History of Sharpening
A "sharpening culture" has existed in Japan since ancient times. The presence of the Wabocho Japanese knives became known because of their role in the preparation of sophisticated traditional Japanese cuisine while planes (tool for shaping wood) and chisels made their mark for their role in the construction of world-renowned cultural heritage buildings and so on. On top of that, the Japanese sword, which is a part of Japan’s traditional culture, has survived as a work of art, and the natural whetstone is integral to its shine and polish. In recent years, people have been switching to artificial whetstones but due to obvious differences in sharpness and finish, natural whetstones remain a firm favorite.
History of Whetstones
Whetstones have been used since days of old and can be traced back to the time when they were used to make polished stoneware. They were discovered in ruins of various eras from the Neolithic era onwards and can be said to be one of the earliest tools in history. From the ruins excavation sites, many rocks thought to have been used for polishing purposes were excavated and it is believed that their value as a commodity was recognized so much so that they were circulated as whetstones. Japan, possessing whetstones of excellent quality, developed advanced sharpening techniques which in turn made the production of blades of high hardness value possible. These developments then supported the evolution of the Japanese katana.
History of Japanese Kitchen Knives
Between the mid-7th century and the mid-16th century, Japanese-sword type (entirely steel knives and single sided edge knives) knives were used and mainly for preparing fish. Also, around the mid-16th century, knives with a rounded point and body were thought to be used for cutting vegetables. After the Genroku era, kitchen knives with chins became mainstream and following that, in the Bunka and Bunsei era, nakiri, usuba and deba knife types came into the picture. After that came the yanigaba knife and unagisaki knife. The shape of the present Wabocho (Japanese kitchen knife) was established in the early to mid-18th century. During the Meiji era, Western style knives were brought into Japan and they were generally referred to as “gyu-to bocho (yo-to bocho)”. Entering the Showa era, the good qualities of Western knives and Japanese knives were brought together in the form of the “bunka bocho (katana style knives)” and then from there, the “santoku bocho”, a knife that is rounded off at the tip, was born. In present time, the latter is the most commonly used knife in the Japanese household.