Japanese Knife Techniques for "Shoshinsha"

Japanese Knife Techniques for “Shoshinsha”

Japanese food is renowned for the intricacy it values – the delicacy in Japanese dishes like sushi and sashimi is a profound essence and is what truly introduces the world ‘authentic’, traditional-styled dining experiences. In Japanese, we call someone who is a beginner or a novice ‘Shoshinsha’. And of course, every one of us has gone through that stage of being a starter at something, specifically at a technique or a skill in which requires the grasp of concepts, practice, and strong-willed dedication to succeed. Whatever skill it is, beginners or ‘shoshinsha’ will have to master the required techniques in order to reach the definite goal of becoming a professional – being good at something with great confidence.

When it comes to Japanese cuisine, the important skills required not only revolves around the ability to season the veggies, marinate the meat, or cook the authentic Japanese rice, but also the mastery of cutting skills. Japanese knives are known to be designed specifically for the making of sashimi dishes – one of the first authentic Japanese dishes that emerged in both the East and the West. Japanese food requires dedication – strong passion and understanding of every little detail each ingredient or process holds. The use of a specialized Japanese knife to slice, cut, and chop fine ingredients to create wonderfully hand-crafted delicacies is therefore highly essential and involves a great deal of concentration.

To correctly use a knife, especially if you’re a ‘shoshisha’ as they call novices in Japan, there are some tips and tricks that would serve as the awesome hacks you could use to appropriately hold a Japanese knife of your own and prepare the dishes efficiently without any worries. You may not be able to hold a knife professionally or perform the master-style slicing techniques featuring the swift blade motions like top-ranked Japanese chefs, but practice makes perfect. Now, we will now be looking into the basics, including some Japanese knife usage techniques to help out all beginners and novices out there.

Basic Preparation and Safety Tips

For beginners, find easy vegetables to practice the simple chops and cuts – cucumber, spring onions, or celery. It is recommended to position the cutting mat around 3 centimeters away from the counter’s edge for safety. However, once you are done using the knife, place it on the side of the cutting mat that is opposite of you and make sure the side with a sharp blade faces outwards away from you, the user.


Ensure that you are positioned away from the counter for around 5 centimeters and not more; face your hips towards the counter and make an angle of 45 degrees to the counter or the cutting mat. This way, your hands and fingers would be positioned away from the cutting mat and will prevent the extinction of your knuckles resulting from accident knuckle-chop offs. Stand tall facing towards the cutting mat with your left foot pointing towards the counter. On the opposite, position your right foot a little bit to the right, ensuring that it makes a 45-degree angle.

Holding the knife

Although people have different preferences when it comes to holding a pen or a pencil, holding a Japanese knife needs a decent positioning, a good grip and a healthy hand gesture that will allow the sashimi pieces to be cut cleanly without wriggly lines and edges. The most typical way to hold a multi-purpose Japanese knife is to hold the knife in a way where your index finger’s knuckle would touch a side of the blade. Your thumb must be facing outwards to the sharp end of the blade, while the rest of the fingers follow the grip. If you are not familiar with that position, you can also adjust the position of your index finger, laying it on the spine of the blade to allow more control at the tip (it is a great position for delicate slicing).

Chef Yoshihiro Narisawa

Chef Yoshihiro Narisawa

credit : https://www.starchefs.com/

Japanese cuisine is famous for the intricate cooking processes and meticulous preparation. The fine selection of ingredients sparked divine flavors and new, delightful tastes. Although Japanese cuisine and delicacies like sushi and sashimi are popular as convenient foods in certain areas, the traditional sushi and sashimi dishes are challenging to make. As a result, there are only a few Japanese professional chefs and culinary experts in Japan.

Tokyo-based chef Yoshihiro Narisawa is a famous chef known for his French-inspired cuisine. Narisawa has been awarded two Michelin stars and his restaurant, Narisawa, has also been voted Best Restaurant in Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants. His food is all about reconnecting us with nature, and his unique brand of ‘innovative Satoyama’ cuisine has made reserving a table at his restaurant in Minami-Aoyama one of the most sought after in Japan. The chef is an environmentalist and preserving the environment is of upmost importance to him. You’ll find his dishes invoke the thoughts of Japan’s fields, forests, mountains, and oceans

Narisawa’s father and uncle owned a bakery and tea salon, and as a youngster he enjoyed watching them spread happiness through their business and through food. He wanted to become a chef, and this desire and ambition led him to move to Europe at the age of 19 to pursue a culinary career. Narisawa would spend eight years working in some of the toughest kitchens in Italy, France, and Switzerland, picking up invaluable knowledge along the way. Some of the restaurant’s he would work in belonged to Frédy Girardet, Joël Robuchon, and Paul Bocuse. He was also inspired by Michel Bras, Pierre Gagnaire, and Alain Ducasse, chefs that created unique ‘nouvelle cuisine’ with the freshest local ingredients.

After seeing food and cooking as art and a way of expressing himself and his personality, Narisawa returned to Japan and opened his first French-inspired restaurant named La Napoule in Kanagawa Prefecture. It wasn’t until he opened his second restaurant, Les Creations de Narisawa, that he would really begin to develop the cooking philosophy that we know of him today.

Narisawa’s ‘innovative Satoyama’ is all about the relationship between people and the land.

In Japanese, Satoyama refers to the areas of human habitation between the mountains and grassland. In these areas, wildlife and plant-life is extensive, and Narisawa draws his inspiration simply from being near these areas. By simply being there, Narisawa can harvest his thoughts and feelings which allows his ideas to spring from the natural environment. At the core of his cooking concept is sustainability and responsibility. This is just as important to hi as the deliciousness of his food.

The chef’s ‘Bread of the Forest’ is a moist dough mixture placed into warm water that is gently heated at the table by candlelight. The natural forest yeast causes the dough to slowly rise, at which point it is transferred to a heated stone pot on a bed of twigs where the bread slowly cooks. Another unique dish is the Soil Soup, which is made with actual soil, burdoch root and water. The soil is filtered to remove impurities but the minerals remain present. One of Narisawa’s most luxurious dishes is his Hida wagyu beef rump roast, which is encased in a powder of carbonized leek to give it the appearance of a lump of charcoal. You see, every one of his dishes is reminiscent of something from nature. While you may associate this with poor tasting food, Narisawa’s creations are surprisingly tasty.

In 2013, Narisawa was voted Best Restaurant in Asia in 2013, and the chef himself was awarded with the Chef’s Choice award in Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants in 2018. He has also been awarded with two Michelin stars. While highy decorated, Narisawa’s goal is not to add more accolades to his resumé, but to discover more about his local environment and how to preserve it for future generations.

Narisawa is committed to using only organic and wild foraged ingredients.

This commitment leads him out into the wilderness, where he will spend as much time as he needs to search for ingredients such as herbs, plants, and soil. The chef keeps a close relationship with the farmers he works with. A heavy emphasis on seasonality is placed on Narisawa’s menu.



Yakisoba is a typical commoner’s food and is not fancy at all. It is not expensive so everybody can afford it. We have it for lunch or snack sometimes.

Yaki means pan fried. In this case, the soba in Yakisoba is not buck wheat noodle. It is a Chinese style noodle in Japan which is also called Soba. It is thicker than Chinese Chow Mein. However, in Canada, I use Chow Mein here when I make Yakisoba.

I think the most important ingredient in Yakisoba is Japanese worchestire sauce.

Once, I bought worchestire sauce in Canada, but it is diferent from the Japanese one. Since then I have never bought the Canadian one. There are three kinds of Japanese worchestire sauce, varying in thickness. I use the light one. You can find Japanese worchestire sauce in Japanese or Chinese stores.

Yakisoba ingredients

The Ingredients of Yakisoba are noodle, cabbage, thinly sliced pork belly or squid which is cut into small pieces, pickled ginger (beni shoga, not gari), flaky dried green seaweed, ketchup and worchestire sauce. It is very easy to cook.

Cooking method

First, fry the meat and cabbage with a little bit of oil. You can add squid if you want. Take them out of the pan. Add a little bit of oil in the pan and fry the noodles. In Japan, each store has its own special sauce, but I mix ketchup and worchestire together for my sauce. Coat the noodles with the sauce, then mix with cabbage and meat. Garnish with flaky dried green seaweed and pickled ginger. When you eat, add more worchestire sauce to taste. I like to eat the noodles drenched in worchestire sauce. Pickled ginger will give it a nice bite.

I always think about the Yakisoba store in my home town whenever I have this dish. The store is located in the corner of the supermarket near by my house. It is basic, with only cabbage and noodles. You have to pay a little extra if you want to have meat or squid. The owner who was working at the front stood in front of a big iron plate, always barking commands to a lady who chopped cabbage at the corner of the store. If you went to the store just before lunch, they would cook in front of you or you could buy a pre-cooked one.

In Japan, you can often see plastic containers filled with Yakisoba at lunchtime.

The Science Behind Knife Sharpening

The Science Behind Knife Sharpening

While sharpening a knife may seem like a simple task, the reality is that’s it’s not so simple. Sharpening a knife properly is an art that requires lots of practice and experience, and without it, your results may be mediocre at best. In some cases, incorrectly sharpening a knife may lead to irreparable damage.
In today’s article, we’re going to learn that sharpening a knife is an extremely precise process that leaves little room for improvisation. Below are some tips to help you sharpen your knife the correct way.

Why do we sharpen knives?

You can think of a knife as a type of micro-saw. The reason for a blade’s sharpness is because its thin edge has numerous serrations at a microscopic level. With every use, these serrations are smoothed until they completely disappear, leaving the blade ‘flat’ and then the knife is no longer able to cut into the material. At this point, you must sharpen your knife.

Sharpened knife

The word sharpening means restoring the thin serration of the blade as much as possible. Sharpening is not a simple task because the microscopic serrations are difficult for the naked eye to see, which makes it hard to see how much a blade is sharpened. Due to this reason, there are processes put into place in order to guarantee proper sharpening.
There are two types of sharpening: maintenance and grinding. Maintenance sharpening can be done with another knife or sharpener, whereas grinding, also known as true sharpening, is necessary when the knife performs and cut blade. When grinding, a whetstone or sharpener is used.

A whetstone is a tool which sharpens a blade by means of rubbing and are usually made of ceramic. You may have seen sharpening wheels before, which can be categorized as whetstones with the difference being that it must be lubricated with water or oil as opposed to manual whetstones. With manual whetstones, it’s good practice to lubricate with a little bit of sharpening oil for maximum performance. When you’re ready to sharpen, the blade should be slid on the whetstone in the opposite directions of its cutting edge. The sharpening work begins on the coarser side, which is used for grinding, and the finer side is used for sharpening.

A matter of angle

When sharpening knives, the consistency of your movement and above all, the angle at which you sharpen your knife is the most important aspect. The smaller the sharpening angle between the blade and whetstone, the sharper the blade becomes. With this in mind, does it mean it’s necessary to always sharpen at a small angle? The answer is no, because the more a blade is sharpened, the more fragile it becomes, and the more often it has to be sharpened. This is where experience comes into play, as it’s important to find an angle that

Speed is not as important as the consistency of movement, and, above all, the angle. Thousands of pages of physics books discuss the matter, and legends were born. We try to simplify our life: the smaller the sharpening angle between the whetstone and the blade, the sharper the blade becomes. So is it necessary to sharpen at a very small angle? No, because sharpening also corresponds with greater fragility. As such, the sharper the blade is, the more often it has to be sharpened. This is why, with experience, it is necessary to find an angle that offers just the right amount of compromise. In most cases, the perfect sharpening angle is 20°.

The sharpener

Sharpeners are another tool which is generally used for maintenance sharpens. They offer lighter action when compared to whetstones. The function is sharpeners is to put the microscopic serrations of the blade back in line after they’ve been bent in different directions after usage.
Using a sharpening is easy. Simply hold it firmly and slide it along the length of the blade with a linear and continuous movement. The angle of the blade with respect to the sharpened should be approximately 20°. Maintenance sharpening can be performed as soon as you start to feel your knife is losing its cutting performance. When the sharpened is no longer enough to restore your knife’s original cutting ability, it’s time to move to the whetstone.

If you’re in an emergency situation where you don’t have access to sharpening tools, there is one little trick you can perform. Simply take a ceramic coffee cup, turn it upside down, and pass the blade on the edge of the bottom of the cup approximately a dozen times at a 20° angle.