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Funayuki Vs. Deba: The 5 Differences That Matter

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The Funayuki and the Deba are two Japanese kitchen knives that look very similar at first glance. However, as we know, when it comes to Japanese knives, each style of knife has a specific intention in mind. The design features for each style of knife are geared around the intended purpose for the knife. So, what are the main differences that differentiate between the Funayuki and the Deba?

The 5 differences that matter between the Funayuki and the Deba are as follows.

  1. The difference in the height of the blade.
  2. Variation in the thickness of the spine.
  3. The overall weight of the knife.
  4. The central balance point of the blade.
  5. The ability of the knife to cut through bones.

Despite the close resemblance of the Funayuki and the Deba, there are several key differences between these two knives that are definitive for each style of knife. While there are not many differences, the ones that do exist between these knives are suited to their intended function in the kitchen.

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Differences Between Funayuki and Deba Knives
Differences Between Funayuki and Deba Knives

Funayuki Vs. Deba

Whenever you compare two Japanese knives, it is worthwhile to examine the history of the knives to establish their background and development to gain insight into their intended purpose.

This will highlight the main differences between the two knives that matter and distinguish them for their role in the kitchen.

What Is The Funayuki Knife Used For?

The Funayuki is traditionally a hard-working knife that is generally seen as a man’s knife. This perception of the Funayuki is largely due to its origins as an all-purpose knife for fishermen.

The name, when translated, means “on boat,” which indicates where this knife was intended to be used. The original design was as a working knife onboard Japanese fishing vessels, where it performed a number of roles.

The Funayuki was used to process small to medium fish that were part of the catch onboard the boat. The knife also doubled as a kitchen knife on the fishing boat since it was also used for the preparation of the meals for the fishermen while they were out on the water.

It is highly likely that the Funayuki was used for more purposes on the boat while out at sea other than processing fish and preparing food.

The knife was probably used to cut rope and all manner of other tasks that arose on the boat that required a sharp edge or a pointed tip.

The intended use of the Funayuki meant that the knife needed to be robust enough to handle the rough duties it was required to perform on the boat, yet nimble and agile enough to be able to process fish and the ingredients for the meals for the fishermen.

In the kitchen, the Funayuki is almost seen as a mini-Gyuto or chef’s knife, and its multipurpose nature makes it ideal for light-duty ingredients. The Funayuki excels at the following tasks in the kitchen.

  • Filleting small fish.
  • Good for push and pull cuts.
  • Good for processing poultry that has already been broken down with a larger knife.
  • It can be used to slice boneless cuts of other meats such as beef and pork.
  • Chopping vegetables and herbs with a rocking motion.

The Funayuki is a relatively lightweight knife, and it has a thin, sharp edge. The lack of additional metal and, therefore, weight behind the blade makes the knife agile, but it is not strong or robust enough to be used to cut through bones.

As a result, you should never use your Funayuki to cut through any bones at all, even the small bones in poultry.

The bones can easily damage the edge of the blade and cause it to crack or chip, requiring the need for an aggressive sharpening to restore the edge.

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What Is The Deba Knife Used For?

Funayuki Vs Deba
What is The Deba Knife Used For?

The Deba is a stout, sturdy knife that has a wide blade, and the shape of the blade looks similar to that of the Funayuki. The Deba was initially intended to be a fish filleting knife, and it performs very well in this role.

However, because fish come in different sizes, there are different sizes of Deba, so that the appropriate size knife can be used on the fish.

Each of these different sizes of Deba each has its own designation, from the Mioroshi Deba to the Ai-Deba, the Aji-Kiri Deba, and the Ko-deba, which means small Deba.

The Deba that we are more familiar with is the Hon-Deba, or “true Deba,” which is the medium-sized Deba that we more commonly use in our kitchens. This Deba is typically a knife that has a 7-inch blade, or 180mm.

The Deba is a relatively heavy blade, and the spine is thick, particularly over the heel of the blade. The thick spine of the knife tapers quite aggressively on both sides of the blade towards the tip.

What this does for the knife is that it provides more weight behind the heel of the knife while keeping the tip of the knife agile and nimble.

The added weight behind the heel and the thicker steel allows this part of the knife to be used to cut through tough items such as through the heads of fish and through poultry bones. 

The central balance point of the knife is also located over the heel of the knife, which gives greater control over the heel and the ability to push the heel of the knife through tough materials. The lightweight, agile tip allows the user to perform surprisingly delicate work with the larger knife.

If you are interested in buying a high-quality Deba knife we recommend checking out this knife made by the Yoshihiro company (Amazon link).

TIP: When you are sharpening your knife, the stropping should be the last step of the sharpening process. Find out what stropping does exactly to your knives:
Simple Explanation: What Does Stropping A Knife Do Exactly?

The 5 Differences That Matter Between The Funayuki And The Deba

The 5 Differences That Matter Between The Funayuki And Deba

Now that we have a better understanding of both the Funayuki and the Deba, we can compare the main characteristics of each knife that separates each from the other.

  1. Blade height. The Deba is generally higher at the heel of the knife than the Funayuki.
  2. Spine thickness. The Deba spine is thicker than the Funayuki.
  3. Knife weight. The Funayuki is a much lighter-weight knife than the Deba.
  4. Balance point. The central balance point of the Deba is at the heel of the blade. It is further forward on the Funayuki.
  5. Cutting through bones. The Deba is capable of cutting through the bones of poultry, the heads of fish, and the claws and legs of crabs. The Edge on the Funayuki is not robust enough for these tasks and should never be used to cut through bones.

These design and characteristic differences between the Funayuki and the Deba are the points that differentiate one knife from the other.

They are also the characteristics that make them good at what they do in the kitchen and unsuitable for certain functions as well.

BTW: If you want to know more about Japanese and other knives and their sharpening, check out the books listed above. These books are recommended by professional sharpeners and knife makers (Amazon links):

TIP: All Japanese knives are made for purpose. That is why is good to know what not to cut with japanese knives. Find out the answer in the article below:
Complete List: What NOT TO CUT With Japanese Knives & Why?

The following table compares the advantages and disadvantages of the Funayuki and Deba knives.

FeatureFunayuki KnifeDeba Knife
VersatilityHighly versatile, suitable for various tasksSpecialized for heavy-duty tasks
WeightLightweight and easy to handleHeavier, providing stability
AgilityNimble and agile for delicate workStout and sturdy for robust use
SuitabilityIdeal for light-duty ingredientsSuitable for cutting through bones and heads
DesignThin, sharp edge for precisionThick spine for strength
Balance PointFurther forward, aiding in agilityOver the heel, providing control
RobustnessNot robust enough for heavy-duty tasksMay be too robust for delicate tasks
Bone CuttingCannot cut through bonesCan cut through bones, but requires care
SpecializationMore of a general-purpose knifeHighly specialized knife
Delicate WorkExcels in delicate workNot ideal for tasks requiring finesse
Size VariationsLimited sizes availableAvailable in various sizes for different needs

How To Choose Between A Funayuki And A Deba

When choosing between a Funayuki and a Deba knife, it’s crucial to consider your culinary needs, cooking style, and the type of ingredients you frequently work with. Here’s a guide to help you make the right choice based on your individual requirements:

1. Identify Your Cooking Style

  • Delicate and Versatile: If your cooking style involves a lot of delicate work and you need a versatile knife suitable for various tasks, the Funayuki knife is the ideal choice due to its agility and versatility.
  • Robust and Specialized: If you often deal with heavy-duty tasks like cutting through bones and need a more robust and specialized knife, the Deba knife is more suitable.

2. Consider The Ingredients

  • Light-Duty Ingredients: For chefs who primarily work with light-duty ingredients and perform tasks like filleting small fish and chopping vegetables, the Funayuki knife is more appropriate.
  • Heavy-Duty Ingredients: If your culinary creations involve working with tougher ingredients like large fish and poultry bones, the Deba knife, with its stout build, is the better option.

3. Evaluate Your Comfort and Handling Preference

  • Lightweight and Nimble: If you prefer lightweight knives that are easy to handle and maneuver, the Funayuki knife, with its lightweight design, will be more comfortable to use.
  • Sturdy and Stable: For those who prefer a knife with more weight and stability, the Deba knife, being heavier and sturdier, offers better control for robust use.

4. Assess Your Specialization Needs

  • General-Purpose Use: If you are looking for a more general-purpose knife that can handle a variety of tasks reasonably well, the Funayuki knife is a versatile option.
  • Specialized Tasks: For chefs who need a knife for very specialized tasks, the Deba knife, with its specialized design, excels in specific roles like cutting through bones.

5. Determine Size Requirements

  • Limited Sizes: If you are content with limited size options, the Funayuki knife may suffice.
  • Variety of Sizes: If you require different sizes for different needs, the Deba knife, available in various sizes, offers more flexibility.

6. Budget Considerations

Evaluate your budget constraints and choose a knife that offers the best value for your money while meeting your culinary needs.

7. Maintenance And Care

Consider the maintenance requirements of each knife. Both knives require proper care, but you may want to choose the one that aligns best with your maintenance preferences.

Choosing between a Funayuki and a Deba knife ultimately boils down to your specific culinary needs, preferences, and the tasks you intend to perform. By assessing your cooking style, ingredient types, handling preferences, specialization needs, size requirements, budget, and maintenance preferences, you can select the knife that will be a valuable and efficient tool in your culinary creations.


The Funayuki and the Deba are both great knives to have available in the kitchen. The Deba is often compared in versatility to the Gyuto, and it is often used to perform some of the functions that the Gyuto normally does in the kitchen.

The Funayuki is like the mini version of both the Deba and the Gyuto, but its use is reserved for fine, delicate work since the edge and the knife are not suitable for the more heavy-duty work that the Deba or the Gyuto can do. 

The Funayuki and the Deba are both popular knives to have in the kitchen, and most professional kitchens will have both of these knives available for their relevant tasks.

Both of these knives are also great for the home kitchen, and your decision of one over the other will determine whether you want the knife for heavy-duty or light-duty work. 

TIP: Do you know what Japanese knives are the best for making sushi? Check out the list of the best Japanese knives for sushi in the article below:
Ultimate Breakdown: 4 Best Japanese Knives For Sushi