What is a Japanese Knife?

Japanese knives, which are made through an advanced technology of forging process where an individual piece of steel is hammered and tempered to forge each blade, comprise two main types, “kasumi“ (mist) knives and “honyaki" (true-forged) knives, each with their own characteristics. As a kasumi knife is made by combining hard steel with a flexible soft iron it combines sturdiness with blade sharpness. On the other hand, a honyaki knife is forged entirely from a single steel material from blade to blade edge, and the sharpness lasts longer after a single sharpening. Because of its excellence in sharpness, it is applicable to a wide variety of cooking techniques and ingredients, and suitable to users who are well-accustomed to the handling of knives.

The Different Form Between Japanese Knives and Western Knives

Most Japanese knives such as sashimi knives, "deba knives” (kitchen knives), and "usuba knives” (vegetable knives) are single-edged and have cutting edge and bevel on the surface. Compare to double-edged, characteristic of single-edged knives is how the blade edge slightly cuts in the reverse direction when something is sliced off. Also, while a single-edged knife can be in firm contact with an ingredient, the reverse side features a concave surface known as “urasuki”. As this makes ingredients less likely to stick to the knife, foods such as vegetables and fruits can be quickly cut into thin slices, and portions of fish can be cut from very close to the bone. The sliced cross sections also look beautiful, and so these knives are heavily used by Japanese chefs.

On the other hand, a double-edge knife has beveled edges on both sides. Most Western knives are double-edged and the cross section angles of the front and back sides are the same. Typical examples of which are “gyuto” (chef’s knives), along with “bunka knives” (all-purpose knives) and “santoku knives” (three-purpose knives) used in households. While the blade edge is thicker and sturdier than a single-edge knife, that makes it less suited to thin slicing and peeling. As it is used to cut down in a straight line, it can cut equally on both sides, making it useful when cutting and dividing chunks of meat, for instance.

Are Left-Handed Chefs Rare?

There are apparently many left-handed Japanese chefs who have mastered the ability to use knives that are made for right-handed people even though they still use their left hands for chopsticks, scissors, and so on. Why would they go to all the trouble of doing this?

One of the reasons is Japan's "right-handed culture," in which around ninety percent of people are right-handed. As one example, sashimi slices are arranged on a plate with layers starting from the left side to make it easy for right-handed people to eat, but when a left-handed person cuts the fish, it needs to be flipped over because the slices are shaped the wrong way round. When eating sashimi at a Japanese restaurant, try to recall this and observe the process.

You're Sure to Find the Knife You're Looking For at Masamoto Sohonten.

From reasonably priced knives that are recommended for novices to that special knife that will impress even a veteran chef—Masamoto Sohonten carries an extensive range of knives including double-edged and single-edged varieties and knives designed for both right-handed and left-handed users. We look forward to your visit.