Seeing the swish of a chef's blade as it slices into a block of toro is part of a quality sushi meal - some may even class it 'sexy'. Unforgettably sharp hocho (Japanese for 'kitchen knives') have found their way into the hands of western chefs as well. It would not be difficult to find an elegant fugubiki slicer in an Italian kitchen here, making quick work of slicing tuna or sea bass for a carpaccio. Satoru Mukogawa, owner and chef of the popular Sushi Kuu in Central, allowed us behind the sushi bar for a closer look at what the professionals use. 'Traditionally, all Japanese knives are bevelled on just one side, except for the nakiri, which is used for vegetables,' says Mukogawa. 'For filleting fish, treating shellfish and cutting meat, we have a heftier, triangular knife called the deba, which comes in different sizes. For general cuts of sushi and sashimi, we use the yanagi [the slim, long knife most often seen behind the sushi counter], though for the tougher flesh of octopus we have the takobiki, and for thin, translucent cuts of white fish [such as blowfish] we use the fugubiki.' Sakai, in the Osaka region, was the sword-making capital of 14th-century Japan. Two hundred years later, it added high-quality cutlery to its repertoire. 'Knife and sword-making had a spiritual side,' says Mukogawa. 'Knifesmiths had to sit and meditate under waterfalls to purify their souls before beginning their work.' Mukogawa is descended from a samurai clan in Kobe (which is now known for its Yakuza and pampered cattle that yield high-quality beef). Although he studied sword-fighting in high school, using bamboo poles, Mukogawa is 'much more of a kick boxer'. So, what's the best option when buying knives for the home kitchen? 'Traditional knives are made with high-carbon steel, which is not stain- or rust-proof so you have to rinse and dry them constantly. It's really a pain. For the home, I'd suggest picking up a bannou, which we like to call the 'mama-san' knife.' The bannou (also known as santoku - 'three virtues' in Japanese) is Japan's answer to the western chef's knife, and is used for cutting meat, fish and vegetables. 'If you really want a whole set, Global Knives makes some models in the traditional style using stainless steel. The trade-off is that you won't get as sharp an edge.'