About Japanese Knives: A Fine Edge For Fine Cuisine
Japan is the land of long traditions, where hundreds of years of accumulated knowledge and experience are passed down from master to apprentice, from teacher to pupil. From ikebana flower arrangements to martial arts and kabuki theater, each tradition has its own set of rules, procedures and schools of styles. Traditional Japanese knives (shop chef & kitchen knives by style) were originally derived from Japanese sword craftsmanship. The techniques have been handed from generation to generation and perfected over time.
More detail:History of Japanese Knife Crafting
Importance of Knife Sharpening
A dull blade will damage the cell walls of ingredients, altering their texture and flavor. For example, if one tries to chiffonade basil with a dull knife, it will turn black almost instantly. A sharp blade slices through ingredients effortlessly, and the same basil will retain its vibrant green color for hours or even days. The single-edged blade is a unique feature of traditional Japanese knives and is directly linked to Japanese cuisine and history. Traditional Japanese cuisine aims to preserve and accentuate the true flavors of fresh and seasonal ingredients, making a sharp knife essential to the process.
More detail:About Knife Sharpening
Styles And Users Of Traditional Japanese Knives
YanagiThe yanagi is used to slice boneless fish fillets into sashimi and toppings for sushi. The graceful, thin blade cuts beautiful slices in one long, drawing stroke. Origin: the Kansai (Osaka) region of Japan.
TakobikiThe takobiki is a variation of the yanagi and is used to slice straight-cut sashimi. Its thin body makes cutting thin slices of fish easier than the yanagi. The blunt tip and balanced weight works well on difficult ingredients such as octopus, from which it gets its name. Origin: the Kanto (Tokyo) region of Japan.
FugubikiThe Fugubiki is a traditional Japanese style fish slicer, similar to the yanagi. ‘Fugu,’ or blowfish, is traditionally served on a painted plate, and cut extremely thin so the design on the plate can be seen through the sliced fish.
UsubaThe Usuba is a traditional Japanese knife used to cut or make thin sheets of vegetables. Origin: the Kanto (Tokyo) region of Japan.
Kamagata UsubaThe Kamagata Usuba is a traditional Japanese knife used to cut or make thin sheets of vegetables. Unlike the Kanto version of the usuba, the kamagata usuba has a pointed tip, which allows for more delicate work. Origin: the Kansai (Osaka) region of Japan.
DebaThe Deba is often used in Japanese fish markets and restaurants that work with whole fish, because it is designed to behead and fillet without damaging the fish. Although many use the deba on other meats, the deba is not intended for chopping of large diameter bones nor should it be used by slamming down the knife like a cleaver. Origin: the Kansai (Osaka) region of Japan.
Honyaki And Kasumi Knives
There are two classes of Japanese knives differentiated by the materials and methods used in their crafting. Honyaki and kasumi knives can be made with either ao-ko or shiro-ko steels. Each classification has its own advantages as well as difficulties.
Kasumi means “mist” and refers to the hazy appearance of the soft iron body of the blade, in contrast to the glossy appearance of the carbon steel. Craftsmen forge kasumi knives by joining a piece of soft iron with a piece of carbon steel. After forging, hammering, and shaping, the carbon steel becomes the blade’s edge. The soft iron portion becomes the body and spine of the blade. This reduces brittleness and makes sharpening easier. Kasumi knives are much easier to use and sharpen than honyaki knives, but their edge retention is shorter.Example: Korin Shiro-Ko Kasumi , Masamoto Shiro-Ko Kasumi , Nenohi Kasumi
Hongasumi knives are high-grade kasumi knives. They are often made of higher quality materials and more steps are involved in the forging, tempering, and finishing processes.Example: Korin Ao-Ko Hongasumi , Korin Shiro-Ko Hongasumi , Masamoto Ao-Ko Hongasumi , Masamoto Shiro-Ko Hongasumi , Nenohi Hongasumi
Layered steel (Damascus steel) is becoming increasingly popular due to its added benefits and attractive appearance. To create these blades, high carbon steel is layered with soft iron then forged and hammered. Among the kasumi knives, layered steel blades have the longest edge retention.Example: Masamoto Wa-Series , Masanobu VG-10 Damascus , Togiharu Hammered Texture Damascus , Korin Tsuchime Hammered Damascus
Honyaki (or "true-forged") knives are constructed entirely out of one material. Honyaki knives have the greatest kirenaga, or edge retention within Japanese knives. However, because the steel is so hard, honyaki knives are harder to sharpen and more prone to chipping, cracking, or breaking if used improperly. Craftsmen require a great amount of skill to forge honyaki knives, and chefs need a lot of experience to use and care for them.Example: Masamoto Ao-Ko Honyaki , Masamoto Shiro-Ko Honyaki , Suisin Inox Honyaki , Suisin Inox Honyaki Wa-Series , Suisin Shiro-Ko Mizu Honyaki