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Why are Japanese Kitchen Knives so special?

Really, why?

Japan has a long tradition in blacksmithing. It's a culture where an extremely sharp edge is admired and respected. It is the polar opposite of a rather kind and polite society which appreciates soft manners.

The culture of kitchen knives comes from two very different branches. The tool making craftspeople and the swordsmiths who used to make swords for local lords during the Edo period. The latter group is extremely small, and their knives are rare. There are only a handful swordsmiths left in Japan. Most stopped making swords during the Meiji restoration, during which Japan transitioned from the Shogunate to imperial rule in the 19th century. The majority of kitchen knives are an echo of the famous swords, except for their sharpness.

So many tools and knives...

The majority of the Japanese don't like migrating or even moving to another town. This was the case for centuries. Because of that, they never had to carry their belongings with them, which led them to create specialized tools for everything in their daily lives. Fishermen have over 80 knives on board, used depending on the fish they catch. Farmers have hundreds of cutting tools, to be used specifically for one purpose. For example, they use a spring onion knife, which is quite popular among local farmers even in modern days. Only for spring onions and for nothing else!

Japanese kitchen knives were evolved from this mindset. There are hundreds of knife designs. And the focus is always on how light, sharp and fun to work with a chef's knife is.

But why?

It has to do with the local culinary traditions. Small, quick and precise cut of fresh food is thought to enhance the flavor of a dish. This logic continues to cutlery where a certain spoon shape may be more suitable for a specific soup than another and steak knives are never serrated.

Are you still reading?

There are kitchen knives for every kind of function in the kitchen, but they can be summed up into groups, by length or shape.

Santoku is the most famous shape in the west. It literally means ''Three Virtues'' and that implies it can cut meat, fish and vegetables. It's the Japanese multipurpose knife.

Gyutou is the chef's knife. It can be compared to the European chef's knife but it is much thinner, and made of harder steel. As a result it is sharper, but more sensitive to bones and frozen food. 

Nakiri is a veggie knife. It has a more square shape to help chop many vegetables together faster.

Petty knives are mostly used for fruits and small vegetables, like garlic.

And many, many more...

 

If you are interested in purchasing your first Japanese knife, we offer these knives by Mr Mutsumi Hinoura, whose family has been making kitchen knives for 120 years! Ask our team for current promotions! 

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