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A question of application - the right type of japanese knife

Depending on the intended use, different types of knives have become established in Japanese cutlery. There are variants that can be used in a variety of ways for processing meat, fish and vegetables, but there are also special blade shapes that have been developed for special requirements.

In our overview, you will find the most common types of knives used by Japanese cutlers, each with a schematic representation and a description of their specific features and benefits. The symbols above the knife illustrations indicate for which purposes the respective knife type should be used. The links below the descriptions will take you directly to all available knives of the respective type.

Santoku knife means "knife of the three virtues". With this translation Santokus are already well described, because they are equally suitable for cutting meat, fish and vegetables. The santoku is a very common Japanese blade shape for all-purpose kitchen knives. The wide blade of the santoku provides enough space for the fingers under the handle and allows the blade to be neatly guided by the back of the finger when cutting. For accurate and speedy chopping of meat, fish and vegetables into fine strips, santokus are ideally suited. The blades of Santokus typically have a blade length between 160mm and 180mm and can therefore also be used for larger cut material.

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Bunka knife type is a classic of Japanese knives. Bunka knives are designed primarily for versatility and are used in the kitchen for coarser cuts but also for finer cutting work and even ornamentation. Classic Bunka knives are still popular with Japanese fishermen today due to their light weight and great versatility, as they rely on a knife that is versatile yet easy to use and lightweight for everyday use. The typical blade length of bunkas is around 170mm. Basically, a bunka can be used for meat, fish and vegetables. Removing skins and tendons can even be done very well with a bunka due to the elaborated tip. The blade shape of Bunka knives has never been changed, so the Bunka is a very authentic Japanese knife type.

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Gyuto knives are versatile cooking knives for preparing fish and meat, but this type of knife is also ideal for finely chopping herbs, onions and other vegetables. Gyutos are distinguished from other all-purpose knives by their slightly wider and often longer blade. The tapered shape of gyuto blades is similar to that of classic western kitchen knives. The typical blade length ranges from about 180mm to 240mm and is therefore ideally suited for larger items to be cut. As a rule, Gyuto knives are ground on both sides.

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Petty knives have a typical blade length of 75mm to 210mm. This makes them one of the smaller Japanese knife types. They are perfectly suited for peeling and cutting fruit and vegetables. However, the tapered blade, which is ground on both sides, can also be used for delicate carving and ornamental work. Even though this knife is primarily designed for processing fruits and vegetables, its use as a filleting knife for the finer processing of meat and fish is quite recommended and widespread. Petty knives can therefore also be called small all-purpose knives.

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Nakiri knives are the classic vegetable knives of Japanese kitchens. The around 165mm long blade in rectangular shape has a very thin blade thickness. This allows very fine, straight cuts and the vegetables are not crushed when cutting. The Nakiri is also ideal for chopping vegetables and herbs. The blade width of approx. 50mm is then perfect for transporting the cut material directly for further processing in a pot or pan.

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Characteristic of the Deba knife is the strong back of the blade and the stable blade blade with up to 6mm thickness. The blade is therefore ideal for cutting fish bones, smaller bones can be smashed with the back of the blade. The Deba knife blade is usually ground on one side - this prevents fraying during filleting and ensures a straight cut.

The length of the blade can vary between 120mm and 240mm. The processing of firm vegetables such as pumpkin is not recommended, as the thickness of the blade leads to a high cutting resistance.

The Yanagiba knife is a classic filleting knife and is used in the preparation of sushi and carpaccio, for example. Often the knife is also called a sashimi knife, which is due to the popular use for the preparation of the traditional Japanese sashimi dish. The blade of the knife is up to 300mm long and tapers slimly towards the tip. For a very precise cut, the blade is usually ground on one side.

Funayuki knives are traditional Japanese fishing knives, which have become popular as all-purpose knives in modern times. Under the designation, depending on the forge, are sometimes very different types of knives. In general, they resemble the Deba knife, but are much lighter and have a thinner blade. This also makes them suitable for use in processing vegetables. Classically, the blade is sharpened on one side, but sharpening on both sides is also possible. Depending on the desired application, the description of the specific knife should therefore be read carefully.

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Kiritsuke knives are often described as a hybrid of Yanagiba and Usuba. This mix results in the special look of this type of knife. With the pointed blade, skins and tendons can be excellently removed from meat and fish can be processed, but at the same time Kiritsuke knives are also ideally suited for processing vegetables. Traditionally, Kiritsukes were ground on one side, but today you can also find numerous variants ground on both sides. This type of knife tends to have longer blades starting at 200mm.

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Originally, Honesuki knives were developed for boning poultry. Poultry joints can be cut with this type of knife, but it should not be chopped and bones should not be divided. The blades are kept narrow to allow flexibility when cutting along the bone. Honesuki knives are now also often used as filleting knives for meat and fish. The sharp tip allows even connective tissue and fat to be cut precisely. The rather stiff blades are often ground on one side and the typical blade length is about 150mm.

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