Japanese Cleavers

Why Every Chef Needs a Japanese Cleaver in Their Set

Have you ever wondered what makes a kitchen truly complete? You’ve got a wooden chopping board, and an ergonomic setup, now all you need is a trusty and versatile tool, a Japanese kitchen knife might just be the answer! Whether you’re a seasoned chef or someone who just loves to cook, having the right tools can make a world of difference in the kitchen. In this blog, we’re going to explore why a Japanese cleaver is a must-have for every chef. From its versatility to its precision, this unique knife has the potential to transform your cooking experience, making food preparation a breeze! So, let’s dive in and find out why adding a Japanese cleaver to your kitchen set is a brilliant idea!

What Is A Japanese Cleaver?

Their names provide the thought of how high quality these knives are made. These cleavers are specialized kitchen knives that originate from the country of Japan.

They are often referred to as "nakiri" and are designed to have a rectangular blade with a flat edge. Their name translates to "knife for cutting greens," which clarifies that these knives are commonly used for cutting vegetables.

In the modern age, Japanese knife-making is often by the use of forging metals together and tempering them through repeated hammering. This technique is adapted from traditional ways of forging swords and blades from the nation.

These blades are often made of either high-quality stainless steel or high-carbon steel. These metal choices ensure these knives last for continuous uses. These knives typically have a blade length ranging between 5.5 to 7 inches (140 to 180 millimeters).

Why You Need a Japanese Cleaver Knife?

This unique kitchen knife offers many distinct advantages any chef can appreciate while working in the kitchen.

Firstly, this cleaver is designed to excel at precision. Its blade is designed to be thin and sharp, allowing any chef to make clean cuts with minimal effort. These precise cutting capabilities are perfect for slicing, dicing, and chopping vegetables or boneless meat.

Additionally, this Japanese knife stands out for having a unique layered build. The cleaver is designed to be well-balanced and lightweight for convenient use. This makes the knife both comfortable and versatile for extended kitchen uses.

Also, its namesake is for more than just the show. These knives are designed with the same applications in forging traditional knives and swords. In rare variants, some of these knives also come with unique Damascus patterns for more variant appearances and styles 

Its design also minimizes fatigue and ease, allowing users to continuously wield it over time without experiencing discomfort.

Differences between Japanese Vegetable Cleavers and Meat Cleavers

Japanese cleavers and meat cleavers may have similar shapes but are built differently. These knives are designed for specific tasks within the kitchen. Here are the differences between the two.

Japanese Cleavers

  • These are commonly used for preparing vegetables and boneless meat on rare occasions.
  • Blades are designed to be thin with a flat edge.
  • Designed for clean and precise cuts.
  • It is ideal for slicing, dicing, and chopping vegetables delicately.
  • Made to be lightweight and balanced to reduce fatigue.

Meat Cleavers

  • These are designed for heavy-duty culinary tasks.
  • The heavy build makes it helpful in chopping thick meat and bones.
  • Possesses a thick, wider blade in comparison to its Japanese counterpart.
  • Weight and sturdy body make these blades minimal in terms of precision.

What to Look for When Buying One

When it comes to buying a cleaver for any kitchen needs, it is vital to know several essential factors in looking for the correct type of knife. 

One of the most important things to consider is the type of steel that is used in making the knife. This Japanese knife is popularly known for possessing excellent sharpness and edge retention due to the metal it is forged from.

These knives are typically made from high-carbon steel or stainless steel variants. When checking for this knife, it is important to check on the reviews or specifications of what metal these knives are made of.

Besides the blade, the handle is also another factor that needs close attention. These knives are generally have a wood handle, providing a comfortable grip and aesthetic appeal. It is essential to check for smooth handles that offer comfort when gripping.

Furthermore, this Asian knife is known for possessing considerable weight and perfect balance. Opt to look for products that offer that ideal lightweight balance without compromising durability. Knife sets are the perfect way to add different knives to your kitchen arsenal. Check out our knife sets here. 

The Best Japanese Cleaver Knives

San Mai Steel is the Japanese equivalent of Damascus Steel. It’s known for possessing incredible durability and providing blades with exceptional cutting capabilities.

Our exquisite Limited Edition San Mai Rustic Cleaver shows just how well a handcrafted work of art can look and perform in the kitchen. This knife is one-of-a-kind, having undergone special hand-forging approaches using authentic types of steel. 

The meticulous forging has made the blade corrosion–resistant on its edges. Furthermore, it boasts a Rockwell hardness scale rating of over 61 HRC.

These knives strike the perfect balance between hardness, flexibility, and durability. Possessing a striking rustic aesthetic, these knives are made to be indispensable for any aspiring chef who is looking for quality performing kitchen cutlery.

What Is The Difference Between A Chinese Cleaver And A Japanese Cleaver?

At a few glances, a Japanese cleaver and a Chinese cleaver appear to be similar knives. They both possess broad, rectangular blades and are both derived from Asian roots. However, both knives serve different culinary purposes within the kitchen. Here are the differences.

Japanese Cleavers

●  These knives are commonly known as “nakiri bōchō,” or “vegetable cleaver.”

●  As their names imply. These knives are widely used for preparing vegetables and boneless meat on rare occasions.

●  Blades are designed to be thin with a flat edge, which is made to make clean and precise cuts.

●  These knives provide slicing, dicing, and chopping properties at an intricate level.

●  Made to be lightweight and balanced to reduce fatigue.

Chinese Cleaver

A little overview is needed to further understand this type of knife. Chinese cleavers are versatile kitchen tools that are commonly used in Chinese cuisine. It's widely referred to as a Chinese chef's knife.

Similar to their counterpart, this knife features a broad, rectangular blade with a flat edge. It is also made to be thinner and lighter in comparison to the traditional meat cleaver.

Furthermore, this knife excels in making precise slices, favorable for a wide range of cooking approaches and techniques.

  • These knives are often known as a “Chuka bocho”, “chopper” or “chef’s knife.”
  • These are versatile kitchen tools, possessing a broad, heavy blade.
  • Used for chopping, slicing, and mincing a wide range of ingredients.
  • These knives vary in size but commonly feature a flat full tang blade, which uses a rocking motion for cutting.

Japanese Cleaver FAQs

These are versatile and are widely popular as highly sought-after kitchen tools. Here are some FAQs regarding these knives.

What Is A Japanese Cleaver Knife Called?

In Japan, these knives are commonly known as “Nakiri bōchō” knives. This term is frequently used for knives that are designed for slicing and chopping vegetables.

The knife's common name translates to "knife for cutting greens," which is based on the knife's typical role within the kitchen. They highly differ from similar knives such as "nakiri bōchō," which are usually sharpened from both sides of the blade. A “gyuto” is a Japanese chef knife that is also commonly found in Japanese kitchens. 

What Is The Purpose Of A Japanese Cleaver?

The primary purpose of this knife is to excel in cutting and preparing vegetables. These knives possess thin, straight-edge blades, which allow for clean, precise cuts through the ingredients, as mentioned earlier.


While it is not designed for heavy-duty tasks, its cutting ability, to a precise degree, makes these tools essential for any kitchen. These knives are top-rated and are commonly used for home uses.

What Is A Nakiri Knife Used For?

A Nakiri knife is widely popular not just in Japan but in the majority of kitchens worldwide for its precise, sharp cutting capabilities. Despite limiting to only vegetable cutting, these knives are also popular for slicing through thin layers of meat.

Furthermore, these knives differentiate themselves as they are the perfect counter to the Western meat cleaver in terms of more maneuverability, control, and comfort.

While these have a downside regarding the lack of power needed in tackling thicker meat and bone, it more than makes up for having more variable ingredients it can work on.

Can I Use it for Meat or Other Foods?

Despite having a primary role in cutting and preparing vegetables, these cleavers can be used in slicing, dicing, and cutting softer boneless meat and other softer ingredients.

It is highly recommended by experts to use this knife only on intended or soft ingredients, such as vegetables and soft meat. This is to minimize the risk of damaging the blade for continuous use.

These knives are built light, so it’s recommended to avoid using them in harder or thicker food such as hard fruit, meat with bone, and large bony fish.

What's the Lifespan of a Japanese Cleaver?

These knives can last for many years with proper maintenance and regular sharpening. Make sure to checkout the care guide in your knife box for reference. A Japanese butcher knife can last for decades with appropriate handling within the kitchen.

It’s recommended that a quality kitchen knife should be stored in a proper knife holder drawer. Oiling the blade before sheathing is also a recommendation among professional users. A good cutting board also needs to be considered for the longevity of your knife. 

It is important that the storage or area where kitchen cutlery is stored is dry to avoid the knives from potentially rusting over time. Furthermore, cleaning the knife regularly is also a beneficial recommendation, as this helps prevent it from being eroded or dirtied over time.