Japanese kitchen knives are perhaps more diverse in design, aesthetic style, and materials than any other knife-making tradition in the world. Knives vary from being adaptable multipurpose designs like gyutos and santokus to highly specialized designs like yanagibas and debas. Production techniques vary widely too; there are mass-produced knives that would not be unfamiliar to most western users and there are rustic, characterful knives made entirely by hand.
While it is hard to find a lot of unifying characteristics about Japanese cutlery there are a few commonalities. Japanese cutlery typically uses very high-quality steels and those steels are often heat-treated to higher levels of hardness than their western counterparts. The result is Japanese cutlery can often take keener edges at more acute bevel angles than their western counterparts giving them the ability to attain high levels of raw performance. For cutlery enthusiasts, Japanese knives both demand and reward better technique from the user.