The 5 Best Japanese Whetstones and Buying Guide

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President Abraham Lincoln once said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” Japanese whetstones, called toishi (砥石), are highly regarded by both amateurs and professionals worldwide. Check out this guide to learn how to choose the best stone for you and how to care for it properly.

1. Best Overall Whetstone: King Hyper Standard Sharpening Stone #1000

King Hyper Standard Sharpening Stone #1000

Matsunaga Stone makes King whetstones in Osaka. If you want to buy just one stone, a medium grit is a smart choice as it is coarse enough to create a cutting edge but fine enough to leave the blade reasonably smooth.

Pros Vs. Cons


  • Doesn’t dent or wear down quickly
  • High polishing power and smooth sharpening action
  • Specifically designed to use with modern Japanese knives


  • Only provides a single grit
  • Requires a separate stand
  • Pricier than standard medium grit whetstones

Where to Buy

You can find this Japanese whetstone on Amazon here: Matsunaga Stone Co. King Hyper Standard Sharpening stone For Medium Finish # 1000 (Japan Import)

2. Best for Beginners: KING KW65 1000/6000 Grit Combination Whetstone

KING KW65 1000/6000 Grit Combination Whetstone with Plastic Base

Another from King, this double-sided whetstone is a highly recommended choice for beginners. It includes a plastic stand and can give your knives a very sharp edge.  

Pros Vs. Cons


  • Very affordable
  • Economical choice as it provides two grits in one 
  • Comes mounted on a plastic stand


  • Soft stone can dent easily 

Where to Buy

Find this whetstone on Amazon here: KING KW65 1000/6000 Grit Combination Whetstone with Plastic Base

3. For Touch Ups: Shapton #2000 Grit Ceramic Professional Series Water Stone

#2000 Grit Ceramic (Green) Professional Series Water Stone - Shapton

Another renowned brand, Shapton stones are made in Tochigi prefecture. A range of grits are available from the Kuromaku series, and this #2000 would be an excellent second choice for your collection.

Pros Vs. Cons


  • Harder than other brands and remain flat for longer
  • Only need to be soaked in water once after purchase
  • Plastic storage case that doubles up as a stand. 


  • Price
  • Only provides a single grit

Where to Buy

You can buy this whetstone here on Amazon: #2000 Grit Ceramic (Green) Professional Series Water Stone – Shapton

4. For Fanatics: Kitayama Fine Grain Sharpening Stone – #8000

Kitayama Fine Grain Sharpening Stone - #8000

Kitayama whetstones are made by Otani Toishi in Kyoto. This stone should be wetted generously and used lightly by pressing the blade in the resultant slurry. A nagura stone is also included, which can help you build up a slurry to help you sharpen your blade.  

This is a #8000 fine-grit stone. This is for putting an extra sharp edge on your knife. Your knife needs to be sharpened with lower grits first, before working your way up to a fine grit like this stone.  

Pros Vs. Cons


  • Harder stone provides long-lasting durability
  • Includes a wooden stand and nagura stone
  • Aesthetic design


  • Price
  • Only provides a single grit (fine grit)

Where to Buy

You can find this Kitayama sharpening stone on Amazon here: Kitayama Fine Grain Sharpening Stone – #8000

5. For Blunt Knives: Atoma Diamond Sharpener Coarse Grade #140

Atoma Diamond Sharpener Coarse Grade#140

Atoma diamond sharpening plates are made by Tsuboman in Hiroshima. A range of grits is available, with #140 the best for making light work of chipped or very dull blades. Never use dry, and wet the surface both before and during use.

Pros Vs. Cons


  • Replaceable plate
  • Remains flat, so it can double up as a flattening stone


  • Pricier than other rough whetstones

Where to Buy

Check out this course grade sharpener here on Amazon: Atoma Diamond Sharpener Coarse Grade#140

Why Buy a Japanese Whetstone?

A close-up of a man's hands holding a small knife over a wet whetstone. The man's fingernails are gray, probably due the slurry from sharpening the knife on the whetstone.

Here are some of the reasons why Japanese whetstones are some of the best in the world.

They’re Deeply Rooted in Tradition

Japanese whetstones have a long history and are deeply rooted in the tradition of a country renowned for the quality of its blades. The craftsmanship in mining, shaping, and finishing these stones has been passed down through generations, resulting in consistently high-quality products.

They’re a Cut Above the Rest

Japanese whetstones are known for their high particle density, allowing finer grit levels and an exceptionally sharp and polished edge.

They’re Green

Japanese whetstones use water as a lubricant, unlike other sharpening stones requiring oil or honing fluid. This makes the sharpening process cleaner, more environmentally friendly, and prevents the blade from overheating.

They Are Long-Lasting

With proper care and maintenance, Japanese whetstones can last for a long time. They are designed to withstand regular use and retain their sharpening properties, making them a worthwhile investment.

Types of Whetstones

Whetstones come in a range of grits, like sandpaper. A lower number means a lower particle density and a rougher surface. If you will be doing a lot of sharpening, the principle is that you should have three stones: one for grinding, one for sharpening, and one for honing. 

Natural Vs. Synthetic

All the whetstones listed above are synthetic, which is the more popular choice nowadays due to their consistency, durability, and cost. If you want a more traditional experience, natural stones are available on online auctions and specialist shops, and this video is an excellent help in getting started:

Introduction to Japanese Natural Stones!

How to Choose a Japanese Whetstone

What Are You Sharpening?

The grit of stone you need will depend on if you have a blunt old knife or just looking to touch up a newly purchased Japanese knife. The table below will give you an idea of the grits you need in different scenarios. 

(for grinding off a nicked edge or re-shaping)
(for general sharpening or pre-final sharpening)
(for final sharpening)
Planes60 to 180600 to 1500  3000 to 8000
Chisel80 to 220  60 to 1500  3000 to 6000  
Stainless-steel knives120 to 240  500 to 1500  –  
Wrought knives60 to 180  600 to 1500  Over 3000

What’s Your Budget?

While price shouldn’t be the sole determining factor, balancing quality and affordability is important. If you’re just starting out, get a double-sided whetstone within the grit range you need.

What Size?

Choosing the right-sized whetstone is crucial for effective and safe sharpening. A small whetstone is fine for chisels but won’t work well with larger knives, making the process frustrating and unsafe. For kitchen knives, opt for a whetstone around 6 to 8 inches long, ensuring adequate coverage for the entire blade. 

Check out this comprehensive video for some great advice on buying a Japanese whetstone:

The Best Guide to Japanese Whetstones -Watch before you buy one

Using and Caring for a Japanese Whetstone  

This is the range of whetstones I use to sharpen my chisels, but please look after yours better than me!

General Rules

  • After using a stone, wash any dirt off with a brush or sponge.
  • Do not soak finishing stones (#3000 and above) to avoid cracking.
  • Returning a wet or damp stone to its box can lead to mold growth and a decrease in quality.
  • If you have a double-sided stone, only soak the medium stone side (#1000) to prevent splitting.

Honing Guides

A honing guide is a great help when sharpening, especially supporting beginners in getting a clean, straight bevel. 

This one from Naniwa clips onto the spine of the knife and will make sharpening a lot easier.


If your whetstone doesn’t come with a plastic stand, rubber holders are available, such as this sharpening stone holder from Naniwa.

You can also find stainless steel sink bridges with soft rubber pads to keep your stones stable and your workspace clean with running water.  

Flattening Stones

Whetstones should be flattened (or trued) regularly, as only a flat surface will give you a completely sharpened blade. After wetting the surface, just move the diamond block across the surface of the whetstone using circular or back-and-forth motions.

Nagura Stones

A ceramic nagura stone helps remove debris and unclog the pores that can accumulate during sharpening. Just soak the stone, wet your whetstone, and work the nagura stone all over the whetstone. 

You can also use a rust eraser in the same way. These rust erasers from Kuniyoshi are very affordable and can also be used to remove rust knives or chisels.

Photo of author

Mari Nelson

Mari was born and raised in England to a Japanese mum and English dad. She moved to Tokyo in 2017, only intended to stay for a year but has since settled down in Kyoto. Whilst in Japan, she has worked at a gin distillery, in a pottery studio, and as a carpenter. She enjoys making furniture, climbing mountains, and running.

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