife brands? Keep reading.

Use these links to navigate the comparison:

Shun vs. Kamikoto: Comparison Chart

If you’re in a hurry, here’s a quick side-by-side comparison of Shun vs. Kamikoto.

Founded2002  2016
Where It’s MadeSeki City, JapanYanjiang, China   Only one knife is made in Niigata, Japan
Blade MaterialSG2, VG10, VG-MAX  420J2, SLD, zirconium dioxide  
Handle MaterialPakkaWood, Tagayasan wood, PP/TPEG10 Fiberglass
DesignTraditional JapaneseTraditional Japanese
Weight of 7-inch santoku knife (average)7.2 ounces8.8 ounces
Edge Angle Total (lower = sharper)32-degree angleNot disclosed
Blade Hardness (higher = harder)60 to 6253-62
Knife Collections93
WarrantyLimited Lifetime and Lifetime Free SharpeningLimited Lifetime Warranty
Price$$$$ (view on Amazon)$$$ (view on Amazon)

Difference 1: Design

Shun’s collections are diverse, offering knives with Pakkawood handles with intricate graining and colors from blonde wood to sleek blue-black finishes.

To understand how the collections differ, take a look at the 8-inch chef’s knives from some of Shun’s most popular collections: 

Shun Classic— The chef’s knife has a 69-layer Damascus blade and a low-gloss, rounded ebony Pakawood handle with a stainless steel end cap.

Shun kitchen knife_8 inch Chef knife
Shun Classic
Damascus pattern on Shun kitchen knife blade
Damascus pattern on Shun kitchen knife blade

Shun Kanso — This is an angular chef’s knife featuring a Tagaysan wood handle with screw rivets attaching it to the full-tang blade.

Shun Premier — The hammered blade is as sharp as it is beautiful, and the dark walnut Pakkawood handle with stainless steel end cap is built for comfort.

Shun Engetsu — Although this is a limited edition offering, the striking blue and black Pakkawood handle stands out, and the layered blade design is visually appealing.

Kamikoto offers three knife series: Genten, Kuro, and Ganjo. Unlike Shun, Kamikoto knives are similar in style. All knives feature a G10 fiberglass handle.

Genten is the most extensive series with the most options. The blades are primarily single bevel with a thick bolster, but there are a few double-bevel blades, such as the bread knife and steak knife set.

Kamikoto Knives Review
Kamikoto Genten

Both the blades and the handles have a satin finish, giving them a hint of shine.

Kamikoto Knife Blade
Kamikoto Knife Blade

The Kuro Series consists of one set of knives. They show off jet-black blades made of zirconium dioxide.

The Ganjo Series offers one 7-inch santoku featuring a brown, ridged handle with a textured, layered blade.

Difference 2: Company History

Shun was founded in 2002. It’s a brand under the Kai Corporation, a knife maker with over 112 years of experience in hand-crafting Japanese-style knives. Shun’s skilled artisans use ancient traditions with a combination of modern techniques. 

Each Shun knife requires 100 steps to produce, a testament to the process and quality of the brand. Shun knives boast solid construction, look elegant, and feature reliable performance.

Shun is transparent with easy-to-find information about its founding and the origin of its knives. Kamikoto doesn’t offer that same level of transparency.

While Kamikoto doesn’t disclose when and where the brand started, research reveals that it filed for a trademark in 2016. It currently lists its headquarters as Nakano City, Tokyo. The brand’s parent company, Galton Voysey, is based in Hong Kong, China.

In the Kamikoto brand story, you’ll see references to seeking the advice of experienced Japanese blade experts and bladesmith families to create its offerings. Kamikoto uses a 19-step process to craft each knife. The knives are made by bladesmiths with a combined experience of over 100 years.

Difference 3: Where It Is Made

All Shun knives are made in Seki City, Japan — the celebrated home of Japanese-style cutlery. It’s a small town in the Gifu-Prefecture region of Japan credited as a renowned knife-making hub.

Shun knives made in Japan
Shun knives: Made in Japan

The area has a rich history that dates back to the 13th century. During that time, the region produced swords worthy of Samurai warriors. Today, ancient smithing techniques still have life as companies like Shun produce kitchen knives there.

Kamikoto produces its knives in two areas: Niigata, Japan, and Yanjiang, China. While the brand offers a handful of knife series, it makes only one knife in Japan. The others are manufactured in China.

Although most Kamikoto knives are made in China, they position themselves on their website and within their advertising as a Japanese knife brand. The company’s About Page references the word “Japan” 17 times and “China” only once.

Difference 4: Collections

Shun offers nine unique knife collections, while Kamikoto only has three (the Ganjo Series only includes one knife).

Here’s a quick overview of Shun’s lineup (view all on Amazon, Home Depot, or Shun’s website):

  • Dual Core: Blades with 71 alternating layers of two types of steel resembling a chevron pattern along the face. The Pakkawood D-shaped handles are ebony-colored.
  • Premier: All knives feature a 69-layer tsuchime (hammered), mirror-finish blade. The lightly sheened Pakkawood handles have walnut coloring and distinct graining.
  • Premier Blonde: Like Premier, this is a hammered blade collection, but it offers blonde-colored Pakkawood handles.
  • Premier Grey: Another variation of Premier, this collection features stunning, gray Pakkawood handles with intricate wood graining.
  • Classic: A collection with D-shaped ebony-colored Pakkawood handles with a stainless steel end cap and full-tang 68-layer blades.
  • Classic Blonde: All knives have the same design as the Classic collection but with a blonde Pakkawood handle.
  • Kanso: The full-tang knives feature an exposed tang down to the butt. Handles are made of contoured Tagayasan wood.
  • Sora: These full-tang knives feature a three-layer San mai edge. The embossed steel medallion offers a nice contrast against the black, textured synthetic handle.
  • Seki Magoruku: A double-bevel blade collection with a dual steel construction on the upper and lower part of the blade. The Pakkawood handles have a blonde color with a pronounced grain.

Kamikoto offers three collections (they call them “series” – view all on Amazon or Kamikoto’s website):

  • Genten Series: This is the most extensive series and delivers the signature look of the brand — satin-finish blades, synthetic ebony handles, and a mix of single- and double-bevel blades.
  • Kuro Series: This series offers one knife set containing a santoku, nakiri, and utility blade. From butt to tip, the knives are deep ebony with stainless steel accents. The blades are made from zirconium dioxide.
  • Ganjo Series: Though not always available, this series includes one 7-inch santoku with a ridged, brown handle and a layered steel blade. This is the only Kamikoto knife made in Japan; the others are made in China.

Difference 5: Edge Grind

Shun blades are primarily double bevel, meaning they are sharp on both sides of the blade.

Shun kitchen knife blade
Shun Classic Blade

The Sora and Seki Magoroku collections feature a San mai edge, a technique that uses a hard steel at the knife’s core and sandwiches it between softer steel on each side of the blade. That technique protects the more brittle core and offers excellent edge retention.

Additionally, the Dual Core collection offers a different edge style. It’s constructed from alternating layers of steel with high carbon and chromium content (VG10 and VG2). These layers extend from the spine and face of the blade to the edge and are razor sharp.

Most Kamikoto knives are single bevel, but they offer a few double bevel options, such as the Kuro Series and the Genten Steak Knives Set. Single bevel knives are for right-handed cooks, but Kamikoto does offer one left-handed set on Amazon.

Single Bevel Kamikoto Knife
Kamikoto Blade. Sharpened side (left), unsharpened side (right)

So, what’s better for you? A single- or double-bevel knife?

Double-bevel knives are more common and versatile, and you can use them whether you are right- or left-hand dominant. Single-bevel knives are ideal for specific uses, such as preparing sushi or slicing delicate fruit and vegetables. But they are also prone to chip and require gentle handling.

Plus, in my cutting tests with a Kamikoto single-bevel knife, I noticed that the blade steered to the left, even more so when I made long cuts. In short, it takes a learning curve to get proper control.

If you want an easier cutting experience ideal for righties or lefties, go with double bevel knives. Try single-bevel knives if you prefer delicate cuts and don’t mind the learning curve.

Difference 6: Blade Material

Shun uses a variety of high-quality stainless steel alloys to create its multiple knife collections, including VG10, VG2, VG-MAX, VG10, AUS10A, and AUS8A. For perspective, VG10 and VG MAX are top-tier steels and a gold standard in terms of quality.

Shun versus Kamikoto_blades
Kamikoto (top), Shun (bottom)

Shun uses a VG10/VG2 combination in its Dual Core collection. The VG2 is finely grained and holds a sharp edge.

AUS10A and AUS8A steels are both high-carbon Japanese steels resistant to corrosion and champions at edge retention. AUS10A contains vanadium to refine the steel’s grain to produce a fine edge. AUS8A is a tough yet flexible steel that is also low on chromium to make it easier to sharpen.

Kamikoto blades use 420J2 steel, the Ganjo Series (which consists of one 7-inch santoku) employs SLD steel, and the Kuro Series features zirconium dioxide blades.

420J2 is not high-end steel, but it’s known for its excellent corrosion resistance because of its high chromium content. The alloy is also softer than most steels used for knife blades. It’s interesting that Kamikoto uses such low-end, budget steel yet positions itself as a high-end brand.

By contrast, SLD steel is much harder than 420J2, but it is more likely to rust and chip. It’s the type of steel that requires immediate hand washing, drying, and careful storage after each use.

Finally, the zirconium dioxide blades are ultra fragile. Kamikoto recommends that only professional chefs use them. They are so hard that too much force can chip or snap the blade.

Difference 7: Handle Material

Shun uses natural and synthetic handles for its knives. Most handles are Pakkawood, but Shun also uses Tagayasan wood and polypropylene/thermoplastic elastomer (PP/TPE).

Shun Classic PakkaWood handle
Shun Classic PakkaWood handle

Pakkawood is layered wood veneer material infused with an epoxy resin. The result is a waterproof and durable material that keeps its color and has a natural wood appearance with distinct graining.

The Kanso collection uses Tagayasan wood, also called iron sword wood because of its strength. It’s a highly durable material that can last for a lifetime.

You’ll find a textured PP/TPE handle on Sora collection knives. This material provides a secure non-slip grip that’s easy to keep clean.

Kamikoto uses G10 fiberglass for its handles, which feels similar to PakkaWood.

Kamikoto Knife Handle
Kamikoto Knife Handle

It’s an extremely tough material created by stacking layers of fiberglass covered in epoxy resin and compressing the layers with heat until it cures. It’s water-resistant, easy to keep clean, and holds up well‌.

Shun versus Kamikoto_handles
Kamikoto G10 fiberglass handle (left), Shun PakkaWood handle (right)

Difference 8: Sharpness

Shun knives have an edge angle of 16° per side. Kamikoto does not reveal its edge angles, making it hard to compare to Shun. It also makes it hard to guess how they will perform when you receive them.

Making thin slices with a Shun kitchen knife
Making thin slices with a Shun kitchen knife

Fortunately, I’ve used them and can offer some insight on Kamikoto knife performance. The single-bevel knife I used was very sharp right out of the box.

Slicing a grape with a Kamikoto knife
Slicing a grape with a Kamikoto knife

The Genten 7-inch santoku sliced through various fruits and vegetables easily, producing paper-thin slices. Yet, after a month of daily use, the blade dulled. And, if you know anything about single-bevel knives, they are difficult to sharpen.

In my experience, Shun knives stay sharp longer and are less difficult to sharpen. Plus, Shun offers a lifetime sharpening program if you prefer ‌expert sharpening (you pay for shipping and processing, but the sharpening is free).

Difference 9: Blade Hardness

As you shop for knives, you’ll often see hardness scores and mention of the Rockwell Scale. Blade hardness is important because it lets you know what to expect from a knife.

The Rockwell Scale measures hardness (HRC) with a number. The higher the number, the harder the blade. So, a lower number means the blade is made of softer steel.

Soft steel is durable and less prone to chipping, but it also needs more frequent sharpening. Harder steel is more brittle and can break or chip if handled roughly, but it retains its sharpness.

Shun blades range from 60-62 HRC on the Rockwell scale. They are hard knives with sharp, long-lasting edges.

Kamikoto knives range from 53-62 HRC. Most of the blades (Genten Series) use 420J2 steel and score a 53 on the Rockwell Scale. That is significantly softer than most kitchen knife blades — especially Japanese-style blades. The SLD blades (Ganjo Series) have an HRC of 62, which is much harder.

Kamikoto’s Kuro Series knives are steel-free and not rated by the Rockwell Scale, but the zirconium dioxide knives are hard, extremely brittle, and razor-sharp.

Difference 10: Warranty and Guarantees

Shun offers a limited lifetime warranty that guarantees your knives will be defect-free when you receive them and will perform as expected. Shun will repair or replace the knife if the product is determined to be defective by their standards.

Shun also offers a Forever Free Sharpening service that accepts walk-ins to its Tualatin, Oregon, location or knives sent by mail. The service also provides minor repairs, honing serrated blades and kitchen shears, and light rust removal by request. If you mail it in, you must also pay for return shipping.

Kamikoto also offers a limited lifetime warranty to ensure you get a product free of defects but does not provide a free lifetime sharpening service. They will replace any knife they determine as defective. If your knife arrives damaged, you must provide proof to get a replacement.

Difference 11: Price

Shun knives cost more than Kamikoto, which makes sense for several reasons. The brand uses higher-quality steel, offers more designs/collections, manufactures its cutlery in Japan, and employs expert craftspeople.

Kamikoto manufactures its knives primarily in China, which significantly reduces manufacturing costs. The brand also uses a lower steel grade and does not offer as many knives or collections as Shun.

However, Kamikoto uses marketing tactics to make the knives appear extremely expensive and then offers a steep markdown to give you a “deal” on premium knives. For example, many of their knife sets are frequently up to 80% off.

The chart below shows the current prices of Shun and Kamikoto’s most popular knives on Amazon.

Prices pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on:

Bottom Line: Should You Buy Shun or Kamikoto Kitchen Knives?

Now that you’ve learned the key differences between Shun and Kamikoto knives, you can make a well-informed decision about which brand is right for your kitchen.

Before I share my recommendation, let’s quickly recap:

  • Shun launched in 2002 and is a brand of the Kai Corporation, a Japan-based knife maker with over 112 years of experience in the craft. Kamikoto filed for a trademark in 2016 and is a brand of Galton Voysey, a direct marketing business based in Hong Kong, China.
  • With Shun, you get multiple options for blade steel, blade construction, and handle design. Most Kamikoto knives have the same construction and design.
  • Shun offers nine knife collections, and Kamikoto makes three.
  • All Shun knives are made in Seki City, Japan, a region known for its rich history in bladesmithing. Most Kamikoto knives are made in China, but one knife is made in Niigata, Japan.
  • Most Shun knives are double bevel. Kamikoto knives are mostly single bevel (sharp on one side). Double-bevel knives work well for right- or left-handed chefs, while single-bevel knives are generally crafted for right-handed chefs and are harder to control when cutting than double-bevel knives.
  • Shun knives are sharpened to an edge angle of 16° per side. Kamikoto doesn’t share its edge angles.
  • Shun constructs blades with hard steel with an HRC of 60-62. Most Kamikoto knives are 53 HRC, which is very soft for a kitchen knife.
  • Both offer a limited lifetime warranty, but only Shun offers free lifetime sharpening.
  • Shun knives are more expensive than Kamikoto knives.

Bottom line — although they cost more, Shun knives are the better choice. Shun is an established brand with proven quality. If you want an authentic Japanese-style knife and have the budget, I highly recommend Shun. In fact, I recently named it one of the best kitchen knife brands in the world.

They are an investment, but Shun uses high-quality materials, offers a limited lifetime warranty, provides free sharpening, and is transparent about where and how its knives are made.

Kamikoto is an unproven brand still new to the marketplace. They make it seem like their knives are made in Japan, but, in reality, most are made in China. This type of deceptive marketing is a major red flag and one of the main reasons I wouldn’t recommend Kamikoto.

Plus, Kamikoto prices fluctuate rapidly (another tactic to make it seem like you’re getting a great deal), and the steel used to make most blades is soft and low quality.

For the money, buy a brand you can trust and go with Shun, even if the upfront investment is ‌higher.  

Read more reviews and check the current prices of Shun and Kamikoto knives at the links below:

Andrew Palermo Founder of Prudent Reviews

Andrew Palermo - About the Author

Andrew is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Prudent Reviews. He began his career in marketing, managing campaigns for dozens of Fortune 500 brands. In 2018, Andrew founded Prudent Reviews and has since reviewed 600+ products. When he’s not testing the latest cookware, kitchen knives, and appliances, he’s spending time with his family, cooking, and doing house projects. Connect with Andrew via emailLinkedIn, or the Prudent Reviews YouTube channel.

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