Your Buying Guide To Japanese Knife Types

There are many kinds of knives for different culinary purposes. From small petty knives to long Sashimi knives. The proper use of the correct kitchen knife for the correct purpose symbolizes Japanese food culture. 


Sakai Takayuki Damascus 33 Layer Mahogany 170mm Santoku Knife

The Santoku knife style originated in Japan. Santoku means three virtues or three uses. Traditionally this was the home Chef Knife that most children in Japan saw their parent's using in the kitchen.  This knife allows for various cutting methods with a wide range of materials such as meat, fish, and vegetables. It is also useful for slicing cheese, mincing meat, and chopping nuts.

Ideal for: Precision mincing, dicing and slicing.

Useful on food types: medium to small proteins, lettuce, cabbage, kale, carrots, potatoes, squash, cucumber, and eggplant.


Sakai Takayuki Damascus 33 Layer Mahogany Gyutou Knife

Gyuto is a Western design more commonly known as a "Chef's Knife". The edge profile gives the blade more contact with the cutting board. Using the curve of the blade, relatively large meat is easy to cut. The knife may not be the best choice dense materials such as bone or cartilage but would be good for most Vegetables or light proteins.  If creating fine slices are necessary the Santoku is a better choice.

Ideal for: Chopping, slicing, disjointing some cuts, dicing, and julienning.

Useful on food types: Medium to large cuts of proteins, nuts, carrots, broccoli, onions, garlic, and peppers.


Sakai Takayuki Damascus 45 Layer Mahogany 150mm Nakiri Knife

The Nakiri style of knife is designed for cutting greens. The blade is thin and wide, the tip of the blade is flat and square. This Japanese design is mainly for carving vegetables. It is especially useful for shredding vegetables, chopping, or shredding pearls. Please also look at the Usuba for the single bevel variety of this knife. In Japan, this type of knife is specifically useful when cutting vegetables such as daikon or carrot into julienne strips, this method is called “katsura-muki”.

Ideal for: Chopping, slicing, dicing, and mincing.

Useful on food types: All vegetables.


33 layer Damascus stake Sakai Takayuki

The petty knife is a compact utility knife ideal for small and delicate work that cannot be handled by a larger knife. These knives are great for delicate cutting of small fruits, vegetables, herbs, and boning. It can also be used as a good knife for cutting cheeses. Practically speaking these are one of the first knives we grab even for such things as cutting up small pieces of chicken.

Ideal for: Slicing, and chopping.

Useful on food types: Small/light proteins, small vegetables such as green beans, green onions, and herbs.


Usuba Sakai Takayuki

A Japanese style knife used for vegetables, similar to the Nakiri. This blade originated in the Tokyo region and is a single edge, thin blade. These are used frequently for peeling vegetables as the daikon due to the thin straight single edge. Additionally, as the edge is straight it can be used for rhythmic chopping on a cutting board.

Ideal for: Chopping, slicing, dicing, and mincing.

Useful on food types: All vegetables. Particularly, peeling Daikon radish.


Mukimono knife

This style of knife is designed to allow for intricate peeling of vegetables.  Specifically when designing peeled artwork to accompany the main dish. The blade is similar to a Usuba in that it is flat and very useful with vegetables, however the pointed tip allows for precision carving and peeling.  This blade is small, thin and light weight with a single edge.

Ideal for:Slicing, dicing, mincing, and peeling.

Useful on food types: All vegetables and fruits, specifically when creating artful designs or presentations where precision edge work is needed.

Deba / Ajikiri

Sakai Takayuki Deba Knife

Deba means pointed carving knife. The Deba knives originally appeared during the Edo period in Sakai, Osaka. This type of knife is used for cleaning and cutting fish and birds. The blade has an increased thickness along the spine, and often a more dull angle behind of the heel allowing it to cut off the heads of fish or through bones without damage. The Deba should not be used to cut through thick bones however.

Ideal for: Slicing, disjointing.

Useful on food types: Breaking down whole fish, meat and poultry where a heavy blade is useful.


Sakai Takayuki Sujihiki knife Japanese style

The Sujihiki blade is characterized by its narrow width and short height. These dimensions allow for less surface area and less friction when slicing through meat. This is a perfect combination for slicing through delicate fish in a single clean stroke, in particular for sashimi. This knife is also useful for such things as large pieces of meat from poultry. This blade is also characterized by double beveled edges.

Ideal for: Slicing.

Useful on food types: Slicing fish fillets, carving roasts such as top sirloin, tri-tip or poultry like turkey. 

Shobu or Yanagiba

Shobu yanagiba knife Sakai Takayuki

Shobu or Yanagiba which literally means Iris Leaf. These knives are popular in Western Japan, primarily around the Osaka and Kyoto areas. The shape is a slim blade which looks like a Katana (sword), suitable for slicing tasks.  The style of knife is well known as a great sashimi knife, with a single bevel edge good for cutting and filleting fish.  Its pointed and easy to use, it is possible to cut beautiful sashimi just by pulling in a single motion without moving the kitchen knife back and forth.

Ideal for: Slicing.

Useful on food types: Slicing fish fillets, squid, octopus, other seafood. 


Sakai Takayuki Takohiki

Takohiki is a sashimi kitchen knife unique to the Kanto region of Japan. The tips are blunt and square in shape, which helps the chef carefully scoop the slices of sashimi onto a plate. Tako means octopus, hiki means pull. As with Shobu, this sashimi knife is pulled in order to cut using the blade length. By pulling the knife allowing the edge to slice the tissue of sashimi will not collapse.  This allows for the cut to be clean and consistent.

According to the legend, Takohiki was a square-shaped tipped sushi maker in the Edo period, who was reprimanded for pointing the tip of a knife towards the customer. Interestingly, the tradition of not directing sharp cutting knives to customers still remains, and Takohiki is still favored in Tokyo.

Ideal for: Slicing.

Useful on food types: Slicing fish fillets, squid, octopus, other seafood.  



Non-Japanese knives are a V-shaped 'double-edged' structure with blade cross section symmetrical. Many Japanese knives are based on a single-edged structure. The back is a flat surface, only the front side is an oblique grinding surface, and when looking at the cutting edge from the side, the section looks like "レ". Compared to double-edged version, single-edged knives make it easy to remove the blade when cutting food.  This allows for a chef to quickly perform operations such as carving and stripping.  The motion to use when cutting with a Japanese knife is generally a sliding motion, rather than pushing down.  This helps to use the sharpness of the blade.

Low grade kitchen knives create rough surfaces on items they cut. This is because it cuts cells, and it starts to oxidize quickly. Meanwhile, a sharp knife will not cut unnecessary cells and will improve the texture and taste. This allows the sliced food to last longer before going bad.  Additionally, with the quality of the steel even if you keep using it, the sharpness hardly falls.