Essentials of the Japanese Kitchen

Japanese Knives: Part II


Many different types of knives are used in the Japanese kitchen. In the ‘Japanese Knives: Part I’ episode of the ‘Essentials of the Japanese Kitchen’ series, chef Shimizu Akira of AKIRA restaurant introduced a selection of versatile kitchen knives that could be used in combination to prepare a variety of Japanese dishes. In this follow-on episode, Akira introduces hōchō, single-sided knives made from layers of ultra-hard hagane (steel) and softer iron, known for their sharpness. Watch the episode and read on to learn about two types of hōchō used for preparing fish. 


Deba is a type of hōchō used for dressing fish or meat. Its thick and sturdy structure also makes it suitable for working with seafood, including hard fish bones as well as lobster and crab shells.

It can be handy to have a deba for preparing larger fish like bream and a kodeba (little deba) for smaller fish such as horse mackerel.

If choosing just one deba, Akira recommends a blade length of around 210mm as the easiest to use.


This type of hōchō is used for preparing sashimi; thinly sliced raw fish fillets. A well sharpened yanagiba is essential, as a keen edge is the most important factor in a sashimi knife. Akira recommends choosing a yanagiba with a long blade of 240mm or more. 

Caring for your knife 

After using your knife, rinse it off and hand wash it using a non-abrasive sponge with mild detergent. Make sure to clean around the handle and check that the knife is completely dry before storing. Akira recommends using a whetstone to sharpen your hōchō; he suggests to soak the whetstone in cold water for approximately 30 minutes prior to use and to sharpen the kiriha , the area between the ridge line and the blade edge of the hōchō. Akira’s basic principles are to sharpen one’s knives regularly and to clean them after each use in order to keep them in good condition and looking beautiful from every angle. 

A selection of Japanese knives is available for purchase in The Shop, on the Ground Floor at Japan House London.

On our Online Shop, find a carefully curated range of kitchenware, including designer cutlery and a selection of typically Japanese utensils to ensure culinary success.