Japanese Knives: The Bunka

The Bunka is an all-purpose Japanese chef’s knife that originated during the Meiji era in Japan. It’s often considered to be the third most important chef’s knife in any Japanese chef’s collection after the Gyuto and the Petty knife. Let’s explore the history, design and purpose of the Bunka knife in more detail and consider what to look for when buying your own Bunka knife.

What is a Bunka knife?

Bunka knives share some of the properties of Gyuto and Nakiri knives, and they are similar to Santoku knives in their purpose. It’s suitable for slicing and chopping meat and vegetables, and it’s extremely versatile and suitable for use when preparing many different types of cuisines. The name ‘Bunka’ comes from the term for ‘cultural’, and its full name Bunka Bocho means ‘cultural kitchen’. This moniker points to the new welcoming attitudes that Japanese people had toward western foods at the time of the knife’s creation.

Today, Bunka knives have a prominent pointed tip and a spine that slopes downwards, which is known as a ‘reverse tanto’. These features increase dexterity when using a Bunka knife and mean this knife is suitable for both large, powerful cuts and smaller more precise movements. Most modern Bunka knives have traditional Japanese ‘wa’ handles, though it is possible to find some Bunkas with a ‘yo’ handle.

The history of the Bunka

Like the Gyuto, this knife was originally developed to suit the new styles of preparation that Japanese chefs had to adapt to when the country started importing more red meat and new types of vegetables from the west. It’s capable of cutting larger chunks of meat and more starchy vegetables than a lot of traditional Japanese knives are which means it’s popular in kitchens around the world as a great all-purpose knife.

Tips for using a Bunka knife

Bunka knives are very easy to use, and they’re ideal for tasks that Gyuto knives and Petty knives aren’t well-suited to, including cutting certain types of vegetables as well as cutting fish and meat. You can also use a Bunka knife to roll-cut finer ingredients like herbs. As always, choose a Bunka knife that feels comfortable in your hands and with a handle that’s spacious enough to leave plenty of clearance so that your fingers aren’t ever near the blade when you’re using it.


Buy your Bunka knife today

Bunka knives are versatile knives that can be used to cut meat, fish, vegetables and herbs. You can browse our selection of high-quality knives online and purchase your perfect Bunka knife today. We offer a wide selection of traditional and contemporary Japanese knives for professional and amateur chefs in Australia.