by Stephanie Morimoto
Members who attended the Japanese knives Master Class on June 7 were treated to a fun and in-depth demonstration of Japanese knives. The class wrapped up with a delicious tasting of Japanese foods, sake, and plum wines.
The class met at Sushi Ran in Sausalito with Misao Hirano, who runs Tsukiji Masamoto, a top Japanese knife manufacturer. Mr. Hirano joined Masamoto in 1960 at age 15, and 40 years later, his enthusiasm and knowledge for Japanese knives still shines.
Through a translator, Yuko Kumano, Mr. Hirano began by explaining the 12 stages of traditional Japanese knife forging, showing samples of the raw steel and iron, then how the materials change through each stage of heating, hammering and sharpening. Craftsmen specialize in only one of two stages: either hammering the metal into a blade, or completing the final sharpening of the blade into a knife. Typically, Japanese knife craftsmen are father-son teams, with the craft taking at least 15 years to master.
Then Mr. Hirano demonstrated the precise process for sharpening Japanese knives: how to hold the blade, at what angle to hold the blade against the sharpening stone, and the grit levels (rough, medium and super fine) of sharpening stones used for home use contrasted with those for professional use. Members Bill Roberson, Deb Sampson and Cathy Schreiber tried the intricate process, with Mr. Hirano coaching them and smiling with praise.
Chef Garth Murakami of Sushi Ran then demonstrated how to use Japanese knives to filet and slice an amberjack into sushi and sashimi. He explained that using a single-beveled Japanese knife is better for sushi-making because the blade slices cleanly and leaves the fish cells intact without releasing the fish’s oil, yielding a fresher taste and aesthetically, a perfectly straight edge on the fish slices.
The group concluded the afternoon with an array of Sushi Ran’s delectable sushi and hot dishes, including salmon, hamachi and tuna nigiri sushi; spicy tuna, avocado cucumber and salmon rolls; seaweed salad; seasonal greens salad with miso dressing; Vietnamese shaking beef; caramelized shrimp; and petrale sole. Representatives from three sake breweries and a plum winery — Tamano Hikari Sake Brewery, Dassai Sake Brewery, Hakkai Jozo and Choya Umeshu — offered tastings to the group as well.
Everyone left full and happy, and much more knowledgeable about Japanese knives.