Japanese Knives 101

Japanese Knives
Japanese Knives

Japanese Knives 和包丁 Wabouchou

There is no better place to invest in a knife than Japan. Although they are not inexpensive, if cared for properly, Japanese knives will last a lifetime. A good knife shop will also carry Western-style knives made in Japan that are sharpened on both sides.

Traditional Japanese knives are sharpened only on one side, and Westerners will find that cutting with them can take a bit of getting used to (be sure to let the shopkeeper know if you are right- or left-handed).  Although most knives sold in the West do not rust, Japanese knives made from standard carbon steel rust easily. You may want to ask for a rust-resistant carbon steel that is easier to care for.

If this is your first time to purchase Japanese knives, you may want to start with three basic knives:

Deba bocho 出刃包丁 knife  with a thick, wide surface, primarily used to prepare fish (to filet, to gut, to cut through bones, and to remove the head)

Usuba bocho 薄刃包丁 knife with a broad, thin blade, used to peel and cut vegetables

Yanagiba bocho 柳刃包丁 Long and slender knife with a pointed tip primarily used for cutting sashimi


Other kitchen tools you may find at knife shops:


Benriner mandorin: Japanese-made mandolin, less bulky than French ones

Honenuki: tweezers used for pulling bones out of fish filets

Manaita: cutting board

Nukikata: an implement in the shape of a seasonal motif, much like a cookie cutter, used to cut vegetables

Oroshigane: a grater, ideal for grating ginger, daikon, and other vegetables (Note: graters for wasabi, made from sharkskin, are different from the ones for vegetables)

Otoshibuta: small, round, wooden lids that allow steam to escape while evenly distributing heat and gently cooking ingredients; they should be a bit smaller than the diameter of the pot

Tamagoyaki ki: pan used to make Japanese-style omelet

Toishi: water stone used for sharpening knives

Uroko hiki: fish de-scaler


Where to get your knives in Tokyo?

Tokyo knife shops.

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