Knife Gift Etiquette

Is it okay to give a knife as a gift?

This might be a question you ask yourself and express some hesitation at. However, even since ancient times knives have been used as a favored gift during celebrations. There is a system and reasons behind why they're so important for occasions such as weddings, moving houses or starting a new business. This article will explain all you need to know about the etiquette of giving a knife to someone so that you can amaze others with a wonderful present when the time arises.

The meaning of a knife

A kitchen knife is a cutting implement, so "something that can cut" is a suitable, albeit very basic definition of it. Going into that definition, the word "cut" has negative connotations associated with it. These associations don't sound ideal for a gift. Especially as a wedding gift, sometimes people take it as implying that the sacred relationship may become severed, or in this instance "cut."

However, there is also a history of a completely opposite meaning, especially in Japan and Japanese culture. Instead of these knives meaning just "something to cut with," they infer "a way to cut off evil and misfortune, and open a way towards the future."

When we give knives in Japan, this is the meaning that the giver is likely trying to infer. Do not feel bad about giving or being given a knife, as it is meant to be something not only that you can use, but to symbolise cutting off evil and leaving it behind as you enter new horizons.

Knives open a way towards the future

Originally, knives were used as a symbol of authority, or presented as an offering at various Shinto festivals and rituals. We still see this even today with various blades and swords. For example, In Japan's Imperial Family, a ceremony called Shiken no Gi takes place whenever a child is born, where the emperor presents a protective sword to that child.

Swords are also used even now as sacred objects, such as the Sugari no Ontachi, housed at Ise Grand Shrine and used when the shrine's buildings are rebuilt. Various other types of blades are also used in ceremonies today. To name a few, tape scissors are used at opening events, axes are used for boat launching celebrations, and wedding and ceremonial knives used at weddings and sacred ceremonies respectively.

With this in mind, it's better to think of knives as a tool used not to sever ties, but to cut away disaster and misfortune as a new page in life begins. And for when those new pages in people's lives start, knives are an excellent gift to commemorate and celebrate that. We believe that giving a knife to "open the way towards the future" is a very wonderful occasion, and as long as you know the original meaning of the practice (and perhaps explain it to the recipient) it is not a bad omen in anyway.

Knives Recommended as Gifts

Now that you understand the original meaning behind knives as gift, you can see it as giving a good-luck charm. Because of this original meaning, knives are often given as gifts for events such as weddings, as housewarming celebratory gifts or any other time you want to wish someone a happy turning point in their life. Also as it's a tool that can be used on a daily basis, it's suitable to express a more daily style gratitude during occasions such as Mother's or Father's Day, a birthday or other events of the like.

Of course, you don't need a celebratory reason to give someone a gift. You might simply with say thanks or that you're thinking of them with a present. Perhaps you've taken a trip to Japan (or our store in Osaka) and want to bring some knives back home as souvenirs. There's all kinds of reasons to give someone a present. And of course, it's always okay to get a present for youself too!

When it comes time to gift someone a knife, it is always a good idea to explain why as the symbolism behind them can be a little obscure at times.

Most importantly though, which knife should you give? With so many kinds, what expresses your gratitude the best? Let's dive into that.

What kind of knife should I give?

The list we've provided below isn't exhausting, and your needs may differ. It's okay to get knives that aren't in these lists as well! Ultimately, get what you think is best for the recipient, but if you're stuck or unsure what to choose we've got you covered below.

A knife for home use

If you want to give a kitchen knife to someone who perhaps isn't a knife enthusiast and just want to provide useful for their daily lives, a santoku is the perfect choice. Santoku knives are the most commonly used knife in the home, plus they're amazing to have as spare knives in case a main knife can't be used due to damage. It's very acceptable and normal to have several santoku whether as main knives or as spares. Often in a Japanese kitchen, it's the first knife someone buys.

Among those, stainless steel knives are the best choice we think because they are easy to handle and maintain.

In our stainless steel range, the SWORD-FV10 Santoku is highly rated by professional chefs, and is a knife designed to use for generations. It's also one of the most popular items people buy in store.

However, if you're going to give a knife to someone who is more particular and caring about their sharpening a carbon steel santoku would work best instead. Below we have two suggestions - one for stainless steel, and the other for carbon steel.

A knife for a cook or chef

If the recipient is a cook or chef, they're likely more familiar with knives. There are many chefs that love knives, so don't hold back when it comes to giving them a knife as a gift. It might be ideal to give them a knife that helps them aim towards and reach the chef they are trying to be. Or to express the wish on your side of what chef you want to see them aspire to become. You can always ask us if you're unsure which knife a particular chef might need, but we've written a few situations that are more common down below.

A knife for someone aspiring to be a chef of Japanese cuisine

For this, we have two different styles of knife we recommend. Both are for fish, but handle different purposes.

Yanagiba knife

Yanagiba knives are very special and important for Japanese cuisine practitioners. We generally recommend if you're going to give one of these to give one that is slightly more elaborate or higher in quality so that the recipient can aim higher in their culinary journey. These knives are ones they will use every day and ideally for a long time, so a knife that supports that vision is ideal.

Deba Knife

Handling and processing fish is a basic requirement for anyone cooking Japanese cuisine. Giving a deba can be a good reminder to aspiring or professional chefs to always remember and improve their fundamental skills. Additionally, a good deba knife makes their preparation work significantly easier to perform.

A knife for a cook or chef specialising in Western cuisine

We recommend a gyuto knife for this purpose. It's a knife that has a large variety of purposes so it suits well as a gift. Like a santoku, it's also very normal to have several of these, in this case also due to their varying lengths on top of their frequent use. If they have one of these already, consider a sujihiki slicing knife instead for something a little more specific that is great for carving or slicing up meats for serving.

Gifts for specific events

We have gift strategies and styles that we recommend for specific occasions as well. Some of these we have seperate blog entries about themselves to further inspire ideas. Many of these situations are about starting a new chapter in someone's life, as that is an important time for gift-giving in Japan.

Mother's Day/Father's Day

Normally a Mother's Day or Father's Day present is sweets or the like. How about a gift of a kitchen knife for the parents that cooked for you everyday?

Wedding Gift

Marraige can be one of the largest events in someone's life. The gift of a kitchen knife can not only be a great way to celebrate this new beginning, but be a lucky charm that opens up the future for the two of them.

Moving into a New Home

Moving means starting a new life, especially if it's a long distance such as overseas. It's always nice to refresh your equipment when moving into a new place, and a kitchen knife is a perfect item to help with this. This may also be a newly built house the person has bought - a possible once-in-a-lifetime moment for them, and a very momentous occasion.

Opening a Business/Storefront

Many people dream of owning their own business or shopfront. For example, a chef may aspire to open their own restaurant. Or even a food truck! Giving a slightly more elaborate knife to someone who's made this dream come true gives them a tool that will carry them through their culinary journey in their new business.

A gift box to match the knife itself

What's just as important as the knife itself is how it is given. Of course, we place all our knives in a nice cardboard box and gift wrap all items in our store on request, but sometimes people want a nicer box to fully complete the experience. For this, we recommend the traditional Paulownia box, which has become synonymous with high end Japanese-made knives and much like giving a knife as a gift harks back to ancient religious traditions. There's many benefits to using a Paulownia box apart from presentation, which we go into in our article dedicated to this ancient practice.

Saya are also a beautiful way to add to a knife's presentation and longevity. With saya, generally they are handmade so whenever possible buy them at the same time as your knife so you're fully aware that it fits correctly. Additionally, you can always get the knife engraved with a name too - something we do for free on all knives we sell. Some places will handle multiple languages. In our case, we can easily do English and Japanese, as well as other scripts on special request.

Additionally, you can see the other gifts we recommend here! As always, feel free to contact us if you have more questions about gift-giving in the world of kitchen knives.