Japanese Knife Types

Photo by Molly DeCoudreaux

Double bevel

Sharpened on both sides of the blade; generally symmetrical, but a right or left hand bias can be put on by grinding one side more than the other. Exceptions are honesukis (maru and kaku) as well as garasuki which have a very strong handedness.

Gyuto
The Japanese version of the classic western chef knife, blades are harder with thinner edges than the average non-Japanese chef knife. Best for vegetables and boneless proteins.
Kiritsuke gyuto
Same range as standard gyuto but with a clipped kiritsuke style point and less curve along edge, a shallower sweeping push cut is required as too much lift on the handle diring a rocking push cut can stick tip into board.
Petty
Ranging from 75-180mm petties are the Japanese answer to the small utility or large paring knife. Widths vary between narrow slicer like widths and wider more gyuto like ones.
Sujihiki
Japanese double bevel slicer, used for carving, portioning, trimming etc. with proteins or other applications where a narrow low-drag blade is needed.
Santoku
165-180mm typically, use as a smaller chef knife; vegetables boneless proteins.
Nakiri
Old style Japanese vegetable knife that predates western influenced double bevel knives such as gyuto, sujihiki and petty. The nakiri is used solely for vegetables and would have been the most important home knife next to a deba for fish.
Yo-deba
Thick gyuto to be used with fish breakdown and butchery, not for cutting heavy thick bones and not particularly well suited for vegetables.
Honesuki maru
Japanese butcher knife for breaking and boning.
Honesuki kaku
Japanese poultry boning/breaking knife, the classic yakitori knife.
Garasuki
Poultry breaking knife for larger birds or large volume of smaller ones.

Single bevel

Knives sharpened entirely on one side with one large bevel (kiriba) with a concave side opposite (ura), these knives are ground in different geometries for different tasks, and tend to be more single purpose.

Yanagiba
For precise cutting of sashimi, originally a Kansai (Osaka area) knife.
Takobiki (also Takohiki)
For precise cutting of sashimi, especially thin slicing and octopus, originally a Kanto (Tokyo area) knife
Kiritsuke yanagi
Yanagi with kiritsuke tip for vegetable garnish work
Sakimaru tako yanag
‘Round-tip’ takobiki, curved takobiki with curved tip.
Deba
Heavy triangular fish breaking knife, belly and tip for cutting fillets and thick heel for cutting collar and neck.
Mioroshi deba
Long narrow deba, great for trimming bloodlines on large cuts or breaking softboned fish especially Salmonids (salmon, steelhead, trout etc.)
Sake-kiri deba
Thin but large deba especially for breaking large salmon, great for salmon over 25 lbs.
Aji-kiri deba
Small thin deba, a larger deba is fine for a few fish but for larger quantities a small knife offers more control and less fatigue
Unagi-saki
Eel knife used for cutting fillets, many many regional styles
Usuba
Single bevel vegetable knife, especially for katsuramuki rotary peeling, originally a Kanto (Tokyo area) knife
Kamagata usuba
Single bevel vegetable knife with curved spine and pointed tip, especially for katsuramuki rotary peeling, originally a Kansai (Osaka area) knife
Kiritsuke
Large single bevel chef knife for vegetables and fish slicing (not fish breaking). In Japan only executive chefs use kiritsuke. One of the few single bevel knives to be used for proteins and vegetables.
Mukimono
150-180mm Peeling knife can be used similarly to usuba
Soba-kiri
Large thin blade for cutting noodles, especially buckwheat soba noodles