Uses of Knife: Japanese Knives

Japanese Knives - from top: Usuba, Deba, & Yanagiba (Photo courtesy by panduh from Flickr.com)
Japanese Knives - from top: Usuba, Deba, & Yanagiba (Photo courtesy by panduh from Flickr.com)

Japan is well-known for its Samurai sword, and no wonder, it is also home for different kinds of kitchen knives.

Like the Samurai sword, Japanese kitchen knives are world-renowned for their high quality and craftsmanship. The first deba bocho knives were manufactured in the late 16th century.

The City of Sakai was the manufacturing capital of Samurai sword since the 13th century; but later shifted to crafting traditional Japanese cutlery. Today, the manufacturers of Japanese modern kitchen cutlery are based in Seki, Gifu—where the santoku knives are produced. The Miki City is also famous for its knifemaking traditions.

The traditional Japanese knives are divided into 2 classes based on the forging methods (class is according to method and materials used). Honyaki knives are made from true-forged high-carbon steel. Kasumi knives are made through forging high-carbon steel and soft iron together. At present, most Japanese kitchen knives are made of stainless steel.

Uses of Knives (Photo courtesy by 330mate.com from Flickr.com)
Uses of Knives (Photo courtesy by 330mate.com from Flickr.com)

Japanese Knives

 
 
Deba Bocho
Japanese kitchen cleaver knife
Fugu Hiki
has thinner blade than yanagi ba and specially used to cut very thin slices of the Japanese blowfish called fugu
Hancho Hocho
Usually long Japanese knives used to fillet tuna
Honyaki
Forged Japanese knives
Nakiri Bocho
Japanese knife used to cut vegetables
Oroshi Hocho
Very long Japanese knives for filleting tuna
Santoku
All-around Japanese kitchen knife with Western-style design
Soba Kiri
Japanese knife used to make soba
Tako Hiki
Japanese knife used as sashimi slicer
Udon Kiri
Japanese knife used to make udon
Unagasaki Hocho
Japanese knife used to butcher and fillet eel
Usuba Bocho
Japanese vegetable knife often used by professional chefs
Yanagi Ba
Japanese knife used for slicing sashimi
Honyaki Japanese Knife (Photo courtesy by whereruhien from Flickr.com)
Honyaki Japanese Knife (Photo courtesy by whereruhien from Flickr.com)
Honyaki Japanese Knife with Ebony Handle (Photo courtesy by whereruhien from Flickr.com)
Honyaki Japanese Knife with Ebony Handle (Photo courtesy by whereruhien from Flickr.com)

Honyaki Knives

Because a honyaki knife is forged from high-carbon steel, the blade has the longest lasting sharpness of all Japanese knives. However, forging the honyaki knife requires superior skill and extensive experience; thus, it is often high-priced. Its blade is also difficult to sharpen and maintain.

Kasumi Japanese Knife (Photo courtesy by sro1234 from Flickr.com)
Kasumi Japanese Knife (Photo courtesy by sro1234 from Flickr.com)
Different Sizes of Kasumi Japanese Knives (Photo courtesy by sro1234 from Flickr.com)
Different Sizes of Kasumi Japanese Knives (Photo courtesy by sro1234 from Flickr.com)

Kasumi Knives

A kasumi knife has a blade called ‘san mai’. Like the samurai sword, the kasumi blade is made from 2 materials, namely: high-carbon steel and soft iron. The steel forms the blade’s edge; while the iron forms the body and spine. In expensive san mai blades, lamination is added to resist corrosion.

Making Japanese knives

Making process of Japanese Knife

Santoku (Photo courtesy by hywell from Flickr.com)
Santoku (Photo courtesy by hywell from Flickr.com)

Santoku Knife

The santoku knife is designed after the French chef’s knife. Its name is often translated to ‘three uses’ due to its 3 cutting tasks: mincing, dicing, and slicing.

Japanese Knife

Shun DM0702 Classic 7-Inch Santoku Knife
Shun DM0702 Classic 7-Inch Santoku Knife

A Japanese knife designed by Shun. This multipurpose Santoku knife is about 7 inches long and has a razor sharp blade made from forged high carbon stainless steel that produces rust-free Damascus look. It looks even more classic with the D-shaped handle made from durable Pakkawood. Manufactured in Seki City, Japan.

 
Tako Hiki or Sashimi Knife (Photo courtesy by sygyzy from Flickr.com)
Tako Hiki or Sashimi Knife (Photo courtesy by sygyzy from Flickr.com)

Tako Hiki

The tako hiki is one of the long-bladed and thin Japanese knives used specifically to cut and prepare octopus. It belongs to the Sashimi Hocho group.

Deba Bocho / Japanese Cleaver (Photo courtesy by clairebearbadcock from Flickr.com)
Deba Bocho / Japanese Cleaver (Photo courtesy by clairebearbadcock from Flickr.com)

Deba Bocho

The deba bocho is traditionally a Japanese pointed carving knife used for cutting and carving fish, chicken, and meat. Specifically designed to fillet, its blade damaged when used to chop large bones. Its form and use has evolved to become the versatile Japanese cleaver. Some deba bocho knives have rectangular ends.

Knife Sharpener

Kai Japanese Professional Knife Sharpening Stone
Kai Japanese Professional Knife Sharpening Stone

Here’s a Japanese Professional Knife Sharpening Stone Sharpener that is perfect for authentic Japanese knives. This sharpening stone is a combination finest whetstone that has medium 1000 grit and 240 grit on each side. This whetstone is great for sharpening different types of knife blades, along with the Samurai swords, kama, and other weapons.

 
Unagisaki Hocho (Photo courtesy by pgbasin from Flickr.com)
Unagisaki Hocho (Photo courtesy by pgbasin from Flickr.com)

Unagisaki Hocho

The unagisaki hocho knife has a specially formed sharp tip that is used to cut the eel from near the head down to entire length. Experts can open, clean, and fillet the eel in just few precise moves.

Udon Kiri (Photo courtesy by pgbasin from pgbasin)
Udon Kiri (Photo courtesy by pgbasin from pgbasin)
Soba Kiri (Photo courtesy by pgbasin from Flickr.com)
Soba Kiri (Photo courtesy by pgbasin from Flickr.com)

Udon and/or Soba Kiri

Both knives, udon kiri and soba kiri, are specialized Japanese blades used to make udon and soba noodles. These Japanese knives are also called ‘menkiri bocho’.

Japanese Knives - Handle Making Workshop

Japanese knives from Kanetsune part 1

Japanese knives from Kanetsune part 2

Nakiri Bocho (Photo courtesy by pgbasin from Flickr.com)
Nakiri Bocho (Photo courtesy by pgbasin from Flickr.com)
Osaka-Style Nakiri Bocho (Photo courtesy by geoffrey_haberman from Flickr.com)
Osaka-Style Nakiri Bocho (Photo courtesy by geoffrey_haberman from Flickr.com)

Nakiri Bocho

Both the nakiri bocho and the usuba bocho are Japanese kitchen knives used for cutting greens and vegetables. Thinner than the deba bocho, the nakiri and usuba blades are preferred when cutting vegetables. Nakiri is for home use and the usuba for professional.

Kumagoro Nakiri (Photo courtesy by isolatediguana from Flickr.com)
Kumagoro Nakiri (Photo courtesy by isolatediguana from Flickr.com)

Kumagoro Nakiri

The kumagoro nakiri has dimples on its hammer-finished blade that help when cutting vegetables and fruits (like tomatoes and onions) that stick. Its thin blade is also handy when slicing small pieces (like radish and garlic).

More Japanese Knives

 
 
Ai-Deba
lighter than a deba bocho but with spine as thick as a miroshi deba
Ajikiri
a small paring knife used for small fish, vegetable, and meat
Bunka Bocho
another name for santoku
Chuka Bocho
name for Japanese cleaver that is similar to Chinese cleaver
Dakketsu
a very small Japanese knife used by fishermen for bleeding fish to keep fresh while on the boat
Gyuto
Japanese knife similar to western chef's knife but with thinner blade
Garasuki
Japanese knife used for boning poultry; smaller version is called Honesuki
Hankotsu
Japanese boning knife used to separate bones from meat
Ikasaki
special Japanese knife for squids
Kaimuki
Japanese knife for shucking shellfish, oysters, and scallops
Kawamuki
Japanese peeling knife; also known as garnishing knife
Kujira Hocho
Japanese large knife originally designed to cut whales, shark, tuna, and swordfish
Kurimuki
Japanese knife that can peel, carve, and cut fruits and vegetables into fancy shapes
Reitou Hocho
Japanese knife designed for cutting frozen meat
Suikakiri
Japanese knife used for cutting watermelon
Sujihiki
Japanese knife for slicing both raw and cooked meats, and fat

Japanese knife sharpening

Japanese knife skills; Filleting a flat fish

Man Using Japanese Eel Knife / Unagisaki Hocho (Photo courtesy by blprnt_van from Flickr.com)
Man Using Japanese Eel Knife / Unagisaki Hocho (Photo courtesy by blprnt_van from Flickr.com)
Cleaning Knives (Photo courtesy by Saint Toad from Flickr.com)
Cleaning Knives (Photo courtesy by Saint Toad from Flickr.com)

Japanese Water Stones-Knife sharpening

Knife Sharpening: Common Mistakes

Japanese Knives (Photo courtesy by geishaboy500 from Flickr.com)
Japanese Knives (Photo courtesy by geishaboy500 from Flickr.com)
A Japanese Knife (Photo courtesy by Joshua Doherty from Flickr.com)
A Japanese Knife (Photo courtesy by Joshua Doherty from Flickr.com)
Artistic Japanese Knives (Photo courtesy by Kai Hendry from Flickr.com)
Artistic Japanese Knives (Photo courtesy by Kai Hendry from Flickr.com)

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eventsyoudesign 6 years ago from Nashville, Tennessee

Wow! Great article. Very well written, informative and easy to follow. I love knives. I have a collection for culinary purposes. I would love to have some or all of the knives you have pictured. I have enjoyed the videos of the production of Japanese knives. It is amazing how much goes into the making of a knife. All of your videos are good. Thanks for sharing. I will read more. Teresa

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