Yanagiba - The Iconic sushi knife

The Yanagiba, or willow-shaped knife, is the most commonly found sushi knife in any sushi bar. It is specifically designed to cut fish in one direction (pulling), as this will produce the best sashimi cuts.

What is considered to be a good sashimi cut?

A good sashimi cut is determined by its shape, smooth surface, and sharp edges. The yanagiba (or just yanagi for short) is specifically designed to make sashimi cuts easier.

These knives are made from high-quality, high-carbon steel. In order to retain their edge, they are made with two types of steel: a hard outer surface and a softer inner core.

The Yanagiba is a single-beveled knife, which means that only one side of the blade edge is sharpened, and the other side is slightly curved in. The curved side is to prevent fish from sticking to the blade.

These blades are thicker than the average Western knife but still considered relatively thin by Japanese standards.


Yanagi knives come in tons of different lengths. Which one should I buy?

These knives usually come in sizes from 200mm – 310mm (7.8″ – 12″). Honestly, the length is only determined by personal preference. I use a 210mm yanagi because it fits my cutting preferences. Please remember that the longer the blade, the harder it will be to use (for most people). 

These blades are used primarily for cutting and portioning raw fish. We will get into portioning on another page, but for now we will focus on cutting sashimi and sushi rolls.

Japanese Knives are designed to cut differently

The single largest difference between Western knives and Japanese knives is way in which they are designed to cut.

Western knives are designed to cut from the tip, pushing towards the heel of the knife to achieve the cut. Where as Japanese knives are designed to start from the heel of the knife and pull towards the tip to achieve the cut. 

The Japanese say that a “pull” cut is more precise and controlled then the “push” cut. However, in order to achieve a good pulling cut, the knife must be incredibly sharp. Pulling cuts do not allow for as much pressure to be used as a pushing cut- so the cut is achieved by the weight of the blade and it’s well-honed edge. 

  • Push cuts are fast, strong, and used to cut through flesh and bones alike.

  • Pull cuts are slower, precise, controlled, and used for things like sashimi and trimming other meats.