Japanese knives

There are a number of different types of Japanese kitchen knives. The most commonly used types in the Japanese kitchen are the deba bocho (kitchen cleaver), the santoku hocho (all-purpose utility knife), the nakiri bocho and usuba hocho (Japanese vegetable knives), and the tako hiki and yanagi ba (sashimi slicers). There are two classes of traditional Japanese knife forging methods: honyaki and kasumi. The class is based on the method and material used in forging the knife. Honyaki are true-forged knives, made from one material. This is generally a top-grade knife-specific steel (blue and white steel are most common). Kasumi are made from two materials, like katana: high-carbon steel "hagane"(blue or white steel in good kasumi knives) and soft iron "jigane" forged together. This style of knife offers a similar cutting edge to a honyaki blade in high-grade knives. It offers the benefit of being "more forgiving" and generally easier to maintain than the honyaki style, at the expense of stiffness. Some see this as an advantage. San Mai generally refers to knives with the hard steel hagane forming the blade's edge and the iron/stainless forming a jacket on both sides. In stainless versions, this offers a practical and visible advantage of a superb cutting edge of modern Japanese knife steel with a corrosion resistant exterior. In professional Japanese kitchens, the edge is kept free of corrosion because knives are generally sharpened on a daily basis. Honyaki and kasumi knives can be forged out of steel. Based on their kirenaga (duration of sharpness) and hardness, however they are more difficult to use and maintain. Additionally, there are high-grade quality kasumi knives called hongasumi and layered-steel kasumi called Damascus that have longe

kirenaga. Originally, all Japanese kitchen knives were made from the same carbon steel as katana. More expensive san mai knives have a similar quality, containing an inner core of hard and brittle carbon steel, with a thick layer of soft and more ductile steel sandwiched around the core so that the hard steel is exposed only at the cutting edge. Nowadays stainless steel is often used for Japanese kitchen knives, and san mai laminated blade construction is used in more expensive blades to add corrosion resistance while maintaining strength and durability. Much high-quality Japanese cutlery originates from Sakai, the capital of samurai sword manufacturing since the 14th century. After the Meiji Restoration, the carrying of swords by the samurai class was banned as part of an attempt to modernise Japan. Though demand for military swords remained and some swordsmiths still produced traditional samurai swords as art, the majority of swordsmiths refocused their skill to cutlery production. The production of steel knives in Sakai started in the 16th century, when tobacco was introduced to Japan by the Portuguese, and Sakai craftsmen started to make knives for cutting tobacco. The Sakai knives industry received a major boost from the Tokugawa shogunate (16031868), which granted Sakai a special seal of approval and enhanced its reputation for quality (and according to some references a monopoly). During the Edo period (16031867) (or more precisely the Genroku era (16881704)) the first deba bocho were manufactured, soon followed by a wide range of other styles. Making kitchen knives and related products is still a major industry in Sakai, using a combination of modern machinery and traditional hand tools to make stain-resistant carbon steel blades.