3 Japanese knives for cutting fish and preparing sushi and sashimi

Sushi is basically a ball of rice flavored with vinegar (also from rice) and other seasonings, over which a piece of raw fish elegantly cut is usually placed. And that’s why we are talking about 3 Japanese knives for fish today.

History of sushi

Sushi is one of the most popular dishes both in Japan and abroad. A famous morsel of delicate creation that surprises with its minimalism, elegance and particular flavor.

It seems surprising, but the origins of sushi come from ancient China several centuries BC. The fresh fish from the sea was stored in large vessels with cooked rice to keep it longer. In those vessels, the rice generated a kind of mold that made the fish ferment. After some time, the fish was extracted and the rice was discarded. Today, this process is still used, but pieces of fermented fish are kept for a year. It is an authentic delicatessen and are called “narezushi” or mature sushi in Japan.

When the Chinese custom of preserving fish arrived in Japan, they experimented for centuries to improve and accelerate the process. The Japanese began to produce rice vinegar and realized that by mixing the fish with the cooked rice, they could simulate the taste of the wonderful narezushi but avoiding the long fermentation process that was required. This is how the “hayazushi” or fast sushi was born, the main predecessor of sushi that we know today.

The creators of sushi

Two people stand out in the history of sushi. One of them is Matsumoto Yoshiichi, who in the mid-seventeenth century was the one who had the great idea of combining rice vinegar with cooked rice to achieve the sour taste of fermentation.

And on the other hand, the chef Hanaya Yohei, born at the end of the 18th century, dared to put totally raw fish over small portions of rice with vinegar and combine it with soy sauce to further stop fermentation. We must remember that all these systems were focused on preserving the food as much as possible until the time of consumption, since they were created before the invention of modern refrigeration.

After this introduction to the history of sushi, it is clear that cutting fish requires a special knife. In this post, we recommend 3 Japanese knives for fish.

To prepare fish we must scale the fish first with a fish scaler. To do that, always start from the tail towards the head holding the fish with one hand. The next step is to gut, and once our fish is clean, it is time to cut it depending on the planned use.

Most common types of cut

Depending on the type of fish (flat, with two loins, four loins, flat bones, Mercedes star-like bones, etc ..) We will use a type of cut or another. The most famous cuts are:

  • Fillet: To make this cut the fish is placed on the board and an incision is made behind the head to the spine, without cutting it. With the knife in this area, move it moves towards the tail, without completing the cut, and then separate the meat from the skin, first with a clean cloth and then with the knife. The head of the fish, which is attached to the spine, can be used to make broth.
  • Slice: Is the vertical cut of a piece of large cylindrical fish, such as hake or cod. It includes meat, skin and spine. To do this, the fish is placed on the board and sectioned transversely, from side to side. The following cuts will be made in parallel, about two inches apart.
  • Supreme: The cut of any type of fish, with or without skin and without bone. In general, it is used in big fish of two or more kilos, in the area of the loins. They are thick pieces of about 12 centimeters in length, the approximate size of a serving dish.
  • Medallion: It is obtained from the loins, without skin and without bone. The best fish to apply are those that have a cylindrical shape, such as white tuna. Once a large slice is cut, it is divided into four clean portions.

3 Japanese knives for fish

We recommend using a yanagiba knife, takobiki or deba.

Yanagiba knife

The Yanagiba knife could be considered one of the 3 basic models in Japanese cuisine, together with the Deba and the Nakiri knives.

Japanese Yanagiba knives are characterized by a thin and long blade (professional models can reach up to 36 cm.) whose function is to fillet the fish into thin slices without applying much pressure.

To cut with a Yanagiba knife the entire length of the blade is used, sliding it through the piece without applying force. This cutting technique is essential to prepare many Japanese dishes in which the flavor and texture of the fish meat, especially sashimi, must be preserved.

In Japan, different versions of the Yanagiba knife have been designed to respond to the characteristics of each type of fish, such as the yanagiba fuguhiki knife, for fugu fish, or the square-tip takobiki model. This type of knives is also used to skin the fish.

Yanagiba knives for domestic use have a blade between 21 and 27 cm. Longer models are considered for professional use as they require a more complex technique.

From our Naifuji collection we recommend:

Takobiki knife

The Sakimaru Takobiki knife is perfect for preparing sushi and sashimi. Its thin blade is ideal for filleting raw fish in thin slices, and has a length of 270 mm.

This knife is also similar to a yanagiba knife, but is used for longer cuts, for example to shred tuna. Its thin body makes it possible to fillet the fish into thin slices more easily than if we used a yanagiba. Its blunt tip and balanced weight makes it good to use with difficult ingredients such as octopus, from which it gets its name.

From our Naifuji collection we recommend:

Deba knife

The Deba is a knife designed mainly for filleting and cutting. It is an ideal tool to work with whole pieces of fish or birds, since its design allows deep and precise cuts controlling the pressure that we exert on the blade.

The blade edge of a Deba is prepared to cut bones of fish or small birds.

Each part of the blade of a Deba knife can be used for a specific purpose: cutting bones in the part closest to the handle, filleting through the center of the blade and boning with the tip.

From our Naifuji collection we recommend:


The kitchen knives must be cleaned with soap and water after each use and dried thoroughly before storage. It is necessary to sharpen it frequently and keep it in its case.

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