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Funayuki and Yanagiba are both Japanese kitchen knives that can be used to process fish in the kitchen, but what are the main differences between these knives, and why would you choose one over the other for use in your kitchen? Understanding the differences between these two knives will help you to decide which one is right for you or whether you need both.
The main differences between the Funayuki and Yanagiba knives are the physical dimensions of the blade and the purpose for which the knives are suited. The Funayuki is considered a multipurpose knife, suitable for filleting fish and processing vegetables. The Yanagiba is for cutting meat and fish.
The Funayuki and Yanagiba knives are both used for fish in the kitchen, but the type of fish processing intended for each knife is very different. The differences are also not limited to the type of fish processing, but also in general purpose. The Yanagiba is a highly specialized knife for limited purposes.
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Funayuki Vs. Yanagiba
Even though both these Japanese knives are intended for the processing and cutting of fish, they are quite different knives and have some very distinct characteristics that separate them from each other.
There are differences between these knives in physical dimensions, looks, blade shape, and also in purpose and function in the kitchen. We can take a look at each knife and then wrap up by comparing the two knives side by side.
The Funayuki Knife
The Funayuki is a multipurpose knife that has its roots in the fishing history of Japan. This knife was traditionally the knife that the fishermen used onboard their boats to clean and fillet fish as well as to prepare their own food onboard the boats.
This means the knife needed to have multipurpose functionality to be able to process fish as well as perform a variety of basic kitchen duties such as chopping fruit, vegetables, and cutting meat.
The shape of the blade of the Funayuki is very similar to that of the Deba, and although it does resemble the Deba, which is made for processing poultry primarily, the Funayuki knife is much lighter and agile than the Deba.
Because the Funayuki is a much lighter and thinner blade, it is not suitable for processing poultry or cutting through joints and small bones.
The shape of the Funayuki knife blade is distinctly triangular, resembling a mini-chefs knife. It is a relatively short knife, particularly in comparison to the Yanagiba knife. The length of the Funayuki varies between 8-inches to 10.5-inches.
The height of the Funayuki blade is about 2-inches, and it tapers quite quickly toward the tip of the knife, producing a distinctly triangular shape to the blade.
The Funayuki can have a single bevel blade or a double bevel blade, but the one most commonly used in western kitchens is the double-beveled version which is easier to sharpen and maintain.
In summary, the main purposes of a Funayuki knife are for filleting fish and for chopping raw and cooked vegetables.
The blade shape and length on the knife make it ideal for these purposes and why it is often considered to be a multipurpose knife in the kitchen. The Funayuki is a good choice for people who want a sharp, multipurpose kitchen knife for fish and vegetable processing.
The Yanagiba Knife
The Yanagiba is generally seen as a single-purpose knife, in contrast to the Funayuki, which has multipurpose status.
The blade shape of the Yanagiba is probably the most striking feature of this knife. It is a long, slender, narrow blade. The name actually means willow leaf, which is an accurate description of the shape of the blade.
The length of the blade is one of the features that distinguish it from the Funayuki. The Yanagiba starts at 8.2-inches and can range up to 14.1-inches, with the longer versions being the most popular in the range.
The height of the blade at the heel is only 1.5-inches which is quite a narrow blade in comparison to the Funayuki blade, and tapers very gently towards the tip, producing a more sword-like profile to the blade.
The purpose of the Yanagiba is also more singular than that of the Funayuki. The Yanagiba knife can almost be considered a finisher knife that is used to slice meat and fish very thin for the sake of presentation.
For this purpose, the Yanagiba is a single bevel knife to achieve the superior sharpness required to slice very thin pieces of meat and fish, and the length of the blade allows it to be done with a single pull of the knife through the ingredient.
The Yanagiba is one of the knives that are used for cutting sashimi, where the fish is sliced so thin that it is translucent, and you can see the design on the plate through the slices of fish.
This is done for presentation purposes and requires a long, thin, extremely sharp knife to make these precision cuts with accuracy for the correct presentation.
These kinds of accurate, precision thin cuts cannot be achieved with a Funayuki, but on the other hand, a Yanagiba is pretty much a single-purpose knife and cannot be used to process vegetables and fruit.
TIP: Yanagiba is a knife that chefs use to prepare sushi. Do you know which other types of Japanese knives are best for making sushi? If you’re interested, click on the article below!
Differences between Funayuki and Yanagiba
The best way to compare the Funayuki and the Yanagiba is to take a look at their features and characteristics in a table, which offers a quick overview of their similarities and differences at a glance.
|Feature||Funayuki Knife||Yanagiba knife|
|Blade Shape||Distinctly triangular with a high blade at the heel and sharply tapering to the tip of the knife||A long slender, narrow blade that has a more sword-like appearance. The taper from the heel to the tip of the blade height is much more gentle.|
|Blade Length8-inches to 10.5-inches8.2-inches to 14.1-inchesBlade height2-inches at the heel1.5-inches at the heelBevelsThe Funayuki can be a single or double bevel, but the double bevel is more common in the western world.||The Yanagiba traditionally has a single bevel to achieve superior sharpness for cutting sashimi.|
|Purpose||Cleaning and filleting fish.|
|Slicing fish very precisely and very thin for sashimi.|
|Alternative knives||The Deba or the Gyuto can be used as alternatives to the Funayuki.||The Fuguhiki, Takohiki, and Sujihiki knives can be used as alternatives to the Yanagiba.|
The Funayuki and Yanagiba knives look very different from each other and, as is typical of Japanese knives, are intended for very different purposes.
The Funayuki is great for filleting and cutting up fish as well as chopping vegetables, either cooked or raw, which makes this knife a more multipurpose knife in the kitchen.
The Yanagiba is a more single-purpose knife with its main function being able to slice meat and fish very precisely and accurately to make for a better presentation of the ingredients.
BTW: If you want to know more about Japanese and other types of knives and their sharpening check out the books listed above. These books are recommended by professional sharpeners and knife makers (Amazon links):
- Japanese Kitchen Knives: Essential Techniques and Recipes
- The Knifenerd Guide to Japanese Knives
- Knife: The Culture, Craft, and Cult of the Cook’s Knife
- Sharp: The Definitive Introduction to Knives, Sharpening, and Cutting Techniques, with Recipes from Great Chefs
If you are looking to choose between one or the other of these knives, you would need to look at which knife would be the most useful to you in the kitchen; the multipurpose Funayuki or the single-purpose Yanagiba.
If you slice a lot of meat and fish and need the cuts to be precise and surgical for presentation, then you would probably need a Yanagiba as well as a Funayuki. The Funayuki would be used to do more of the grunt work in the kitchen rather than the Yanagiba.
If you do not find that fine slices of meat and fish are a common part of the dishes you prepare in the kitchen, then the knife that would be your best choice would be the Funayuki.
You will find yourself using the Funayuki as your go-to knife on a regular basis to perform a multitude of tasks in the kitchen.
TIP: Funayuki is a knife that is very popular for chopping vegetables. Do you know which other types of Japanese knives are best for chopping vegetables? We’ve found the best 8 Japanese knives for this purpose. Click on the article below!