A dull knife is like fool’s gold for a kitchen, whether it’s Japanese or western. It can cause trouble anytime. In that case, you must know how to sharpen a Japanese knife so that it stays razor-sharp all the time. 

To do so, get a coarse and finer grit stone, and ensure they’re wet and flat. Hold the knife’s handle, and keep sliding the blade across the stones until a burr appears. Then switch to the finer stone, and hone for 6 to 7 strokes keeping the bevel’s side by 3 degrees. Finally, wash and dry the knife.

Also, we’ll teach you how often to sharpen, what to keep in mind beforehand, and much more. Now let’s get started and sharpen your knife’s edge!

When to Sharpen the Knife? 

A Japanese knife that you previously owned must be sharpened as soon as possible. If it’s one of those elegant traditional ones, this will end up giving it the utmost strength.

Don’t postpone sharpening as it’s difficult to make a really dull knife sharp. If you want to know if it’s time to sharpen a Japanese knife, you can try a short test. Simply try slicing an A4 piece of paper.

A sharp knife will cut through the paper. On the other hand, if your blade can’t cut through it cleanly or crumbles, it’s dull and requires sharpening. 

What to Consider Before Sharpening A Japanese Knife?

Though many think that sharpening a knife is just moving blades on the stone, that’s not the case for a Japanese knife. Usuba, Deba, and Yanagiba are some of the typical Japanese knives that have only one sharp side instead of two like most knives. 

They also have a special line named Shinogi that helps them cut through food really easily. When you sharpen these knives, you need to be careful not to remove that special line. 

Plus, these knives have a curve named Urasuki on the other side that you must be aware of when sharpening them. You can watch the following video to know more about Urasuki and Uraoshi:

Japanese Single Bevel Knife Making

How to Sharpen A Japanese Knife

So, how do you sharpen a Japanese knife? 

Since there are two types of Japanese knives – single and double bevel, you’ll have to follow two different methods depending on which one you have. 

Let’s get into the methods.

How to Sharpen A Japanese Knife Single Bevel? 

Before we get into making your Japanese knife razor-sharp, remember that you only sharpen the bevel side of the blade for single-bevel knives.

  • Get a whetstone and dip it for 10 to 15 minutes in water.
  • Also, get an 8000 grit finer grit stone for finishing but don’t dip it instead splash water.
  • Lay a wet hand towel or rubber shelf liner below the whetstone to prevent slippage as you position it on a work surface or tabletop.
  • You also need to ensure that the sharpening stone is flat before beginning
  • Now comes the tricky part, Hold the knife’s handle with one hand and place the edge at a 10 to 15-degree angle against the stone. 
  • While placing light pressure, slide the blade all over the whetstone. You must maintain the angle until you see a visible burr along the blade.
  • After that, go to a finishing stone with finer grit to erase scratches from the coarse stone.
  • Raise the bevel’s side by 3 degrees and hone for six to seven strokes to fortify the edges.
  • Finally, use water to hand wash the knife and dry it with a clean cloth.

How to Sharpen A Japanese Double Bevel Knife? 

It’s a must for anyone to find out the angle of the blade edge and the bevel ratio of a Japanese knife prior to sharpening. Japanese double-edged kitchen knives such as the Santoku, Nakiri, and Gyuto may have a 70:30 or 50-50 V-shape bevel ratio.

  • Apply the same number of sweeps to both sides of the blade if your knife has a 50-50 V-shaped symmetry.
  • Again, if its bevel ratio is 70:30, you’ll apply 7 strokes at the front and 3 at the back so that the edge gets uniform. That’s because its front side is more pointy than the back.
  • Rarely, you may end up with a 90:10 bevel knife such as the Garsuki. In that case, you’ll need to sharpen 90% on the front as the backside edge is little on it.
  • The ideal range for placing the cutting edge is somewhere between 10 and 20-degrees. Remember, the angle of sharpening is key to getting proper sharpness.
  • You can easily get a roughly 12-degree angle by placing 2 pennies below the blade.
  • At the same time, put 3 pennies under the blade to roughly match the angle again for the rear of the knife.

If you’re unsure of your honing skill sets, the penny technique can allow you to maintain a constant sharpening angle.

What is the Most Common Knife-Sharpening Term? 

When we talk about sharpening knives – no matter whether it is a pocket knife or Japanese knife, there are some common terms that you must know. Some of the most important ones are —

  • Grit 

It refers to the small, abrasive particles that are used to sharpen a knife. The higher the grit, the smoother it is and the better it works for polishing an already sharp blade. 

But if your knife is really dull and needs more work, you’ll want to use a lower grit, like 120-grit.

  • Burr 

You can detect a thin wire-like ridge on the blade of a knife after sharpening it. It’s referred to as a burr! 

Sharpening is just the process of shifting the burr from one edge of the blade to the other. And use finer stones to polish the burr, resulting in a razor-sharp blade!

  • Bevel

It simply means the flat part of the blade that has been shaped to make the edge sharp.

  • Angle

It refers to how many degrees you adjust the knife when sharpening it. Knife sharpening is frequently done at 17°, 25°, 20°, and 30° angles.

FAQs About Sharpening A Japanese Knife

Which cutting board should I use to maintain the blade’s sharpness?

If you want to retain the blade’s sharpness, it’d be best to use a grained board made of Hinoki or Hiba wood.

Can I use an electric knife sharpener to sharpen a Japanese knife?

You can. However, it’s not recommended because an electric sharpener generates a lot of heat while sharpening. As a result, the fragile edge of a Japanese knife often gets chipped.

Are there any knife sharpening services?

There are several knife sharpening services where you can mail your knife, and it’ll get delivered after 2-3 days, all sharp-edged and honed. KnifeFlight and KnifeAid provide such services. 

Can I use stainless steel for honing Japanese knives?

Honing rods made of stainless steel vary in texture from extremely smooth to very rough, but most are too rough for Japanese blades. Although there are some smoother options with very fine teeth that are suitable for use, honing steels are rare and usually come with a high price tag. Always try to stay careful when you get into the sharpening process and don’t rush.


Always set the correct angle, use the proper grit, and must create a burr to achieve a sharp edge. And even if you lack the confidence of setting up the angle, the penny trick can back you up.

We believe that now you know all about how to sharpen a Japanese knife, and you’ll never have to struggle with a dull blade again! So, give it a try.


Oliver aka Arannyk Monon is a versatile content writer, editor, and content strategist. He has been writing for the last 10 years to help people get the actual information that they are searching for on Search Engines. He has proven expertise in Kitchen, automotive, camera, hosting, and other technical topics.

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