By Matt Gibson and Erin Marissa Russell
The hori hori is a gardening knife from Japan that has a incredibly useful combination of cutting and digging features that make life much easier for gardeners who have one in their toolbelt. Due to the knife’s unique shape and size, it has the versatility to perform a variety of gardening tasks, including digging, transplanting seedlings, harvesting, pruning, cutting, sawing, and with its handy ruler which is etched along the length of the blade, it also serves as a measuring tool for calculating soil depth for seed planting and sizing up transplanting holes.
The hori hori knife is one of the most versatile and multifunctional garden tools you can own. Use your hori hori knife to chop down pesky weeds, as a measuring tool to make row markings, to quickly dig up the perfect sized holes for transplanting seedlings, to slice fruit off the stem when harvesting so as not to hurt the plant or damage the fruit, and to dig around a root to unearth it from the soil. These are just a handful of the many ways that a hori hori blade can be used in the garden. Though hori hori knives were created to be used in the garden, they have many other household functions as well, and can be used as a camping knife, a kitchen knife, or even a self-defense tool.
Not all hori hori knives are the same, and some brands offer a higher quality product than others. When shopping for the right hori hori, there are several factors that you should consider to find the best blade for your needs within your desired price range. Select a hori hori knife that is durable and dependable, made of high-quality materials, preferably a brand that offers a satisfaction guarantee or a limited warranty with the purchase of one of their knives so that you can return it if it doesn’t live up to your expectations.
The typical size of a hori hori knife is about one foot long, with the blade making up around six to seven inches of the tool. A longer blade can be used to dig a bit deeper than a shorter one, so select a knife with a long blade, preferably one that is at least seven to seven and a half inches long.
The hori hori has a smooth side and a serrated side for two different types of cutting. Some knives have a slightly serrated side with short, weak looking teeth. These can slice through thin stems, but are no match for branches and thicker, woodier stems.
Choose a knife with a well made serrated design that features deep, wide serrations and looks like it could slice through just about anything. One of the most useful features of the hori hori knife is the ruler that is commonly etched down the length of the blade. If the knife you are looking at doesn’t have the ruler, move on to the next one. You will use the ruler much more than you might expect.
Some hori hori knives have blades that are slightly offset from the handle. The offset blade gives the user a bit more leverage than the traditional design, but is also more awkward to wield. Handle the knife you are planning to purchase before buying it so that you know how it feels in your hand and avoid blades that don’t feel natural to use. The weight of the blade is also important, and will affect the overall feel of the knife. Choose a weight that is comfortable to you, but avoid especially heavy knives, as your hori hori should be lightweight and easy to use. Typically, the best hori hori knives weigh less than ten pounds.
Hori hori knives come with different blade shape options, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Professional gardeners with experience using a hori hori knife tend to prefer those with a concave blade shape, in which the blade has a parallel length where each side mirrors the other until the point. The material that the blade is made from is one of the most important factors that determine the quality of any knife. The same is true for hori horis. A stainless steel blade is the best blade material you can get for a hori hori knife. Look for a stainless steel knife that is coated to prevent rust and corrosion.
The design and material of the handle of a knife can be a make or break feature. Overall, you want to pick a knife with a handle that is comfortable, durable, and easy to grip. The traditional hori hori design is one with a wooden handle with full tang, meaning the blade runs through the entirety of the handle. Some modern knife makers have traded in the wooden handle for plastic or soft polymer handles to offer a more comfortable grip and a more ergonomic design. Most professionals believe that the wooden handled knives are typically superior to the modern handled blades, but you will have to decide for yourself which type you prefer. Remember, the one you choose should be comfortable to you, as well as durable and easy to grip and maneuver.
Any quality hori hori knife will come with a sheath for storage and safekeeping. Sheaths can be made from leather, wood, plastic, or various metals. Any material will suffice for keeping your knife protected, but different materials can offer differing levels of protection and durability. Some hori hori knives come with other accessories, including whetstones for sharpening rods, belt clips for the sheaths to keep your knife at arms reach while working in the garden. At some point, you will need to invest in a sharpener to keep your blade from growing dull, so it’s a plus to find a hori hori that comes with a sharpener when you purchase it.
Nisaku NJP650 Hori Hori Knife
Find it on Amazon. https://amzn.to/3jtbubZ
Looking for the real thing, made in Japan? For many gardeners, the Nisaku brand name is a requirement for a sound hori hori investment. The most popular brand of Japanese gardening knives on the market, the Nisaku name invokes trust and respect from gardeners who have used one in their own work.
Many reviewers of this hori hori said they had purchased other knives when they had to replace their Nisakus and eventually returned those other brands because they could not measure up to the original Nisaku blade. The NPJ 650 model is built to last with stainless steel that resists both scratches and rust. Comes with an imitation leather holster that attaches to your belt with a loop secured by a snap while you work.
Sensei Tools Hori Hori Knife
Find it on Amazon. https://amzn.to/34qiUbF
One of the best features of the Sensei Tools hori hori is its comfortably molded handle. Its non-slip texture makes it secure even in sweaty hands, unlike some wood-handled hori horis. The shape is designed to be contoured so it’s comfortable in either the left or the right hand. In the long run, these small luxuries mean that work will get done more quickly and you’ll avoid the calluses and painful blisters that too often accompany hard work in the garden.
This model comes with a black leather sheath affixed with a belt loop and as a 90-day money back guarantee in case you aren’t satisfied with your purchase. Users report it cuts easily through clay soil, rocky ground, and even thick tree roots with ease.
Truly Garden Hori Hori Knife
Find it on Amazon. https://amzn.to/34p9MEh
The Truly Garden hori hori comes along with a leather sheath that the manufacturer says is the thickest one on the market, which has a loop that snaps to your belt, along with a sharpening rod. You’ll also receive videos that show you how to keep your hori hori in tip top shape and a five-year warranty, so you know Truly Garden intends their tool to last for years in your garden.
Many gardeners will appreciate the compostable kraft paper packaging because it’s friendly to the environment. Reviewers were impressed with the Truly Garden hori hori’s solidity and durability.
Mtn Tree Hori Hori Knife
Find if on Amazon. https://amzn.to/31Cx7Ar
Like the HOKURU and Black Iron hori horis, Mtn Tree’s offering has large text on its ruler, making the tool easy to read. However, while the HOKURU and Black Iron models have text darker than the surrounding blade, on the Mtn Tree hori hori, the text is the same silver as the blade around it, so if legibility is a major concern, you may be better off with the HOKURU or Black Iron models.
It comes equipped with a brown leather sheath that will snap to your belt loop for easy access and portability. One of the Mtn Tree hori hori’s best features is that it comes along with a limited five-year warranty. Users say the blade is particularly strong and doesn’t bend or break even under the heaviest possible use.
Nisaku NJP801 Hori Hori Knife
Find it on Amazon. https://amzn.to/3mgaXvK
This model is an amazing modernization of the hori hori and still made by the most famous Japanese company that has been making them for decades. Nisaku’s NJP801 hori hori is especially sturdy because it’s made of authentic Japanese 440c Tomita steel that has been infused with vanadium, quenched and strengthened to a hardness rating of HRC58, the normal hardness rating of quality German kitchen knives. Its handle is ergonomically designed to even be comfortable to use for gardeners with small hands that may have trouble finding a hori hori that fits their grip.
Comes equipped with a black leather sheath that allows you to snap the hori hori to your belt. Those who have used the Nisaku NJP801 marvel at the sharpness of the blade and how comfortable it is to use.
Dino Tooth Hori Hori Knife
Find it on Amazon. https://amzn.to/35A8xkS
One of the biggest benefits of the Dino Tooth hori hori is its lifetime warranty, enabling you to use this tool for even the toughest projects while knowing you’ve made a good investment. It comes with both a nylon holster and a sharpening stone. Reviewers love the affordable price and the ease with which this hori hori cuts through the sod.
The wooden handle is designed to be comfortable to use, the hand guard makes it safe and helps avoid accidental injury, and the texture of the wood will help your grip stay secure as you work.
Honorable Mention for a Budget Friendly Option
Fiskars Big Grip Garden Knife
Find it on Amazon. https://amzn.to/2TlgWmI
Though not technically a Japanese hori hori knife, this budget friendly gardening knife from Fiskars serves many of the same purposes as the traditional hori hori, however, there are no ruler engravings for measuring soil depth.
Whether you’re shopping for a hori hori of your very own or have selected this versatile tool as a gift for a gardener (an excellent choice), this list of our top picks is sure to have one that will be perfect for you. None of the tools are especially expensive, but there’s a good variety of options here that fall in an affordable range. If you’re looking for quality accessories to go with the hori hori, a dependable warranty to fall back on in case of damage, comfort and ease of use, or simply a high quality product, one of the choices on this list will be the perfect fit.
Our home and garden obsessed writers and editors choose every product we review. We may earn money if you buy from a link at no additional cost to you.
We MUCH prefer carbon-steel hori horis to stainless steel ones. Not sure why but all 5 of us garden fanatics – and hori hori fanatics – here 101% agree.