Guide to Sushi and Sashimi Knives

Japanese sushi and sashimi knives are steeped in centuries of tradition surrounding how they are made and the purpose to which they are put. There is a wide variety of knives out there, each designed for a specific job. Many of the knife styles are also strongly associated with particular regions of Japan.

Sushi knives must deal with fish, vegetables, rice and the roll they are wrapped in, which is usually made from seaweed but can be soy paper or even thin omelette.

Fish preparation is an important part of most styles of sushi; however, it is the vinegar-infused rice that makes it sushi. Sashimi is simply thin slices of raw seafood, often fish, either plain or flavoured. The preparation of sashimi is taken very seriously in Japan, requiring a sharp knife for delicate and precise cuts.

Blade shapes

  • Single-bevelled: Also known as ‘single ground’, these knives have one completely flat side, while the other side is flat to a point, before it begins to slope in to give the edge its sharpness. A cross section of the blade’s edge would look like a right-angled triangle.
  • Double-bevelled: Also known as ‘double ground’. As with most Western-style blades, this design sees both sides of the blade’s edge angled to a point. A cross section of the blade would look like a ‘V’.
  • Asymmetric double-bevelled: This more modern Japanese blade follows the Western style by having the edge ground on both sides. However, one side is ground at a much more acute angle, creating a thinner and sharper cutting edge. A cross section would look similar to a ‘tick’ mark.

Below are three of the best sushi/sashimi knives for your kitchen:

Kasumi Sashimi Knife 27cm

A classic sashimi knife, the 27cm blade is forged using a technique similar to that employed in the production of samurai swords. Very sharp, perfect for cutting boneless raw fish into fine slices.


I O Shen Maoui Deba 17cm

This versatile knife’s wide blade can cut through fish bones as easily as vegetables. Designed to work with the whole fish, the blade is most effective when cutting power is distributed through the spine. At just over £79, this mid-range knife is likely to become your firm favourite for the majority of your chopping tasks.


Victorinox Forged Santoku Knife Fluted 17cm

A knife for all situations, santoku translates from Japanese into ‘three virtues’. Equally at home cutting meat, fish and vegetables, this multi-purpose sushi knife is heavily influenced by Western styles, with its double-ground edge. The scalloped recesses along the side help food to fall away from the blade as the cut is made, preventing sticking.


Below is a guide to the key knives used for preparing sushi/sashimi:

Knife Type





Anything from 10–30cm

Cleaver-style knife for carving portions of fish and cutting through fish bones.

Broad and strong with a tip curving to a point. Single-bevelled blade.



Multi-purpose knife used for cutting through fish, vegetables and nori rolls.

Western-style blade curving down at around 60° from the top to the point. Double-bevelled. Sides often scalloped to prevent food sticking.

Yanagi sushimi


Long, thin and sharp knife designed to produce thin slices of fish.

Very sharp for delicate slicing. Designed for single pull strokes rather than a sawing motion. Single-bevelled.

Tako sushimi


Long and thin. Used to slice octopus and other seafood.

Very thin, making slicing easier. Typically with a flat end, rather than a point. Single-bevelled.

Pricing Guides

Sushi and sashimi knives are available from as little as £10 to as much as £120. The fine craftsmanship of these knives mean they have some of the sharpest blades you will find on any knife. The production techniques and materials used also mean that many of these knives will keep their sharpness for much longer than a standard knife. A general purpose knife, such as the Victorinox Rosewood Santoku Knife, can be bought for £30.93. Those of you who are looking to make a long-term investment in your cooking utensils may wish to consider the stylish Global SAI Series SAI - M03 Santoku Knife at £108.29.

Did you know?

  • While most Western-style knives are designed to cut primarily on the push stroke, the majority of Japanese knives cut on the pull stroke.
  • High-carbon steel is used in the production of many traditional sushi knives. This steel can be used to create an incredibly sharp edge, but is prone to rust. Knives made from this material should be washed and dried as soon as possible after use; a little oil on the blade will give some added protection.
  • Kasumi and Honyaki are the two main types of traditional Japanese knife. Kasumi knives are made from two metals, usually a very hard high-carbon steel surrounded by softer iron. Honyaki knives are forged from a single material in a process that is long and complex, involving the application of different temperatures along different parts of the blade.
  • The best way to sharpen a sushi knife is by using a whetstone. This involves moving the blade at a slight angle back and forth over a stone that has previously been submerged in water (incidentally, the whet refers not to the water but rather to the verb ‘to whet’ meaning to sharpen the blade of a tool or weapon). Keep in mind that some Japanese knives are only sharpened on one side.

If you have any questions about sushi or sashimi knives you can speak to the experts at Russums on 01709 372345.

23 September 2016

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