The Anatomy of Japanese Knives: Blades and Handles

Japanese knives are not only tools but also works of art. Depending on how they are made and used, they have different shapes and names for their blades and handles. The blades are the cutting part of the knife, and the handles are the holding part of the knife. The way the handles are attached to the blades varies for Japanese knives, giving them unique characteristics. The terminology for the parts of a knife may vary from region to region in Japan. Here, we use the terms from the Sakai region, famous for its blade-forging tradition. The following diagram shows the main parts of a Japanese knife:

Name of knife's parts

When holding a right-handed knife with the edge side facing down, the right side of the blade is in the front, and the left side is in the back. The front and back sides are opposite for left-handed knives. Since traditional Japanese knives are mostly single-edged, identifying the correct hand orientation of a knife is relatively easy. Western knives are mostly double-edged and can be right or left-handed depending on the sharp edge.

cutting fish

For knives such as Yanagiba or Usuba, machi, two notches between the chin and the knife's handle, where the tang gets further narrowed, can be seen.

We measure the blade length of a knife from the machi to the tip of the blade.


Sakai City, Osaka Prefecture

Tosa City, Kochi Prefecture

Tanegashima, Kagoshima Prefecture

Echizen City, Fukui Prefecture


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