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All you need to know about Japanese knives
Looking for Japanese Knives you will find two main categories. The Traditional style Japanese knives and the Western style Japanese knives. I will explain later why there are two categories but first I will show you the western Japanese knives with their specific names and the purpose of each knife.
Western style Japanese knives
Many of these knife types have specific usages (vegetable, fish, carving, butchering, etc.), but there are two Japanese knives that are meant for general usage — Gyuto (i.e. Japanese chef’s knife), and Santoku.
- Gyuto: Japanese for Chef’s Knife. For me favorite #1 and for sure you will use this knife the most in your kitchen, it will become your best friend. Chopping will be an easy job whether you chop vegetables, meat or fruit.
- Santoku: The best All-round knife for your kitchen to cut meat, fish and vegetables. The wide blade gives you good guidance along the finger knuckles. Slicing your meat or fish will be an easy job. Santoku knife is popular and the most common knife.
- Petty: I use this small all-purpose knife for fruit, peeling and cutting small objects. Because this knife is so compact, and therefore good handling and can do a very precise job.
- Nakiri: Look at the shape of this knife and you will see directly that this knife is made for chopping, especially vegetables. Characterized by its straight blade edge and squared off tips, the Nakiri knife allows you to cut all the way through to the cutting board without having to use a horizontal push or pull.
- Sujihiki: This knife is the king when you are slicing or cutting the (fillet) fishes and meat. Next time when you visit a Japanese restaurant for a lovely dinner you will see that the Chef is using this knife when he is preparing your Sashimi.
CAUTION ! All these blades are very sharp. Use of these knives can cause cuts in the hands. Know where the patches are before using one these knives 🙂
Traditional style Japanese knives
- Yanagiba:This traditionally-shaped Yanagiba is the most common style of knife for slicing sashimi (uncooked fish). The 8″ version is best for small fish or for slicing boneless fillets of fish with firm meat.
- Takobiki: Knife is longer and thinner than a Yanagiba knife and is used to slice boneless fish fillets into sashimi, especially in Kanto (Tokyo) region. For this reason the call it the Kanto style.
- Deba: These knives are thick and stout, the Deba traditionally used to clean and fillet whole fish, but it is also commonly used for breaking down and dressing poultry and other meat with small bones.
- Mioroshi Deba: This knife is perfectly suited to filleting and portioning fish, but it can also slice fish well. The Mioroshi Deba is a combination of a Deba and Yanagiba.
- Usuba: literally means “thin blade“. indicating its relative thinness compared to other knives, required for cutting through firm vegetables without cracking them. You will chop vegetables like a pro with this knife.
Japanese vs German style knives
Germany is famous for it’s beer, France for it’s wine, Holland for their tulips and Japan for their Knives.Their history goes back for centuries. The long-standing tradition of sword making in Japan. We all know the famous Samurai swords from the movies and stories.
Craftsmanship goes from father to son and their secrets stays between their four walls. During thousands of years they have developed for every job in the kitchen a special knife. Never ever they will stay with the same knife for a different job in the kitchen.
The Japanese traditional knives tells you all about their eating habits. Mostly fish and vegetables. It all goes back to their way of living. Patience, respect for nature and culture are in their DNA.
The Western Japanese knives are adapted to the western way of living .Western knives are more like powerhouses. These are suitable for both tough and delicate tasks.
These knives are heavier than their counterparts. Maintenance will be much easier and as we all know that in the Western world “time is money”. So using the same knife for different jobs is much more forgivable for you than the traditional one.
If you choose for a Traditional Japanese knife you will enter the Major league and the sky will be the limit.
Is this only for pro’s….., No of corse not. If your kitchen is your kingdom !!!. I would say go for it. If my wife ask me what do I want for my birthday, I immediate will give her a link where she can buy a special traditional knife from Japan and at the same time I will remind her that Christmas is coming soon….
Is there good or bad…. Again no of corse not. The western Japanese knives are also made with great workmanship and high quality material. They will do a fantastic job for you and you will enjoying working in your kitchen even more.
Differences in blade style
Western style handle or traditional Japanese handle
Japanese knives can come with a Western style handle or traditional Japanese handle. The Western handle is heavier, grip form shaped and secured through the tang of the blade with rivets. They feel sturdier, and are more suitable for brute force cutting tasks. Traditional Japanese handles are cylindrical, lighter, and always made of wood. Traditional Japanese style handles may feel awkward to those who have never used them before, but can provide a more delicate touch and control once accustomed to the feel. In the end, the choice of handle type comes down to your own personal preference.
watch the handle
- traditional wooden handle
- 6 X corners (for a better grip)
- Japanese white-bark Magnolia wood, is the most major wood used
Watch the handle
- handle is fixed with rivets
- handle is shaped to fix the hand
- in total the knife is heavier, keeps you from precision work
Everything you must know about Japanese Steel
There are 5 Types of Japanese Steel.
- Carbon steel
- Stainless Steel
- High Carbon Stainless steel
- Damascus Steel
- Warikomi Steel
We have discussed the differences in Western and traditional Japanese knife styles. there is also a lot to tell you about the steel used for all kinds of Japanese knifes.
It’s not only the sort of steel what makes the difference, okay steel is the basis but there is so much more, the processes of forging, tempering and blade shaping can be exploited by only the most experienced craftsmen.
High Carbon steel
Carbon steel is a mix of Iron (steel) and Carbon. Carbon is the Key element in steel. It gives steel the possibility to be hardened during the process of heat treatment. It reduces resistance to corrosion and makes steel brittle.
Carbon steel has 5 different steel sorts:
- Aogami steel: # 1 and # 2 Aogami means “blue” , but this name has no relation to the color of steel. Very hard and highest quality carbon steel. The kitchen knife made of this steel is very sharp, but it is rusty so good maintenance is necessary
- Aogami Super steel: This is the best steel of the Aogami(blue) series. It is the hardest and sharpest among the Japanese steel.
- Kiigami steel : Same series as Aogami and Shirogami steel, but the grade is a little low.
- Tamahagane Steel: Tamahagane is the Steel for Japanese swords. Only Japanese swords manufacturers can obtain it. There are kitchen knives with name of Tamahagane, but that is not real. just using this name.
- Molybdenum steel: Most popular used in Japanese stainless steel knives
- Gingami-3: It is used for razors and kitchen knife.
- Swedish Steel: About 100 years ago, From Meiji era has been used frequently in Japanese cutlery.
High carbon Stainless Steel
- VG10 Steel: Very hard like carbon steel, and is resistant to oxidation. It is mainly used for high class knives such as Damascus kitchen knife.
- VG5 steel: It has characteristics close to VG 10, but it is not as hard as VG 10.
- 10A Steel: It has characteristics very close to VG 10.
- Powered High Speed Steel: Steel made in USA, it is often used for high-class Japanese kitchen knife. There are cases that chipping or rust, but usually very hard.
This steel is named after the Capital of Syria. first a little history:
No one has replicated the original method of making Damascus steel because it was cast from wootz, a type of steel originally made in India over two thousand years ago. India began producing wootz well before the birth of Christ, but the weapons and other items made from wootz became truly popular in the 3rd and 4th century as trade items sold in the city of Damascus, in what is modern Syria. The techniques for making wootz were lost in the 1700s, so the source material for Damascus steel was lost. Although a great deal of research and reverse engineering has tried to replicate cast Damascus steel, no one has successfully cast a similar material.
Look at the blade!
Pattern-Welded Damascus Steel
If you buy modern “Damascus” steel you could be getting a metal that has merely been etched (surface treated) to produce a light/dark pattern. This is not really Damascus steel since the pattern can be worn away.
Knives and other modern objects made from pattern-welded Damascus steel bear the watery pattern all the way through the metal and possess many of the same characteristics of the original Damascus metal. Pattern-welded steel is made by layering iron and steel and forging the metals together by hammering them at high temperature to form a welded bond. A flux seals the joint to keep out oxygen. Forge welding multiple layers produces the watery effect characteristic of this type of Damascus steel, although other patterns are possible.
Warikomi Steel (process)
- Warikomi is a ancient Japanese Manufacturing process.
- it is a split and insert method.
- specific steel and ferrite are selected depending on the purpose of each knife
- Heated Ferrite will be split and insert the steel blade (sandwiched the steel)
The Most expensive Japanese kitchen knife
- This knife has been sold for over 5.000,00$
- This Japanese Chef Knife is called: Yanagiba
- Grade: Honyaki Mirror-Finished (Kyomen Shiage) Mizuyaki/ Knife Type:Yanagi Kiritsuke Knife (one of a kind work of fine art)
- Steel Type: White Steel #1 Mizuyaki Virgin High-Carbon Steel
- Blade: Single-Edged/ Blade Length:13″ (330mm)/Saya: Phoenix decorated Natural Magnolia Maki- Urushi Saya with real 24k inlay
- BOLSTER: Water Buffalo Horn /Handle Material: Octagonal Magnolia Maki-Urushi Japanese Hand Lacquered Handle
- Hardness Rockwell C scale: 65
The Yanagiba is a long slicing knife designed to cut thin slices of fish for sushi and sashimi.
Forged by Legendary master craftsman Masakuni this one of a kind work of art is finished with the ancient techniques of Japanese sword polishing, Yoshihiro White Steel #1 Mizu Yaki Water Quenched Honyaki Mirror-Finished Yanagi Kiritsuke with Mt.Fuji under a Full Moon “Hamon” Blade Line represents the highest level of quality in Japanese knives.
Mizu Honyaki is a meticulous process of pure water quenching that draws out the hardness of refined steel while infusing it with enough resiliency to perform consistently in the most exacting of conditions.
Honyaki means “true forged” and is the purest reflection the traditional art of Japanese sword making. A single piece of Blue Steel #1(HRC 65), is heated in hearths that reach temperatures in the thousands and quenched by Mizu Honyaki method for hardness and durability. Polished with a brilliant mirror finish, incandescent wisps of light glimmer across the surface of the blade’s temper line “Hamon” inlaid with images of Mt. Fuji under a Full Moon(a rare feat that is considered a signature of a master sword maker).
This beautiful knife is complimented with an Octagonal Magnolia Maki-Urushi Japanese Hand Lacquered Handle and comes with a rare artisan crafted “Saya”, a protective wooden sheath that was handcrafted with Maki-Urushi Japanese Lacquered Phoenix decorated 24K Gold on Magnolia wood.
For Left-Handed Customer:
- Left-handed blades must be special ordered from Japan, and will cost 50% more than the right-handed blades. Due to how each traditional Japanese knife is handmade by right handed craftsmen, it will take 4 to 6 weeks to forge and deliver.
Personally, I think this Yanagiba knife must be used by special occasions or in a three star Michelin Japanese restaurant or a collector item for a die hard fan of traditional Japanese kitchen knife
My goal is not to own it but to see it live somewhere. Imagine that you will enter one of the best Japanese restaurant in the world and you recognize this special knife. That would be great and for sure they give you a SAKE (seishu) for free.
If you have the occasion and you recognize this knife please send me a picture