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Looking to buy a kitchen knife? Why you should consider a Japanese Kitchen Knife.

Posted by Nicholas Barrett on
Japanese Blacksmith hammering heated steel, creating a spray of sparks

At some point we all need to look at buying a new Kitchen knife, to replace a damaged or broken knife, unhappy with the knife, knife doesn’t stay sharp, or we just want to upgrade. Whatever the reason for buying a new kitchen knife it is important to look at the options we have available to ensure we get the best replacement / new kitchen knife possible.

The trouble we all face is that there are so many options out there and quite often we will grab the cheapest option or the “On Sale” option from the supermarket or the local discount kitchen shop at the shopping centre. But let’s consider, are we really getting the best option for the money we are spending?

To tell the truth, in the past I have gone to the discount kitchen shop and purchased a block of knives because the price was low, they “looked good” and there were lots of different knives available in the block. Being honest with you most of the knives never got used and I spent a lot of time trying to keep them sharp as they would never keep their edge for long. My advice regarding these types of knives is to check the packaging to see if they are authentic, have a look at where the knives were made. Also think about how many knives you actually use in the kitchen; I mainly use two knives every day.

The Online Option

These days because of Covid restrictions and lockdowns we have all started to do more shopping online and I think you should consider a Japanese Kitchen Knife when you are looking at buying a new knife. There are several very good online suppliers here in Australia for these kitchen knives and there are so many options to consider.

I personally have mainly used European kitchen knives since I started cooking when I was 14 and I got very good with a steel to keep them sharp especially when I ran a small Seafood Café/Restaurant for over 9 years. I fileted a lot of fish and had to keep my fileting knife very sharp to get the job done quickly. However, a little over 15 years ago my now father-in-law gifted me two Japanese kitchen knives and I would never consider buying anything else for my kitchen.

What makes Japanese Kitchen knives different.

Core Steel

Example of Blue steel core with carbon steel cladding, Tosa-Ohishi 135mm Petty (Utility knife)Example of Aogami 2 steel core with stainless-steel cladding, Ohishi Hiraki (Utility knife) 165mm Example of all stainless-steel Japanese kitchen knife, Murato Fit line 180mm Gyuto (Chef knife)

1. Tosa/Ohishi Blue Steel Petty (Utility) 135mm kitchen knife

2. Ohishi Aogami 2 Hiraki (Utility) 165mm kitchen knife

3. Murato Fit Line All Stainless-steel Gyuto (Chef) 180mm kitchen knife 

There are several factors that make Japanese kitchen knives different and, in my opinion, better than their European counterparts. The first factor is the core steel that is used for the kitchen knives, there are several different steels used however Japanese steels usually range between 58-68 HRC (Harness Rockwell C scale), while most Western steels don't surpass 59 HRC. This means that the Japanese kitchen knives can be made with a thinner blade and that they will also hold a much sharper edge.

Bevel -

Comparison of bevels Japanese vs GermanExample of 14degree bevel on Japanese 180mm Gyuto (Chef) Kitchen Knife

Another difference is the angle of the bevel on a Japanese kitchen knife, European/American kitchen knives are usually sharpened at a 20-degree angle whilst Japanese kitchen knives are sharpened at a 14-degree bevel which gives them a sharper more sustainable edge and this lower angle can hold up and provide an exceptionally smooth cutting action. However, with the harder steel core and the finer angle these knives will sustain damage to the blade if you use them to try to cut through frozen food or thick bones, for this type of work you will need to select a different style of knife.

Variety of Japanese Kitchen Knives

With Japanese kitchen knives there is a very broad range of products to choose from. Firstly, you need to decide if you want a single bevel knife, the knife is only sharpened on one side, or double bevel which is the type of knife we typically use. Several the traditionally single bevelled knives are now being made with a double bevel for the western market.

You will then need to decide on what type of blade you want for your knife 

  • blue / white steel (requires careful cleaning and storage to avoid rusting)

  • stainless-steel clad 

  • all stainless-steel

Once you have decided on the type of blade you then have to consider the type of finish for the blade and there are several options -

  • Kurouchi - blacksmiths or rustic

  • Tsuchime - hammered

  • Nashiji - pear skin

  • Damascus - numerous distinctive styles

  • Suminagashi - flowing ink style (usually found near the edge of the blade)

  • Migaki (polished).

Lastly you will need to decide on the style of handle, do you want a traditional wooden handle which is usually round, D shaped or octagonal, or do you want a western style handle in wood or stainless steel? There are so many things to consider but these decisions are mainly for the amazing range of handmade kitchen knives. Another option to consider are the hand finished kitchen knives which are the types of knives found in everyday kitchen in Japan. These knives still use the same types of steel you find in the handmade kitchen knives; however, the majority are either stainless-steel clad or all stainless-steel with western style handles.

 With all these choices you must be thinking “What type of kitchen knife should I buy?”. If you have never owned a Japanese Kitchen knife before I would suggest you look at the Hand Finished range of knives to see if you like the way they cut, keep their edge and ease of maintenance. I would also suggest you start with a Gyuto (Western Chef knife) or if you want a small set include a Petty (Utility knife) and a bread knife (this can also be used for carving).

Value for money

When it comes to Japanese kitchen knives you can spend anything from $30 up to and over $1000 depending on what you are buying. If you are starting out, or you are buying a knife for someone I would definitely look at the hand finished knives and you can see some of these on the Gift Guide Blog –

Or have a look at the Hand Finished range on my website, these knives are made by Shimomura Kogyo in Sanjo, the town of blacksmiths, and the feedback I have received from Chef’s that have tested these knives has been very positive. Junya san from Four Cinq in Cairns has told me that the range is perfect for household use and Cath from Wild Thyme in Cairns has confirmed the same and that the Fit line, the Colour Grip and Ryuji All Stainless Steel could also be used in Commercial kitchens.

Whatever you decide to buy you will be getting value for money and the handmade knives are knives you can hand down to you kids, if you are willing to part with them that is.

If you have any questions regarding these knives, please feel free to message me through the website and sign up for our E-News for more information, updates, and specials.


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