Skip to main content
how to use a hori hori

Hori Hori: The Versatile Japanese Gardening Tool

How To Get the Most Out of Your Hori Hori Tool

As I work on the farm and garden daily, I don’t go anywhere without my Hori Hori Knife and Tool. I find new uses for my this Japanese Gardener’s Tool every day.  I carry it every where I go, and like to have it handy for all types of chores, and it saves me trips back to the garden shed.  Either on my gardener’s belt or in my gardener’s/florists apron, it is always ready for action or any chore I can sum up. 

What is a Hori Hori?

The Hori Hori is a traditional Japanese gardening tool that has become a favorite among gardeners worldwide. It’s a versatile tool, originally used in Japan for digging and harvesting mountain vegetables. The design is simple but effective: a stainless steel blade that’s a mix between a knife and a trowel. One side of the blade is serrated for cutting roots and branches, while the other is smooth, perfect for slicing through soil or plants. The handle is usually made of wood or plastic, designed for comfort and durability.

What makes it stand out is its versatility. It’s not just for digging – it can be used for planting, weeding, cutting, and even measuring. Gardeners love it because it can handle different soil types and gardening tasks. It’s a tool that combines traditional Japanese craftsmanship with practicality, making it a must-have for anyone who loves gardening, whether they’re professionals or hobbyists.

A Quick History

Before we get started, here is a little history on how this Japanese weeding knife became the global tool of choice for gardeners. It has a history that spans several centuries. Its name, “Hori Hori,” which literally means “to dig” in Japanese, aptly describes its primary function. The tool is believed to have originated in the mountains of Japan, where it was initially used by the Matagi, traditional hunters, for digging and cutting underbrush.

Originally, the tool was crafted from sharpened bamboo or wood. However, over time, as metallurgy advanced, the tool evolved. By the late 20th century, most were made from stainless steel, featuring a serrated edge on one side and a sharp cutting edge on the other, along with a pointed tip. This design made it incredibly versatile, suitable for tasks such as digging, weeding, cutting roots, and planting.

japanese soil and weeding knife
Out of work samurai forgers shifted to garden tool production

The implement became popular among gardeners in the West in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, recognized for its effectiveness and simplicity. Modern versions often include additional features like inch marks for measuring depth, ergonomic handles, and sheaths for safe storage. Despite these modern adaptations, the Hori Hori has retained much of its traditional design and remains a beloved tool in gardens worldwide.

Why is the Japanese Garden Knife So Revered?

It’s all about the gardening knife design. It is renowned for its exceptional utility in the world of gardening and outdoor activities. Its unique design incorporates several key features that make it indispensable to gardeners and outdoor enthusiasts alike. The serrated edge, for instance, provides unmatched cutting capabilities, allowing users to effortlessly slice through tough roots, branches, and soil with precision. The straight edge serves as a reliable digging and weeding tool, while the pointed tip enables precise planting and digging in confined spaces. Its concave blade shape facilitates soil removal, making it perfect for transplanting and bulb planting. Additionally, measuring marks along the blade help ensure accurate planting depths, enhancing the overall efficiency and success of gardening tasks. With its combination of features, the Hori Hori stands as a must-have tool for any gardening enthusiast, offering versatility and convenience in one compact package.

Who to use a hori hori garden tool
The Japanese Hori Hori Knife-Timeless Utility Design

Tool Uses

There are many known uses for this unique garden tool, but I thought I would create a list of expanded uses for this great implement I have found over the years:

  1. Digging – The Hori Hori’s sharp, pointed end is perfect for digging holes, especially for planting bulbs and transplanting small plants.
  2. Weeding – Its serrated edge is effective in cutting through roots of weeds, making weeding easier.
  3. Cutting – The sharp, straight edge can be used for slicing through sod, cutting open bags of soil, or trimming plants.
  4. Sawing – The serrated edge also works well for sawing through thicker roots or small branches.
  5. Planting – The tool is great for making furrows for seeds and can be used to transplant seedlings.
  6. Dividing Plants – The sturdy blade can slice through soil and roots, making it useful for dividing perennials.
  7. Measuring Soil Depth – Many Hori Horis have depth measurements etched into the blade, making it easy to plant at the correct depth.
  8. Harvesting – Its blade can be used for harvesting root vegetables like carrots or potatoes.
  9. Cultivating Soil – The Hori Hori can be used to break up hard soil or mix in compost or fertilizer.
  10. Removing Rocks – The strong, pointed tip is useful for prying out small rocks from the soil.
  11. Grafting – For those skilled in grafting plants, the sharp edge can make clean cuts necessary for grafting.
  12. Marking Lines – You can use the straight edge to mark lines or patterns in the soil for planting.

These diverse applications make the Hori Hori an indispensable tool in the gardener’s toolkit.

No matter your use, buy the Best tool you possible can and use it throughout the garden or farm to make your chores a breeze. Just be careful! The blade is sharp!