Shaving with Kamisori--The Final Word

12 Apr in Fundamentals, Kamisori, Shaving

I think I'm done answering this question.

In the short 3 or so years I've been at this, there are few questions I've seen (and tried to answer) than "How do you shave with a Kamisori?"

Last week, someone wrote me a rather long email which, while it involved this question, was really a rather indirect "I shave however I want, so why would anyone tell me I'm wrong?" email.

So yeah, here's my response to that email, and pretty much the last time I plan on answering this question.

"Hi [Redacted],

I'm sorry I haven't replied, I'm not in any kind of trouble, but I guess it just slipped my mind.

Kamisori are used with one specific side against the face at all times. That side is the unstamped "Omote." The stamped side, which has a much more pronounced concave, is the "ura" and it is to be used away from the face.

The use of Kamisori is a tradition. It is the way it is. I can't answer you as to "why" or whatever, but if you look at the blade profile of a Kamisori, it's pretty obvious that the two sides are different, and thus the use is going to fit that profile. If the use was, as you would like, symmetrical, then the blade would be symmetrical.

This isn't a recommendation or advice, this is the way that they are used, much as when you drive you don't use your right foot on the gas and left on the break. It is what it is. Yes, it's difficult. But it certainly can be learned, if you want to learn it. I have learned it, and I know several other Westerners who have done. And of course, everyone I know in Japan who shaves with one does so.

Now, as to whether or not you can do it another way, well, that's the thing about the word "can." Of course you can shave any way you want. You can use your razors to slice garlic like Paulie in Goodfellas. But in that case, then you are forcing the tool to adapt to your skills, rather than adapting your skills to using the razor the way it is designed to be used. You are ignoring the hundreds of years of tradition and use that produced these razors.

In which case, I have to ask: Why have them and use them at all if not to experience that tradition? Western style folding razors, which are naturally designed to shave the way you seem to want to shave, are cheaper, more widely available, and in many ways easier to use.

I hope this answers your questions.

Best,
Jim"

In short: Kamisori are used with the "flat" (meaning much less concave) Omote side against the face. The Ura, the side with a much more pronounced hollow area, as well as the stamps in most Kamisori, is away from the face. Why? That's just the way it is.* Can you do it any other way? Sure, do what you want, but you're missing a fundamental part of the Kamisori experience.

A picture that might help:

Oh, and hey, a video!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bBDRP6tSOWo

Et Finis.

*"That's just the way it is." is a pretty common trait in traditional cultural artifacts. In Japan, Bonsai, Tea Ceremonies, playing go, all have their idiosyncracies that seem at first glance to be irrational, but then, who are we to judge the rationality of hundreds of years of tradition? Just climb out of your ego and enjoy the ride.

Video: 
See video

Comments

Fascinating

Okay, I never would have thought watching a guy shave could be fascinating, yet that's what your video was :) I was researching kamisori when I found it, and I'm glad I did, it was certainly educational. I don't suppose you know anything about the way samurai would have plucked their beards? That was actually the original topic of my research before it veered off to the kamisori :P

Sorry!

Goth Angel, I missed your comment in a flood of spam and just noticed it.

I don't know that the samurai did, in fact, pluck their beards. According to the book "The history and culture of shaving in Japan," prior to the popularization of razors like these (Known as Wakamisori), the Japanese nobility preferred to grow out their beards. These kamisori were introduced by Buddhist monks from Korea about 1300 years ago. Until the late Edo period, beards were a sign of status and so were cultivated by bushi up until the mid-Edo period.

However, there were different beard shapes (hachi gata and so on) so they might well have plucked those. Tweezers are, and have been for a long time, made by Japanese blacksmiths so perhaps that's what you're looking for. If you are still doing research, though I doubt it and I doubt you'll see this reply, email me at the contact link above and I'll see if I can't help more.

Despite the fact that I was born with only one arm...

Despite the fact that I was born with only one arm making Western straights a lot easier for me to manipulate, I have always been fascinated by the Kamisori. Thanks to your videos and a lot of patience, I now use my Kamisori confidently and always the way it was intended. While shaving Ura side down is possible, why go there, it goes so contrary to tradition and purpose. It's your Kamisori, shave with it as you wish but doing it the right (not a subjective term in this case) is so gratifying. Thank you Jim.

Nelson, thank you so much for your comment. I hesi...

Nelson, thank you so much for your comment. I hesitate to use the word "right", it's just the way it's done. And of course, your example is an outstanding one.

Thank you so much for sharing it!

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
Powered by Drupal, an open source content management system