- Introduction of Hocho
- Blade Styles
(1)Western versus Japanese Style knives
(2)Western Style Knives
(3)Japanese Traditional Style Knives
Kitchen knives, Hocho, are the most important cooking tool for Japanese chefs who pay respect to Hocho that is a kind of the soul of the cook. Hocho have a power to influence or bring out the taste of food (especially Sashimi and Sushi), or sometimes destroy it with poor skill as well as bad maintenance. Therefore cooks usually take good care of their knife as a treasure, and always make the effort to improve their skills.
Japan has developed the aesthetics of food preparation like no other country, with the Hocho.
Using the Hocho, the chef celebrates the art of cutting, which makes the preparation of fine fish and delicate vegetables a feast for the eyes. The razorsharp cut doesn't crush the cells, the juice is retained, and the natural flavour of the foods comes into its own.
Much high-quality Japanese knives originates from Sakai in Osaka, Japan, the capital of samurai sword manufacturing since the 14th century.The Sakai knives industry started in the 16th century and nowadays enhanced its reputation for quality worldwide.
In the high-end series for professional use, the Japanese-style kitchen knives are generally said still have better sharpness than the Western-style ones because of the better combination of production method, structure and materials, and are indispensable existence in the Japanese-style dish which requires delicate handling and razor-sharpness for especially slicing raw fish for Sashimi and Sushi in which a cut end surface divides superiority or inferiority.
The representative production areas of Traditional Japanese Kitchen Knives are Sakai (Osaka), Tsubame/Sanjyo (Niigata), Sabae & Takefu (Echizen, Fukui), Miki (Banshu, Hyogo) and Tosa (Kochi). It is said that around 90% of the professional Japanese-style-food chefs in Japan use the knives made in Sakai.
Originally, all Japanese kitchen knives - Hocho - clearly show their relation to the Samurai sword. The blades are forged traditionally in multiple layers, with an inner core of hard and brittle carbon steel, forgewelded with a thick layer of soft and more ductile iron steel sandwiched around the core so that the hard steel is exposed only at the cutting edge. Only this elaborate procedure ensures an optimum synthesis of breaking strength and ultimate sharpness.
The shape of these knives has developed solely from their intended purpose, which gives them an aesthetic quality not remotely influenced by fashion trends. The light wooden handles, the well-balanced design and the extraordinary sharpness make using Hocho a remarkable experience.
Nowadays stainless steel is often used for Japanese kitchen knives, and multi-layer laminated blade construction (so-called "Damascus") is used in more expensive blades to add corrosion resistance while maintaining strength and durability.
Most knife manufacturers have both the Japanese-style knives and Western-style knives. There are lots of Japanese knives with Western-style handles or blades or both, pretty much any maker in Japan has several knives in Western-style and vice versa, most of all the major knife manufacturers in Europe and US make several Japanese influenced knives.
Japanese-style knives are usually made with harder steel, which means the blade holds it edge longer (it doesn’t need to be sharpened as often) and the edge itself can be cut a steeper angle. A Japanese knife is lighter, holds its edge longer, and its edge is cut differently than its counterpart.
It is recommended that you take your Japanese blades to a professional sharpener. Japanese-style knives are more about precision and exactness.
Western-style knives originally used a softer steel though they are now much influenced by Japanese-style. Keep in mind softer steel does not always mean inferior steel. Due to the softer steel the blades do not hold their edge as long as their Japanese counterparts, but are much easier to sharpen and are not as brittle. When held western-style knives have a bit more heft which can be a good thing, depending on your preferences.
In Japan, Western-style knives were developed to meet the needs of Japanese chefs preparing non-Japanese cuisine. Today, Japanese knife makers are engineering new advanced manufacturing processes such as ‘sub-zero tempering’ and premium trademark-formulated knife steels to produce exceptional Western-style knives.
However, what really sets Western-style knives from Japan apart from the typical Western-style knives is it's strong thin blade.
Originally, all Japanese kitchen knives were made from the same carbon steel as katana.
More expensive multi-layer (more than three-layer) 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 multi-layer laminated blade construction is used in more expensive blades to add corrosion resistance while maintaining strength and durability.
Refer to Sushi and Sashimi Knives