Exploring the Different Types of Japanese Knives and Their Uses

Exploring the Different Types of Japanese Knives and Their Uses

Exploring the Different Types of 
Japanese Knives and Their Uses

Japanese knives have always stood as some of the most superior and revered blades in the era of culinary tools. Their impeccable artistry and unparalleled attention to detail place them in a league.

They are not just tools; they are masterpieces that engage all of our senses. When we hold a Japanese knife, we can feel the weight, balance, and craftsmanship in our hands. The sleek and precise design captivates our sight, showcasing the beauty of the blade. As we use the knife to slice through ingredients, we experience its smoothness and sharpness, effortlessly gliding through the food.

If you are a budding chef, it's crucial to have knives that are very precise and efficient enough to help in your endeavors. 
Japanese whetstone
Especially if you want to cook Japanese food, the blades need to be heavy and straightforward. There are many distinct types of Japanese knives, each designed for a specific task. Some are good for peeling the thin skin off tomatoes, while others are heavy enough to cut beef and whole chickens. With so many options, if you are contemplating which type of kitchen knives are best for everyday cooking? And which ones should you have for special occasions when you want to cook fancy dishes? Here is a guide to your kitchen's most helpful Japanese knife types.

Definition of Japanese knives

Japanese knives refer to a class of culinary tools renowned for their exceptional craftsmanship, sharpness, and performance. Rooted in Japan's rich tradition of blade-making, these knives are meticulously crafted using specialized methods that have been passed down through generations of skilled artisans. Japanese knives are characterized by their high-quality materials, unique blade profiles, and a deep respect for the balance between form and function. 
History Of Knives

History of Japanese knives

The oldest Japanese knife, currently stored in a museum, dates back to the 8th century. The significance of Japanese Knives gained during the Heian period (9th to 12th centuries) in Japan led to the creation of a special ceremony called "Hocho Shiki". This ceremony involved the precise preparation of meat and fish, emphasizing the importance of high-quality,
sharp blades and exceptional cooking expertise. This ceremony continues to upgrade Japanese cuisine and knives to a great extent. Following the Heian period, the Samurai emerged as influential military officers throughout Japan and were permitted to carry swords made by skilled blacksmiths. Until the mid-19th century, the Samurai endured a robust existence.

In the 16th century, tobacco became popular in Japan, boosting a higher demand for sharp knives for cultivating tobacco crops. This resulted in the increased production of highly sharp single-bevel knives. It was a quiet time for Japan during the 17th century, with less involvement in domestic and international conflicts. Accordingly, the demand for knives overhauled the need for swords.

In 1868, the Meiji era began, which prohibited the public possession of weapons, including swords. Due to this, many sword makers were left out of business. To continue earning, artisans utilized their expertise and knowledge in sword-making to create various types of cooking knives and household tools.

The Most Common Types of Japanese Knives

There is a vast range of Japanese knife types; herein are some of the general-purpose Japanese knives:

  • Kiritsuke Knife 

In the restaurant industry, this Japanese knife style is considered a status symbol and is primarily used by a head chef only because practice and specific skills are needed to use it. Kiritsuke has a shape combining the Guoto and Yanagiba designs, making it challenging to use. This knife is ideal for skinning bones or perfectly slicing seafood. Get a Damascus Kiritsuke knife, handcrafted with a premium blade and a unique hexagonal handle, to take your kitchen to the next level. 

  • Gyuto (Chef's Knife)  

A Gyuto is among the versatile Japanese chef knife types that excel in cutting, slicing, and chopping. Its thin yet long and rounded blade effortlessly handles meat, fish, and vegetables. Inspired by Samurai swords, the blade's shape and thickness allow it to slice food fibers instead of crushing them, making it ideal for preserving meat's freshness and flavor.

  • Santaku (Multipurpose)

This is perhaps the top-rated multipurpose Japanese knife used across the globe today. Santoku means "three uses" or "three virtues", referring to the versatility of the blade to its intended ingredients: meat, fish and vegetables and its cutting capabilities, chopping, slicing and dicing. The full name of the knife is "Santoku Bocho", Bocho meaning kitchen knife. 

Other Types of Japanese Knives

Some other Japanese knife types include:

  • Yanagiba

This Japanese knife was traditionally used to cut thin slices of raw fish (sushi). Due to its long, narrow blade, it can also be used to cut streaks (large pieces of meat) and for different kitchen tasks. Generally, Yanagiba measures around 240-360 mm long and is made from high-carbon steel.

  • Nakiri (Vegetable Knife)

This Japanese-style knife is similar to a cleaver due to its broad, straight-edge, flat profile. Its slender and pliable structure facilitates effortless push-cutting and smooth transfer of food from the cutting board to a bowl or pan. 

  • Petty (Paring/Utility knife)

Petty knives are also known as utility or paring knives. It is a smaller variant of the Gyuto (Chef's knife) and is perfect for precise and delicate tasks that may be challenging with a larger knife. It is a must-have in everyone's kitchen, ideal for cutting apple cores, peeling, paring, decorating, etc. 

  • Honesuki (boning knife)

This Japanese knife type features a pointed tip and straight edge for precise fileting, skinning and deboning. Initially used for poultry and rabbits, it is also functional for cutting red meat and fish.
While this should not be used for cutting through bones or larger meat cuts, it is ideal for breaking through tendons and cartilage.


There are various type of kitchen knives, each tailored for specific tasks. These knives serve different purposes in the culinary world. Some are versatile and suitable for multiple uses, while others excel in particular areas. Instead of filling your cutlery section with everything random that looks fancy, find out their right use and then make the right decision.

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