Santoku in Japan refers to the read here "three virtues". The three virtues in this example refer to the three tasks Santoku knives were created for: slicing (dicing); and mincing.
Santoku knives should be compared to western chef knives. They are often used for similar purposes. The Santoku tends to be shorter and lighter than that of the Chef's Knife. Both can be bought in different sizes. The Western chef's knives are more pointed at the tip. However the Santoku has smaller blades and is lighter. It has been likened to a narrow cleaver for full blade use.
Santoku knives can come in many sizes. Most commonly, they are between 5-8 inches. The non-cutting blade has a flat edge. The cutting edge, also known by a Sheep’s feet knife, curves in to give a sharp tipped at 60 degrees. The tip of your handle is aligned to either the blade's top or flat edge.
The "Sheep’s Foot” tip has a more straight cutting edge than a Chef’s knives. This restricts rocking motion. Santoku knives are great for "chopping" and other similar tasks. This knife requires a straight down cut.
The Santoku Japanese Knife is balanced. The handle is designed to match the tang as well as the blade, so they work in perfect harmony.
Western kitchen knives are 40 to 45 degrees in angle. Japanese knives use a different method of sharpening. Japanese knives have sharper edges on one side than Western knives. Santoku knives use a hybrid design. They incorporate the Western-biased edge and retain the Japanese traditional 12-to-15° blade angle.
For razor-sharp edged Japanese knives like the Santoku, you must use hardened steel. This will keep the edge sharp and prevent blade rolling. This knife needs to be stored and maintained with care, as it is more susceptible than knives made of hardened or very thin steel.
Santoku knives can be sharpened faster than Western knives. Western knives are far easier to sharpen.