Useful guide on their traditional blades
Bobby B. | 7. March 2020. | Blog
Traditional Japanese knives have been handmade for centuries by skilled craftsmen in regions such as Sakai and the city of Seki in Japan. Their culture produces and uses knives that can be very different from ours here in the west of the world. However, Americans are increasingly attracted to certain types of Japanese knives and find them very useful for certain tasks in the kitchen.
In the digital age in which we live, it is much more likely that an average amateur chef will come across pictures or stories of a traditional Japanese knife. Moreover, thanks to the invention of online shopping and its global reach, it is exponentially easier to buy them without leaving home.
There are many types of traditional Japanese kitchen knives. Here is a large list of pictures to give you an idea, but we will only focus on the most popular ones in our discussion below.
Objective: Complete fish farm
Deba is a knife that is often used in the processing of whole fish meat in Japan. The blade is thick and can withstand the most demanding tasks. The Japanese Deba knife is usually used to cut off the head and bones of a whole fish during filleting, but it can also be used for meat.
Yoshihiro Shiroko Kasumi Deba is an excellent specimen with a thick and strong sheet in very hard white steel (62 HRC) 2 and with a sai skin.
Objective: Usability knife for the chef
The Gyutomes is a Japanese version of the knife used by western chefs. Universal prefect knife for different tasks in the kitchen. Unlike the Santoku knife, the Gyuto has a slightly curved blade, allowing it to swing. The Gyutomes is very versatile and can be used for chopping meat or vegetables, but also for slicing fish.
Take a look at this set of 8 Gyuto. Made in Japan and made of forged VG10 damask stainless steel, this knife will be the envy of your kitchen.
Objective: Usability knife
The Kiritsuke knife has a unique appearance with a square tip. Some of the long ones can almost look like a short sword! Kiritsuke knives are excellent for cutting cooked meat. They are known to be difficult to handle and therefore in traditional Japanese culture they can only be used by restaurant chefs.
Shun DM0771 Classic Kiritsuke is the curve of a traditional knife that drives the consumer crazy. Buy one for your own kitchen, so no one can stop you from using it.
Objective: Vegetables to cut
The Japanese Nakiri knife is popular with local chefs for precision carving, such as julienne of vegetables. They are also well suited for harder products with a thicker skin, such as potatoes and pumpkin. The Nakiri knife is an almost western version of the Usuba knife. It has a double chamfer, which makes it easier for local chefs and beginners than the more complicated Usuba.
Shun Premier Nakiri is a good choice. For this beautiful 5-1/2 vegetable knife you need to view the positive reviews online.
Objective: Weaving of fruit and vegetables
A small knife is a small auxiliary or cutting knife used by Japanese chefs to delicately process berries and vegetables. Just like the Western knife for cutting fruit, the Trifle can be used for stacking fruit in presentation form as well as an auxiliary knife for the kitchen. This makes the little things very multifunctional and it is important to have them around.
Shogun Dalstrong 6″ Petty is made of AUS-10V Damascus steel and is the prefect for many jobs in your kitchen. You can be satisfied with your purchase, because Dalstrong offers a money-back guarantee.
Santoku knives are used for all kinds of work in the kitchen. They are used to cut meat, fish and vegetables. They have a rounded tip and a flat blade, so they can be used to chop instead of rocking, like the western cook. Like other Japanese knives, Santoku knives have strong, thin knives.
America’s test kitchen recently tested 10 Santoku knives. Just like in 2004, when it won the test, the MAC SK-65 Superior Santoku stunned the jury. This time they chose Best Buy because of the affordable price.
Objective: Cutting of meat, fish and poultry
The Sujihiki knife is made with a long, thin blade, usually with a double bevel. Similar to a Western knife, but with a thinner, harder blade that requires less sharpness. The angle of the edge is also sharper, which is made possible by a stronger Japanese steel. With this slicer you can quickly work with meat, fish and poultry.
The Tojiro DP Sujihiki Slicer has a double bevel, making it suitable for both the right and left hand of the leader. This also makes it a popular song among westerners.
Objective: Cutting vegetables
The Usuba knife is used for complex cutting of vegetables such as julienne and cubes. They are at one level and therefore require more skills than Nakiri (Nakiri vs Usuba). But once they’re perfected, they can make magical fine cuts. Most have a square tip, but the Usuba knives from the Kansai district are rounded at the tip.
An authentic handmade traditional Japanese knife can be found at Yoshihiro Honasumi Edo Usuba. The blade is made of super strong nr. 2 blue steel. Note for beginners: Real one-step Usuba knives like these are very difficult to use and master. Maybe you’re better off with Nakiri if you’re not familiar with the one-knee knives.
Objective: Cut the fish / Sushi and sashimi knife into slices
The Yanagiba knife is very long, very sharp and very hard. This is a high quality knife that is popular with sashimi chefs because it is the best sushi knife. Because of their length they can cut almost anything with a single long cut instead of going back and forth. This, in combination with the traditional single plane technique, allows the user to obtain a very clean cut.
The Yoshihiro VGYA240SH is a high quality sashimi knife for home use. It is made of high quality materials and has a traditional Japanese look.
Characteristics of the Japanese knife
Japanese knives have different characteristics that make them unique compared to western knives. The reasons for this vary from the traditional methods of knife making to the differences and diversity of foods in this part of the world. Not only are the products different, but also the way they are prepared conflicts with our style here in the West.
Steel and hardness
The Japanese use harder and higher carbon steel than most other countries in the world. But this has its pros and cons. The advantages are that the blades are held better, which means they sharpen less. However, it also means that their knives are fragile and can shatter under certain circumstances if used incorrectly. In addition, a higher carbon content means that rust or corrosion can occur if the product is not kept clean and dry immediately after use.
Asian knives tend to have sharper angles than western knives. This was made possible by the harder steels mentioned above. Moreover, one-armed knives are not uncommon in Japan. It’s rare in the West.
Their knives are thinner, partly because of the sharper edges, but also because Japanese chefs work finer with their knives. In addition, their diet contains more fish and poultry and less beef and other strong meat with large bones.
In most cases you will see traditional flat Japanese knives. This helps them chop the food they often use in the kitchen, while American chefs prefer a swinging motion with a curved blade.
Comparison of Japanese knives
With the different types of Japanese knives we can get confused in the West if we follow which knife is used for what and why. We have put together a quick comparison page for each of these Japanese knife combinations. They are specifically selected because of common errors in the distinction between the two knives.
Marks of Japanese knives
There are literally thousands of brands of Japanese knives and even more brands of kitchen knives that make Japanese knives in other parts of the world. Here are some of our favorites. For those for whom links are available, we have brand overviews where you can learn more about the history and processes of brands.
Japanese knives made in Japan
Knives in Japanese style, made in China
Comparison of brands of Japanese knives
- Shun vs. Miyabi
- Yoshihiro vs Shun
- Kamikoto vs Shun
- Dalstark vs Shun
Other types of traditional Japanese knives
Are you trying to identify a type of traditional Japanese knife that you have not seen in our list above? Or maybe you heard the name, but you didn’t know what it looked like. Here is a more complete list of Asian type knives, many of which are much rarer than those mentioned above.
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