The Barebones Guide to Japanese Gardening Tools

Whether you’re purchasing your first gardening tools or hoping to downsize the contents of your garden shed, Japanese gardening tools are unmatched in terms of quality, ease of use, and durability. Japanese-style garden tools are often designed with one task in mind, meaning that each tool is custom-made to solve your garden problems or kitchen woes. They’re also crafted with an ergonomic, lightweight, and minimal design, allowing ease of use for the youngest and oldest among us.

History Of Japanese Garden Tools

Modern-day Japanese gardening tools are known to be reliable, long-lasting, and precisely crafted – and this stems directly from Japan’s dual history of peaceful agriculture and fierce warriors. For example, the mid-1500s saw the rise of the Ashiguru, a class of Japanese farmers conscripted for military service. These warriors were not paid but were permitted to confiscate any possessions and weapons from the people they conquered. This strategy backfired, creating a rise in armed mercenaries that threatened the feudal lords of that time.

To address this threat, Emperor Toyotomi Hideyoshi implemented a new rule called Katanagari, defined literally as “sword hunt”: this ruling confiscated weapons owned by the Ashiguru, permitting them to retain tools for gardening and agriculture. As Japanese culture continued to change over the centuries, the making of katanas was outlawed in 1876, forcing professional swordsmiths to diversify their skill sets and develop new blades and tools for peacetime work. Here, the Japanese tradition of excellent craftsmanship and efficiency was born.

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Japanese gardening tools are widely considered to be the favorite choice of gardeners worldwide - and the reasons why are clear: their designs have been perfected over centuries to provide the most ergonomic and efficient tools available, without sacrificing the quality of materials or precision of results. Plus, they’re sleek, minimal, and are often designed for one particular purpose – and execute that purpose with precision.

While Barebones offers a wide catalog of helpful tools for indoor and outdoor use, we’ve developed a few that are durable, high-quality, and directly inspired by the excellence of Japanese-style gardening. If you love the look and feel of Japanese-style gardening tools, we’ve assembled a list of some of our most popular Japanese-inspired items.

Artisan Shears

Barebones Artisan Shears are designed in the style of Japanese bonsai scissors: the wider, butterfly-shaped handles allow for easy maneuvering, and the steel blade is far shorter than typical scissors or shears. This design allows for delicate, precise trimming of greenery or shoots without having to wield a large blade. We offer two sizes, allowing you to select the shears that work best for your projects. Both designs are crafted in durable stainless steel, with an antique finish.

Ideal for use: Pruning hard-to-reach areas, trimming delicate vines or stalks.

Nata Tool

When a large blade is needed, the Nata tool operates similarly to a machete, providing an effective swinging weight that can tackle larger projects efficiently. Its slim profile allows it to be packed and carried without adding extra strain or bulk. The Nata tool is crafted from stainless steel, with a full tang and a sturdy hardwood handle so you can chop with ease.

Ideal for use: Bushwacking, chopping kindling for a bonfire, stripping bark.

Nata Hatchet

For an even sturdier and more compact take on the Nata tool, consider the Nata hatchet. This version is slightly heavier, and the blade angle is ideal for removing limbs and more stubborn pruning. The curved blade allows it to cut and scrape with extra efficiency, and its shorter length gives more leverage with a little extra power. This hatchet is crafted with full-tang stainless steel, allowing for frequent use without fear of the ax head detaching; its walnut handle is topped with a copper lanyard ring, making it easy to hang or store.

Ideal for use: Splitting firewood, shaving roasting or walking sticks, cutting bamboo.

Japanese Weeding Hoe

If your garden work consists of weeding, severing roots & stems, and pulling up stubborn ground cover, the Japanese weeding hoe will be your new best friend. It’s specifically designed for this kind of work, so its razor-sharp, angled blade easily slices through stems and rakes through the soil. The Japanese weeding hoe is considered one of the best Japanese gardening tools available, and will help you complete your outdoor projects for years to come: its heat-treated stainless steel blade and comfortable walnut handle guarantee longevity and efficiency.

Ideal for use: Removing stubborn ground cover (ivy, sedum, creeping Jenny), digging up deep-rooted weeds.

Garden Pruner

Trim, snip and prune with the Garden Pruner - a staple tool in nearly all gardening kits. Inspired by traditional Japanese design, its smooth operation, precise blades, and spring-loaded handles can adapt to a wide range of tasks. Plus, its small size and easy storage make it suitable for indoor trimming and gardening, too. Its sturdy steel construction and stylish copper accents make it visually pleasing as well as a workhorse in your garden - and for added storage and accessibility, add on a protective sheath as well.

Ideal for use: Pruning rose bushes, cutting flowers for a bouquet, winterizing tough plants and shrubs.

Hori Hori

Likely the most recognizable Japanese gardening tool, the Hori Hori is a Japanese digging knife. (Its name roughly translates to “dig dig”!) This tool is a hybrid of a spade and a knife, becoming the perfect tool for digging, scooping and planting. Barebones offers the Hori Hori in two styles, the Classic and the Ultimate, each perfectly suited for your outdoor (or indoor) planting and gardening tasks.

Ideal for use: Dive into its many fascinating uses in our full Hori Hori guide!

Nakiri Knife

While not exactly a garden tool, we couldn’t write about exceptional Japanese blades without mentioning the Nakiri knife. We consider it the other side of the coin when it comes to gardening tools: use the tools mentioned above to cultivate a prosperous vegetable garden, then use the Nakiri knife to prepare your bounty for dinnertime!

The Nakiri knife is reminiscent of a cleaver and chops quickly when the curved motion of a chef’s knife slows you down. When meal prepping or creating a dish that requires a lot of chopping, the Nakiri knife makes quick work of preparing dense vegetables like sweet potatoes, and shreds tall heads of lettuce and cabbage in a flash. This blade is as sturdy as it is efficient: it’s crafted with a chip-resistant, full-tang stainless steel blade and a durable Pakkawood handle that’s as visually pleasing as it is comfortable to grip. This blade comes with an authentic leather sheath to keep the blade razor-sharp.

Ideal for use: Thinly slice cucumbers, chop potatoes, or halve carrots. If it’s a vegetable, the Nakiri knife will handle it.

Brand Garden Tools gardening Harvest How-To nature-centered Planting product information Pruning

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