Essential Knife Care

Yanagiba Japanese Knife


Knife Knowledge: The Essential Guide to Caring for Your Precious Japanese Chef Knife


Japan comes with a millennia-old heritage of producing excellent quality knives. Japanese kitchen knives are known for offering impressive cutting pleasure and are manufactured with non-stainless, high-carbon steel. 


However, Japanese knives require a little more care and maintenance than the regular knives on your kitchen shelves. 


Have you bought a brand new Japanese chef knife and are wondering about how to use it or look after it?


You don’t need to worry.


Owning a Japanese knife can be quite exciting and daunting at the same time. Here, we have compiled a series of useful information to help you take care of your Japanese knives.


Read on.


How to Cut with Your Japanese Knife?

Much of the knife’s durability depends on how appropriately you use it. When using a Japanese knife, make sure to use only a straight up or down motion of cutting. This is because such knives are made of highly robust steel with a very fine edge. 


For food items such as chicken or other meats, you might have to use a push or pull motion for effortless cutting. Try to avoid twisting the knife as it might cause the thin steel to chip away. Moreover, you must remember not to use these knives for cutting bones, frozen fruits or any hard food items.


It is safer to use a wooden chopping board instead of a plastic one. These knives can often sink into soft plastic chopping boards. Twisting or moving the knife at this contact point can potentially damage the blade of your knife.



Once you are done with the knife, clean it immediately with hot water and a soft cloth. While you can use a little bit of dish soap, try to avoid anything abrasive such as a dishwasher detergent.

Also, you need to wipe down the blades right after washing them to prevent rusting. 


Storing a Japanese Kitchen Knife

It is never a good idea to keep a Japanese knife in a cluttered drawer with other objects. The knife blade can get damaged after coming in contact with other kitchen objects. To protect the sharpness of the blade, shield your knives with a blade guard or a leather-clad magnetic knife holder.

You can also add a few drops of camellia oil to prevent moisture from rusting the knife blade.



Regardless of how carefully you use or store a knife, a knife tends to lose its sharpness with time. With a blunt knife blade, you need to apply more pressure which can potentially increase the risk of accidents. Therefore, it is essential to sharpen the knife blades once in a while to maintain its efficacy.

It is comparatively easier to maintain a sharp blade edge than making a dull blade sharp again. That’s why you shouldn’t wait till the last moment when it comes to sharpening your knives.

You can sharpen your favorite Japanese knife using a whetstone with two sides. One side should have a rougher grit of 1000 to remove steel from its edge and the other with a finer grit of 6000 for polishing it edge.

However, make sure to practice sharpening on a cheaper knife first before moving on to the more expensive sets.


Caring for the Knife Handle 

The maintenance of an exquisite Japanese knife is incomplete without the proper care of its wooden handle.

A wooden handle is usually treated with oil or wax. You need to apply some extra oil or wax after a few months. 


Patina Marks: What Are They?

Just like the creases in a good quality pair of leather boots or the red cherry marks on a cricket bat, patina marks are to be enjoyed. Japanese kitchen knives come with high-carbon steel blades which lacks stainless steel elements such as Chromium. Patina marks, appearing in the shades of blue, grey or yellow, are quite common in Japanese knives. Apart from patina, you can expect rust spots on a Japanese knife.

These marks occur mostly due to moisture, acids and salts and are almost unavoidable. The acidity in the citrus fruits and moisture present in proteins are largely responsible for different types of markings and discolorations on the blades.

However, patina markings are actually beneficial for a knife. It acts as a protective covering to prevent rusting of the steel. So, although the knife might not look the same, its performance remains unaffected.


How to Remove Patina Marks?

Patina markings can be removed easily using a knife polishing substance or with a whetstone. However, removing these markings is impractical as your knife will develop the markings right after you use it again.

These markings and discolorations are inevitable for high-carbon steel knives. However, they tend to protect the efficiency of the knife blades in the long run.

With a little care and maintenance, you can easily keep your precious knives in mint condition for an extended period. However, others living with you or using your Japanese knife should also be made aware of the special care that these knives require – and deserve!