Japanese nata are versatile cutting tools that have been used in Japan for centuries, and are still used today. There are different varieties of nata axe, but the most common types have long, straight blades similar in shape to a cleaver. They are heavy, made of very sharp steel, and make light work of trees and branches.
Nata are great for pruning, stripping branches, cutting through brush and undergrowth, splitting logs and bamboo, and even cutting down whole trees. They’re versatile and multi-functional, to a level much greater than a western axe or hatchet. They’re an extremely useful tool for gardening, land-clearing, and forestry.
There are many types of nata across Japan. Some look like machetes, some look like knives, but most look unlike any western tool. Some nata are very common, and can be found in the local hardware store, others are made-to-order by only one or two specialist blacksmiths.
If you’d like to learn about the different types of nata, their purposes, and their histories, check out our guide: All About Nata.
We’ve ranked the top seven Japanese nata axes, so that if you’re in the market for a nata this year, you can know with confidence that you’re choosing the right one.
Best All-Purpose Japanese Nata | Best Hand-Crafted Japanese Nata | Best Single Bevel Nata Tool | Best Carbon Steel Nata Tool | Best Machete-Style Nata (Yamanata) | Best Bamboo Splitter Nata Tool | Best Nata With Protruding Tip (Hashi-Tsuki Nata)
How To Choose A Nata Japanese Axe
There are many important things to consider when choosing which nata you’re going to purchase. Of course, you need to consider personal things like need, availability, and budget. But you also need to consider the nata’s design and features, like its handle, its blade configuration, and its shape. Let’s go over a few of them now:
Handle: Most nata have the same handle shape, length and angle. The only thing you need to think about here is material. Traditionally, nata handles were made only from wood, but nowadays some companies are making them with rubber handles. Wooden handles look a lot better than rubber. However, if you can find a nata with a rubber handle, we’d recommend it. Rubber handles prevent slipping, and can reduce the impact of each strike on your hand, wrist and arm by up to 60%.
Bevel: Nata can come with either single-bevel blades or double-bevel blades. This refers to whether the blade has been ground on only one side, or on both. Single-bevel blades are generally sharper and lighter than double-bevel blades, but they’re also more delicate, and can chip a lot easier. Double-bevel blades may be slightly less sharp, but they’re a lot more durable. One key benefit of using a single-bevel blade, however, is that because the blade is flat on one side, you can cut flush with the surface of the tree, as the edge of the blade will shave right up against the tree’s trunk.
Shape: What kind of nata do you need? Do you need a Japanese axe or a Japanese machete? A koshi nata is similar in function to an axe, while a yamanata is similar in style to a machete - you can read more about the different types of nata here. Do you need a pointed tip for piercing? Do you want to protect your blade from accidentally impacting the ground? Do you want to be able to strip twigs and bark from branches easily? Consider all of these when thinking about which style of nata you will buy.
Length: The length of your nata determines the thickness of the things you can cut, but the longer it is, the heavier it becomes. Smaller nata are light to carry and easy to use. They’re great at splitting bamboo and small pieces of wood, and light pruning. Longer nata are much heavier, but better at chopping thicker logs and cutting down trees. With a bit of elbow grease, a 180mm koshi-nata can cut down a ~200mm tree. However, if your nata has a protruding tip, your cutting capacity is limited to items narrower than the length of your blade.
- Material: Nata blades are either made out of stainless steel or carbon steel. Each type of steel has its own pros and cons, so you should choose which one suits your work style better. Carbon steel is extremely sharp, and doesn't get blunt easily - but it's prone to rust if not cared for correctly. Most people might not want to spend the extra time and effort cleaning, preparing and protecting their nata’s blade, so stainless steel is a good option too. Japanese stainless steel is some of the best in the world, and stainless steel nata can still cut down thick trees without too much difficulty - even though they're not as sharp as carbon steel nata.
Top 7 Best Nata Japanese Axes of 2023
Best All-Purpose Japanese Nata
- Rubber Handle Absorbs 60% Of Impact
- Comes With Heavy-Duty Sheath
- Extremely Sharp Replaceable Blades
- Bestselling Nata Tool Worldwide
The Silky nata is by far the most popular nata axe both inside and outside of Japan. It’s hard to say anything bad about it. Its rubber handle is comfortable, and easy-to-hold thanks to the extra grip it provides. According to Silky, the rubber absorbs up to 60% of the impact you would typically feel in your fingers and wrist when you use it.
Its handle can separate into two pieces, revealing that the blade is full-tang (it extends all the way through to the end of the grip). The blade can be easily replaced by buying a replacement blade sold separately, but you’re also able to sharpen it on a whetstone.
Its sheath is one of its bigger selling points, as it’s heavy-duty and durable, and will protect the blade from almost anything. This is a stainless steel nata, built to withstand the elements and to be resistant to corrosion and chipping. That does mean it may require sharpening (or replacing the blade) more often than you would with a carbon steel blade – but it requires far less maintenance overall.
If you’re looking for a balanced combination of high quality, usability and cost-effectiveness, the Silky Double Bevel Nata is for you.
Best Hand-Crafted Japanese Nata
- Luxurious Oak Handle
- The Best Japanese Carbon Steel
- Comes With Traditional Wooden Sheath
- Hand-Crafted By Japanese Blacksmiths
Hounen Kihan is a traditional company. They make traditional tools, using the highest-quality materials, by hand in their blacksmithing workshop in Miki, Hyogo Prefecture.
This nata is no exception. Its quality can be felt from the very first touch. Hounen Kihan uses beautiful Japanese oak wood for the handle, and Japan’s highest grade of carbon steel, yasugi aogami, for the blade.
While this nata is similar to the Silky nata mentioned above - it’s a koshi nata, double-bevel, 210mm, with a sheath - there is a big difference between them. The difference is in the details, and in the quality of materials. Its design is more traditional. It’s hand-crafted, it’s carbon steel, and it’s oak.
Yasugi aogami carbon steel certainly makes a difference. You can’t get a blade much sharper than this one. It cuts fast and sharp. It also stays sharp, as the steel is hard enough that it retains its edge long term.
If you want the best blade around, this is for you. Just keep in mind that you’re going to have to take extra care to prevent corrosion, as carbon steel is not rust-resistant.
Best Single Bevel Nata
- Single Bevel Carbon Steel Blade
- Light, Agile, Easy To Carry
- Blacksmith With Over 70 Years Experience
- Full-Tang, Cord Grip For Durability
This nata from Ikeuchi is Japan’s answer to the survival axe. It’s light, durable and agile. A single piece of Japan’s highest-quality yasugi aogami carbon steel wrapped in cord for grip.
This blade is extra sharp. We’re talking about one of the world’s best blade steels, in a single-bevel configuration – you can’t get much sharper than that. The 180mm blade is larger than you think, and suitable for most tasks. This lightweight Japanese axe was made for collecting and splitting firewood when you’re adventuring in the outdoors, but it’s certainly suitable for constructing shelters and small traps too.
Its lack of a handle makes it much more durable than other nata tools. Simply replace the cord when the time comes and you’re good to go. This is carbon steel, so it needs a little extra care to avoid rust. Try to keep it dry and wipe off dirt and water after you’re done using it.
Ikeuchi has been making knives and bladed tools out of Japanese carbon steel since 1953, so when you purchase one of their blades, you’re purchasing the culmination of decades of knowledge and experience.
Best Carbon Steel Nata
- Beautiful Stained Oak Handle, Brass Bolster
- High-Quality Carbon Steel, Single-Bevel Blade
- Made In Japan’s Tool-Production Capital – Tsubame-Sanjo
- Perfect Size For Most Applications
This nata by Kanenori is not only the best carbon steel nata of 2023, it’s the most luxurious nata of 2023. This is for when you want to hike through the woods, cut down a tree, and split some firewood – but you want to do it with class.
Featuring a comfortable Japanese oak wood handle, which has been stained with persimmon tannins – giving it a gorgeous earthy red tone, as well as protection against water damage. Protect your fingers from its high-grade Japanese carbon steel blade with a ring of solid brass, which gives it a lovely golden accent.
This nata was forged in Sanjo, Niigata. The Tsubame-Sanjo region has been long-renowned in Japan as the beating heart of blacksmithing. From its famous woodworking nails in the Edo period to kitchenware and hand tools today, the forging and blacksmithing knowledge of each family and each workshop is passed down through generations.
This is a single bevel nata, so it’s super sharp and can cut extra cleanly. It comes with a stylish wooden sheath that can be attached to your belt for safe and convenient transport.
Best Machete-Style Nata (Yamanata)
- Extra-Long 240mm Blade
- Super Sharp Yasugi Carbon Steel
- Brass Bolster & Finger Safety Guard
- Very Sharp Pointed Tip
This nata is unlike all the others in our top seven, as it’s the only yamanata Japanese machete on the list. That means that it has a sharp, pointed tip. But not only that, it also features the longest blade out of all our nata, coming in at a whopping 240mm. A 240mm Japanese yasugi carbon steel blade can do a lot of different things.
Other than the pointed tip, the shape of the blade closely resembles other nata blades. It’s heavy and has a thick spine. This means that it can do what other types of nata can do, and be used as an axe or a hatchet.
It can prune and cut down small to medium trees with ease. You can cut ropes and vines, and hack through undergrowth and brush like you would with a machete. Finally, you can carve and score wood, skin game, and use it as you would a hunting or fishing knife, thanks to its sharp tip.
This is a very versatile tool. And just like the other Kanenori nata on our list, it’s made out of extremely high quality materials – Japanese oak, Japanese carbon steel, and brass – in Sanjo, Niigata.
Best Bamboo Splitter Nata
- Perfect Small Size & Light Weight For Bamboo
- Medium Carbon Stainless Steel Blade – Best Of Both Worlds
- Water-Resistant Oak Handle
- Lightweight Cloth Sheath
Bamboo is an incredibly useful material, and if you're lucky enough to live in a part of the world where there's a lot of it growing around you, there are so many ways that you can make use of it. You can use it to make small structures and shelters, you can use it as guttering or piping, you can use it for art and craft, or for making outdoor furniture. Because bamboo is strong and water-resistant, you’re sure to be able to find a use for it.
Typically, we can’t cut bamboo with an axe, as its flexibility and strength against horizontal strikes would just send the axe flying back behind you. So if you want to cut a piece of bamboo down, you’re best to use a saw. However, while bamboo is strong horizontally, it’s weak vertically, so a small, light nata axe is the perfect thing to split bamboo lengthwise.
This Tomita Nisaku Nata Bamboo Axe was made for the sole purpose of splitting bamboo. Bamboo is typically narrow, so this nata’s 165mm blade length works in its favor. It doesn’t need to be extra long or extra heavy. All it needs is a sharp blade, and it can split bamboo all day long.
And it certainly does have a sharp blade. This Japanese nata tool uses DSR-1K6 medium carbon stainless steel. It’s stainless steel, so it won’t rust or chip easily. But its higher-than-average carbon content makes it sharper, and gives it better edge-retention, than most stainless steels.
It has a water-resistant oak handle, and a light and tough cloth sheath to protect the blade in storage.
Best Nata With Protruding Tip (Hashi-Tsuki Nata)
- Hashi-Tsuki Nata With Tip To Prevent Blade Damage
- SK Carbon Tool Steel Double-Bevel Blade
- Easy To Strip Twigs, Bark, Etc. From Branches
- Very Compact & Lightweight
Another entry from Kanenori on the list, this is more of an all-rounder when it comes to nata. It’s more affordable than other Kanenori nata because it’s using less luxurious (yet still high-quality) materials.
Like the others, it still has an oak handle – but the brass bolster is gone. The blade isn’t made from Japan’s famous yasugi carbon steel, but SK carbon steel which has been clad for better protection. It still has plenty of the benefits of carbon steel – it’s sharp and hard – but with greater protection from rust thanks to its cladding.
This is the smallest Japanese nata tool on our list, coming in at just 130mm. It’s great for light garden pruning and splitting small logs for a fireplace or campfire. Because it’s a hashi-tsuki nata, it has a protruding tip at the end of the blade, which means it can strip bark and twigs from branches very well. The tip also offers greater protection against breaking or chipping the blade, as it stops the blade before coming in contact with the ground.
Because of its light weight, small size and cladded blade, this is an excellent nata for camping. You can throw it in your camp bag without adding too much extra weight, and when you’re done collecting a large pile of wood ready for that campfire, you’ll be glad to have it at arm’s reach.
If you're looking for a Japanese nata axe or machete to make your work more efficient this year, Daitool has you covered. Browse our entire range of Japanese nata and their replacement blades here.