With 1,700 yen (about $16) to blow at the Narita airport a few months ago, I headed to the Japanese equivalent of Hudson News where I bought some provisions for the flight — iced coffee in a can, dried cuttlefish snacks, lip balm, and, on an impulse, some Green Bell nail clippers (I liked the packaging).
It wasn’t until weeks later, well into flip-flop season, that I found the clippers in my carry-on and gave them a whirl on my winter-ravaged toes. I was floored. The Japanese clippers, as you’d expect from a country that’s always elevated the mundane with powerful design, have a pleasing frosted-Champagne finish and the serious weight of a small stapler. The levering system has a satisfying springiness, too, that chops with near-minimal effort; getting my Brookstone clippers to actually make that onomatopoeic clip felt like a negotiation every time. Most important, where my dull-bladed Brookstone would leave jagged edges and clippings I’d have to pull off with my fingers, the Green Bell slices through nails like a Santoku through a tomato. Makes sense, given that they were made in Seki, the city famed throughout Japan for creating Samurai swords. The blades retain their sharpness because they’re forged of twice-tempered stainless steel — each one is honed by hand (some might call it “artisanal”) before being brushed of shavings and packaged for sale.
Luckily, you don’t have to be on a layover in Tokyo to find these clippers because, naturally, they’re available on Amazon. There, you can find review after rhapsodic review — about the smoothness of the movement, how ergonomic its handle feels, or the way the blades glide through even the gnarliest toenails. (While it works on fingernails, the extra-wide tool is best suited for toes.) In general, the only complaints are about its price, which, to be fair, is a little steeper than what Americans are probably used to paying. But the cost of two Chipotle burrito bowls (without guacamole) is a small price to pay for the most precise at-home manicure you’ll ever experience.
Buy it: $15 at Amazon
The Strategist is a series of smart, obsessive shopping guides from the New York Magazine section of the same name. We’ve scoured the web to bring you the best of the best. Some of our latest conquests include umbrellas, corkscrews, white T-shirts, and yoga mats.