04-19-2018, 10:03 AM
#1
  • Mel S Meles
  • On the edge, ouch
  • 44.4899° south of the North Pole
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We are in Japan this week, where we discovered that the original metal body Feather MR3 neo razor has . . .  appreciated.  Here is the current listing on the Japanese site of the enormous Internet retailer that is named after a large South American river:  
[Image: iCJrr8g.jpg]

The price, ¥17,327, works out to about $161.54.  (only two are available at that price, which is actually ¥17,327 yori; that is, from $161.54, upward.

The current edition of the Feather MR3 neo, sturdily fashioned of plastic, and with a curvaceous figure that only an adolescent boy razor could love, also is available on the same website for a more modest ¥509   =   $4.74; today (April 20 in Japan); it remains the only shaving cartridge of which I am aware — and possibly the only razor of any kind — that has a perforated steel roller to straighten up the beard stubble for more efficient cutting by the blades that immediately follow the roller over the face when shaving.  The 2018 version of the MR3 neo is available in Japan only on a special promotion that includes a free gift of a camellia, and ships free in orders that exceed ¥2000 ($18.64).  The camellia is a quintessential Japanese touch; I really love the Japanese mind, I truly do. 

[Image: hpqKCz2.jpg]

But — still on the subject of the Feather MR3 neo (my own copy of which I am carrying with me this week as a travel razor) — I made a discovery this week that is exciting, a game-changer.  I would convey the details in this posting today, but the new product is inside a suitcase that I have temporarily checked at the front desk of a hotel where I shall be staying later this week to allow lighter travel around the country.  When I retrieve the luggage tomorrow, I shall follow up with a photograph of the product packaging.  Watch this space.

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 04-19-2018, 11:48 AM
#2
  • chazt
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  • NYC
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Waiting and watching...

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 04-19-2018, 11:03 PM
#3
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The MR3 Neo Chrome has been available for several years. The discontinued version is $17.80 from another seller in Japan.

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 04-23-2018, 04:29 AM
#4
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Drumroll   Yawn ...

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 04-25-2018, 12:18 PM
#5
  • Mel S Meles
  • On the edge, ouch
  • 44.4899° south of the North Pole
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(04-23-2018, 04:29 AM)Sabre Wrote: Drumroll   Yawn ...

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood . . .

(1)  Feather and KAI are two companies located (mainly) in the small city of Seki in Gifu-ken, north of Nagoya.  Seki is to Japan what Solingen is to Germany and Thiers is to France:  the historic center of blade-making and related metallurgy.  In several fields, including personal grooming products such as nail clippers, etc., KAI and Feather are direct competitors.  In the sales of razor blades, Feather and KAI are the only two Japanese brands in the game; AFAIK, they are the only two makers of disposable razor blades (DE or SE) in Japan.  (In terms of sales volume of shaving products overall within Japan, each of Schick and Gillette (cartridges) and Panasonic (electric shavers) probably dwarfs the combined sales volume of Feather and KAI, but that is another subject.)

(2)  The Feather MR3 neo is a superb device for reducing beard stubble.  I have argued, and continue to do so, strictly in terms of closeness of shave and efficiency of removal, the MR3 neo is at least the equal of the best DE and even SE razors.  Personally, the MR3 neo is my road warrior, and I carry it with me wherever I travel, as it is compact in dimesions, is accepted to pass through airport security, and the useful longevity of a single cartridge (I typically can get over a dozen good shaves per cartridge) exceeds my requirements for the duration of the length of most of my trips, allowing me to get by with carrying just the handle with a single cartridge attached, plus one spare cartridge.

However, as users of the MR3 neo are aware — perhaps painfully aware — the MR3 neo, as packaged and shipped, has one glaring flaw.  The complete razor package comes with a blade guard snapped onto the cartridge that is mounted on the handle, but neither the extra cartridges in the packaging, nor any replacement MR3 neo cartridge packages that one can purchase separately, contains any blade guards.  Moreover, the blade guard on the original razor is tiny and made of perfectly clear hard plastic that makes it all but invisible when set down on any wet sink surface, even for the sharp-eyed ... and for those of us who need glasses or contact lenses to see, and often do not wear them when shaving, the MR3 neo blade guard is invisible during the shave.  It is almost as if Feather designed the blade guard of the MR3 neo specifically to get lost, which would be a good marketing strategy if Feather sold blade guards separately at a high profit margin; but it does not.  I have been personally solicitous and extremely careful with my own copy of the MR3 neo blade guard, immediately placing the guard into a ZipLoc snack bag whenever I take it off the razor, and sealing the bag before I start the actual shave.  Even so, I managed to lose mine earlier this year.  A razor without a blade guard is not a good match with a Dopp kit, as one risks the chance of cutting one’s fingers when reaching into the Dopp kit, and other hard items in the Dopp kit are at risk for knocking nicks into the blade edges.  So on this month’s trip to Japan, my entire MR3 neo razor was encased in its own ZipLoc sandwich bag inside the Dopp kit, which was an untidy solution to the problem of a missing blade guard.

In Yokohama last week, we were shopping in the Lawson convenience store in the Daiwa Royanet Yokohama Koen Hotel for snacks to take along on a longish train trip, and I saw a display of disposable pivoting-head razors that included packages of KAI Besty EX3 razors.  Examining the packaging, I saw that the heads have a very familiar profile — yes, just the same profile as the head of my beloved Feather MR3 neo razor.


[Image: pvzaLLM.jpg]
[Image: qh3vEfV.jpg]

I could not see the actual razors inside the package for myself, but I assumed, that each of the razors inside had a blade guard to protect the three (titanium coated!) blade edges per razor.  Making a huge leap of faith, I risked an investment of nearly ¥500 (somewhat over $4.50) for a package of six.  Back in my hotel room, with feverish excitement, I opened the package, pulled out one of the disposable KAI brand razors, removed the blade guard from the KAI brand disposable razor, and slipped the guard onto the cartridge of my Feather brand MR3 neo razor.

It fits perfectly.

Smugly, I undertook the chance to pack only the disposable KAI Besty EX3 razor into my Dopp kit for the three-day trip-within-a-trip within Japan that started later that day.  (My risk was small, as we were heading out to -onsen- hotels; see below.)  As a daily shaver on the trip, the KAI Besty EX3 proved to be very good — excellent, even.  However, after three days, the blade edges were showing signs of getting tired and tuggy, exhibiting a much more rapid wear rate than I enjoy with Feather MR3 neo cartridges.  This suggests that a different grade of steel is used for the KAI disposable razor’s blades than Feather uses in the MR3 neo cartridges, which is unsurprising considering the difference in price points.

But wait; there’s more. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ron_Popeil. On the trip-within-a-trip, we visited two, different, Japanese onsen (hot springs hotels with large public baths; like deer or sheep in English, the plural of onsen in Japanese is onsen). In most onsen, in the post-disrobing, but pre-soaking, area where one thoroughly scrubs down with soap, and then thoroughly rinses, every square centimeter of one's body before entering the communal bath to soak, there are saabisu (free) disposable razors provided for men to shave with before entering the bath; in both of the onsen that I patronized this trip, the saabisu razors were KAI branded 3-blade pivoting-head disposable razors, a better grade of razor than the Schick 2-blade fixed-head disposable razors prevalent in the onsen that I have patronized in previous trips to Japan this century. (I cannot recall what razors were provided back in the 20th century.) The rib pattern on the backside of the hollow handles of the onsen disposable razors was slightly different from the rib pattern in the handles of the KAI Besty EX3 disposable razors that I bought at Lawson. However, the KAI Besty EX3 has a "standing up rib" (so described in Japanese) ERASUTOMAA BANPAA (elastomer bumper) in the same position as the Feather MR3 neo’s unique perforated steel roller, giving the two heads identical dimensions (and, incidentally, making the disposable KAI razor blade guards fit the premium Feather interchangeable cartridges); I posit the hypothesis that the dimension identity is more than coincidental. I suspect that Feather and KAI have participated jointly in the development of this line, and perhaps other lines of cartridge razors, in the same manner that Edwin Jagger and Mühle, who formerly separately bought zinc alloy unfinished heads fron Dovo for their own chrome plating, jointly cooperated in the development of an improved version of the Dovo/Merkur head that now is featured in both companies’ current DE razor offerings.  

Both Feather and KAI make several other lines of replaceable cartridge razors and disposable multi-blade razors that compete with each other and with Schick and Gillette for shelf space in Japanese retail stores.  This apparent cooperative venture in the 3-blade sub-segment of the market, along with the wonderful availability, at last, of replacement blade guards for the high-end Feather MR3 neo razor are both positive developments in my opinion.  

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 04-25-2018, 02:40 PM
#6
  • Mel S Meles
  • On the edge, ouch
  • 44.4899° south of the North Pole
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(fat finger accidental second posting of above post deleted)

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 04-25-2018, 04:15 PM
#7
  • chazt
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Great post, as always. Informative and a good read. Welcome back, Tom Smile

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 04-25-2018, 07:28 PM
#8
  • Mel S Meles
  • On the edge, ouch
  • 44.4899° south of the North Pole
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(04-25-2018, 04:15 PM)chazt Wrote: Great post, as always. Informative and a good read. Welcome back, Tom Smile

10-Q.   Cheers

Tangential note:  There is an interesting anomaly — or perhaps it is a riddle — in the packaging description of the KAI Besty EX3 razor’s blades.  The packaging says that the blades have a titanium coating.   But that explanation is tagged with a red W; W is, of course, the symbol for the chemical element tungsten, famed among shaving geeks for its use in the legendary Personna 74 blades.

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 04-26-2018, 01:55 AM
#9
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NRK also manufactures SE blades in Japan. Where are Schick Proline blades produced? Feather and Kai used to be owned by the same company.

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 04-26-2018, 02:09 AM
#10
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In the ryokan and public onsen I have visited, I have never seen such good-quality disposable kamisori!

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 04-26-2018, 06:10 AM
#11
  • Steelman
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So...there is no “new” MR3 razor, correct?

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 04-26-2018, 08:10 AM
#12
  • Mel S Meles
  • On the edge, ouch
  • 44.4899° south of the North Pole
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(04-26-2018, 06:10 AM)Steelman Wrote: So...there is no “new” MR3 razor, correct?

In post #1 of this thread above, I included screen captures of two MR3 neo products currently offered at the Japan site of Amazon. The first, good-looking, one is a discontinued model; Amazon still lists some NOS units that are for sale by third-party affiliates. The second, bulbous, one is the current model MR3 neo, which can be purchased new in Japan, and which may currently be “in production.” (That is, the molds are made, and a new batch can be run off any time.) According to Sabre (post #3 above), that model has been on the market for several years; that would make it “new” in the French sense of nouveau, but not as the French would say neuf.

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 04-26-2018, 08:40 AM
#13
  • Mel S Meles
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(04-26-2018, 01:55 AM)Sabre Wrote: Feather and Kai used to be owned by the same company.

(sucking in air through clenched teeth while smiling):  Muzukasii, desu ne?  (Rough English translation:  “I am not sure that is correct.”)

Seki is a small city with a long history of sword-making and knife making, and a relatively short history of razor blade making; I think that both KAI and Feather (which started out in Osaka) were founded in the Taisho Era (1912-1926).  As in many communities worldwide where a large segment of the population is engaged in the same line of work, there inevitably will be intermarriages and informal working relationships among technically independent entities.  One need only look at the membership of the boards of directors of United States whisky distilleries to see that there are a lot of directors with the surname “Beam,” but the distilleries are not all owned by the same family (and the entire Jim Beam portfolio is now owned by Suntory of Japan).  Sanyo, until recently a major Japanese electronics manufacturer, was founded by a “black sheep” brother of the head of the Matsushita (Panasonic) family; four or five years ago, Matsushita acquired and swallowed up Sanyo, and all the sheep now are grey.  It would be surprising, therefore, if there were not some incestuous cross-pollination between Feather and KAI within the Seki business community.  But I have not seen any evidence that Feather and KAI ever were part of the same corporate structure; which is not to say that they were not, but just that your comment is the first time I have seen that allegation.

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 04-26-2018, 10:13 AM
#14
  • Mel S Meles
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  • 44.4899° south of the North Pole
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(04-26-2018, 02:09 AM)Rory1262 Wrote: In the ryokan and public onsen I have visited, I have never seen such good-quality disposable kamisori!

As recently as October 2016, when we spent four days at Tachibaniya in the village of Atsumi Onsen, Yamagata Prefecture, the saabisu razors in the ryokan’s onsen were Schick fixed-head, two-blade. And Tachibaniya is a decidedly upscale establishment. Seven years earlier, we attended a nothing-held-back celebrity wedding at Shiroyama Hotel in Kagoshima, a luxury hotel at the site of the final battle in the 2003 motion picture The Last Samurai; there, too, the saabisu razors were 2-blade flimsy Schicks. My first sighting of three-blade, pivoting head KAI freebies was at Oedo Onsen Monogatari Nikko Kirifuri this past October (2017). In this respect, at least, the times they are a-changing for the better.

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 04-26-2018, 11:13 AM
#15
  • Mel S Meles
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Here are some photos that I took this morning of the one KAI Besty EX3 disposable razor that I took out of the six-pack that I bought at Lawson in Yokohama last week and used for three days.

Head, underside, blade guard snapped on from the bottom; the guard optionally can be snapped on from the top of the head:

[Image: dn3Xebw.jpg]

Top of razor, blade guard on:
[Image: DJm8yoR.jpg]

Bottom, blade guard off of the razor (to the right side), showing the titanium-coated blades and the green aroesumuuzaa (aloe smoother) strip:
[Image: Rtf2YXG.jpg]

Close-up of the blade guard, which can be snapped onto the head  from either the top (open end toward the handle) or from the bottom (open end away from handle):
[Image: eKB4OQt.jpg]

Underside of bottom end of the handle:
[Image: UcyGEBP.jpg]

I think that it is apparent that a lot of engineering design went into this cheap (about 75¢/unit) disposable razor.

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 04-26-2018, 04:07 PM
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I also wish to note again that kamisori is the general Japanese word for razors of all kinds. It is not limited (as many on the forums would have it) to straight razors in the Japanese style.

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 04-26-2018, 10:47 PM
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Check out the companies histories, it confirms the joint ownership in the past.

https://www.kai-group.com/global/en/about/history.html

https://www.feather.co.jp/ecompany.html

Both descend from the Seki Safety Razor Co of 1932. They had joint ownership in the 1980's.

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 04-26-2018, 11:08 PM
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The UK's Monopolies and Mergers Commission stated in 1990 from a report into the Gillette Wilkinson Sword merger:

Kai Company Ltd (Kaijurishi)/Feather

Kai is the leading Japanese manufacturer of wet-shaving products supplying approximately 50 per cent by volume of the domestic retail market.  250 million blades per annum are produced for this market plus another 100 million per annum for institutional customers.  Feather is a much smaller company specialising in supplying hospitals and was until recently under the same chairman as Kai although operating autonomously.

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 04-26-2018, 11:20 PM
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According to the Kai history timeline Feather was founded in Nagoya and not Osaka.

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 04-27-2018, 01:27 AM
#20
  • Mel S Meles
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(04-26-2018, 11:20 PM)Sabre Wrote: According to the Kai history timeline Feather was founded in Nagoya and not Osaka.

Thanks, Sabre, for digging up the documents.  
The KAI history has the 1932 business as a wholesaler, not as a manufacturer, though, and Feather’s document states its current headquarters to be in Osaka. Seki’s relationship to Nagoya is close; the Osaka community is generally distinct from the Nagoya community, but Feather seems to have its feet in both worlds.

Both of the companies’ corporate autobiographies contain some puffery, don’t they?  

When I lived in Sapporo for two years in the mid-1960’s, most of the Japanese men of my acquaintance (I did not know any whe were not clean-shaven; beards were not popular in Japan then) shaved with blades:  cartridges were on the verge of being invented, but not in Japan, and AFAIK there were no Japanese manufacturers of electric shavers ye).  In most of the homes that I visited, there was a curious device mounted on one of the interior doorposts that automated (for want of a better word) the sharpening of used DE razor blades:  it had a means to grab the blade and a rotary strop to polish one of the edges at a time, one side at a time.  Post-WWII, the Japanese government had detailed plans for economic recovery and development, and personal grooming production was not a national priority.  If you wanted to start up a company making electrical equipment or automobiles, the government would subsidize it, but if you wanted to start up a company making hairbrushes, you were on your own, kid.  The only razor blades I saw in retail stores (or in private homes, for that matter) were Gillettes and Schicks; they were expensive relative to average wages, so each blade had to be sharpened over and over until it wore out.  I have seen some pre-WWII Japanese razors that were branded Feather, I think, but (of course) Japanese domestic production of anything that required the use of steel other than military goods was severely restricted for a couple of decades in the first half of the 20th century.  

I may have had a tangential relation to the reference in the KAI timeline to establishing KAI Cutlery USA, Ltd. here in Portland in 1977.  The actual business had been around for a while:  Gerber Legendary Blades  (since the late 1980’s a division of Fiskars of Finland) was founded in the first decade of the 20th century, and sometime in the early 1970’s, Pete Kershaw left Gerber and founded Kershaw Knives here (Tigard, a suburb of Portland).  I remember dealing (on behalf of a client) with a Japanese businessman named Hattori/*, and, so far as my recollection goes (we are discussing matters that were of only minor significance to me at the time, three or four decades, perhaps a bit more, back), the company he represented acquired Kershaw Knives.  Kershaw is now one of the KAI brands, and so it could be that Hattori was representing KAI, or a company that later would come to be named KAI, back then.  If that was the case, and the 1977 date in the KAI timeline refers to the acquisition of Kershaw, one would expect KAI’s timeline to claim the earlier date when Pete Kershaw left Gerber as the establishment date. 

/* Hattori is also the surname of the founder of Seiko, IIRC.

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