Wabocho: For Quality & Supreme Washoku

Washoku or Japanese food is increasingly rising in high regarded around the world. It delves beyond the allure of exquisite flavor and embraces an embedded culture of heartfelt hospitality and a time-honored tribute to changing seasons. And the number one, indispensable tool for chefs to achieve high-quality Japanese cuisine is the Wabocho or Japanese knives.

Consultations, Clinics & Demos by Tsukiji Masamoto Hocho Master Hirano at Mutual Trading’s annual Japanese Food & Restaurant Expo in New York and Los Angeles.

Tsukiji Masamoto is a Wabocho company located just adjacent to the grand fish market in Tsukiji. The company heritage goes back to Masamoto Sohonten, a prestigious Wabocho company of 170 years, from where Tsukiji Masamoto became independent in 1951. Now led by current president and Hocho Master Misao Hirano, the company is held in high esteem by professional chefs for integrating traditional Wabocho craftsmanship with technology passed down from Minosuke Matsuzawa, the founder of Masamoto back in the Edo period. Refined advancement in craftsmanship through six generations of development has evolved Masamoto Wabocho to unmatched quality and to expanding use in Western cuisine. The Yanagiba and Deba styles are especially popular, critically acclaimed by Japanese Iron Chef Rokusaburo Michiba and celebrity chefs worldwide.

Traditional Wabocho construction involves putting together various parts, each created by master craftsmen in their respective field: metal forging, blade attachment, handle and sheath crafting. Master Hirano has the exceptional ability to discern and select the best “parts” when put together, creates a Wabocho with surpassing quality. Among professional chefs, Tsukiji Masamoto’s Wabocho are known for their high-quality finish, extraordinary degree of precision, and ease of Togi, or sharpening and maintenance.

The flagship, high-quality Yanagiba Hocho is easy to handle and sharpen. Is well suited for chefs just starting out, and is one that can be used throughout a chef career.

The indispensable Yanagiba is great for slicing Sashimi, whereas, the Japan-crafted Gyuto Western knife is excellent for cutting meats, growing in mass popularity among Western chefs. Beyond the standard styles, Tsukiji Masamoto also carries a wide range of specialized, high-end Wabocho: blue carbon steel blade Yanagiba Wabocho, ebony and iron handled knives, mirror polished blades, Mukimono Wabocho with Hon-Kasumi and eight-layered blue carbon steel blades, Hon Kasumi Yanagiba, premium white carbon steel blades, and others. These premium Wabocho are available through Mutual Trading showrooms.

. . . stainless steel knives rust? Many think that stainless steel knives never rust but this is untrue. Compared to those made with other metals, stainless steel “stains less”, but if not properly taken care of, spots will form, which can eventually cause rusting.

Carbon steel is very easy to sharpen but at the same time, is also susceptible to rust. The rule of thumb is to always to clean and wipe moisture from the blade right after each use. For maintenance, use Toishi whetstone. If using a knife sharpener, never use double beveled knife sharpener for single-beveled Wabocho.

There are three basic types of Toishi: Ara-Togi rough grit, Naka-Togi medium grit, and Shiage-Togi fine/polishing grit. For regular upkeep, using Naka-Togi every 2-3 days is optimum. Keep in mind the ideal 9:1 whetstone ratio on the beveled versus flat side. The flat side requires only a little sharpening, just enough to remove the excess steel shavings.


Proper Wabocho maintenance requires specialized knowledge and practice, a task every professional chef should be accustomed to. Mutual Trading Hocho Service Center offers sharpening service for Japanese and Western knives, as well as for petty knives and scissors. Fees vary depending on the knife condition, starting from $15 for Western knives and $25 for Japanese knives.

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