Yanagiba Knives

All about the Yanagiba Knife

The Yanagiba Knife is also called Sashimi Knife or Sushi Knife

The Sashimi Knife

Raw fish served in beautifully sliced mouthfuls is a delicate affair. One that necessitates the use of an incredibly sharp knife. Every Sushi and Sashimi chef in Japan swears by the Yanagiba Knife, which is a Japanese fish filleting knife.

Sushi Knives briefly portrayed:

  • Japanese fish fillet knife
  • cut smooth Sashimi slices in one stroke
  • average blade length 9.8 inches (ca. 25 cm), narrow and very pointed
  • one-sided, very sharp grinding, strong back of the blade
  • easy to resharpen by yourself
  • for right- or left-handers

The special Features of the Sushi Knife

Japanese delicacies such as Sashimi and Sushi are well-known worldwide, and their intoxicating scent is derived from the use of fresh, raw fish and seafood. Sashimi (“fish”) in its purest form is made up of only the best fish pieces, and Sushi is always served with vinegar rice as an accompaniment. In fact, the professional knife used for this purpose is known by the name Yanagiba, but it is also referred to as the Sushi Knife, Sashimi Knife (Sashimi Bocho), and Sashimi for short.

It is the Yanagida, after all, that distinguishes an excellent Sushi or Sashimi chef from those who are masters of melt in your mouth small bite-sized fish meals. Yanagi is a kind of willow native to Japan. And it is precisely the long, narrow, and tapered willow blade that resembles the blade of a Sushi Knife in appearance. When cutting, it is important to have as little friction as possible. Japanese Sushi and Sashimi specialists use a variety of specialty knives, such the Takohiki (also known as Takobiki) for octopus, Fuguhiki for puffer fish, and Oroshi or Hancho for tuna, among other things. The Yanagiba Knife is their principal knife for preparing already sliced fish that is ready to eat. It is used in every situation.

Tojiro Aogami Sashimi
Traditional Yanagiba with wooden handle, buffalo horn ferrule and carbon steel blade: Tojiro Aogami Sashimi

The Sashimi Knife is distinguished from other types of knives by its relatively strong blade back and a high grind that is only visible on the guide hand side. That is why it may be both extremely sharp and extremely stable at the same time. As a result, there are Yanagiba Knives designed specifically for right-handed people and those designed for left-handed people. As with a razor, a hollow grind, which is frequently seen on the other side, improves the sharpness even further. It also forms a separating air cushion between the cut material and the rest of the cloth, which decreases rubbing and sticking even more.

Kai VG-0006 Shun Pro SHO Yanagiba
Yanagiba with modern Pakka wood handle, stainless steel ferrule and VG10 steel blade: Kai VG-0006 Shun Pro SHO Yanagiba

As is always the case with single-edged “Japanese,” proper handling takes some time and experience. During the cutting process, the fragile tissue fibers must not be torn, and the cut surface must be perfectly smooth. So that the tastes and fluids of the fish are retained. In order to accomplish this, you must drag a Yanagiba Knife through the cut in a single motion. Only in this manner will you be able to savor wafer-thin pieces of Sashimi in the near future. A hollow grind on the back of the blade can aid you in sharpening your blade, but it will also require you to exercise greater control. If this is not done, the cuts will become quite uneven very quickly.

And, of course, ultra-thin slices of meat and poultry such as ham, carpaccio, roast, roast beef, turkey breast, and so on are also possible with a fish filleting knife.

Yanagiba Knives Dimensions

Sekiryu- SR400 Yanagiba Knife
Sekiryu- SR400 Yanagiba Knife with a short Blade

The length of the blade controls the maximum size of the material that can be processed. This is because you must be able to cut through it in a single motion. Sashimi blades are around 7.9 inches (ca. 20 cm) in length. For beginners, these short versions are simple to manage, but they drastically restrict the size of the morsels.

Global G-14 Yanagiba Knife
Global G-14 Yanagiba Knife with a long Blade

Larger fish can be handled with a blade length of roughly 9.8 inches (ca. 25 cm), and those with greater skill may handle blades as long as 11.8 inches (ca. 30 cm).

Yanagiba Knives Blade Materials

Sashimi Knives made of traditional Carbon Steel

Sashimi Bocho blades are sometimes still produced of real two-layer steel, which is used for sashimi preparation. The carbon steel is exposed on the back and as a bevel, and it is exceptionally hard (60 to 67 HRC) and incredibly cutting in nature. This could be a piece of Aogami steel. Added on top of this, and inextricably related to it, is a softer and more break-resistant steel that imparts toughness, such as a finely grained Damascus steel.

Mizuno Yanagiba Izumi Masatada 240
A Sashimi/Yanagiba knife made of Yasuki steel: Mizuno Yanagiba Izumi Masatada 240

If for no other reason than that these unadorned stainless steels are flexible, cut-resistant, and rust-proof, a decent chrome-vandium-molybdenum alloy should be used as a bare minimum.

Professional YANAGIBA chef knife from the master Yoshimi Kato Nashiji
Professional YANAGIBA knife from the master Yoshimi Kato Nashiji. Aogami super steel, 3 layers, hand-forged

Sashimi Knives made of Mono Steel Alloys and Stainless Steel

However, the majority of Yangiba nowadays are constructed of corrosion-resistant mono-steel alloys, often known as stainless steel, which is used in the construction of ships. X50CrMoV15 steel and other chrome-vanadium-molybdenum steels are commonly used in Europe for this purpose. Grades such as VG-5, VG-10, and VG-MAX are imported from Japan. Such materials are likewise great, and with 54 to 60 HRC, they are sharp and hard enough to be useful.

Tamahagane Tsubame Sashimi
Yanagiba made of VG5 steel: Tamahagane Tsubame Sashimi

If only because these low-demanding stainless steels are flexible, cut-resistant, and rust-resistant, a decent chrome-vandium-molybdenum alloy should be the minimal need.

Stainless Steel Ynagiba: KAI AK-1106 SEKI MAGOROKU Kinju Yan

Additional non-stick precautions are recommended for wafer-thin fish slices to prevent them from sticking to the pan. Some blades contain dents (dents) or hammer marks (“Tsuchime”) ground into the surface, while others are completely smooth and flat. Others include finishes such as “Kuoshiage,” which is a relic of entirely black forging, while others have no finish at all. Alternatively, dark iron oxide burnishing could be used. Others use a rustic-looking pear skin, known as “Nashiji,” as satin-finish rust protection to protect their equipment.

According to the length and substance of the knife, it might weigh anywhere between 2.8 ounces (ca. 106 g) and 8.8 ounces (ca. 333 g) (the latter only as an all-metal model). They slide through muscle tissue without tiring because they are propelled only by the momentum of the cut.

The original Yanagiba also had a conventional wooden handle with a horn ferrule, which is unique to this style. Modern versions, from easy-care materials to European-style ergonomic handles that are riveted to the fuller and include a bolster, are a hit with customers.

How to Care and Sharpen Yanagiba Knives

  • Over time, a non-stainless blade constructed of or containing carbon steel will not be able to withstand exposure to water, acids, alkalis, or sulfur. As a result, it is highly recommended that you rinse your Yanagiba under running water immediately after use, dry it, and protect it with cooking oil on a regular basis. Japanese steel with a finish is a little more cost-effective. Even though corrosion-resistant stainless steels are substantially stronger, they are not compatible with dishwashers. Keep your nice sharp piece separate or secured, in a knife block or on a magnetic bar, to prevent it from becoming dull.
  • Really high-quality sushi knives keep their sharpness for a very long time, if only because you probably don’t run a Japanese restaurant. However, you can sharpen a knife yourself if you have at least one wet sharpening stone. Pull the high grind away from the bevel several times. Only briefly remove the burr from the back and otherwise leave the gouge as it is.
  • A straight, even cutting line, sharpened at exactly the right angle, is truly essential for delicious sashimi. Therefore: Please never use a sharpening steel and only exceptionally a ceramic rod or sharpener.
  • Caution: Blunt knives pose a greater risk of injury than sharp ones when boning! Better to regularly and often eradicate burrs and tiny nicks in no time. Western stainless steel blades can be sharpened super quickly and effectively with a sharpening steel or ceramic sharpening rod.
  • Always use a soft cutting board like a Wood Cutting Board or a Plastic Cutting Board

Proven Brands for Yanagiba Knives

You are not yet a well-versed expert in Japanese master forges, are you? In that case, you can most certainly rely on well-known companies to provide high-quality labor and materials on a consistent basis. For example, “Sakai Takayuki” from the Aoki Hamono Seisakusho knife forge, which has a total of 9 traditional masters, is among the many others. Then there is the brand “Tamahagane” from Kataoka in Tsubame, which takes its name from a fabled samurai sword steel made of iron sand and is produced by the company. “Tojiro” is also one of the most well-known brands and producers. The Kai brand offers high-quality Japanese knives in a variety of price ranges, including, of course, sashimi knives, to suit practically any budget.

Yanagiba Knife Summary

A reasonable but not excessively long blade length for your future Yanagiba is recommended so that you can use and exercise the specialist potential of a sushi knife. A blade length of 9.8 inches (ca. 25 cm) is usually acceptable. To be comfortable in the hand, it must be light and balanced. Test out the balance and grip feeling. It is entirely up to you which steel you use. Just make sure it is not a poor, low-cost material that dulls, rusts, or breaks out after only two or three applications. Also, look for jointless material combinations and secure connections. Unsure? Then simply stick with well-known manufacturers. Have a good time slicing Sashimi!

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