Japanese hand tools

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Forum topic by pat44 posted 10-10-2010 03:18 PM 2530 views 0 times favorited 6 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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19 posts in 4441 days

10-10-2010 03:18 PM

Next month my brother in law is going to Fukuoka, Japan and I was thinking about asking him to bring me back a set of chisel and maybe a hand plane. I don’t think he will have a problem bringing them back in his luggage but I am not positive. I’m interested in hearing if anyone has either brought tools back themselves or had someone else. Do you think its worth the effort, (finding a place to buy them, cost,bringing through customs, ect.) Any thoughts?

6 replies so far

View 's profile

593 posts in 5022 days

#1 posted 10-10-2010 04:14 PM

Hi, pat44

As a longtime resident of Japan I’ve carried plenty of tools on intercontinental flights along the years. Never had any problem as long as they were all inside the checked in luggage. For obvious TSA paranoiac reasons, nothing can go in hand luggage but I’ve carried as much as a dozen of big-ass saws, planes and such in a single bag and nobody raised an eyebrow.

On the other hand, unless you do your homework beforehand—And it’s not easy. Hint: do you read Japanese?—don’t expect him to be able to get you the tools in a snap. The good stuff is not carried in the home centers, neither are these abundant nor easy to locate unless you know the place. As for brands and prices they are expensive and they all look the same to a non expert. The best tools come from small craftsmen that don’t sell through many retail channels and you often must order directly to them. To make things even more interesting, they use to live in small towns. Ain’t this country great? ;o)

The above paragraph is specially applicable to “nomi” and “kanna” (chisels and planes, respectively). You can get great quality and relatively cheap saws way more easily though.

Contrary to what it might look like, I’m not trying to discourage you but just remind you that, in Japan, unusual things are anything but easy for the casual non-Japanese visitor.


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19 posts in 4441 days

#2 posted 10-10-2010 04:27 PM


Thanks very much for your response, thats the kind of information I was looking for. I think his Japanese is “just enough to get by” and he doesn’t have ay knowledge on tools, so it seems that it may be a bit difficult. Thanks again.


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1170 posts in 4509 days

#3 posted 10-10-2010 04:53 PM

I went to Fukuoka a couple years ago, and I honestly don’t remember seeing any stores or shops dedicated to woodworking tools. I had a blast though, so tell your brother to have a good time.

-- San Diego, CA

View Richard's profile


11310 posts in 4083 days

#4 posted 10-10-2010 05:22 PM

I just got the new Lee Valley Tools Catalogue and Hardware Catalogue. There must be at least 6 Pages of Planes in there including a Wide selection of Japanese Planes. Tools catalogue is 268 Pages!!

You can also view the entire catalogue on Line. OR! Send for them both. I did and was amazed when they got here in 3 Days!

This is the Link to their “Planes Index Page”

Enjoy: Rick

-- Richard (Ontario, CANADA)

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373 posts in 4211 days

#5 posted 10-10-2010 05:23 PM

There are so many quality levels of Japanese tools, unless you are specific in what you are looking for I think you may be better off buying online from a dealer with a great reputation such as or

What would you do if your new kanna has a cracked dai or a blade with bad laminations etc?


View Sawdust4Blood's profile


408 posts in 4072 days

#6 posted 10-10-2010 05:32 PM

I spent 12 years stationed in Japan and picked up quite a few Japanese hand tools. I love the chisels but Jojo is correct in that the best ones are hard to find. The same is also true of Japanese planes and to complicate things, they use a pull technique rather than a push technique so if you haven’t tried one, you might end up hating it.

Good Japanese saws are much easier for the lay person to find as are waterstones. You might have him bring you those kind of gifts instead.

-- Greg, Severn MD

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