In the past few months, many of you have contacted me to write an article about a Japanese knife. Others asked me to explain the difference between Japanese knives and how to choose them. But first of all, I want to thank you for your time to contact me.
So I decided to write this article on Japanese knives and not on Japanese survival knives because the majority of the comments I received were on Japanese kitchen knives. But do not worry, I would soon write on a Japanese ‘survival’ knife.
Without losing time, let’s get back to the heart of the matter. I completely agree with your comments that it is very difficult to spot and know how to choose a Japanese knife . Myself who loves knives from all horizons, I have had trouble in the past to spot myself. It is therefore with pleasure that I take my keyboard to give you a small summary on the different types of Japanese knife. This will make your choice easier.
Let’s start by quoting the most commonly used knives. These are the Santoku hocho knives, the ledeba bocho blades, the magnificent nakiri bocho and finally the tako hiki without forgetting ke Yanagi ba (sashimi slicers). And here you are almost expert in Japanese knives. I have already told you in one of my numerous articles. It is very easy to find yourself in knives if you know the basics. Let’s now try to list the categories of Japanese kitchen knife.
The categories of Japanese Kitchen Knife
In general, everyone agrees that there are two categories of Japanese knives. When I say two categories, I must point out that these are two categories of traditional Japanese knives. These categories are:
- The Honyaki knife
- The Kasumi knife
The difference between these two categories of knives is very simple. One knows a Honyaki knife from a Kasumi knife by the method used to forge the knife, but also by the material used.
As for Honyaki, this type of knife is made entirely from a single material. This material is chosen so that the knife is very rigid, so the manufacturer will choose a steel having a high carbon content.
As for the Kasumi knives, they are made with two distinct materials. The first is steel that will be rich in carbon and the second is soft iron. These two materials are therefore mixed together forged together. The manufacturing process of Kasumi is similar to that of traditional samurai swords. The finished product will look like San Mai blades.
Very strangely, the Kasumi are characterized by a blade edge made of Steel (thus blade tip very rigid and cutting). On the other hand, iron will be found for the body of the knife is its dorsal edge. The iron will give the blade flexibility. We will note that a Kasumi knife will be more difficult to maintain (subject to rust from the use of iron as material).
Let’s not forget that there are two types of Kasumi knives, the Hongasumi and the Damas. The Hongasumi knife is forged from very high carbon steel, while a Damascus knife will be made of multi-layer steel to improve their life and hardness (called Kirenaga – hardness and durability).
A design and philosophy of Japanese knife
Contrary to what we know in the West, the Japanese knives were designed with a well-established and very precise philosophy. Historically, these knives had only one sharp side (knife sharpened on one side only). The Japanese believed that the knives sharpened on only one side made it possible to obtain a better edge, therefore a better cut.
The Japanese also thought that a knife with only one sharp edge allowed a clean cut (straight cut). Also Japanese knives are largely sharpened for right-handers, with the right side of the slanted blade although the other side has no inclination. The angle chosen depended on the rank of the leader, for example a middle leader would have a knife with a 30 degree inclined edge but a professional knife like that of sushi chef had a 10 degree tilt.
These practices and the philosophy of mono-cutting are now virtually over. This began at the end of World War II, when the Japanese knife makers began to manufacture double-edged blades (beveling on both sides of the blade) and knives with a single cutting edge began to disappear.
So if you find a knife with only one sharp side, I strongly advise you to take it because there are not many on the market. On the other hand, if you want a double-edged knife, I would say that the best known is the Santoku, which is simply a Japanese adaptation of the French chef’s knife, the Gyuto knife.
Although the Japanese knives are now refined and sharpened on both sides, their blades will always be offered with a cutting edge at very acute angle. It is simply the Japanese style. The aim is to increase the cutting capacity of the knife.
Japanese philosophy pushes things even further. A large majority of Japanese professional cooks own two sets of knives. Nobody other than the chef can use these knives (formally forbid other cooks to use another chef’s knives!). If you think that kind of attitude is pushed, then you are not at the end of your troubles.
In Japan, many cooks even own two sets of knives. Why? It’s simple. The logic is that they use a set of knives once every two days. After using a knife, it is sharpened in the evening. Then it is left to rest for one day to remove the smells and flavors that have permeated it.
The chiefs also believe that by leaving the knife a day and a night without being used then its patina and its cutting will recover, but especially any taste of metallic that could be transmitted to the food will disappear.
In this article, we talked about the categories of the Japanese knife . We will continue to write articles about Japanese knives to give you tips, but we will also provide you reviews complete on the Japanese Survival Blades. So, see you soon in our next article on Japanese knives, we will discuss the different types of Japanese knives.
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