Glossary of Japanese Cutlery Terms
Deba means "protruding blade" in Japanese and refers to the traditional fish cleaning knife. The deba has a thick and heavy blade, which can be used to sever fish heads or deal with some bones in other kinds of meat. It has a sharp single bevel blade that the Japanese use to filet fish.
Fuguhiki. See Yanagi.
Garasuki. See Honesuki
Gyuto means "cattle knife" and refers to the Japanese version of the Western chef knife. It was made originally for cutting meat. As Western style cooking became more popular in Japan, it became the standard chopping knife in the Japanese kitchen. The Wa Gyuto is the same blade with a traditional Japanese tang and handle.
Hagane. See Kasumi
Hamon. See Honyaki
Honesuki. The modern Japanese poultry boning knife with a single bevel blade but a double bevel edge. Garasuki is a larger model for larger birds or game. Sakabone is a light boning knife with a curved edge.
Honyaki means "true forging" and refers to a knife that is made from a single piece of hard steel - either white or blue and is forged by hand. It has a differential heat treatment to provide high edge retention with toughness. This is accomplished by putting mud on the upper parts of the blade and by leaving the edge bare so that it will react instantly to the quench. You can see the place where the mud stopped on the blade. It is called the hamon. We often call it a temper line in the West.
Jigane or Shigani. See Kasumi
Kasumi comes from the Japanese misty or foggy and it refers to the misty appearance that the iron takes on during heat treatment. Kasumi knives are made by forge welding together a piece of hard steel (hagane) and soft steel or iron (jigane). Honkasumi would simply be a "deluxe" kasumi knife.
Kuroichi means "black one" in Japanese and refers to kasumi type traditional Japanese knives that still have the black finish on the iron that it takes on in the forge. The bevel and inside of the blade are ground so just the upper part of the outside of the blade is left black. These are usually budget models of the maker's product line.
Mioroshi is a single bevel traditional Japanese knife designed to be used like a chef knife.
Nakiri. See usuba.
Petty. From the French "petite" or "small" refers to a wide range of smaller Western style kitchen knives that we would call parers or utility knives.
Sakabone. See Honesuki.
Santoku means "three virtues" in Japanese and the virtues are the point, the edge and heel. This multipurpose kitchen knife is designed to handle coring at the point, slicing at the edge and chopping at the heel. It is intended to be used as the single knife in a kitchen.
Shiroko means white steel in Japanese and refers to the most popular of the carbon steels used in traditional Japanese cutlery. It is a high carbon steel capable of significant hardness. The name refers to the color of the paper in which the steel is wrapped at the factory. It is sometimes called shirogami or white paper. There are several grades of this steel based on the amount of carbon content in the alloy.
Sujihiki or sujibiki is the Western style Japanese slicer. It has a double bevel edge and, normally, a bolster. The name derives from the term "tendon pull" because the knife was used originally to separate tendon from meat in the butchering process.
Usuba is the traditional Japanese vegetable slicer with a single bevel blade. We often call it the vegetable knife in the West. It can make the paper thin slices of vegetables you may have encountered in a Japanese restaurant. There are basically three versions of this knife. The azumagata is the most popular shape and has a rectangular shape with a flat nose. The kamagata has a sheepfoot shaped blade that provides a useful point. The hishigata has an even more pronounced point that adds additional utility to the knife. There are also vegetable slicers made with double bevels and these are often called nakiri.
Gyuto. See Gyuto.
Warikomi is the process of laminating a hard steel core within a sandwich of softer steel. This provides a thinner hard section of steel for easier maintenance and provides some addition toughness through the use of the softer steel exterior. The exterior is usually, not always, stainless steel and the interior can be carbon steel or stainless.
Stone is the traditional Japanese sharpening bench stone. It can
be either man made or natural. It is lubricated with water and is available
in a very wide range of grits.
means "willow leaf" in Japanese and refers to the shape of the
blade of the famous traditional Japanese slicer. Yanagiba
is the same thing. It simply says "willow leaf blade" in Japanese.
We often refer to this knife as the sashimi or sushi knife in the west.
It has a very sharp single bevel blade capable of making the paper thin
slices of raw fish used in the preparation of sushi. There are some variants
called takohiki, a flat edged and flat nose version and
the fuguhiki which is a special, thin bladed version of
the yanagi for working with the fugu or puffer fish.