Japanese Trowels

Kiwado - Japanese Plastering's complete selection of
Japanese Trowels and
Japanese Plasters

Strangely enough, the story of Japanese trowels and exquisite plastering begins with tea and fire.

Tea and the Japanese aesthetic

Between the 9th and 13th centuries, Buddhist monks brought tea seeds from China to Japan and in the 16th century, Zen practitioner Sen no Rikyu, established the tea ceremony. The tea ceremony generally takes place in a chashitsu, or tea house. Following the Japanese aesthetic of "wabi-sabi", the unostentatious walls of the chashitu are plastered with earth. As the tea ceremony and the construction of tea houses spread throughout Japan, the art of Japanese earthen plastering flourished. Unlimited time and resources were granted to craftsmen to create unpretentious, but exquisite earthen plastered walls. In this way, tea and the Japanese aesthetic led to the high development of fine earthen plastering in Japan.

Fire, fear and awe

Like many traditional societies, in Japan, fire was something to be feared and awed. Since most traditional Japanese buildings consist of a wooden structure, the danger of fire was ever present. In order to safeguard valuables and food rations, thick earthen plastered storehouses, known as kura or dozo, were built. The massive earthen walls of these buildings protect valuables from fire and food stuffs from rodents and temperature extremes. However, Japan also experiences high precipitation. In order to protect the earthen walls from weathering, storehouses were often finished with a thin coat of Japanese lime plaster . In a sense, the fear and awe of fire led to the development of massive earthen plastered walls in Japan, and high precipitation led to the development of fine Japanese lime plastering.

Through tea and fire, we see two streams of natural plastering in Japan, fine finishes to be appreciated and functional massive earthen walls for protection.

Concomitant with the spread of natural plastering in Japan, trowels were developed for various purposes. With over 100 different types of trowels, Japan probably hosts the largest variety of trowels on the planet. But unfortunately, with the spread of mass produced commercial building materials and tools, the demand for hand forged trowels has decreased. And as a result, the number of craftsmen who produce these fine tools are dying.

Yamanishi hand forged trowels are highly regarded in Japan. According to the Kagawa Prefectural Government, Yamanishi hand forged trowels are certified traditional crafts produced by certified traditional artisans. These craftsmen are working incredibly hard to maintain this tradition, and their pride is imbued into every trowel they produce.

A primer on Japanese steel

Originating from the culture of sword making, forging metal in Japan is a fine art. Trowels are produced from steel of various temperaments, ranging from "soft" iron known as jigane to "hard" high carbon steel known as honyaki (literally fully fired). Between these two extremes are a variety of steels including hanyaki (literally half fired) and aburayaki (literally fired with oil).

Choosing the right steel for you depends on your purpose:

Jigane is unfired forged iron. Whereas a hard carbon steel tends to slide over a plaster, "soft" jigane iron will push and pull material, making it excellent at distributing plaster on wall. By "soft", we refer to the quality of the steel, not the flexibility of the trowel.  Because Jigane is a soft steel, Jigane trowels tend to be thick, stiff and heavy.  Jigane is suitable for scratch and brown coats of earthen or lime plaster.

Hanyaki is fired once after forging. Hanyaki is suitable for all coats, and can also be used for cement based plasters as well.

Abarayaki is steel that is forged, coated with oil, and then fired twice. It is harder than hanyaki and suitable for compressing plaster for a glossy finish.

Honyaki is made in a similar fashion to abarayaki, but is fired at a higher temperature. Being a very hard carbon steel, it is suitable for earthen or lime finish coats and cement based plasters.

Stainless steel is the hardest steel but can be produced so thin as to be flexible as well. It is used to apply thin coats and to smooth trowels marks.

Traditional steels will rust if not cared for properly. Trowels should be cleaned and dried immediately after each use. When storing trowels for an extended period of time, they should be oiled to prevent rusting. In order to prevent the remaining oil from discoloring subsequent plasters, remove oil with a rag before plastering.

The entire range of Yamanishi trowels are available for purchase and a select few are featured below. All payments are made through PayPal.

To place an order:

Send an email to japanese.plastering*gmail.com (In the email address, please replace the * with @). Please provide:

Your name
Postal address
Telephone Number
Fax Number
Description of the trowel(s) including
 Name of trowel(s)
 Letter and three digit code(s) found next to each trowel (ie: A-101)
 Length in mm
 Number of items

After receiving your order via email, you will be sent a bill via email that includes a PayPal link. After following the link to the PayPal website, you may then make a secure payment using credit card, bank transfer or PayPal payment. After confirmation of your payment is received from PayPal, the item will be ordered from Yamanashi and shipped to your address abroad via International EMS (Express Mail Service). After confirmation of payment, items should arrive in less than two weeks, and could arrive in as soon as one week. Your patience and understanding is appreciated.

Sales tax and fully insured International EMS (Express Mail Service) are included in all prices.

Since the items are being shipped from an individual in Japan to an individual overseas, no import tax should be charged. However, if for some reason taxes are charged by the receiving country, payment is the sole responsibility of the customer.

Should you have any questions, please email japanese.plastering*gmail.com (In the email address, please replace the * with @) or call +81-80-3477-9841.

Yamanishi Trowels 
Yamanishi trowels are divided into three categories: essential, contemporary and traditional. The most commonly used contemporary and traditional trowels are described below. Relatively modern trowels are described on the contemporary Japanese trowel page, while trowels developed around the end of the Meiji period (1912) are described on the traditional Japanese trowel page.

The most fundamental and essential traditional and contemporary Japanese trowels are listed below.  The most common length and usage of each trowel are also explained below.
  1. All prices include sales tax and fully insured international express shipping.
  2. We can provide a 5% discount on orders of 5 or more trowels, 10% discount for 10 or more trowels or 15% discount for 15 or more trowels.

Premier Hanyaki Application Trowel (Normal Width) A101
Primary application trowel used for applying and evening earth, lime and cement based plasters. The larger size is appropriate for applying plaster to larger areas.
240mm  7,280JPY

Premier Honyaki Application Trowel (Black Handle, Normal Width) A151
Application trowel used for applying and evening shikkui and earth and cement based plasters. Can also be used to finish and compress. The smaller size is appropriate for applying plaster to smaller areas and finishing both large and small areas.
180mm  7,680JPY

Stainless Steel Namikeshi Trowel 0.3mm thick A601
Used to remove trowel marks and lightly compress plasters.
210mm  5,990JPY

Honyaki Square Trowel with pointed tip B211 0.5mm thick
Pointed, slightly flexible application and finishing trowel. Excellent at applying plaster on drywall or over other base coats. Also used to finish poured adobe or concrete floors and compress plasters.
240mm  6,220JPY

Honyaki Thin Application Square Trowel with pointed tip B261 0.4mm
Thin, flexible trowel used for thin applications on drywall. Larger size covers more area in less time.
270mm  6,830JPY

 Honyaki Yanageba Trowel C121
Versatile trowel used to apply earth, lime and cement plasters in difficult areas, curves and the boarders around a wall.
120mm  6,610JPY

Honyaki Kimeguri Trowel C131
Slender trowel used to plaster small details, compress curves and correct the plaster after masking tape is removed.
105mm  5,770JPY

Basic Set of Six Essential Trowels
Premier Hanyaki Application Trowel  A101 240mm
Premier Honyaki Application Trowel  A151 180mm
Stainless Steel Namikeshi Trowel A601 0.3mm thick, 210mm long
Honyaki Square Trowel with pointed tip B211 0.5mm thick, 240mm long
Honyaki Yanageba Trowel C121 120mm
Honyaki Kimeguri Trowel C131 105mm
Six trowels for 31,550JPY
By purchasing a set of all six, you save 8,
All prices include sales tax and fully insured international express shipping