The Best Japanese Straight Razor (aka Kamisori)
For superior razor performance and a shaving experience that is heavily steeped in tradition (both Western and Eastern tradition), savvy shavers absolutely swear by the Japanese straight razor. Individuals who love a really close shave extol the virtues of the Japanese straight razor. They are very finely crafted out of the highest quality materials and, believe it or not, are more economical than disposable razors (which are expensive themselves). Japanese razors can create that elegant, super-carved look, and once you get used to this type of razor, you can mold a beard into one that will rival that of a soap opera star. Most of all, they offer a fully rewarding experience when shaving.
Many hairdressers/barbers still use straight razors and actually prefer their shave as much as their traditional flair. One master barber states, “My favorite razor to use is a straight razor because it works well whether you have thick or fine hair. It makes ‘carving’ lines in the beard easier to accomplish,” and advises newbies to “Try to maintain at least a 30-degree angle when using the straight razor, and never lay the razor flat to the face because this creates friction.”
Benefits of the Japanese Straight Razor
There is no doubt that straight razors will give you an exceptional shave. Once you train yourself to use the no-handle razor (that long piece next to the blade by the way is not a handle; you hold a straight razor by the end of the blade), you will be sold. The closeness of the shave cannot be beat. It just takes a little more time to use this type of razor. Aficionados of the straight razor recommend to practice using this razor at night or when you are not due for work. You’ll want time and concentration when you first purchase the kamisori. However, don’t think the Japanese razor is impossible to master. It isn’t. And it won’t be long until you’re enjoying your shave and the closeness of it. As always, practice makes perfect. Plus, women will love watching you shave with these (and enjoy your silky skin)!
Unlike American razors (or Western straight razors in generally) that are only ground on one side, Kamisori are ground on two sides. However, the grind is unequal, ultimately creating one blade. The general razors the American is used to are, of course, two blade razors. The unique, angled design of the Japanese blade gives an exceptional shave.
Most brands of Japanese straight razors, including the Feather and Iwasaki brands, are very carefully crafted and will last a lifetime. It is always nice to know you have the highest quality object, especially one that touches your precious face.
Many devotees of the Kamisori use it simply for the elevated experience of using something so steeped in history and so carefully designed. Many users speak of the meditative experience of the straight razor, as you have to completely quiet your body and mind for a time to control this type of razor, as shaving is much more challenging with this kind of razor. Plus, men love to feel manly and masculine, and straight razors evoke heroes of old as they were popularized by Clint Eastwood westerns and Humphrey Bogart film noir–men who were most definitely men.
Have you ever calculated how much you spend on disposable razors a year? The price is certainly way higher than what one expenditure on a Japanese razor would run you with replacement blades. All you need is shaving cream, a mirror, and some quiet for concentration, and you are guaranteed a shave that would make a J. Crew model jealous.
Top Five Japanese Straight Razors
When it comes to Kamisori, there are not that many highly respected brands or ones that consumers repeatedly tout as the top of the line. Only two manufacturers produce consistently stellar reviews – Feather and the Iwasaka Kamisori. The following types of Feather and Iwasaka razors are customer favorites.
The Iwasaki Kamisori
Perhaps I should say “the one and only true kamisori.” This finely crafted straight razor is made by the Japanese master of straight razors, Shigeyoshi Iwasaki. Iwasaki was a master scholar who studied the art of Japanese sword and razor making and began making straight razors himself, based upon the old ways.
The Iwasaki Kamisori is made of the finest materials. It is hand-forged steel that is only used otherwise for Japanese swords. This razor is ground and honed on both sides. It is shipped in a paulownia box (paulowinas are Japanese trees known for their delicate but warp resistant trees) that is a work of art itself. You’ll feel like a king when you receive and use this very special razor. You can find more information here.
The Feather SS Straight Razor
The Feather SS is exported from Japan. The razor is super-engineered with a highly water resistant handle. Called “the most innovative razor in the world,” consumers love the Feather SS and rave about the quality of the shave, the way it feels in the hand, and the purity and nostalgia of the shaving experience. As one reviewer stated, “it offers a completely different experience when shaving.”
Like the SS Folding, the blade on this razor can be replaced for a very reasonable price. Blades on the Feather series typically cost only around $19.00 for a 20 count box and each blade will last you around two weeks.
The Feather DX Folding Razor
This razor has a replaceable blade as well and folds conveniently for storage or travel. Reviewers compliment the beautiful shave the Feather DX gives them and say that it has the one of the sharpest blades of the Feather series. Reviewers warn those new to straight razors to be especially careful as the blade is so keenly sharp.
The wood handle/cover is made of super-engineered resin wood that is super water resistant, so you can keep your razor clean and sanitized. It’s also economical – no need to throw away this baby when you’re finished with it, just replace the blade.
Feather SS Folding Razor
The high-quality resin-coated handle ensures that it is water resistant and corrosion resistant. Reviewers rave about the close shave and the artistry of the blade. It’s both beautiful performing and yields a beautiful shave. Conveniently you can replace this blade when you feel it begin to tug at your face and replace the blades rather than having them sharpened/sharpening them yourself.
The Feather DX Straight Handle Replaceable Blade Razor
Also, it has a unique handle, which has a curved back to give you the ultimate shave with precision control.
If you are willing to practice for perfection, the straight razor could be for you. For carving a beard into a work of art, there is simply nothing better. Most people who try the Japanese razors stay with them for life.
The History of the Kamisori
Historically, the Japanese straight razor was invented sometime around the year 1200 A.D., when Buddhist monks, who shaved their heads with these to symbolize their faith in Buddha, brought them from Korea to Japan. They were also popularized by the Samurai of the 12th century, who defied the traditional Japanese beard for clean shaves.
After World War II, when thousands of soldiers had been exposed to these Japanese straight razors, demand for these razors increased worldwide. Even after Japan opened its borders to foreigners and foreign imports, exposing them to more Western traditions and an array of fancy razors from other countries, the Japanese razor remained the razor of choice by Japan and by many individuals who had been exposed to them.