Kamisori Straight Razor

From the dawn of the caveman, we have come to know that our ancient ancestors used to cut unwanted hairs, much like we do today.

During that time period, the sharpest materials they used for fascial hair removal were: obsidian, pumice stones, rocks, flints, clam shells and shark’s teeth. The oldest razor was found dating back to 18,000 B.C. Roman historians claim that the razor was introduced in Rome by the Roman King, Lucius Tarquinius Priscus in the 6th century BC.


However, they were not commonly used till the 5th century BC. Razors made of copper and solid gold have also found in Egyptian tombs during the 4th millennium BC. Not only Europe and Africa, but the razor was also used in several parts of the globe including several Asian countries in various forms, styles, and names. Many flint razors are still used by native tribes today.

Over 8 hundred years ago there was one particular type of razor which was used in Japan. It was a simple straight razor, called Kamisori. It was introduced in Japan by a Korean Buddhist monk. They used it for shaving their heads as the symbol of initiation and dedication to their Buddhist faith.

In the era of Bushido and Samurai, Japan adopted the Kamisori as both a religious symbol as well as a tool for shaving their beards. When the warrior class began using it for shaving its popularity spread among others on a mass scale.

Various forms of straight razors have reigned in several parts of the globe as the most common razor for manual shaving for many decades. The folding straight razor was first manufactured in England in 1860. It had a folding part, which has lead to its name, folding razors, also called Western straight razors, as they were first manufactured in the western world.

When the safety razor and electric razor arrived in 1950, the popularity of the straight razor decreased, however it was not totally abolished. Despite all the modern shaving alternatives, the straight razor continued to be manufactured in Asia, Europe and America. Two categories of straight razors are still on the market. These are the folding straight razor and non-folding straight razor.

Kamisori vs straight razor

The Japanese straight razors, Kamisori, are actually straight razors with wrapped steel handles. These cannot be folded. They were designed not for self-shaving, but to shave other people.

Kamasouri Razor Blade

It is a smaller blade and front weighted design makes it very effective at getting into the small areas of the face and especially suited for detailed work. The grind on the blade makes it seem as if it is designed for shaving only on one side and this is very true, but more recently both sides of the blade can be used.

It also has separate versions for right-hander and left-hander. Expert blacksmiths used steel type blades to make the razor great for fast and smooth shaving. It is also recommended for wet shaving due to the comfort and grip of the handle.

Japanese Tamahagane steel, Yasuki steel and even Swedish steel are used as materials in making Japanese straight razors. Feather and Iwasaki are the two famous companies and are well known for excellence and craftsmanship in manufacturing these two items. Two models of Feather and Iwasaki are Feather Artist Club SS and the Iwasaki 50mm Kamisori straight razor.

The folding straight or western razors have long handles which are easily adjustable for a comfortable grip and maintaining the proper angle of 25-30 degrees. The razors differ in size, shape and steel but the handles are equal in weight, so that the user can maintain balance with the blade and be able to control pressure while at work. It helps to provide a smooth and comfortable shaving consistently.

The handle of the folding razor is fashionable. Once it was made of ivory. However, nowadays various materials like bone, celluloid, mother-of-pearl, wood and plastic are used in making razor handles.

The long folding part of the razor is never used as a handle, actually, this is a folding part for protecting the blade from damage and to protect the user from injury. The blade is joined with a rotating pin for closure.

What are the differences?

First and foremost, the main obvious difference between Japanese straight razor and folding razors are that the Japanese razors do not fold away. It is open and straight. It has a long thin part to hold with a sharp shining blade. It resembles a long oar for rowing, than a folding straight razor.

Secondly, the blade of folding straight razor is longer than a Japanese straight razor. The length of blade Japanese straight razor is usually about 2 inches, but no more than two and a half inches and different in shape. Folding straights can be grounded both sides. When sharpening it takes less steel and consumes less time in honing.

The Pros

The blade of the Japanese straight razor is formed with highest grade premium steel. Both the blade and handle of Japanese razor are much more durable, tougher, heavier and unbreakable than those of the cheaper aluminium blades on the market.

If taken care of and honed properly and frequently, they can last for a long period of time and provide service for years.

The Cons

One of the cons of the Kamisori razor is its high price, however, this can be due to the top quality steel and materials used to manufacture it.

Another potential con is that the various length and form of the blade of the Kamisori razor that needs some effort and time to learn how to use it properly.

You may have slow shaves till you master the art of shaving with this razor. Also, you must be careful in storing due to its inability for folding.

What are our thoughts?

Shaving is an art that should be practiced with the right tools. For a great shaving experience you must attempt employing a Japanese razor.

Once you become habituated to it, you may love it for your whole life! Because it gives a unique, incomparable and awesome feeling when you become a perfect shaver compared with the straight razor.

To be a master in using the Japanese razor it will not take much time if you are dedicated, though in the initial stage it may be a little harder.

The Japanese straight razor creates an exceptional position for its simple but aristocratic style and a potential historical background. The faithful users of Kamisori believe that this razor can provide an unbelievable comprehensive experience to the user.

They remark that the reflective properties and meditative qualities of this razor can make your body quiet and mind cool and calm. When you are an expert in using Kamisori, a great masculine and cleanly feeling will overwhelm you after your shave.

Both folding (Western) and non-folding (Eastern) tradition of Japanese straight razors are available now. Many men like non-folding Kamisori razor for its top-notch shave. Others prefer folding western razors for its elegant shaving experience.

​Photo Credit : Matus Kalisky

Alex Palmer

The editor here on The Shaveyard, loving life and all things shaving.

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