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Revealing the Soul of a Sushi Chef Through Their Knife

Updated: Jul 24, 2023

Beyond the expansive window, the brilliant Southern California blue skies greet me. At the end of the 15ft. sushi bar, the seasoned sushi chef, Jin san, delicately hones his knife on a brown whetstone.

Curiosity piques within me, and I inquire, "Is that not a Yanagi knife?" Yanagi, the elegant willow-leaf-shaped sashimi knife, is a staple tool for sushi chefs.

Jin san's warm smile reaches his eyes as he responds, "Yes, it is not. I bought this one at a restaurant supply store for $15."

I can't help but be surprised. Here is Jin san, the most experienced sushi chef I've ever worked with, boasting an inexpensive knife. He began training at a Tokyo sushi restaurant when he was just fifteen, enduring the rigorous life of a traditional sushi chef apprentice. His dedication to his craft is unparalleled.

Jin san shares wisdom: "If you sharpen it well, it works perfectly. I have two of them."

He continues, "I own an expensive Yanagi worth $2,000. But I keep it at home. In this casual sushi restaurant, there's no need to use it. These $15 chef's knives serve me well. It's not about the cost but how you sharpen it."

Jin san's words resonate deeply. He reveals, "A sushi chef's knife can tell me a lot. When I see someone's knife, I can discern what kind of sushi chef they are. I would look at a knife before glancing at someone's resume."

I question my previous beliefs as he masterfully fillets a large halibut with his humble $15 knife. I used to believe that a more expensive knife would guarantee better results. Now, I feel embarrassed at my $60 stainless steel Yanagi. I was sorry to realize that the essence of a knife lies not in its price tag but in the skill of the chef wielding it.

Jin san's artistry and expertise go far beyond the blade he holds. He embodies the true spirit of a sushi chef, and it humbles me. I aspire to attain the same level of proficiency as Jin San, and I remind myself, "Someday, I wish to be like Jin San. Someday."


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