Japan is known for their longstanding traditions and ancient history. They are recognised for their need for excellence in everything they do and this is embedded in their culture. Like many other things, this strive for excellence is illustrated through their knife crafting and manufacturing techniques. This comes from their history of crafting samurai swords over a thousand years ago. Japan slowly moved away from sword crafting due to the Unites States occupying Japan in the 1850’s and a ban being placed on the manufacture of samurai swords. This ban was lifted several years later however it influenced craftsmen to use their professional skills manufacturing knives as opposed to swords. Although manufacturing of the swords is limited now in Japan, the same style and technique is used in their knives giving them their remarkably sharp and strong qualities.
Sakai is one of Japans oldest cities, historically known for being one of the most industrial cities in Japan where technology was developed and many tools and weapons manufactured. Many Samurai swords were crafted in Sakai so it was home to many highly skilled craftsmen. These craftsmen were known for making the highest quality of swords as they would approach each piece of work with a great deal of care, attention and precision. Japan was producing steel that was of a seriously high quality and for hundreds of years nobody could make anything close to it. The same attitude and approach is applied when making Japanese chef knives and the steel is incredibly strong, sharp, durable and long-lasting.
Japanese sword-makers evolved their methods of making swords as they had fears that the hard steel and the sharpness would make the swords fragile. So, they came up with the idea of combining many layers of steel of varying degrees of hardness, hammering each layer repeatedly. The end result was a seriously strong blade that was razor sharp as the different steels mixed together strengthened it. This knowledge was applied in making Japanese chef knives which gave them their reputation for being light, sharp and extremely strong.
The oldest kitchen knives in Japan date back from 718-784 A.D and resemble Japanese swords. However, they were modernised in the 17th century where knives such as ‘’Deba’’ and ‘’Nakiri’’ knives were results of this. When the government lifted a restriction on foreign relations, Japan had an influx of westernised culture and products resulting in western chef knives being introduced in Japan. Despite this, Japan are still world renowned for their excellence in knife crafting and continue to produce the highest quality of steel knives.
Japanese knives are a whole different class and have various properties which make them the preferred choice. Japanese knives have a straighter edge which make it easier to chop and cut vegetables and meat more cleanly. Due to Japanese knives resembling mini samurai swords, the knives are also lightweight and extremely well-balanced making it easier to cut and slice more accurately. Every kitchen knife requires 3 important qualities- sharpness, toughness and thinness, and with a Japanese knife you attain all 3.
The thickness and strength of Japanese steel knives differs because the steel is thinner and more tough which gives you a sharper edge for longer. The steel is much harder on Japanese chef knives which is beneficial as it makes them better quality and they require less upkeep and less sharpening. Japanese chef knives are also lighter and thinner which makes them astonishingly sharp and thus make slicing and dicing in the kitchen effortless. As the steel is high quality and tougher, they can be sharpened to a more acute angle which means you can cut through the food without putting too much weight on the blade.