I love working with Japanese kitchen knives. I've visited Japanese blacksmiths before and have written about them (see this post), and own several blades. Right now I'm in Tokyo for a few months apprenticing at several restaurants (more on that soon), and cutting every day for hours. Chefs here have been graciously instructing me on my technique, plus I just picked up an excellent new book on the subject called, conveniently, Japanese Kitchen Knives, which I highly recommend.
Hand-in-hand with cutting, of course, is sharpening. Learning how to shape my blades has been an ongoing education. I was extremely fortunate to recently meet Mr. Souichi Ishikawa, pictured above, of the famed Sugimoto knife company at Tokyo's Tsukiji central fish market. Ishikawa-san took the time to teach me a few things about shaping knives, especially gyuto, or double-sided Western-style kitchen knives.
Check out the video below of Ishikawa-san sharpening my gyuto. Notice how smooth his strokes are, how the blade is held at an angle about two coins high off the stone (a good measure), and how he works up and down the blade on both sides. I find shaping a gyuto tougher than shaping traditional single-blade Japanese knives (like a fish slicing yanagi), so his instruction was super helpful. I hope it helps you, too. Please stop by to say hello and talk knives with Ishikawa-san when you visit the Tsukiji market, he speaks both English and Japanese. Thank you, Ishikawa-san!