The most versatile gardening tool is also the most stylish and still affordable.

Hori Hori garden knife with succulent

Thomas J. Story

Meet your new favorite garden tool: the affordable and beautiful Japanese hori hori knife, the best garden tool for potting, weeding, digging, sawing, and transplanting.

I’ve developed a covetous obsession for Japanese garden tools. Not only are they beyond beautiful, they’re so well-designed and purpose-built that they tend to make other garden tools look clunky and awkward. If you’ve ever been to the Hida Tool and Hardware and Company in Berkeley, California, or visited its website, it’s easy to go down the rabbit hole of ebonized hoes, the near infinite array of weeding tools, Bonsai pruning shears with the handles that mimic butterfly wings, golden spades with cute elephant stickers and razor sharp edges, or scaled-down little scythes that look like they belong in the hands of a tiny grim reaper.

But there’s no tool that I reach for more often than the $25 hori hori knife, by far the most versatile piece of gear in my shed and the best garden tool for numerous tasks. The minute you heft one, admire its handsome lines and sturdy simplicity, you’ll want to buy it and immediately take it to your flower bed, vegetable patch, or potting station. And once you do, you’ll find yourself using it more than any other tool you have. You could call it the Swiss army knife of gardening except for the fact that it’s, well, Japanese. 

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The tool takes its name hori hori from the sound of digging and it’s by far the easiest way to cut into the soil for any number of uses. I’ve used my hori hori for delicate tasks such as picking tiny weeds and errant blades of grass poking through my gravel paths and for more sturdy work such as digging down to old irrigation lines. My hori hori cut through 10 inches of dirt with precision and ease and kept me from accidentally rupturing a water line. Now my trusty rusty hand trowel looks on forlorn. 

Hori Hori garden knife - cutting plant in garden

Thomas J. Story

Keep it on you wherever you are in your yard and you’ll be shocked at what you can do with it without having to grab another tool. You can use it for:

Planting bulbs

The svelte blade is not only custom-made for the task but many models have a ruler etched into them so you can plant your bulbs with consistency and precision. 

Transferring starts into pots

This is super easy as you can slide the slim blade right into the tray. The root ball will handily balance right on the flat on the blade. 

Repotting plants

Again the blade is scaled to slide just inside even the smallest of pots, deftly and delicately detaching roots. 

Weeding with precision

The pointy tip makes it easy to dig down and remove weeds, roots and all.

Impromptu Sawing

If you come across a small branch or sucker growing out of a tree, you can saw it off in no time. 

Checking soil moisture

Easily dig into soil to check the moisture level throughout your garden in a discrete spots without making it look like it was ravaged by gophers.

Making small trenches for seeds

Drag the tip of the blade through soil to make tidy trenches. 

Cutting open bags of soil mulch and fertilizers

No more struggling with those plastic bags when you can slice right into them.

Hori Hori Knives to Try Now

Traditional Japanese hori hori knives have a roughly 2-inch-wide blade about 6 inches long, one straight edge and one serrated edge, a tapered tip, and a slightly concave surface to better scoop dirt, but you can’t go wrong with even the most basic model. Many come with a sheath to of course protect you from the blade but also to make you look both dangerous and jaunty in a pirate sort of way when you wear it on your belt around the garden. 

Here are a few of our favorite styles:

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Carbon Steel Hori Hori

Three HoriHori garden knives on a tree stump
Carbon steel knife on right

Thomas J. Story

The platonic ideal of a hori hori knife, complete with a sheath that boldly states the purpose of this tool.

Hori Hori Carbon Steel, $24.90

Barebones Hori Hori Classic and Sheath

Hori Hori garden knife in container garden

Thomas J. Story

The contoured walnut handle makes this model super comfortable while the twine cutter doubles as a bottle opener.

Hori Hori Classic, $45

Niwaki S-Type Hori Hori

England-based Niwaki makes some of the most elegant, design-forward, Japanese-style garden tools around and their sleek hori horis are no exception.

S-Type Hori Hori, $64