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Honesuki Vs. Gokujo: Is There A Real Difference?

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The naming around Japanese kitchen knives can be a little confusing sometimes, especially when it comes to knives that are similar in purpose. This is the case when comparing the Honesuki and Gokujo, which are both Japanese boning knives, but yet with different types of boning in mind. So, is there a real, significant difference between the Honesuki and the Gokujo? 

There is a real difference between the Honesuki and Gokujo knives. The Honesuki is designed primarily for parting poultry and limited fish processing. The Gokujo is designed to bone larger cuts of meat and for filleting large fish. The shape of the knives is also quite different from each other.

The task of boning in a kitchen can mean different things depending on the type of meat being boned. As is the custom with Japanese kitchen knives, there is a knife made for each purpose, each with characteristics that make it the best knife for a particular purpose. The Honesuki and Gokujo are both boning knives but are intended for different types of boning.

If you are interested in checking out the best Japanese knives (made by Hayate Yoshihiro) we recommend and use you can find them by clicking here (Amazon link).

What Is A Honesuki Knife?

My Honesuki knife after sharpening on Japanese whetstones
My Honesuki knife after sharpening on Japanese whetstones

The Honesuki name, from the Japanese, means “bone knife.” Even though the Honesuki is a boning knife specifically designed for parting out poultry, that’s not all it is good for. 

These knives are stiff and robust with very sharp-pointed tips, which impart strength to the tip to allow it to work the poultry joints. The triangular profile means these blades get in the nooks of the poultry joints without any problem whatsoever! 

The lightness of the knife combined with the sharp pointed tip makes this knife easy to control and able to change the direction of a cut or within a joint of the poultry.

That being said, the Honesuki knife is intended only for cutting through joints; it doesn’t cleave bone like some other heavy-duty types of Japanese kitchen cutlery might do.

So if you want to split poultry carcasses down the middle, do not use your Honesuki for this job. Rather use a cleaver for this type of work that requires cutting through bone.

Because the blade of the Honesuki is lighter and thinner than many other kitchen knives, the knife can be quite versatile. It is sometimes also used to fillet larger fish and for slicing other meat such as beef that has already been removed from the bone

Some Honesuki knives come with single bevels, which can make them difficult to maintain if you don’t know what you’re doing.

So, if you are not sure how to sharpen a Japanese knife with a single bevel, then rather opt for one of the Honesuki knives that have a double bevel on the blade.

Even though the knife is light, the blade is not flexible, as is common with western-style boning knives.

A Honesuki should, therefore, not be used to split a poultry carcass in half but rather to separate the wings, legs, thighs, and separate the breasts from the breastbone. If you want to split the poultry carcass, you should rather use a cleaver.

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

What Is A Gokujo Knife?

Gokujo Knife
Gokujo Knife of my friend

The Gokujo knife, which means “all-in-one,” is more multi-purpose in nature and can be used for both boning larger cuts of meat and some fish filleting, although it is technically categorized as a boning knife.

The Gokujo is a completely different shape to that of the Honesuki knife. The Gokujo has a narrower blade, and the spine of the blade and the belly of the edge of the knife curve upwards towards the tip of the knife.

This curved shape to the blade gives the knife better dexterity to be able to separate meat from around large bones. This means that the Gokujo is more adept at slicing meat from the bones of larger animals, such as beef, lamb, and pork.

The slim design of the Gokujo blade also makes this knife useful for delicate and decorative work in the kitchen as well. For example, cleaning the meat from the ribs on a rack of lamb for a nice clean presentation is easy to do with a knife that has this blade shape.

Most Gokujo knives have a fairly stiff blade that makes them suitable for filleting large fish like salmon or tuna, but unless you have an expert technique, their rigid nature might make working on smaller fish somewhat challenging.

Thus, although they can double as a fish filleting knife, you cannot expect them to perform fish filleting tasks with the same ease as a proper fish filleting knife.

The ability to use this knife on larger fish is what gives it the “multi-purpose” designation since most Japanese knives are designed with a single purpose in mind.

Gokujo does not make for a good poultry boning knife. The narrow blade and the upward curved shape of the blade make it impractical to use this knife to get into the joints of the poultry to separate them out.

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

The Differences Between Honesuki And Gokujo

To give a quick summary of the differences between the two knives, we have tabulated the main points that differentiate between these two boning knives.

FeatureHonesukiGokujo
DesignationBoning knifeBoning knife
Main PurposeSeparation of poultry into parts.Slicing of fish and meatRemoving meat from the bones in larger cuts of meat. Filleting of larger fish. 
Blade shapeDistinctly triangular-shaped blade with a very sharp tip. Robust and stout-looking knife.A long slender blade that is narrow in comparison. The blade curves along the edge of the knife and along the spine toward the upswept tip of the knife.
SizeA medium-sized knife. A large knife is not necessary for poultry processing.A medium-sized knife. The medium size is better for easy control and dexterity to cut around bone.
Differences Honesuki vs. Gokujo

TIP: You might also be interested in what is the difference between Funayuki vs. Yanagiba! If so, click the article below!

Funayuki Vs. Yanagiba: What’s The Big Difference?

Should You Get A Honesuki Or A Gokujo Knife?

The Honesuki is certainly the most adept knife of the two when it comes to the preparation of poultry. Most kitchens would have more use for a dedicated poultry knife than for a knife that is used to separate meat from the bone on large cuts of meat.

While both knives are useful in their own right, if you are looking to get your first Japanese knife and you are looking to choose between the Honesuki and the Gokujo, then our recommendation would be to opt for the Honesuki.

You will probably have a greater need for this type of knife in your kitchen and will therefore use it more often than you would a Gokujo.

Of course, this depends on what you cook in your kitchen. If you primarily work in a kitchen that produces red meat dishes and often meat that is served on the bone, such as ribs, then the Gokujo would make more sense as the best choice for you.

Essentially, you need to consider the type of meat that you most commonly process in your kitchen and base your choice between these knives on the answer to that question.

Another consideration between these knives is the sharpening. A Honesuki has a relatively straight cutting edge on the blade, which makes sharpening the knife much less of a challenge.

The Gokujo, on the other hand, is pretty much curved from the heel of the knife all the way to the tip. Sharpening a knife that has this much of a curve to the blade is not an easy prospect and will take a fair amount of practice to get it right.

TIP: Are you looking to buy a new whetstone? Check out our recommendations (we personally use the first three ones):

Our PRO choice whetstones combo (Amazon links):

Our budget choice (Amazon link): Sharp Pebble Extra Large Sharpening Stone Set

Conclusion

Even though the Honesuki and the Gokujo are both classified as boning knives, they perform different boning tasks within this category.

The shape and the design features of the Honesuki make it a perfect knife for processing poultry of all types in the kitchen, but it will not perform well to remove meat from the bone on large meat cuts.

The Gokujo’s narrow, curved blade makes it the perfect knife for slicing meat away from large bones and also performing delicate cuts into the meat. However, the knife design is not suitable for the processing of poultry.

This once again serves to showcase the detail that goes into the design behind Japanese knives to produce knives that are purpose-built and that perform with excellence for their intended task!

TIP: Do you know what is the main difference between single and double bevel knives? If you’re interested, check out the article below to find out!

Single Vs. Double Bevel Knife: What’s The Difference?

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