If you’ve ever been to a Japanese garden, you know what tranquil and unique places they are. And if you’ve never been, you are missing out. These gardens use water, rocks, stones, flowers, trees, bushes and other decorative features to create an environment that is sure to restore your inner peace. You can channel these qualities in your own garden, too– all it takes are a few Japanese garden tools and a mindful design.
If you are trying to replicate a Japanese garden in your own backyard, take care to avoid symmetry and to make use of the natural landscape around you. In most backyards, space is limited, but don’t let this discourage you. Often, Japanese gardens make use of what is known as shakkei. In other words, they highlight the beauty around the garden as well as within. Nearby trees, mountains, streams, and other natural features that may be visible from your yard can all add to your garden space.
I love to go to my quiet outdoor space, to relax after a time spent on the more rigorous jobs in the productive areas of the garden. That is not to say that you can’t incorporate fruiting bushes or herbs into your relaxing zone. I particularly enjoy the intricate work of growing and training bonsai trees. It is a great form of meditation.
Must-have Japanese Garden Tools
When it comes to building and maintaining your garden, there are several Japanese garden tools that may be helpful.
Bushes and trees are prominent features of any Japanese garden, but they must be well-maintained. An overgrown bush isn’t going to have the same effect as one that is neat and manicured. For this, you will want a high-quality pruning saw.
Pruning saws can be used to saw off undesirable branches. For best results, you may want to saw off limbs in pieces, rather than all at once. Simply put the blade of the saw up to the branch and begin moving the saw back and forth with deliberate, steady motions. If you are using a high-quality, sharp pruning saw, it should quickly begin to make its way through the wood.
Best pruning saw: Kakuri Japanese Pruning Saw. This saw from Kakuri can easily fold up for convenient portability and storage. It is designed to cut through branches with minimal effort on the user’s part and the blade can be replaced in the event that it breaks over time.
When doing delicate work on smaller branches, bonsai scissors can be invaluable. This is true even if you are simply trying to prune a bush or tree rather than bonsai it. Bonsai scissors are extra sharp and designed to easily cut through thinner branches without damaging the surrounding wood.
Best bonsai scissors: Viseman Bonsai Pruning Scissors. This pair of bonsai scissors from Viseman is extremely lightweight due to its carbon steel construction. The large, loop-shaped handles are ergonomic and allow the user greater control when performing precise cuts. The included leather sheath helps protect you while carrying your scissors around the garden.
After each use, it is recommended to use a cloth to remove any moisture from the blade and apply a dab of anti-rust oil. This will help prolong the life of your scissors.
You may have noticed that the hedges in Japanese gardens tend to be gently sloped with rounded edges. To do this, you need a special kind of tool that won’t just lop branches off in jagged, straight lines. It is also helpful to have a tool with a long handle, both to help you reach higher branches and to give you more leverage when cutting. For that, there are Japanese hedge shears.
Best hedge shears: Kakuri Japanese Hedge Shears. Kakuri’s Japanese hedge shears use high-quality Yasuki steel to create a blade that is sharp, durable, and effective. It is easy to sharpen and, if properly cared for, will last for years. Kakuri recommends storing the tool in a dry place away from any moisture that could cause rust and wiping the blade down with blade oil after each use. The blade can easily be sharpened with any standard sharpener.
Claw rakes are highly useful tools for any garden. They are smaller rakes that can be used to loosen up the soil, remove weeds, and mix up fertilizers into your dirt. While a standard rake can serve the same purpose, it is not always practical to use a full-sized rake in a small garden space, especially once your seeds are planted. Claw rakes are designed for precise work.
Best claw rake: Toypopor Japanese Ninja Claw Rake. This Ninja Claw Rake from Toypopor features an ergonomic wooden handle that allows for easy gripping and provides power as you are raking through the dirt. The ninja claw is made from military-grade steel and has no problem penetrating even the densest of soils. It is lightweight and rust-resistant, and the hole in the handle makes for easy hanging storage.
Japanese gardens are planted and designed with intention. If there’s one thing you don’t want destroying your landscape, it’s weeds. Hand pulling all the weeds is one option, but this is often time-intensive and downright tedious. A tool such as a hoe can make it that much easier.
In addition to slicing up the soil to pull weeds, a Japanese garden hoe can also help with breaking up soil prior to planting seeds or plants. It is a multi-functional tool that is good to have in any garden.
Best weeding hoe: BlueArrowExpress Kana Hand Hoe. The Kana Hoe is a hand hoe that is made from lightweight carbon and features a razor-sharp blade. It features a durable wooden handle and a sleeve to protect the blade (and you) while the tool is not in use. This model from BlueArrowExpress is made in Japan and it is built to last.
Soil sieves can be useful in a variety of different situations. You can use them to sift out unwanted rocks and debris from your garden’s soil, to remove particles from compost, and separating seeds. The concept is relatively simple, too. You place your soil on a mesh screen and shake the device. The soil will fall through the mesh while debris and rocks will be caught on top, where they can easily be discarded.
Best soil sieve: Hanafubuki Wazakura Soil Sieve Set. If you wish to add a soil sieve to your tool arsenal, this model from Hanafubuki is a great place to start. It is made in Japan and features three different mesh sizes. Being of a smaller size, this particular set is best suited towards sifting through smaller areas of soil as opposed to an entire garden.
One of the most versatile and useful Japanese gardening tools is the Hori Hori. This is essentially a very sharp gardening knife that can be used to slice through soil. It can loosen dirt up for planting, dig up weeds, assist during harvesting, and cut through small branches. Some gardeners say this is really the only tool you need.
Best garden knife: Nisaku Hori Hori Weeding & Digging Knife. One high-quality option for a Hori Hori knife is from Nisaku. Their knife is made from Japanese stainless steel and features measurements right on the blade, so you can easily tell how far you are digging into the soil. The blade is 7.25 inches long and has a straight-edge side as well as a serrated edge. A protective sheath is included. This can be fastened to your belt, to help keep this tool handy as you work in your garden.
Sometimes used alongside weeding hoes, a weeding sickle is designed to easily cut through dirt and roots to provide better access to a weed’s root system. By pulling weeds out from their roots you can help prevent them from growing back as quickly. An exercise that reduces the amount of work you have to put into garden maintenance.
Best weeding sickle: Joshua Roth Nejiri Weeding Sickle. One great option for weeding sickles is this Japanese Nejiri Sickle from Joshua Roth. It is made from carbon steel and features a long wooden handle for added leverage. The blade is extremely sharp, although it’s worth noting that you will need to sharpen it periodically in order to maintain its effectiveness.
Japanese gardens are known for their beauty and tranquility. If you wish to incorporate elements of a Japanese garden into your own backyard, the right tools can make things that much easier.