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What is Japanese Knife?
The Characteristics of Japanese Knives



The Origin of Japanese Knives


Japanese Knife Japanese chef knife, called Wa-Bocho in Japanese traces their origins to the days of the samurai warriors in the Feudal era. The same hand-forging methods used to make swords still continue to be used today to create one of the finest cutlery pieces in the culinary field.

In traditional Japanese cuisine, special care is taken to highlight a chef's skill by arranging foods to display his intricate Wa-Bocho handling techniques. A number of Wa-Bocho styles are used for different purposes in preparing vegetables, fish, and meat.

What is the difference between Japanese Knives and Western Chef's Knives?


The Japanese knives, Wa-Bocho has one distinct feature different from many other chef's knives: The Kataba, or beveled blade, has the outer side sharpened with a beveled edge while the inner side remains flat. Japanese professional chefs prefer this flat surface feature, which facilitates food separation from the knife during cutting.

Different from western knives, Japanese knives are often sharpened in a way that only one side holds the cutting edge; the bevel is only on one side.

Right-handed Japanese Knife
Right handed Japanese Knife
Left-handed Japanese Knife
left handed Japanese knife

With the flat side, a Japanese knife can cut into a fillet of fish with perfect 90 degree angles for sashimi. With a western knife, the blade will pull slightly leftward with the downward motion, resulting in scalloped sashimi pieces.

The Kataba is used exclusively when filleting whole fish. The flat-edged blade cuts in straight, flat lines across and very close to the bones. A western knife would waver and leave rough-edged fillets. In addition, food cut with clean edges eases the absorption of flavorings during cooking.

While western knives are more practical on tougher foods such as meat, controlling the blade for finer cuts and sculpting is easier with a Kataba blade. The Kataba is ideal for cutting with speed and control, and maintains its sharp edge longer than a western knife.

Western Knife
Blade Characteristics of Western Knives
There are other differences between Japanese Knives and Western knives,

  • The western knife has an anchored handle, but the Japanese knife has an inserted handle in any professional knife series.

  • In basic usage, a western knife cuts material by being banged down, but a Japanese knife cuts material by pulling.

How the Blades of Japanese Knives Are Made

There are two basic styles of a Japanese knives: Honyaki-Bocho and Kasumi-Bocho. The Honyaki-Bocho begins as a solid piece of raw steel. After being heated into a burning red rod, the steel is hammered repeatedly to harden the metal and to form the shape of a knife. This forging process, called Hizukuri, eliminates impurities from the metal to create pure steel. The metal is tempered (Yaki-Ire) using water for Mizu-Honyaku or oil for Abura-Yaki., a process which tempers the brittle steel to produce a durable and sturdy piece.

Creating a Honyaki-Bocho blade is a long and arduous process. Due to its characteristically, sharp hard edges, the blade retains its sharpness for a long time, but by the same token, these knives take longer to sharpen, and in general, are more difficult to maintain. The Honyaki-Bocho blade is preferred by most skilled professional chefs.

On the other hand, Kasumi-Bocho is made with two layers of iron and carbon steel forged together. Sharpening Kasumi-Bocho is easier.

The Process of Creating a Honyaki-Bocho blade

How is Japanese Knife Blade, Honyaki-bocho made From the top to the bottom:
1. KOUTETSUSTEEL
2. JIGANEIRON
3. NOTAZUKEFORGING, COMBINING STEEL AND IRON
4. HANKEIFLATTENING AND STRETCHING
5. NAKAGOTORIFORMING THE HANDLE INSERT
6. NABOSHIFORMING THE SHAPE OF THE BLADE
7. ARATATAKIHAMMERNING OUT BLEMISHES
8. URASUKIBEATING IN SLIGHT DEPRESSIONS ON THE BACK OF THE BLADE
9. NARASHIUCHIFLATTENING OUT THE FRONT SIDE OF THE BLADE
10. TACHIMAWASHIBASIC SHAPING AND HARDENING
11. SURIAWASHITAILORING AND TRIMMING
12. YAKIIRETEMPERING, HARDENING OF THE BLADE
13. SHIAGEFINISHING (GRIDING AND HONING)