Japanese Knives and Uses


In crafting a flavor-rich, mouth-watering dish, of course, choosing quality ingredients is highly essential to add to the ‘freshness’ and create a savory, way more delicious dish. But did you know that the selection of kitchen equipment like “knives” is also very important? Remember, good food can only be the result of excellent culinary processes. If a cook or a chef does not have what it needs to create the desired menu, then, it is impossible to reflect what they have in their souls. Apart from the ingredients and the flavoring of food, choosing the right knife for numerous different types of raw ingredients can help maintain the freshness, plus, the quality. Among the knives that are recognized for their fine quality in cutting, chopping, and slicing varying ingredients, culinary lovers from all over the world have their very own guide to the selection of the best suited Japanese knife to experience the most out of creating Japanese cuisine.

As there are a plenty of available knives out there we could choose from, let us first take a closer look at the main types of Japanese kitchen knives and explore which knives are suitable for varying applications.

Types of Japanese kitchen knives

Usually, Japanese knives can be divided into two main types: “Japanese kitchen knives” and “Western-style knives”, but this time, we will introduce the knives by focusing on the main types of Japanese kitchen knives which are commonly used by the locals, specifically, Japanese people. Each type of kitchen knife has its own very distinctive features and unique characteristics suitable for cutting, slicing, and chopping motions and also for different types of raw materials required to make numerous dishes.

The first knife to be introduced is the Yanagiba Knife. It is a long, slender knife with a sharp tip; a knife suitable for slicing raw fish or to make good sashimi. In order to be able to cut the piece of fish beautifully within just one go, the blade needs to belong and slim enough to complete the process, while tip of the knife is tapered to reduce friction as much as possible. The length of the Yanagiba knife is approximately 21-24 cm. Moreover, to nicely cut raw fish to make sashimi just in one go, it is indeed recommended to choose a Yanagiba knife with a length of around 24 cm. As earlier mentioned, the Yanagiba knife is a knife commonly used by culinary professionals and Japanese chefs. Someone who likes to make homemade sashimi, sushi, and Nigiri should definitely own a Yanagiba for good.

Unagisaki Knife is a knife specialized for slicing eels. There is a Kanto method of slicing eels, which is to cut open the fish from behind. As it is a knife made special to cut eels, the shape might differ from other Japanese knives.

The Deba Knife is a rather a versatile knife, meaning it is a multi-purpose knife. Suitable for both cutting raw fish and chicken meat, this knife is also suitable for chopping hard bones. The knife body is quite thick and the blade is often heavier than other knives to be able to slice thick and hard ingredients or bones. It is an ideal knife for home use, which only means at home; but not suitable for picnics or outdoor use. The recommended blade length for homemade fish fillets is approximately 15 cm.

The Nakiri knife is another knife suitable for chopping vegetables. Features that mark Nakiri knives distinct are that the blades are made to have sharp edges on both sides, making it possible to cut vegetables straightly and beautifully. It is also suitable for beginners and for home use.

The next type of Japanese knife is the Usuba. It is a knife suitable for chopping vegetables too. The Kanto and Kansai Usuba knives own different blade shapes. However, the Kanto side of it has a shape of a square blade. On the Kansai side, though, the blade has a pointed, curved tip. Suitable for peeling various vegetables and even fruits, it is a recommended knife for beginners and intermediate users. The appropriate length of the blade suitable for household use is approximately 19.5 cm.

Lastly, the Takohiki Knife is great for slicing raw fish. It is first forged to perform the cutting motions in order to make perfect sashimi just like a Yanagiba knife. The tip of the blade is squared and so it is popular in the Kanto region. For Kanto locals, the Takohiki knife comes first to mind when it comes to slicing fish and making sashimi.