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Mastering the Art of Sharpening the Best Japanese Kitchen Knives

By Avi Green July 03, 2023

Mastering the Art of Sharpening the Best Japanese Kitchen Knives

The heart of a kitchen lies in its knives - the precision of their edges, the harmony they bring to culinary arts. Among all knives globally, Japanese kitchen knives have etched a special niche for themselves. Their sheer design brilliance, remarkable durability, and laser-sharp edges make them an invaluable asset for any kitchen hobbyist. Today, we'll delve into the art of maintaining and sharpening these best kitchen knives Japanese style.

Understanding the Craftsmanship of Japanese Kitchen Knives

Before we understand how to sharpen these fine blades, it is crucial to appreciate the craftsmanship that brings them to life. Japanese kitchen knives, especially the sought-after Damascus kitchen knives, are born from centuries-old traditions. Layer upon layer of top-notch steel folded together creates a beautifully patterned blade that is as sharp as it is resilient. These knives aren't just kitchen utensils; they're works of art, with each knife reflecting the spirit of the artisan who forged it.

The Right Tools for the Job

To sharpen these remarkable kitchen warriors, you will need a few specific tools. Traditional Japanese knife sharpening involves a water stone or whetstone, a nagura stone for creating a sharpening paste, and a knife guide if you're a beginner. You can find a high-quality sharpening set at most kitchen supply stores or even at

How to Sharpen Your Knife: A Step-by-Step Guide

Step 1: Soaking the Stones

Submerge your whetstone and nagura stone in water for about 15 minutes, or until bubbles stop rising to the surface. This process ensures the stones absorb enough water to create a thin, protective layer during the sharpening process, which helps prevent damaging your knives.

Step 2: Setting Up Your Workspace

Place the whetstone on a stable surface or a silicone base for added stability. The coarse side should be facing up for the initial sharpening stage.

Step 3: Sharpening the Blade

Now comes the artistry. Hold your knife at an angle of about 15 degrees against the stone. Starting from the base of the blade, slowly draw it across the stone in a smooth arc, applying consistent pressure. Repeat this motion about 10-12 times. Renowned Japanese knife maker, Masaaki Saito, advises, "Remember to keep your motions fluid. Imagine you're trying to slice a thin layer off the stone."

Step 4: Honing the Edge

Once you've sharpened one side, flip the knife and repeat the process. Afterwards, flip your whetstone to the finer side. Repeat the sharpening process on both sides of the blade. This step hones the edge, refining and smoothing any imperfections from the initial sharpening.

Step 5: Creating and Applying the Sharpening Paste

Using your nagura stone, rub it against the fine side of the whetstone to create a white, milky paste. This paste, or togidoro, helps polish the knife edge for a razor-sharp finish. Apply it to both sides of the blade, again maintaining the 15-degree angle.

Step 6: Finishing Up

Finally, rinse the blade under running water to remove any remaining togidoro and pat it dry. Always remember to dry your knives thoroughly to prevent rust.

From Dull to Dynamic: The Impact of a Sharp Knife

With a well-sharpened Japanese knife, the kitchen becomes a playground. The enhanced precision makes a world of difference, whether you're thinly slicing sashimi or dicing vegetables. More than that, it brings you closer to the age-old traditions that saw the birth of these masterpieces. As you slice, dice, and chop with ease, you carry forth the legacy of the expert Japanese craftsmen who once forged your blade.

Closing Thoughts

Sharpening your best kitchen knives Japanese style might seem like a complex task, but with patience and practice, it becomes an enriching routine. It not only maintains the functionality and longevity of your knives but also keeps you connected to an age-old tradition that values precision, artistry, and respect for the tools we use. Remember, a well-sharpened knife is the heart of a well-loved kitchen. Keep it sharp, keep it lively!

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