As with many crafts in Japan, knife making has been refined through the generations to make Japanese some of the best in the world. During the Meiji Restoration, when the samurai class was officially disbanded, lots of previous sword makers found themselves out of work, and turned to utilitarian knife construction to survive. Many of the techniques used in the construction of modern-day kitchen knives are pulled directly from sword-making techniques. This, combined with the culture surrounding inter-generational craftsmanship in Japan, has resulted in Japanese culinary knives being unparalleled in terms of quality and durability.
Japanese kitchen knives tend to be fairly specialized in terms of their uses. They are shaped according to either the material they are meant to cut, or the specific type of cutting they are made to do. Some are made for meat, some for fish, and others for vegetables. Some are shaped to be ideal for making very thin cuts, and others are meant for cutting things in a decorative fashion.
If you’re looking to add a Japanese knife to your collection, a good choice to start with is a knife style called santoku, or three virtues knife. Santoku knives* feature a flat edge and a sheepsfoot blade that curves down at an angle and comes to about 60 degrees at the point. The “three virtues” in the name refers to the versatility of the knife shape. Santoku knives are general pur