It's November and there are less than two months left in 2021. In Kyoto, the leaves begin to change color, and the best time to see them is from late November to December. Many parks, temples, and shrines in Kyoto light up at night, attracting many visitors every year.
The leaves have started to change the color near Kyoto Handicraft Center.
What is “Knife Day”?
Do you know what day it is on November 8th? In Japan, it is known as “Knife Day”. This date was settled on because 118 may sound similar to “good knife” in Japanese. Also in November, Fuigo Festival is held in many places in Japan. "Fuigo” means “bellow” which is a tool used by blacksmiths and foundries to burn charcoal and other fuels at high temperatures by blowing air into it. It is rarely used nowadays because of mechanization, but it was a very important tool for craftsmen who worked with fire.
Of all Fuigo Festival held in various places, Hitaki Festival held at Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto is the most famous. “Hitaki” means to “set a fire” and it is the ceremony of burning old talismans. This festival is widely known as a traditional event to express gratitude to Inari god, which is a symbol of huge harvest. Also Inari god is said to be a guardian deity of blacksmith, so it is an important event for craftsmen who worked with fire.
The Fuigo Festival is also held at Yasaka Shrine in Gion, Kyoto. There is Blade Shrine dedicated to the god of blades on the grounds.
Blade Shrine at Yasaka Shrine
Blade Shrine is built to carry on the tradition of Kyoto cutlery and pass it on to future generations. According to this stone monument, Kyoto, once the capital of Japan, is said to be the birthplace of cutlery, as the production of cutlery flourished and produced many swordsmiths.
Long History of Japanese Knife
Knife is originated from sharp stones and animal bones about 30,000 years ago. The oldest knives in Japan preserved in the Shosoin Treasure Repository were made in the 8th century. The knives are characterized by a long, slender handle like a Japanese sword.
In fact, the technique of making Japanese swords is deeply related to knives. There were many swordsmiths in Sengoku period (A period of frequent warfare during the 15th-16th century), but in the 17th century, the demand for swords decreased because there were no more wars. Most of the swordsmiths started to make all kinds of knives and competed with each other to improve the quality.They applied the technique of forging a sword, in which hot steel is beaten to remove impurities and stretch it, rather than using the casting method.
As the world became more stable in the 17th-18th centuries, Japanese food culture developed, and the kitchen knives evolved accordingly. It was around this time that Japanese kitchen knives were born, such as Usuba knives for cutting vegetables, Yanagiba knives for slicing sashimi, and Deba knives for cutting fish that can be used for different purposes.
In the 19th century, modernization progressed and people started to eat meat in Japan. As a result, various cooking methods from the West and Western knives for cutting beef spread. In the 20th century, a kitchen knife that combines a gyuto for cutting meat and a nakiri knife for cutting vegetables into one was born. This is the Santoku kitchen knife of today.
Single-edged Knives and Double-edged Knives
There are two kinds of shape in the image above.
Firstly, Single-edged Knives is a shape that originated in Japan and is basically used for cooking Japanese food. It is mainly used in knives for cooking fish and vegetables. Compared to double-edged knives, single-edged knives have a thinner edge, which allows them to cut more delicately and cut soft fish meat without smashing the fibers. Also, generally available single-edged knives are for right-handed people, so left-handed people need to be careful when purchasing them.
Typical single-edged knives are Deba knife and Yanagiba knife.
Deba knife has a thicker blade and more weight, so it is suitable for removing the head of a fish or cutting the bones.
Yanagiba knives are long knives suitable for cutting sashimi. The name "Yanagiba knife" comes from the fact that it is long and thin like a willow leaf.
On the other hand, double-edged knives are suitable for daily use in cutting and chopping food. It has a versatile shape and is recommended for use at home. It can cut food in a straight line and can be used regardless of your dominant hand. The blade tip is thicker, so it is less likely to be chipped, but the fibers on the food surface are easier to be smashed than with single-edged knives.
I would like to introduce double-edged knives: Santoku, Gyuto and Petty.
Santoku is the most versatile kitchen knife used in Japanese households, and can be used on a wide range of ingredients such as meat, fish, vegetables and fruits.
Gyuto literally means a knife for meat and is called "Chef's knife" and can be used for a wide range of ingredients such as meat, fish, vegetables and fruits.
Petty is a small all-purpose knife with a short blade. The shape resembles Gyuto but smaller. Suitable for detailed work when cutting vegetables and fruits.
Let’s Find A Knife that Fits Your Needs!
Knives, which are indispensable in people’s lives, have changed with the development of swordsmithing techniques and food culture. Japanese cuisine especially requires delicate taste and beautiful food presentation, so it is important to use the right knife for each ingredient. By choosing the right knife for your own use, you will be able to make more delicious food. Kyoto Handicraft Center online store has a variety of kitchen knives for sale, so please take a look. Thank you for reading!