What are the differences between Japanese secateurs and shears?

Date Posted: 08 February 2021

When it comes to gardening, you really are spoiled for choice when it comes to your tools. These days there is something for everyone, in whatever kind of design you like and for whatever job you might possibly need doing in the garden at any time of year. 

Regardless of what your gardening prowess may be or what your plant preferences are, it’s likely you’ll come across the need to cut and snip something. Perhaps it’s the tender step of a flower, or a pesky dead branch at the end of a long winter. Regardless, you’ll be in need of the perfect tool. 

For many novice gardeners, the choice between Japanese secateurs and garden shears may not seem like an important one. After all, they supposedly do the same job, the handle length being the only distinguishing factor between the two. However, there are many subtle differences between the two and choosing one over the other may make your gardening experience that much more enjoyable. 

What do Japanese secateurs and garden shears have in common?

As previously mentioned, on first glance these two hand tools look almost identical, and they do in fact share some similarities. Both tools are designed for cutting and pruning, even if the intricacy level will vary) and both can have a relatively long life if looked after and properly maintained. 

Maintaining secateurs and shears involves keeping them as sharp as possible; a blunt pair of either of these will almost certainly make your pruning more difficult. Not only can blunt blades crush your stems if you are doing delicate work, making for a far less aesthetic finish, but it could even cause irreparable damage to your plant.  

After each job, blades should always be wiped clean of any dirt, sap, or other materials that could hinder the movement of the tool or cause issues over time. In addition to this, keeping the blades oiled will extend their life and make each pruning job that much better. Just wiping them down with an oiled rag will do the job just fine. 

Both secateurs and shears should be used with a suitable pair of gardening gloves. While a thick, durable pair of gloves may not seem conducive to delicate work, or even comfortable during the summer months, they are a vital safety precaution. You could be working with prickly plants or flowers, and that’s not to mention the blades themselves which, as established, should be nice and sharp to get the job done. 

How do Japanese secateurs and garden shears differ?

Shape and Size

While garde shears can usually come with a variety of handle lengths and different shapes, Japanese shears tend to feature a design with a longer handle than Japanese secateurs. This lightweight and ergonomic design has been used by Japanese gardeners for centuries. Japanese style garden shaping shears also come with longer handles. The lightweight ergonomically designed wood handles make for very light work. In terms of the blade, the most traditional Japanese garden shears will come without a curved blade and will more resemble a pair of extra large scissors. 

By contrast, Japanese secateurs are usually smaller hand tools with a smaller, curved blade and thick, ergonomic handles. Secateurs are also traditionally designed with a v-spring, ensuring that using the tool with one hand is that much easier, making for a simple and uncomplicated cut. Because of the emphasis on one handed tasks, Japanese secateurs also often come equipped with a handy safety latch that can open and close just by striking it against the body.  


Naturally, thanks to the different shapes and sizes of both tools, gardeners will be using them for slightly different jobs, even if they both essentially are there to cut things. 

For shears, the longer handles allow gardeners to reach new heights without any real strain or risk by climbing on ladders or steps. The perfected shape of the blade means that even with the extended reach, the gardener never really loses precision in their movements, making for a clean cut every time. This means that they will primarily be used for tasks such as trimming lawns, bushes and hedges. 

Secateurs, on the other hand, are the gold standard for intricate pruning tasks. As mentioned earlier, they are often used with one hand and usually to trim plants of a delicate nature - soft stems or thin branches and dainty foliage. In some ways, these smaller hand tools are more suited for artistry rather than heavy duty work. Of course, Japanese secateurs are plenty study to even cut through thick branches, so you’ll find them to be one of the most versatile tools in your arsenal. With different styles, shapes and ergonomic designs to choose from, Japanese secateurs can be used by anyone, no matter the size or shape of your hand or the strength of your grip.

What is the difference between Japanese secateurs and shears and regular hand tools?

One of the main differences between Japanese pruning tools, especially secateurs and shears, is their versatility and ease of use. 

Shears in particular, tend to be made from more lightweight materials such as wood, which allows the gardener to keep using them for far longer than a regular hand tool. They are less tiring, more ergonomic and will cause far less cramp during those long gardening sessions. 

The blades for both Japanese secateurs and shears are also made from carbon steel rather than stainless, which is generally the more traditional material outside of Japan. Not only is the steel harder, but it stays sharper for longer. The blade will usually require more upkeep than a stainless steel blade, but Japanese blade makers have recognised this advantage for years, choosing to also make most of their knives from this material as well.  


Whether you’re in need of something that will see you through the long summer evenings, pruning and chopping up high, or something for those small, intricate jobs in a flower bed, Japeto has the perfect Japanese gardening hand tool for you. We have a variety of Japanese secateurs or Japanese garden shears to choose from, perfect for both the novice gardener as well as the most experienced.