Japanese Kitchen Knife Types And Styles

   Japanese knives tend to be a lot more specialized for particular type of cutting compared to the western knives. Hence, much wider variety of knives and terms. This section describes and explains different types and styles of the kitchen knives.

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Ai-Deba ( 合出刃 or 相出刃)
- The definition for an Ai-deba on Japanese sites is generally that the Ai-deba is a slightly lighter Deba with spine thickness similar to a Miroshi deba (maybe slightly thinner), and blade height intermediate to a Mioroshi Deba and a Hon Deba.

Ajikiri ( 鯵切)
- Aji means a horse mackerel. Ajikiri is used for small fish, meat and vegetable. Also it's a paring knife in the can be used as a small paring knife.

Anagosaki ( あなご裂)
- See Dojosaki Bocho.

Atsu Deba ( 厚出刃)
- Atsu(厚) in Japanese means thick or heavy. Atsu Deba is a generic term for heavy, rough use debas. Usually kuro-uchi type.

Bano Ko-Bocho ( 万能 小-包丁)
- Small paring knife. Kamagata style tip. Can be used as a small general purpose knife. Not a common term, used by Takeda.

Bano KoBunka-Bocho ( 万能 小文化-包丁)
- Small paring knife. Can be used as a small general purpose knife. Not a common term, used by Takeda.

Baran-kiri ( バラン切)
- See Kaisaki.

Bunka Bano-Bocho ( 文化 万能-包丁)
- General purpose knife, for cutting fish, meat and vegetables. 150-170mm blade, Edo style tip. Not a common term, used by Takeda.

Bunka Funayuki-Bocho ( 文化 舟行-包丁)
- General purpose knife, for cutting fish, meat and vegetables. More general blade geometry, similar to Miroshi. Not a common term, used by Takeda.

Bunkabocho ( 文化包丁)
- Another name of Santoku. Loosely translated as Convenient Knife. Actually means cultural knife. Refers to its traditional use for making cultural cuisine in the home. 'Banno' is the term that means multipurpose or convenient when added.

Butakiri ( 豚切り)
- A rural style knife that is intended to cut larger cuts of meat. 'Buta' means pig, and 'kiri' means to cut.

Chukabocho ( 中華包丁)
- Japanese term for Chinese Cleaver. Larger, rectangular shaped, thin bladed knife for vegetable cutting and general kitchen use.

Dakketsu ( 脱血)
- It is a short fisherman's knife used for bleeding tuna or other fish on a boat to keep them fresh.

Deba ( 出刃)
- Heavy, thick knife designed for cutting and filleting the fish. Can be used for butchering poultry, however cutting bones with it isn't recommended. As usual 165mm-200mm long blade. Traditionally single grind - see Kobayashi Deba review, although double grind versions, called Ryodeba are quite popular as well, see Takeda Deba review. Mainly Japanese style handles are used. Although, a few makers do offer various Debas with western type handles as well, those would be Yo-Debas.

Dojosaki Bocho ( どじょう裂包丁)
- Special knife designed for filleting Anago(sea eeel) and Dojo(called loach in English, a small fish related to the eel and caught in local waters in the summer). Basically it is a thinner and smaller, about 120mm long version of the Edosaki knife. Also called Anagosaki(あなご裂).

Edosaki ( 江戸サキ )
- Unagisaki variation from Edo region.

Fugubiki ( 河豚引)
- Also Fuguhiki. Basically thinner version of Yanagi. Slightly flexible for making extremely thin slices of delicate flesh fish. Fugu is a blowfish in Japanese.

Fuguhiki ( フグ引き)
- See Fugubiki.

Funayuki ( 舟行)
- Thinner than or Miroshi Deba, but the blade is wider. Standard definition is that the knife was specifically made for fisherman for ease of handling on the boats. However, some makers use the same term for thin, double grind knives, more like Gyuto style knife.

Garasuki ( ガラスキ)
- Poultry boning knife. Bigger version of Honesuki.

Gishiki ( 儀式包丁)
- Or Gishiki-Bocho. Special knife for imperial court or Shinto Shrine cereminies. Designed to fillet the fish without touching the fish with hands, using just the knife and silver chopsticks. The process is called Shiki-Bocho, and the same term is used to refer to the person performing the procedure. Obviously, it requires extremely skilled chef. Has been used in Japan between 600 and 1000 years.

Gyuto ( 牛刀)
- Japanese analog of western chef's knife. In other words - all purpose knife. Main difference from western chef's knife - its thinner blade. As most of the Japanese kitchen knives, Gyuto features much harder steel. Gyutos generally come with double grind edge. Gyutos are made with western(see Akifusa Gyuto Review) and Japanese style handles(see Kumagoro Gyuto Review) - Wa-Gyuto. Exact origins and design purposes are unclear, but some believe Gyuto originally was designed for cutting large slices of beef. Several sources translate Gyuto as Cow Sword, which is incorrect. To isn't sword in Japanese. So, more accurate translation would be Cow Blade.

Hakata Bocho ( 博多包丁)
- A regional variation of the Bunka Bocho or home cooking knife with a triangular nose and curved spine. Hakata is located on the southern island of Kyushu, where this knife style was once part of any good home kitchen. Also called Inasa Bocho.

Hakusaikiri ( 白菜切)
- Dedicated Chinese cabbage cutter knife.

Hamokiri ( 鱧切)
- Also Honekiri. The heavy knife for slicing up pike conger fillet, the slicing process itself is called Hamo No Honekiri. Hamo(pike conger) has a lot of small bones, so removal is not really an option. Instead incisions are made every 1.25mm, or less, to cut bones into small pieces, thus softening up the flesh.

Hamoshime bocho ( ハモ絞め包丁)
- Small knife for filleting Hamo eel.

Hancho Hocho ( 半丁包丁)
- See Magurokiri.

Hankotsu ( はんこつ)
- Japanese style boning knife. Used to separate bones from meat. Japanese counterpart of western boning knives. Also called Hankotsu-Maru and Sabaki-Nishigata

Hiraki ( 開包丁)
- Also Hiraki Bocho. Another name for Kaisaki - shellfish paring knife. Hiraki itself refers to the technique of filleting the fish and butterflying them. See Kaisaki.

Hon-Deba ( 本出刃)
- In Japanese Hon means true or original, and is the thickest and heaviest type of Deba.

Honekiri ( 骨切)
- See Hamokiri.

Honesuki ( 骨スキ)
- Poultry boning knife. Smaller version of Garasuki.

Honesuki-Kaku ( 骨スキ-角)
- In Japanese it means angular boning knife. Same s Honesuki.

Honesuki-Maru ( 骨スキ-丸)
- In Japanese it means rounded boning knife. Maru means round or circle, in the context of swords, its often used to describe the curvature and shape of the Kissaki or tip. Same s Hankotsu.

Ikasaki ( イカサキ)
- Specialized small knife for breaking down squid. Similar to Makiri, but with more round spine and the heel slightly sticking out below the handle.

Inasa Bocho ( いなさ包丁)
- See Hakata Bocho.

Kabochakiri ( カボチャ切)
- Pumpkin knife

Kaibo ( 解剖)
- Also Kaibou. Also Kaitai Deba. Relatively thick knife used to break down fish and meat.

Kaimuki ( 貝剥 or 貝むき)
- Kai in Japanese means shellfish, and muki means to shuck. Small knife designed to open shellfish, scallops and oysters. Several variations exist.

Kaisaki ( 開先包丁 or 貝裂き)
- Shellfish paring knife. See also Hiraki Bocho.

Kaitai Deba ( 解体出刃)
- See Kaibo.

Kako Deba ( 加工出刃)
- A knife with a deba profile but thinner spine. Used for all-day work by fishmongers. Also called Usudeba. Also Kakou Deba.

Kamagata Kurimuki ( 鎌形栗剥)
- Variation of Kurimuki knife. Blade tip is Kamagata style.

Kamagata Usuba ( 鎌形薄刃)
- Usuba variation with Kansai style blade tip. See Tadatsuna Shirogami Kamagata Usuba Knife Review.

Kanisaki Deba ( 蟹裂出刃)
- Specialized Deba for filleting crab, lobster and shellfish. Unusual design feature is this is a single grind knife, but the edge is ground on the left side for the right handed knives. This is done to prevent knife edge from cutting into the crab meat when cutting it out of the hard shell. Heavy, thick blade is ideal for cutting through the shell or opening it. There is another popular variation of the Kanisaki deba knife.

Kashigiri ( 菓子切り)
- Candy knife.

Kashiwa Deba ( かしわ出刃)
- A special deba with a flat blade profile. Supposedly efficient for skinning fowl.

Katsuo Hocho ( かつお包丁)
- Thick, angular tipped knife for cutting Katsuo (skipjack) and the like. It's a double grind knife, and the angled cutting edge on the front is for sliding down the back to remove the tough dorsal fins. It's thick enough to handle bones too.

Kawamuki ( 皮剥き)
- Literally skin peeling knife. Small knife, with approximately 90mm long blde, used for peeling and garnishing. Blade geometry is similar to the Kamagata Usuba.

Kenmuki ( ケンムキ)
- See Mukimono.

Kensaki Yanagiba ( 剣先柳)
- Yanagiba with a sword tip.

Kiritsuke ( 切付包丁)
- Or Kiritsuke Hocho. Large, multipurpose kitchen knife. Point is diamond shaped, like on Mukimono or Hishigata Usuba. Single grind knife. Some makers make double grind knives that look like Kiritsuke, but that is Kiritsuke gemoetry Gyuto, as the real Kiritsuke would be a single grind knife.

Kiritsukegata Takohiki ( 切付型タコ引)
- Sword tip Takohiki.

Ko-Deba ( 小出刃)
- Small deba knife for smaller fish such as sea bream, horse mackrel (aji).

Kotori Bocho Kamagata ( 鎌型子取り包丁)
- Specialized knife for cutting out fish roe(fully ripe internal ovaries or egg masses of fish and other marine animals, e.g. shrimp, scallop, sea urchins, etc). Usually cod roe.

Kotori Bocho Sankakugata ( 三角型子取り包丁)
- Triangular bladed version of the Kotori Bocho Kamagata.

Kujira Hocho ( 鯨包丁)
- Kujira means 'whale', and this type of knife was originally designed to cut meat and blubber from whales, particularly in the Tosa or Shizuoka regions. According to Shinichi Watanabe (who made the knife pictured), kujira knives are not ordered as often as they to used be. There are only a handful of smiths who make them anymore. Kujira hocho use isn't limited to whales, however, and can be used on big fish such as tuna, shark, and swordfish. They are very large knives with long handles and blade lengths well over 300mm. The knife pictured has a 360 mm blade and 25 cm handle.

Kurimuki ( 栗むき包丁, rarely 栗剥)
- In Japanese it means chestnut skin peeling knife. The blade geometry shown on this photo is called Kengata Kurimuki. Another variation is Kamagata Kurimuki. Despite of its name, it works well for peeling, carving and cuting all the fancy shapes from fruits and small vegetables.

Kyabeshikiri ( キャベシ切)
- Dedicated cabbage cutting knife.

Kyosaki Unagi ( 京サキ)
- Variation of Unagisaki knife. Small blade, approximately 100-100mm long, with single grind edge. Designed to fillet small, live fish such as Unagi, Anago, Hamo, Dojo, Kisu, and Megochi. Kyosaki means Kyuto Style.

Kyushusaki ( 九州サキ)
- Unagisaki variation from Kyushu region.

Magurokiri ( 鮪切 マグロ切り)
- Tuna filleting knife. Really long, up to 1000mm long, more like a sword than a knife. Used to fillet the tuna.

Makiri ( 間切り)
- Small fishing/utility knife.

Menkiri ( 麺切)
- Means noodle cutter in Japanese. General name for the category of the knives designed for noodle cutting. Some makers, e.g. Susin, Ichimonji, use the term for all of their knives of that type, including Sobakiri and Udonakiri, others, e.g. Takeda use the term to describe it is a smaller and cheaper version of it, where the blade geometry is more resembling to that of a Nakiri. Lighter and shorter blade. Because of that less efficient for cutting noodles. Photo shows Takeda Menkiri. See Udonkiri and Sobakiri for more traditional versions.

Meuchi ( 目打ち)
- Not sure why, but it still qualifies as a knife, although looks like a railroad spike. Assistant knife when filleting the eel with Unagisaki. Cook drives it through the head of the eel to pin it and then proceeds with Unagisaki for actual filleting. Comes in plain stiletto shape and T shape.

Miroshi Deba ( 身卸出刃)
- In Japanese the word Miroshi means filleting. Miroshi deba as the name suggests is optimized for that particular task. It is more slender and longer than typical Deba knife. See Shigefusa Kitaeji Miroshi Deba Kitchen Knife review. *Provided Kanji translates as Mioroshi Deba which is the correct spelling, however, incorrect Miroshi is pretty much de-facto translation in western world.

Mochikiri ( 餅切)
- Dedicated knife for cutting Mochi - Japanese rice cake.

Moroha Usuba ( 諸刃薄刃)
- A double bevel usuba is called a Moroha Usuba. Moroha is a term used to describe double beveled (ryouba) traditional knives sometimes, usually usuba, mukimono, or kawamuki. It is essentially a wa-handled nakiri with a machi, and a slightly more acutely-angled heel. Not as thick as a normal usuba. Sizes up to 210mm. Sakai Takayuki and Shigefusa, both make this type of Usuba.

Muki ( むき包丁 or 剥)
- Muki or Muku means peeling or peel in Japanese. Thus, Muki knife is a small, Kamagata type blade designed for peeling, especially well suited for small items.

Mukimono ( むき物)
- Basically a paring knife. Blade geometry is similar to that of a Hishigata Usuba. Thinner and smaller. Mainly for decorative food carving. Also called Kenmuki.

Nagoyasaki ( 名古屋サキ)
- Unagisaki variation from Nagoya region.

Nakiri ( 菜切)
- Also Nakkiri. Rectangular, thin blade vegetable knife. Excels in delicate vegetable cutting chores. Double grind. Comes with both, western and Japanese handles - see Watanabe Nakiri Review. Photo shows Kakugata(角型菜切) style nakiri. Also referred as Kansaigata.

Nakiri Higashigata ( 東型菜切 )
- Less common type of Nakiri with rounded heel. It is also taller towards the front than it is at the heel. Also called kantogata nakiri.

Nakiri Kantogata ( 関東型菜切り)
- See Nakiri Higashigata.

Negikiri Higashigata ( 東型ねぎ切)
- Dedicated long onion cutting knife, Kanto style knife.

Negikiri Nishigata ( 西型ねぎ切 )
- Dedicated long onion cutting knife. Kansai style.

Ninjinkiri ( 人参切)
- Dedicated carrot cutting knife.

Oroshi Hocho ( 卸し包丁)
- Extremely long, around 1500mm (60") long knife. Used to cut large tuna in one cut. As usual requires more than one person to handle it. Actually, it is a longer blade than most of the swords, except perhaps the claymore. It is basically longer version of the Magurokiri.

Osakasaki ( 大阪サキ)
- Unagisaki variation from Osaka region.

Pankiri ( パン切り)
- Japanese term for the bread knife. Pan Kiri is used more often than the other name Pankiru.

Pankiru ( パン切ナイフ )
- Rarely used Japanese term for bread knife. More common is Pankiri.

Petty ( ぺティ)
- Also Petit, also petti naifu. Japanese equivalent of paring knife. Up to 150mm blade. Heel also is more prominent compared to traditional western paring knives. Can be used on cutting board as well vs. hand only.

Reitou Hocho ( 冷凍包丁 )
- Literally - freesze knife. Designated knife for cutting frozen meat. Come in various shapes and length. Short versions as usual are serrated and long ones have protrusions on the top to aid with cutting and prevent slippage. Two handled versions are also common.

Ryoba Usuba ( 両刃薄刃 )
- See Moroha Usuba.

Ryodeba ( 両出刃 )
- Basic Deba with double grind edge. Typically, anywhere between 165mm-200mm long blade. Used fillet the fish, dress poultry, cut through the small bones and joints. See Takeda Kuro Uchi Deba Review.

Ryoute Reitou Hocho ( 両手 冷凍包丁)
- Large, dual handled freeze knife. See also Reitou Hocho.

Sabaki ( さばき包丁)
- Although Sabaki just means butchery or meat breakdown (in this case) and can mean a honesuki, there is another shape that is made too. This one also has single ground edge. See also Honesuki-Kaku.

Sabaki-Nishigata ( サバキ西型)
- See Hankotsu.

Sabasaki ( サバサキ or 鯖割き)
- A knife for cleaning and filleting saba mackerel.

Saikachi Deba ( サイカチ出刃)
- Saikachi is the name of a plant in Japan. As a knife it is a specialized deba, with flat, unpointed tip. Mainly used by fishmongers(a person who sells and cuts up the fish at market for a living). Besides being used for breaking down the fish, its special purpose(unpointed tip) helps with cutting out the caviar from the fish. Single grind knife. There is also a double grind version of Saikachi Deba - 両刃サイカチ出刃.

Saiku ( 細工)
- Decorative cutting knife.

Sake Deba ( 鮭出刃包丁)
- See Sakekiri.

Sakekiri ( 鮭切)
- Salmon knife. Sake in Japanese is Salmon. Thin, wide knife.

Sakimaru Takohiki ( 先丸蛸引)
- Round tip Takohiki.

Santoku ( 三徳)
- The proper name of the knife is Santoku-Bocho. Also Bunkabocho. In Japanese means Knife of the three virtues. Apparently refers to its versatility, although to me Gyutos are more versatile. As Chris L. pointed out, Santoku is more versatile compared to Nakiri, the only real competition to it, in the home kitchen. Usually has a short blade up to 200mm, rounded tip still has a slight point. Double grind. Comes with western or Japanese handle. See Tojiro Santoku Review and Global G-48 Santoku Review. Sometimes incorrectly called Santuko.

- Incorrect westernized name of Santoku.

Sasakiri Bocho ( 笹切包丁)
- Sasakiri - is a technique of cutting bamboo grass decoratively. Sasakiri bocho - extremely specialized knife, for cutting bamboo grass/leaves into decorative shapes for presentation with sushi or other expensive foods.

Satsuma Bocho ( さつま包丁)
- A regional variation of the bunka bocho (home kitchen knife) from the southern Satsuma region on Kyushu island. It has a slightly thicker blade for handling meats and vegetables, and a slightly smaller blade height than a santoku.

Shiki ( 庖丁式)
- Or Shiki-Bocho. See Gishiki Bocho.

Shobu ( 正夫)
- Another name for Yanagi, literally Iris Leaf.

Soba-Kiri ( 蕎麦切)
- Also, Sobagiri, long, rectangular knife used to cut soba(buckwheat) noodles into thin stripes. Also known as Udon-kiri.

Suikakiri ( 西瓜切)
- Watermelon knife. Long, thin, rectangular shaped knife. Blade geometry very similar to that of the Nakiri.

Sujihiki ( 筋引)
- Also Sujibiki. Long, narrow, thin blade knife for slicing cooked and raw meats and cleaning fat. In Japanese, Suji means tendon, Biki - pull.

Sushikiri ( 寿司切)
- Means Sushi slicer in Japanese. Long, around 240mm blade, with symmetrically curved blade. Designed to slice sushi rolls and Hako Sushi (Battera Sushi). Popular in Kansai area, around Osaka and Kyuto. In Tokyo area Yanagi knives are used for the same job.

Takobiki ( 蛸引)
- See Takohiki.

Takohiki ( 蛸引 or たこ引き )
- Also Takobiki. Similar to Yanagi, except the tip is square. Designed specifically to cut octopus, or Tako in Japanese. Two more variations of Takohiki are: Sakimaru Takobiki - round tip Takohiki, Kiritsukegata Takobiki sword tip Takobiki.

Tarasaki ( 鱈裂き)
- Tara in Japanese means cod. Tarasaki - specialized knife for breaking down cod. Has a unique indentation in the choil allowing for a greater choke-up grip.

Tosagata Bocho ( 土佐型包丁)
- A regional variation of the bunka bocho (home cooking knife) from the Tosa region of Shikoku island. It is light and thin, and has a smaller blade height than a santoku.

Tsuke Bocho ( 付包丁)
- Steamed fishcake knife. Used for forming the non-solidified fish paste into the correct shape on the wooden boards before steaming.

Udon-Kiri ( うどん切)
- See Soba-Kiri.

Umi Bocho ( 海包丁)
- Variation of the Katsuo Hocho. Thick angular blade, but with more rounded tip. Often called Katsuo hocho.

Unagisaki ( 鰻裂 or うなぎ裂)
- Unagi in Japanese is eel. Saki is tearing. Smallish knife for filleting the eel. Numerous variations exist: Kantogata - Kanto style, Unagisaki Kyogata - Kyoto style, Unagisaki Osakagata(鰻裂大阪型) - Osaka style, Unagisaki Edogata (鰻裂江戸型) - Edostyle, Unagisaki Nagoyagata - Nagoya style eel knife. Generic name for all of the above is still Unagisaki. The one shown on the photo here is Edosaki.

Usuba ( 薄刃)
- To be exact Azumagata Usuba, also known as Kakugata usuba, kaku means square in Japanese. Rectangular, thin blade vegetable knife. Similar to Nakiri, except it's thicker and single grind, higher quality and more expensive as well. There are two more types of Usuba, Hishigata(or Higashita as per Nozaki), Kanto style which is like bigger version of Mukimono, and Kamagata(Kansai style). See Tadatsuna Shirogami Kamagata Usuba Knife Review.

Usudeba ( 薄出刃)
- See Kako Deba.

Wa-Gyuto ( 和牛刀)
- Gyuto with traditional Japanese handle. See Aritsugu A-Type Gyuto Review.

Yanagi ( 柳 )
- Western shorthand for Yanagiba

Yanagiba ( 柳刃 柳葉)
- Also Shobu. single grind, long, narrow blade. Typically well over 240mm. Pro versions of 330mm or even 360mm are fairly common. Designed for cutting raw fish, although according to sushi chef Takeshi, can be used pretty much for all types of food. Usually with traditional Japanese handle. Yanagi means willow in Japanese. Thus, Yanagiba by extension becomes willow leaf blade. See Aritsugu Yanagiba Review.

Yo-Deba ( 洋出刃)
- Western style Deba. Typically it is a double grind Deba with western style handle.

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Audio voiceovers courtesy of Sara and Jon - japaneseknifeimports.com

Thanks & Credits

  • Nathan B. 'Bishamon' - For all his help with terminology and photos.
  • Takeshi Aoki of Aframes Tokyo for help with Japanese terminology and providing photos.
  • Shinichi Watanabe for help with Japanese terminology, providing photos, and for his excellent knives too.
  • Akiko Moritaka of Moritaka Hamono Inc. for photos and excellent knives.
  • Audio voiceovers courtesy of Sara and Jon - japaneseknifeimports.com
  • knifeforums.com members - C9, Watercrawl, Nathan B. - 'Bishamon', RRLOVER and the KF Kitchen Crew.
  • foodieforums.com/ members - Chris Lehrer, Spaceconvoy, DrNaka, Pascal.
  • Hiromitsu Nozaki - Author of the book Japanese Kitchen Knives.

Having a good steak knife is as important as knowing how to cook the perfect medium rare steak. Use a meat thermometer to check the perfect steak medium rare temp of 135 degrees.

Last updated - 02/16/23