There are two categories of traditional handmade Japanese knives:
- The Honyaki, meaning “true forged”
- The Kasumi, referring to “Mist” or “Fog”
• The Gyuto is in it's own category, because it is a nontraditional handmade knife.
The Honyaki is the knife that legends and myths are made of. This series of knives is a treasured part of Japanese Cultural heritage. The Honyaki is not intended for the casual chef. Traditionally, a Japanese Chef purchases a Honyaki knife after completing his or her apprenticeship. To celebrate this achievement, a silver ring may be placed between the buffalo bolster and the wooden mahogany handle. In Japanese tradition, it is considered very poor taste for a Chef to use the Honyaki before his or her apprenticeship is completed.
The Honyaki is an object of admiration that represents a long history of Japanese pride and craftsmanship. Encoded in the steel are centuries of experimentation, and a commitment to perfection. The Honyaki is forged from a single piece of steel, using the traditional method of differential hardening and tempering. The Japanese have developed a method to insulate parts of the knife, so that the metal cools at different rates. There is no room for error, lest the blade be destroyed. Only blacksmiths of great skill can master this method. It is so specialized, Master Hide uses a different blacksmith for each type of steel.
There exists a belief that Japanese knives are very hard to sharpen; only in this case, is it true. The edge of the Honyaki is so hard, it will break, chip, or crack if dropped or abused. While the blade is delicate, it is also true that the harder the edge, the longer it maintains its sharpness. Thus, while the Honyaki requires skilled hands, it rewards the individual who treats its blade with respect.
The Honyaki is an object of skill and accomplishment, beauty, quality, and history. A Honyaki knife, given as a gift, represents all of this and more. Top Chefs use a Honyaki to symbolize their level of achievement, and a Honyaki is given, or collected, because of its beauty, function, history, and cultural inheritance. I cannot think of a better, more meaningful gift for a chef.
Like the Honyaki, the Kasumi is part of the Japanese cultural heritage, and is a traditional single bevel knife. Here, form and function dictate beauty. During the forging process, the Kasumi is formed by cold welding (hammering) a softer steel onto the hardened, supporting, high carbon steel edge. This softer steel forms the body and spine of the knife. The Honyaki, is differentially hardened and tempered, whereas the Kasumi's edge is uniformly hardened and tempered. The Honyaki is made from a single type and piece of steel, whereas a Kasumi is made with two different types of steel. Sharpening the Kasumi is easier, because only the cutting edge is high carbon hardened steel. The “Mist” or “fog” refers to the soft sheen where the softer steel meets the highly polished cutting edge. The sharpness of the Kasumi's edge is surpassed only by that of the Honyaki. The Kasumi, with a lightweight, water-resistant Magnolia handle, would be considered the standard knife of the professional and well equipped home kitchen.
THE GYUTO SERIES
The traditional makers of Japanese knives have been pressured to respond to a market flooded with factory-made Western knives. The Masters of Sakai have responded with a double bevel knife, sharpened according to Japanese tradition, with a 70/30 angle. A Gyuto will have a western handle, whereas a Wa-gyuto will have a handmade Japanese handle. Some handmade Gyutos are incredibly thin, but still maintain overall rigidness, reducing the resistance, without compromising the edge or the strength. Some Gyutos are heaver and thicker, with improved taper. In short, if segments of the market demand a Western Chef's knife, the Masters of Sakai have found a way to improve, customize, and infuse that knife with their 600 years of blade-making knowledge. The result is simply the best Chef's knife you have ever sliced with.
Welcome to Sakai Japanese Knives
We offer traditional Japanese cutlery of high quality. We are the only supplier in the Nordic Region with direct contact with the manufacturer. Unlike the knives you find in today's retail stores, every Sakai knife is unique. The steel is forged by master blacksmiths which is then shaped and honed with great care to its specialized form.
As this website develops you will learn more about the close connection between Japanese food culture and knife making. Japanese cooking requires great care and focus on details and the cutlery is of great importantance. Through our work we hope to spread the knowledge about this traditional handicraft with its roots in the samurai culture. It takes time and great care to achieve the high quality and standard of a handmade Japanese knife . Knowledge acquired over centuries is at risk of extinction and we are very proud and honored to contribute to survival of this great tradition.
Japan consists of no less than 6852 islands – but the four biggest ones, Honshu, Hokkaidō, Kyushu and Shikoku, make up for 97% of the land. It has 127 million inhabitants, the tenth-largest in the world. It is the world’s third-largest economy by nominal GDP, the fourth-largest exporter and the fourth-largest importer. The climate varies greatly from north to south, the Japanese uses at least three sets of characters in their writing and enjoy full religious freedom.
Man has been living in what we now call Japan for well-over 30 000 years. The country has seen etnic group come and go, the rise and fall of shogunates and emperors, victory and defeat in many wars.
It goes without saying that this vast diversity is not easily summarized. But something can be said about Japanese cooking (even though this of course varies to from prefectures, cities, towns and villages) and the cutlery used in this cooking.
The food philosophy of Japan
The Japanese cuisine follows the seasons and uses the fish, meat and vegetables available. Dishes vary from place to place, but common to all Japanese cooking is the high quality and the great care taken in preparation and presentation. It is all about the process and details. You could look at for example sushi as just “fish and rice”, which westerners tend to do. To the Japanese, it is the outcome of a hundred carefully performed steps each of which is equally important for the result.
It takes ten years of practicing to become a real sushi chef. The first year you practice preparing the rice, the next five to prepare the fish, then three years of making rolls, and the tenth year you finally get to make nigri, fish and rice together. Only when you been through all four seasons ten times you might be considered to understand what the Japanese cuisine is. This is why the Japanese chefs take such pride in their work, and their skills are so highly appreciated.
The hospitality of the Japanese restaurants is very special. The notions of sasshi (to hypothesize) and omoiyari (empathy) are essential. Behind his counter, the chef watches you closely. What you eat and how, what you drink, what you are talking about. He will of course never let you notice that he is watching you. All he wants to do is to cater to the smallest of your wishes, sometimes even before you know you have them.
The philosophy of knife making
Sasshi and omoiyari are most important to master Hideaki as well. He likes to meet with his customer, find out how he or she works and what kind of food he or she prepares. When master Hideaki gets to know the chef better, he will make a knife especially for this person, from the choice of steel to the finishing honing.
Making a traditional Japanese knife is a process where no step is more important than the other. This process takes time, time that we sometimes think we do not have in modern society. But when a master does something, he takes the time to do it well and he will not sacrifice quality on the altar of speed. This makes his products durable and once you get a Sakai knife it will last, contributing to the sustainability of our planet.
We offer not only an excellent kitchen tool, we offer a piece of history and respect for time and traditions.
History of knife making
The city of Sakai is situated by the Osaka bay at the Japanese main island. It is said that the foundations for knife making were laid down as early as the fifth century AD , when the great mounds, the kofun, were built. This required excellent tools, which were manufactured by local craftsmen.
During the 14th century Sakai became the capital of the samurai sword making. The city kept its position during the centuries to come, and in the late 16th century they started making knives according to the same methods as the famous sakana swords. The making of knives was a result of the Portuguese introduction of tobacco in Japan. The demand for quality knives to cut the tobacco exploded. The first tobacco knives were made in Sakai, and they were soon renowned all over the country for their unique sharpness.
The so called Meiji Restoration took place in the late 1860’s. The shogunate lost its powers, the empire was reintroduced and efforts were made to modernize Japan. The samurai class lost some of its privileges and was no longer allowed to carry swords. Even though the army still needed swords, the demand sank and many of the manufacturers started making knives instead.
Traditional Japanese knife making includes several steps which all require great skills. The smith forging (hizukuri), when the metal is heated an hammered to its shape, the sharpening and honing (hazuke or togi), when the blade gets it sharp edge and finally the hafting (ezuke), when the blade is attached to a haft, or a handle, of magnolia wood.
Today’s processes uses the same technique as the masters of old did. Sakai cutlery consists of layers of soft ferrite and hard steel, heated to 1300 ° C and hammered together. The most difficult aspect of the process is maintaining the heart at the exact temperature; too hot and the blade will chip easily, too cool and the steel and the ferrite will fail to bond properly.
The blade is heated, hammered and cooled in different steps and at different temperatures. Asymmetries are not accepted and the blade is meticulously treated with hammers of different size to make it no less than perfect. It takes long practice and great skill to make an excellent blade.
The blade is then sharpened and any remaining asymmetries removed by using increasingly finer whetstones, giving the edge its right angle and sharpness. The last step is to carefully hammer the blade into a haft of rot-resistant magnolia wood, marked with the manufacturers seal. A high quality piece of Japanese culture and skills is ready for shipping.
The name Sakai
The city of Sakai has a long tradition of making exquisite blades. In the 14th century it became the capital of the famous katana swords used by the samurai, and ever since the city’s craftsmen has been renowned for their skill and the outstanding quality they produce.
We use the name Sakai Japanese Knives in honor of this. Our manufacturer, master Hideaki and his son, are both deeply rooted in these traditions and very proud to promote their city. We are equally proud to share this name.