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In Summary: In this article, I took a look at the ten best Japanese Hori Hori Gardening knives and decided that the Truly Garden Hori Hori was the best out there. I chose this knife because:
- The blade extends all the way into the handle, offering a full tang.
- A guard protects the hands from contacting the blade.
- The knife has all of the standard features, without many of the drawbacks.
If you are looking for something a bit closer to the classic Japanese design, however, the Nisaku Japanese Hori Hori offers you a great option. Although this lacks both a guard and a full tang, this offers a high-quality alternative for the history-loving gardener.
Also, if you think that the Truly Garden’s handle is a bit too Spartan in design, the Greentisory and Lausihay Hori Hori knives are also great options.
The Japanese Hori Hori Knife
The History of the Hori Hori
The Hori Hori originates in feudal Japan, emerging sometime in the 16th century. As you may have noticed, this gardening tool looks an awful lot like a weapon. A common theory of the weapon’s origin has to do with a feudal lord or daimyō by the name of Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Hideyoshi established a law that forbade peasants from becoming warriors or bearing arms, restricting the possession of weaponry to the samurai class, a policy that ensured the reign of Japan’s rigid class structure until the 19th century.
Many speculate that the Hori Hori, rather than being a sword turned into a plowshare, was, in fact, the opposite. The Hori Hori disguised a weapon as a farming instrument, making it possible for peasants to hide their weaponry in plain sight from their samurai overseers. The Hori Hori is slightly smaller than a Japanese short sword or wakizashi, making it ideal for both gardening or staging insurrections.
The Hori Hori and its uses
If you are reading this article, however, I take it you are looking to use your knife for overturning weeds, rather than feudal warlords, so let’s focus on some more contemporary ways you can use a Hori Hori.
The main draw of the Hori Hori is for gardeners. In essence, the tool combines the components of a knife and a small shovel, giving you a knife you can use for digging. This means that it can also serve a number of other functions. Besides gardening, many people use the Hori Hori for metal detecting, using the sharp blade to quickly dig into the sand. Others use it for fishing or hunting. It also is useful for scientists or naturalists looking to collect dirt, mineral, or herb samples from the field, making it an essential part of the botanist’s toolkit.
The “Swiss Army Knife” of Gardening
The best thing about this Japanese knife is the combination of features and functions. You can use the Hori Hori for digging holes. The inside of the blade has measurements to help you precisely measure how deep to plant your seeds. The sharp edge can be used to cut weeds or roots, but also to hack at something like a machete or hatchet. Moreover, the sharp point and curved blade is ideal for uprooting plants precisely. The Hori Hori does all of the functions of your other gardening tools, and more.
Here’s a great video demonstrating the versatility of this Japanese all-purpose tool:
The Features You Should Look for in a Hori Hori
Now that we have learned about some of the functions and uses of a Hori Hori, let’s look at some of the essential features you should consider when weighing the various options out there.
The Length and Size of Your Knife
The standard size for a Japanese Hori Hori knife is twelve inches. Anything past twelve inches, as far as the samurai lords were concerned, is a short sword. Although the sizes of different Hori Hori models vary, most Hori Hori Gardening Knives remain twelve inches, or at least very close to twelve inches. Likewise, most Hori Hori blades have a length of seven inches, although several run on the shorter side.
The Blade of Your Hori Hori
When you are shopping for this classic Japanese farmer’s “tool,” I would highly recommend buying a Hori Hori with a stainless steel blade. You will be working in the garden, digging in wet soil, and you don’t want your blade to rust.
Make sure that your Hori Hori has two different edges: a sharp edge for slicing and a serrated edge for sawing. You will need the sharp edge for getting smoothly into the dirt, for slicing weeds, or even for hacking at weeds or roots. That’s right, this Japanese multipurpose tool can also function in a pinch as a hatchet!
The blade should have both a sharp edge and a sharp point for puncturing the dirt. You will also want to make sure that the blade curves into a concave shape, as this will help you when digging into the soil.
Finding the Right Handle for Your Hori Hori
Most of the Hori Hori knifes we will be looking at in this article have a fairly standard blade design, only offering slight variations here and there when it comes to size or serration. The handles, on the other hand, are where most of these blades differ.
The “tang” of a knife refers to how far the steel portion of the blade goes into the handle. Some Hori Horis offer “full tangs,” which means that the blade goes into the entire handle, while others lack this feature, meaning the blade stops at a certain point in the handle. A full tang means that the knife can withstand more pressure, while with a half tang a certain amount of pressure may cause the knife to bend against the weight of the handle and snap. You should decide between a full and a half tang based upon your particular needs. Consider, for example, the type of soil you will be working in. Is the soil rocky and filled with clay, or smooth as butter?
Another thing to consider is whether you want a guard or not. Guards rest between the blade and the handle, protecting your hand from contacting the blade. Typically, longer guards were used for swords carried without a shield, giving soldiers something to keep their enemy’s blade from contacting their hand. The Greeks and Romans, by contrast, did not use guards, since they fought with shields, but made the handle of their swords significantly smaller to prevent their hands from contacting the blade. As for Japanese swords, these designs largely varied.
For gardening purposes, however, this just depends on whether the tasks you will be doing will make you lose your grip on your Hori Hori. You should also factor the sharpness of your Hori Hori blade, as a duller Hori Hori focused on digging will be less of a threat to your fingers.
You should also consider how you want to store your Hori Hori. Will you be keeping it in your gardening box, or hanging it up on your pegboard. If the latter, you might want to make sure that the handle has a hole drilled into it.
My Top Ten Picks for Japanese Hori Hori Knives
Now that we have looked at some of the most important features, I would like to share with you my top ten picks for Japanese Hori Hori knives.
1. The Truly Garden
The Truly Garden Hori Hori offers you an elegant blade, equipped with a guard to protect your hands and packaged alongside a leather-like sheath for carrying your Hori Hori with style. As a bonus, Truly Garden has included a diamond sharpening rod with the knife, a rod that will not only keep your Hori Hori sharp, but can be used in the kitchen to sharpen your other knives as well. The leather case for this Hori Hori is especially appealing for gardeners who might need to carry their Hori Hori on the go. The blade also extends all the way to the end of the handle, giving you the security and cutting power you need. If you are a landscaper, backpacker, or camper and need to be carrying a Hori Hori with you, Truly Garden lets you carry your Hori Hori in style.
The knife is well-designed, offering a concave blade perfect for digging, measurements marking the sides, and has both a sharp and serrated blade. The blade boasts seven inches of stainless steel, attaching to the wooden handle by three rivets. The blade extends all the way into the handle, giving you a full tang to prevent the knife from breaking. The handle includes a guard, which may help protect your hand against the blade. The handle also has a hole, perfect for hanging this blade up in your garage. The package includes an insert explaining the origin of the Hori Hori, its proper care and usage, and the five-year warranty. Now let’s turn to some of the pros and cons:
What I Liked:
- The blade extends to end of handle, providing a full tang for extra durability.
- The handle includes a guard to protect the holder’s hands from contacting the blade.
- The handle has a hole, which is helpful for hanging the knife up on a nail in the garage.
- The Hori Hori comes with a knife sharpener that’s easy to carry and can serve multiple functions.
- The sheath is more aesthetically pleasing.
- The Hori Hori includes a four-year warranty.
What I Didn’t Like:
- The sheath is actually made of leather-like material, not genuine leather.
2. Nisaku Japanese Hori Hori
The Nisaku, like the original Hori Hori, comes straight from Japan. If you are looking for the quintessential model of this classic Japanese knife, you might consider purchasing your Hori Hori straight from the source. While I imagine you won’t be using this knife to stage a peasant’s revolt against your Samurai lords, this Hori Hori’s sharp blade will definitely give the weeds, roots, and buried rocks in your garden reason to worry.
The Nisaku Hori Hori has a durable stainless steel blade. This blade is sharp on one side and serrated on the other, helping you slice or saw, depending on the size of the roots. The blade is adorned with inch and millimeter measurements, helping you plant your seeds, bulbs, or plants at the right depth. The knife has a length of thirteen inches, about an inch longer than standard. The blade is concave, making it an ideal digging tool. Two heavy bolts keep the blade in place. The blade doesn’t go all the way into the handle but ends below the screws. At first, I worried that this would make the blade too flimsy, but I have heard no reports of anyone having their blade break or become detached. The blade comes with a sheath, which is ideal for carrying your Hori Hori while backpacking, hiking, or landscaping. The knife also has a hole drilled into the handle, letting you hang it up on your pegboard in your garage.
Now that I have given you an overview of this knife, let’s look at some of the pros and cons.
What I Liked:
- This Hori Hori has an extra inch for extra gardening power, giving me the leverage I need to pull out weeds.
- The knife is made in Japan, just like the original Hori Hori.
- The handle includes a hole, making it easy to hang up on the pegboard.
- Nisaku includes a sheath with the Hori Hori, making it easy for me to carry the knife on the go.
What I Disliked
- The blade doesn’t extend to end of the handle, making it potentially weak.
- The sheath is made of vinyl, not leather, making it less durable.
- The handle lacks a guard to protect your hand from the blade.
- The blade isn’t as sharp as other models, making it less of a knife and more of a handle shovel.
- Some models lack a serrated edge.
3. Greentisory Hori Hori Knife with Leather Sheath
The Greentisory Hori Hori is a great all-around option for your gardening needs, as well as a great option to take with you on a hike, a botanical expedition, or to carry while landscaping. This 13″ knife boasts a thick blade, meaning it will be durable enough to resist any rocks or hard roots you might encounter without breaking. The seven-inch blade is ideal for weeding, digging, and even for cutting or pruning plants. The blade has a full tang, giving you the extra durability you need for digging. It also is marked with measurements to let you know how far your blade is going. Three durable rivets fasten this blade into the knife’s handle. This model lacks a handguard, meaning that your hand won’t be protected from contacting the blade, but this blade is also significantly duller than other models, letting you focus on digging holes without getting hurt. If you need a sharper blade, however, you might consider another option. The blade is sharp on one side and serrated on the other, although the serrations are somewhat thinner than other models. This gardening knife comes with a leather-like sheath, letting you carry your Hori Hori with style.
Here are some of my thoughts on the Greentisory Hori Hori Gardening Knife:
What I Liked:
- This knife has the classic Hori Hori look with a beautifully finished handle.
- The leather-like sheath is great for carrying around the yard, and is especially useful for landscaping or exploring.
- The thick blade boasts strong durability and guarantees that the knife will last a long time.
- The full tang adds extra strength and durability, and the three rivets keep it securely fashioned in place.
What I Disliked
- Personally, I found the serrated edge of this knife to be a bit too flimsy for the job. For the “Swiss Army Knife” of gardening tools, I want to make sure that my knife can perform all of its basic functions, including sawing through thick roots and branches.
- Like many of these knives, the sheath is leather in appearance only.
- This knife may be too dull for some purposes.
4. Lausihay 12″ Hori Hori Garden Knife
If you are a frequent camper, backpacker, or landscaper, you might prefer to carry your Hori Hori with a bit more style. If that’s the case, you might like to carry your Hori Hori at your side in a genuine leather sheath. The Lausihay Hori Hori offers you a 12 inch Hori Hori, featuring a seven-inch blade equipped with both a serrated edge and a sharp side for cutting. The design is aesthetically pleasing and it performs the basic functions of a Hori Hori knife well. Three fasteners attach the knife blade to the handle, and the full tang gives you the extra durability you need. A metal protective handguard protects your fingers from contacting the blade. The blade, however, is flatter than most models, making it less than ideal for digging or scooping.
Now that we have looked over Lausihay’s answer to this classic Japanese gardening instrument, here are some of my thoughts on the product:
What I Liked:
- The rosewood handle is especially beautiful, making this knife a great aesthetic choice.
- This model, unlike many others, actually has a genuine leather case.
- The Hori Hori includes a guard to prevent your hand from contacting the blade, especially useful if you keep your Hori Hori sharp.
What I Disliked
- The biggest problem with this Hori Hori, in my view, is that it lacks the curvature of most Hori Hori blades. This can make it less ideal for digging and gardening, specifically because the blade isn’t as effective at scooping up dirt.
- Some users report quality control problems with the production of the handles. Unfortunately, many manufacturers outsource production to several manufacturers, meaning you will sometimes receive a defective product.
5. LifeWell Hori-Hori Garden Knife
The LifeWell Hori Hori gives you the classic Hori Hori look with a beautiful rosewood handle. It boasts a strong stainless steel blade, which has both a serrated and sharp edge. The blade, like most Hori Horis, includes depth markings in inches and meters. This blade is slightly shorter than other knives at six and three-quarters inches long. For me, the best thing about this knife is its durability. The blade is thick, unlike many other models, which means it will give you more leverage when digging, and it attaches into the handle with a full tang, fastened into place by three rivets.
This knife lacks a guard on the handle, which means you might be at risk for losing your grip and contacting the blade with your hand. On top of this, the blade of this Hori Hori is quite sharp, which means that contacting the blade could pose a greater risk. Of course, if you have a secure grip or wear gloves, this should be a non-issue, so you should decide for yourself whether you would feel more comfortable with or without a guard. The knife includes a cheap nylon strap, so if you are looking for a fancy leather case, you might consider other options.
Now that we have looked the LifeWell Hori Hori over, here are my final thoughts on this model:
What I Liked:
- The full tang and thick stainless steel make this knife a durable option because your blade won’t break if you hit a rock or hard root while digging.
- I love the beautiful design of the rosewood handle; I just wish they would add a leather case to match!
What I Disliked
- The combination of a sharp blade without a guard on the handle may pose a danger in some situations.
- I dislike the nylon case and wish the company would have included a leather or leather-like case to match the rosewood design.
6. Attican Black Iron Hori Hori Japanese Gardening Knife
The Attican Black Iron comes with a solid, sharp, and sturdy stainless steel blade that’s ideal for digging in your garden, cutting roots, or pruning plants. Like other models, it includes the measurements on the inside of the blade, telling you how far you are digging. The blade is about seven inches while the knife itself is just over twelve, giving you the standard size for a Hori Hori knife.
Like some of the other models we have looked at, this Hori Hori knife lacks the guard on the handle, so your hand is somewhat less protected. Moreover, the blade of this knife is actually quite sharp, so if you aren’t confident that you won’t be cutting your fingers, you might want a knife that offers a bit more hand protection. All and all, this offers a perfectly reasonable option for a Hori Hori knife, giving you the classic design, essential features, and a beautiful leather case to carry it in.
What I Liked:
- This knife is sharp, which makes it useful for cutting roots while weeding or preparing a flowerbed.
- The leather case is higher quality than the nylon alternatives.
- The knife has the classic look and feel of a Japanese Hori Hori.
What I Disliked
- The blade lacks a full tang, which makes it less strong and durable.
- The knife is sharp, but lacks a guard. If users aren’t careful, this can be a recipe for disaster.
7. Ceilcera Hori Hori Gardening Knife
The Ceilcera has a seven-inch stainless steel blade. The entire knife measures at twelve inches: the standard size for a Japanese Hori Hori blade. This blade has both a sharp and serrated edge, is curved, and is marked on the interior to let you know how deep you are digging. The handle has a full tang, which means that the blade continues until the end of the handle, and is secured to the handle with three rivets. The handle also has a hole in the top, making it easy to hang this knife on your pegboard in the garage or workshop. This Hori Hori also includes one of the better leather cases, beautifully designed so that you can wear your knife with style. However, these leather cases tend to run on the short side, and can sometimes be too small for your knife.
Although on the surface the Ceilcera seems to have a sturdy design, the blade seems thinner than other models, and although I have not experienced this problem myself, I have heard some people complain about their Ceilcera blade snapping under pressure. If you need a heavy duty knife for landscaping or gardening in rather rough terrain (especially places with large deposits of clay), you might consider investing in a stronger Hori Hori.
Here are my final thoughts on the Ceilcera:
What I Liked:
- It’s beautifully designed, offering all of the features you would expect of a Hori Hori.
- The Ceilcera includes a guard, preventing your hand from slipping and contacting the blade.
- The full tang prevents the blade from bending, giving you the kind of leverage you need to lift anything.
What I Disliked
- The blade may be too thin, or the steel too structurally weak, to support a great deal of weight without snapping.
8. ML Tools Hori-Hori Garden Digging Knife
The ML Tools Hori Hori differs from most of the models we have seen. For one thing, it looks much less like a knife and much more like a garden tool. If you are worried about looking like you are carrying a large hunting knife in your suburban neighborhood, the innocent appearance of the ML Tools Hori-Hori Garden Digging Knife might be an ideal choice for you. If you have children especially, the standard design might look too much like a hunting knife for them to resist temptation, and you wouldn’t want them trying to throw your Hori Hori into a tree. The ML Tools is twelve and a half inches long, only slightly longer than the standard size. The stainless steel blade is the standard seven inches and includes a measuring scale for assessing how many inches you are digging. The design of this measuring scale differs significantly from the previous design. For one thing, it excludes millimeter measurements, so if you are gardening in Europe, this might not be the best option for you. The handle is made of plastic, textured to give you a good grip. The knife does include a guard, and has a hole in the handle so you can hang it on your rack. The blade lacks a full tang. Instead, the plastic is molded around the blade.
Now that we have seen an overview of the knife’s features, here are my thoughts on the ML Tools Hori Hori:
What I Liked:
- This looks less like a knife, and more like a gardening instrument, making your neighbors feel safer and your kids less likely to play with it.
- Unlike most “cheaper” Hori Hori designs, this knife retains all of its features. The blade seems firmly attached to the plastic handle and is made of high-quality stainless steel.
What I Disliked
- Honestly, the only thing I dislike about this Hori Hori is that a plastic handle just isn’t as nice as a beautiful wooden handle. This, in my view, puts it in a different class of equipment.
9. Sun Joe Hori-Hori Gardening Tool
The Sun Joe Hori-Hori offers a very different design from the Hori Horis we have looked at so far. Instead of a stainless steel blade, the Sun Joe offers a carbon steel blade. This also includes a protective sheath (made of cheap vinyl), designed to let you carry your knife at your side. The blade is relatively dull, if you are looking for something safer, and your hand is protected by a guard that’s part of the blade. However, since the blade is made of carbon steel, this Hori Hori has some significant downsides. It may damage easily, and the tool isn’t protected from rust. This tool, while different from the traditional Japanese Hori Hori design, just simply isn’t as well-designed as the other models. It feels like a cheap gardening tool, not an elegantly designed multipurpose instrument.
Here are my thoughts on the Sun Joe:
What I Liked:
- The size of the blade is much larger than the handle, giving it more of a shovel feel.
What I Disliked
- The company says that “normal wear on the blade is expected.” This includes rust, the knife becoming dull, and the serrated edges fraying. If you are against using a stainless steel knife, you might try using this carbon steel alternative, but otherwise it might not be worth the cost.
10. Barebones Living Ultimate Tool Hori-Hori Gardening Tool
The Barebones Living Hori-Hori represents an attempt to innovate and improve upon the traditional design of the Hori Hori, so I have decided to devote the last portion of my article to this attempt to infuse this classic Japanese gardening knife with an innovative new design. Barebones Living offers a treated stainless steel blade with sharp and serrated edges. The side of the blade includes depth markings in inches, although they neither note the measurements nor provide measurements in millimeters. The knife includes a sturdy-looking case that clips on your belt. What features do Barebones add to the Hori Hori? At the end of the sharp side of the knife, they have placed a can opener. If you like to have a cold beverage while you are working in the garden, or just like the idea of opening a beer with a large knife, this knife combines kitchen tool with gardening instrument. The back of the handle, likewise, has a pommel based, so you can use the butt of your knife as a mallet, if need be. The handle is made from sustainable bamboo wood. I might add that the handles of the original Japanese Hori Horis were, in fact, made from wood, which means that this Hori Hori isn’t completely divorced from all authenticity.
I am mentioning this Hori Hori because of its innovative design. However, this knife also has a large number of critical design flaws. The blade merely fits into the handle, which means that it will likely become dislodged and fall off. Many people complain that this tool fails at even the most basic tasks, snapping in half under the slightest amount of pressure. Hopefully, Barebones Living will improve these critical design flaws, thus adding a slightly different take on this classic design.
What I Liked:
- The design is innovative and differs from the more or less standard Hori Hori design we have seen in the other models.
- I like that the Hori Hori includes a can opener and a mallet-edge for hammering things. Generally speaking, I like the fact that Barebones Living has attempted to add more features to this multipurpose knife.
What I Disliked
- The design of this knife is critically flawed, causing it to break easily. If you garden more than once a year, this Hori Hori is simply not worth it.
- The handle has neither a tang nor rivets, making it likely that the blade will become dislodged upon use.
Of all of the options I have looked at, the Truly Garden Hori Hori remains my favorite. This isn’t simply because Truly Garden decided to include the nice bonus of the diamond sharpening rod. Rather, it simply has the most of the important features in a Hori Hori knife with a high-quality design. Although I leaned heavily towards the Nisaku Hori Hori at first, I am too worried that the lack of full tang will cause my blade to snap under pressure. The Truly Garden Hori Hori also shields the users hand with a reliable guard, protecting my hands against slippage, a feature lacking in the Nisaku model. With the Truly Garden Hori Hori, you can afford to keep your blade diamond sharp without worrying about cutting your hand while digging. This model takes the best elements of all the other models without any of the drawbacks, which is why it remains my number one pick for this classic Japanese knife.