If you’ve been reading up on Japanese kitchen cutlery, chances are you’ve been confused as to which knife is for what task.
If you have, don’t worry about it.
Many people tend to get confused with the different Japanese knives out there, particularly because there are just so many different blades out there.
So to help demystify Japanese knives for you, today, we’ll be diving into two particular ones: the Kiritsuke and Bunka.
What are their similarities?
What are their differences?
What are they supposed to be used for?
In this article, we’ll be diving into all of that.
Keep reading to learn more.
Kiritsuke – An Overview
The Kiritsuke is arguably one of the most beautiful knives you will ever see.
It is made by experienced craftsmen and designed to be used only by the executive chef in the kitchen.
The knife can be pretty hard to use, and it is also seen as a status symbol.
So, if you work in a Japanese kitchen and use a kiritsuke, that means you are the chief chef in the workplace.
The kiritsuke is a knife designed primarily to be used for fish, fruits, and vegetables using a push and pull motion.
They are traditionally forged from a single piece of high-carbon steel and have a handmade wooden handle to match.
Some of these knives will be specifically made for certain chefs, with personal specifications and features added in.
A kiritsuke is a single-bevel knife, meaning it is only sharpened on one side.
This can make the edge very sharp and allow it to glide through ingredients with ease, but it will also take a fair amount of practice to get used to.
That is why kiritsuke knives are mostly recommended for experienced chefs and cooks.
Bunka – An Overview
In the Japanese language, a Bunka is called a Bunka Boncho.
Bunka meaning culture, and Boncho meaning kitchen knife.
So, its literal translation is a cultural kitchen knife.
This name comes from the fact that Bunkas have been used in preparing traditional Japanese cuisine for centuries.
It looks like a quintessential Japanese knife, and that is basically what it is.
This blade can be used for a wide variety of tasks, from slicing meat all the way to chopping and dicing vegetables and herbs.
In this light, it can be closely compared to a Santoku or chef’s knife, as it can serve the same purpose in the kitchen.
The blade will typically measure between 4-8 inches, which can give you a lot of versatility in the kitchen.
In essence, this blade can be seen as a cross between the Gyuto and Santoku.
It has a sharp triangular tip, and the edge will be very, very sharp as well, making it intimidating for first-time users.
That being said, the Bunka is ideal for the push-cut as it will easily slice through just about any ingredient out there.
Kirituske Vs. Bunka – What’s The Better Choice For Your Kitchen?
In this section, we dive into the specific features of these knives and see how they stack up against each other.
That way, you can easily distinguish which knife would fit your kitchen the best.
As we mentioned earlier in this article, a Kiritsuke is specifically designed for fish, vegetables, and cutting herbs.
It is also used only by the executive chef in the kitchen, mostly because it can be difficult for first-time users.
On top of that, it is also seen as a status symbol in the kitchen.
It has a rectangular blade with a pointed tip, so an experienced chef will be able to make very precise and accurate cuts with it.
That being said, it is made for experienced chefs.
The sharp edge and shape of the blade can make it hard for beginners to use, and it could take some time to get used to.
The Bunka, on the other hand, is a more accessible and easy-to-use blade.
It measures around 4-8 inches in length and is an all-around blade made to handle a wide variety of tasks.
Like most Japanese knives out there, a Bunka is razor-sharp and allows users to cut and slice with a lot of precision.
Now, it’s time to look at the blade on these knives.
A kiritsuke has a unique blade that is forged in construction.
Traditionally, all Japanese kitchen cutlery should be forged, but in today’s market, it isn’t a surprise to see one that’s stamped.
Since they are multi-purpose knives, the blades combine the shape of an Usuba, which is used for vegetables, and Yanganibas, used for fish.
With a kiritsuke, it is best to use a pinch grip as it offers much more control and use the tip of the knife to make precise cuts.
As we mentioned earlier, a Bunka combines a Santoku and Gyuto, two types of Japanese chef knives.
It has a rectangular shape, pointed tip, and slightly curved blade (though it still isn’t suited for rocking-chop techniques).
Now it’s time to take a look at the edge that these knives have.
A kiritsuke will have a very sharp, single-beveled edge.
This makes them non-ambidextrous, so a left-handed chef will have to find a left-handed knife and vice versa.
Since it is only ground on one side, this makes for a very sharp edge that will glide through just about any ingredient you can try slicing.
That being said, single-beveled knives can take some getting used to, and we recommend taking it slow since these are very sharp blades.
Depending on the model, you can either get a double or single-beveled Bunka.
If you want to be as traditional as possible, we recommend a single-beveled edge as most traditional Japanese knives are made.
However, if you’re aiming for convenience, a double-beveled edge might be simpler and easier to use.
And just like all Japanese knives, a Bunka will be razor-sharp, with an edge of about 13-15 degrees per side.
Traditionally, both these knives will utilize an octagonal handle.
This is a staple with most traditional Japanese kitchen cutlery, and it can take some getting used to, especially if you’ve only used Western knives.
But after some practice, these handles are actually very ergonomic, functional, and comfortable in hand.
Most chefs who are experienced with octagonal handles can have a lot of control over their blades when slicing.
However, there are rare occasions where you find some of these knives with smoothened out and oval Western-style handles.
These won’t be as pretty to look at, but they’ll be much easier to use if you’re accustomed to Western-style blades.
Pros & Cons Of A Kirtsuke
- Razor-sharp blade
- Ideal for getting precise and accurate cuts
- It can be used on fish, meat, and vegetables
- Ideal for experienced chefs
- Made with expert craftsmanship
- Not ideal for beginners
- Fairly expensive
Pros & Cons Of A Bunka
- Relatively easy to use
- Designed to handle a wide variety of tasks
- Unique design
- Easier to find than a Kiritsuke
- Not ideal for rocking-chop motions
And with that, our comparison of these two knives comes to an end.
While these are both great pieces to have in your knife roll, they are designed for different types of cooks.
A kiritsuke is a very specific and advanced knife that should really only be used by experienced chefs.
It is razor-sharp, can be used for precision-based tasks, and can be seen as a great way to spruce up your knife collection.
But with all that, a kiritsuke can also be very hard to use.
Bunka knives are more all-around and fit for more people.
They are easier to find, more affordable, and designed as a multi-purpose kitchen tool.
So, before you head out and buy one of these knives, you first have to figure out what you need and your preferences.
And from there, figuring out the right addition to your kitchen will be very easy!
Last Updated on July 19, 2021 by Andy Wang