Japanese Knife Glossary

Posted by Amanda Delatorre on

Want to learn more about the terminology associated with chef knives? Here we’ve gathered some of the top terms in a convenient Japanese knife glossary. 

Japanese Kitchen Knife Terms

Bevel: The angle at which a blade is sharpened. 

Bunka: Originally a knife for home cooks, this all-purpose knife is a cross between a santoku and nakiri with a pointed tip. 

Choil: The unsharpened portion of the cutting edge that’s close to the handle. 

Damascus: A technique where steel is folded in layers to create various decorative affects. 

Gyutou: The Japanese version of a chef’s knife. Usually 7-10 inches. 

Hankotsu: A style of Japanese boning knife originally designed to butcher hanging meats. It's perfect for removing bone from large cuts of meat. 

Honesuki: A triangular shaped Japanese boning knife that is perfect for butchering poultry but useful in many situations. It typically has an asymmetrical (70/30) edge. 

Kakimugi: The Japanese version of an oyster knife. It features a sharp angled tip. 

Kiritsuke: A traditional Japanese knife with an angled tip that can be used as either a sashimi knife or as an all-purpose knife. In restaurant kitchens in Japan, this knife is traditionally used by the Executive Chef only and cannot be used by other cooks. 

Kurouchi: A rustic finish where the blade is left dark and unpolished. 

Nagura: A high grit stone used to create a slurry for sharpening. 

Nakiri: Nakiri knives are the double-edged Western style equivalent of an usuba knife. The straight square shape of the nakiri's blade is ideal for julienne, brunoise, allumette and other precision knife cuts for vegetables. Also a great tool for cutting into very hard skinned produce like pumpkins and squash. 

Nashiji: A forging technique which leaves the blade with a textured finish that resembles its namesake 'pear skin'. 

Petty: A small utility knife usually 5-6". 

San Mai: A style of forging where a harder core of steel (hagane) is sandwiched between two softer layers of steel (jigane) on the outside. San mai knives are great because they are easier to sharpen and the outer cladding can have beneficial properties such as stain resistance for texture that aids in cutting. 

Santoku: An all-purpose knife, named for its 'three virtues' cutting meat, fish and vegetables. 

Saya: A wooden sheath for protecting your blade. 

Shinogi Line: Where the cutting edge meets the rest of the blade. The taper of the shinogi line is critical to how the knife will cut through ingredients. 

Sujihiki: A knife for slicing proteins. 

Takobiki: A blunt tipped knife for slicing fish. 

Tsuchime: A hammering technique that creates dimples on the surface of the knife which helps food release easily from the blade. 

Usuba: A single beveled knife for cutting vegetables and other decorative work. 

Wa handle: A Japanese style handle made from wood or other materials that can be round, d shaped or octagonal. 

Yanagi: A long narrow single beveled blade for cutting raw fish. 

If this Japanese knife glossary has increased your interest in learning more about these craftsman kitchen tools, take a look at our blog, or read interviews with seasoned chefs.

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