Elegantly slender, exquisitely detailed, breathtakingly sharp, and flat-out sexy: The Japanese-style knives that began appearing in American kitchens in the late ’90s turned the simple act of chopping into one of meditative pleasure. The knives are less bulky than previous European designs. There’s no bolster (the thick junction of blade and handle) to get in your way. Stronger steel alloys allow the blades to be lighter, thinner, and honed to a keener edge— a 15-degree angle versus the 20 degrees found on most Western knives. There are styles for every culinary application, with prices dropping. Yes, professional sharpening is required—but that’s true of any good knife.