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Knifewear Glossary of Japanese Kitchen Knife Terminology

January 31, 2023 5 min read

Knifewear Glossary of Japanese Kitchen Knife Terminology

We use a lot of words at Knifewear, and a lot of them aren't english. Here are some of our most commonly used Japanese words with English definitions. This is an ever growing list, so if you see something that is missing, contact us and we'll add it in! 

Ao Blue Used to describe Blue carbon steel.
Aogami Blue paper Blue carbon steel 
Aogami Super Super blue paper Super blue carbon steel.
Ara-to Coarse stone Used to classify sharpening stones.
Multipurpose / All Purpose
Knife shape from Shosui Takeda-san. Interchangeable with Santoku or Bunka
Bocho / Hocho
Kitchen Knife
We love kitchen knives!
Culture (literal meaning)
Knife shape (Like a santoku with a pointed tip).
Carbon Steel Steel with <10.5% Chromium Will Patina and can rust if not taken care of.
Chuka Bocho Chinese Kitchen Knife  The Japanese name for Chinese cleavers, often used to describe Chinese-inspired cleavers made in Japan
Damascus Generic term for patterned welded steel Damascus Steel is a famous sword material from Syria, now used to describe blades with pattern-welded steel.
Deba Single-bevel fish fillet knife Fish Butchery 105 to 210mm.
A city in Fukui prefecture
Knives made in Echizen are called Echizen-uchi knives.
Funayuki ship and "go"
The term is in regards to a fishermen's knife. Multi-purpose knife for slicing and filleting. It is also a regional term for multipurpose knife, Takeda-san uses this term instead of Santoku.
Garasuki Slightly bigger version of Honesuki Used for butchering poultry and game.
Ginsan Silver three Made by Hitachi metals. Forgeable stainless steel popularly used in Sakai.
Gyuto Cow sword Chef knife, all purpose.
Hakata Name of a ward in Fukuoka
Refers to the Hakata shape, very similar to a bunka. Term is used because it used to be region specific shape.
Hamon Wavy line on Honyaki knives Is produced by differential heat-treatment.
Honesuki Japanese poultry & boning knife Great for chickens, ducks, fish, & more.
Honyaki True-forged Knife made from one piece of hard steel, with differential heat treatment (with clay).
Ishime Rock Surface Finish on Moritaka Ishime knives, originally hunting knife finish.
Kamagata Sickle shaped A knife tip shaped like sickle.
Kamisori Razor Used to describe Japanese-style straight razors.
Kasumi Mist Haze on the blade (hon-kasumi) like on the Hado Sakai Junpaku. Also referring to the knives made with cladding technique.
Kasumi-Uchi Hammered Kasumi, very drunk Kasumi Making sure you actually read this.
Kataba Single bevel edge Single bevel knife.
Kiritsuke Cut at Slightly wider blade with a flatter edge & angled tip. Originally single bevel, also available double bevel. Kiritsuke can be used to describe a tip style on other knives, also called 'k-tip'.
Ko Prefix meaning small Ko-bunka (small bunka), Ko-nakiri (small nakiri), etc.
Koba Small edge Secondary edge meant to strengthen the primary edge of a knife.
Kurouchi Black Hammered Black finish left on the blade instead of polished. It will prevent from rusting. 
Kyomen Mirror surface Mirror finished knives. If the finish is applied to carbon steel knife, it will prevent from rusting.
Maguro Tuna
Maguro bocho Tuna knife Tuna butchering knife often from 40cm to 110cm.
Menkiri Noodle cutting General term for noodle cutting knife for Udon and Soba.
Migaki Polished Matte polished finish on knives, but not as polished as mirror.
Mioroshi Fish fillet Slightly narrower and thinner deba. Fishermen carry this knife for butchering & slicing fish. Hybrid of Yanagiba and Deba.
Miyabi elegant, Graceful Japanese knife brand owned by Henckels.
Name of a specific type of natural stones.
Natural nagura are used for created slurry on natural stones, synthetic nagura are used to clean synthetic stones.
Nakiri Leafy Veggie cutter
Knife shape great for vegetables, especially cabbage, lettuce and green onions
Nashiji Pear skin finish Finish on blades inspired by the skin of asian pears.
Ni-Mai Two layers
Construction method used for single bevel knives. One piece of soft steel forge-welded onto hard steel.
Patina Protective oxidation on high-carbon steel (dark & cool colours) This will happen on all carbon knives with time and proper care, and should be encouraged to protect the steel.
Small from French language (Petite)
Small knife shape, great utility/ paring knife.
Rockwell Scale Rating of hardness, abbreviated to HRC Kitchen knives usually vary from 52-68, higher rockwell usually means longer edge retention & higher likelihood of chipping.
Ryoba Double bevel edge Knife that is equally sharpened from both sides, the most common way of sharpening a knife.
Sakai City in Osaka
Famous for single bevel knives. Most professional chefs in Japan use at least a knife from this city
Sakimaru Round tip
Refers to a yanagiba, takobiki or sujihiki with a rounded tip, looks like the tip of a Japanese sword.
San-mai Three layers
A knife making technique. A piece of softer steel is forge welded onto either side of a billet of hard steel to protect it. Most of our knives are made this way.
Sanjo City in Niigata prefecture
Famouse for manufacture of handmade steel products, including knives. Masashi, Hinoura, Tadafusa, Iwasaki etc.
Santoku Three virtues
Toku also means benefit. Knife shape, great for everyday use.
Sasanoha Bamboo leaf Knife shape between Sujihiki and Gyuto, made by Takeda-san.
Made for specific knives, usually from wood. Some higher-end blades come with them.
Seki City in Gifu prefecture famous for factory made kitchen knives. Also 700yrs history of sword making
Famous for manufactured made kitchen knives. Also 700yrs history of sword making. Shun, Miyabi, Mcusta, Seki Kanetsugu, Shizu
Semi-stainless Steel Steel that isn't quite stainless, but doesn't rust easily We created this terminology to reference stainless steels that can oxidize more easily than most stainless steel.
Shinogi-Suji The line separates primary bevel and belly of the knife.
Shiro White Used to describe White carbon steel.
Shirogami White paper White carbon steel 
Shun Seasonal
Knife brand by Kai in Seki
Sobakiri Soba cutting A knife for cutting soba noodles. Very tall and has very flat edge
Stainless Steel Steel with >10.5% Chromium It generally will not develop a patina.
Steel Iron and Carbon alloy All our knives are made of steel!
Sujihiki Flesh slicer Knife shape, great for slicing raw and cooked meat.
Ink Flow
Named for a paper/ silk dyeing technique of swirling ink on top of water, used to describe knives made from layered steel.
Name of the city now known as Echizen
Known for Echizen knives, also where Masakage knives are from.
Takefu Special Steel Steel company in Fukui Known for VG-series and SG2.
Takobiki Octopus slice Sashimi slicing knife.The tip of the knife is cut off straight.
Tamahagane Traditional steel used on certain kamisori and Japanese swords.
Toishi Sharpening stone
Old name for Kochi prefecture
Famous for handmade knives, known for their Kurouchi blades. Strong ties to Sakai knives.
Hammered pattern
Hammered Finish on blade.
Uchi Hit or hammered
Often referred as "forged in", i.e. Echizen-uchi, Sakai-uchi, Tosa-uchi
Thin edge
Single bevel knife for vegetables.
Wa Prefix meaning Japanese style Wa-handle refers to a traditional Japanese knife handle.
Willow leaf blade
Single bevel knife for slicing
Yo- Western Prefix used to indicate western-style, such as yo-handle.

Naoto Fujimoto
Naoto Fujimoto

Naoto came to Canada in 2007 and we aren't letting him go back. After getting angry with his roommate's dull knives, he started to dream of sharp Japanese knives. Naoto graduated from the University of Calgary with a bachelor degree of art, majoring International Relations and finds that selling Japanese knives is his own way of doing international relations. Naoto is our Cultural Ambassador bridging Japan and Canada. You can also see him in SpringHammer looking cool and holding it all together.