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Japanese Garden Tools Vs. American: What’s the Difference?

Japanese Garden Tools Vs. American: What’s the Difference?

Japanese Garden Tools Vs. American: What’s the Difference?

You may have seen Japanese gardening tools popping up more in stores and online. Sure, they’re gorgeous, but do they do a better job than your standard garden tools? That all depends on what you need them for — are you lopping off high branches, or doing detailed pruning? Are you looking for a couple of well-made tools that can do multiple jobs, ultimately saving space in your tool shed or garage? Japanese tools tend to be lighter and smaller, with wooden handles; your more familiar garden tools are often heavier and shinier. But how do they perform? Let’s compare.

Hand Trowels

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Western-Style Hand Forged Trowel

Hand Forged Trowel

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Hori-Hori Knife

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For small-scale digging and planting, either a western-style trowel or a Japanese hori-hori knife will fit the bill. However, a hori-hori knife also has a serrated blade on one side, allowing you to saw through stubborn tree roots to make room for bulbs, to divide perennials, or to do a little light pruning while you’re in the dirt.

Hedge Shears

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Western-Style Hedge Shears

Super-Tough Hedge Shear

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Japanese-Style Folding Pruning Saw

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Here the comparison between western-style and Japanese-style tools is fairly direct — both will generally do a good job of shaping softer hedges like boxwood and yew. However, Japanese tools tend to be lighter weight with wooden handles, which makes them easier to use for longer periods of time.

Pruning Saws

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Western-Style Pruning Saw

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Japanese Branch Saw

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Japanese branch saws tend to have more flexible blades for pruning softwood branches — especially evergreens that are maintained with bonsai techniques. Your standard branch pruning saws are more rigid, making them better suited to cutting through thick hardwood branches — but they can be heavy and take up a lot of space.

Standard Hoe Vs. Ika Hoe

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Western-Style Hoe

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Ika Style Hoe

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Rust Proof Double Sided Cultivator Tool

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Both a western-style hoe and ika (cuttlefish) hoe will make short work of weeds, cut planting furrows with ease, and turn soil. However, the ika hoe has an additional fork edge on one side of the blade, and is smaller and lighter-weight than a regular hoe. For finer soils and shorter gardeners, an ika hoe will feel like butter — but the head can slip off if you try to work too hard with it, requiring a bit more maintenance (like nailing it in place). For sturdier soils and jobs that require a bit more brute strength, a good fiberglass-handle standard hoe might be more suitable.  

Written by Garrett Wade

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