There are four Essential Japanese Gardening Tools needed to create a serene space. Every gardener who understands that lifelong quality tools are better than cheaper tools that will need to be replaced every couple of years will appreciate using the quality and affordability of Japanese tools.
Japan has a centuries old tradition of blending nature, beauty, and creativity. In order to create these living works of art, the perfect tools have been sought after and developed as well.
Here is a short list of essential Japanese garden tools:
Japanese Hand Pruners
These razor sharp blades are used in world famous gardens. In Japan, these hand pruners are probably the most used tool in a gardener’s repertoire. These reliable hand pruners are some of the strongest clippers on the market, and they also retain their clean cutting edge for years. Japanese hand pruners, such as the Okatsune brand, compete with other familiar brands such as Felco. They are professional quality, life-long garden companions, and an affordable price.
These shears are probably the second most important tool in order to create the beautiful tamamono mounds and hedges found in Japanese gardens. These blades smooth and swift and allow you to prune for hours because of their lightweight.
Often when people think of gardens in Japan they have an image of a large bonsai-like sculpted pine tree. However, when you truly look at a garden you will notice that although specimen trees are appreciated, they only fit into the scene smoothly because of the finely sheared background trees and tamamono blob-shaped bushes. You can even have a beautiful and natural Japanese-style garden without specimen trees, but you can’t have one without the sheared background mounds. Don’t neglect the importance of Japanese hedge shears.
Essential Japanese Garden Tools, Pt. 2 is a continuation of an earlier blog written about the some of the basic tools needed in the Japanese Garden. We are continuing this because one of our most often questions is “What type of tools are needed for Japanese gardening, and are they any different from western tools?”
The latter part of that question can be summed up with a big YES, they are different. Japanese gardens have been around for centuries and the development of the perfect tools to create these works of art has also been an ongoing process that surpasses most western tools. The average tool sold at the hardware store and big-box store has been dumbed down because of the average brute force used with many garden tools.
The beauty of Japanese gardens lies in the precision and detail given to the pruning and maintenance of the gardens. The following are often overlooked Essential Japanese Garden Tools:
Japanese Hand Saws
From my experience in gardening in Japan I have found that these straight-handled Japanese hand saws work best for me. This is mostly do to the fact that I often have to climb up in the trees and prune. With a fixed blade I can reach for it, unbutton it from its wooden sheath, and use it with only one hand, allowing me to keep one hand for balancing in the tree. The folding saws are also well-made made and more compact. You also have to take into consideration that, yes, you will look like a cowboy with the fixed blade style strapped to your waist!
One of the main reasons that these are essential Japanese garden tools though is that unlike western made hand saws they work on the pull, not the push. It takes a few times to get use to, but you will find that more technique is involved with the pulling stroke, as opposed to the forceful push stroke.
The Sickle, or Kama in Japanese
Believe it or not Japanese gardens do not use weed barriers or plastic liners. Even though they are often weedless with a perfectly smooth cover of moss or in a rock garden, artificial environmentally unfriendly products such as chemical sprays and plastic liners are not used. These gardens are weeded.
Japanese sickles, or Kamas, are used to weed the gardens and again, work on the pull. Technique triumphs over strength and a soft pull inward is all that is needed. Many times home gardens are weeded almost daily and you never get the build up of strong weeds. The garden needs to become a part of your life. If 5 minutes a day were given to light weeding and exploring your garden, you would be both weed free and have a new healthy routine to add to your lifestyle.
Although these Kamas may be more popular as being part of a Karate demonstration, they were originally intended to be used as everyday weeding and harvesting tools. Because they were a common everyday item used by gardeners and farmers, a natural method of self-defense was devised using them. Make the Japanese sickle a part of your everyday experience.
We use them daily, as people have for centuries, so we can attest to their durability, ease of use, and affordability. Whether you are maintaining a Japanese garden or an English garden, superior quality is superior quality.