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The History of Postwar Razors: Episode 1 Transition of the Shaving Market in Japan

Contributed by Yasuoki Takeuchi, President, Razor Club

Until the liberalization of trade in 1960, 15 years after the end of World War II, the razor market in Japan was dominated by domestically produced razors, with only safety razors being distributed. There was an era of domestically produced razors. Among them, Feather (company name changed in 1953) was the largest domestic manufacturer with 80% of the market share, far ahead of other domestic manufacturers. After World War II, as Japan’s economy experienced remarkable recovery and development, pressure from foreign manufacturers increased, and in 1960, import liberalization was finally implemented, bringing razor manufacturers from around the world to the Japanese market. The razor war began in earnest as the world’s razor makers gathered in the Japanese market. The first item to be liberalized was the razor holder (handle), which was opened in April 1960, followed two years later by the replacement blade in November 1962. Two years later, in November 1962, the market was fully liberalized, including for replacement blades.

Since then, each manufacturer has had a series of strategic successes and failures, but the U.S.-based Chic still reigns as the top brand. In the 40 years since liberalization, from 1960 to 2000, the razor business was in the midst of a fierce battle with my father. I was in the middle of the fierce and fierce battles in the razor business from 1960 to 2000 with my father, and I have a vast amount of photos and newspaper articles from my own experience. Based on these valuable materials, I would like to introduce the transition of the razor market in Japan, including the trends and changes in market share by manufacturer for reference. In particular, I would like to tell the success story of Sick Razor, and the extraordinary efforts and perseverance of my own father, Kinzo Takeuchi, who dug the well that was the first step toward the success of Sick Razor. As his son, I am proud to have witnessed his efforts and perseverance. In the midst of such a whirlwind, I had a lot of business dealings with Chic and other leading razor manufacturers, so I learned a lot of things and gained a lot of knowledge.

Peter Oliver, who first came to Japan before Japan’s trade liberalization (1960), when he was working for Gillette, center & far left Father, Kinzo Takeuchi, April 1957

The following table shows the change in market share and transition of each razor manufacturer by year


The success of Schick razors in Japan began with a meeting between Peter Oliver, an Englishman who worked for a razor manufacturer, and his father, Kinzo Takeuchi. Mr. Peter Oliver had known my father since he was working for Gillette, and when he first came to Japan in 1957, he was impressed by his father’s enthusiasm for razors. When he first came to Japan in 1957, he was the one who told me about the impending liberalization of razors about six months before. He then moved to Ebersharp Chic, also in the U.S., around 1967, where he served as Far East Manager at the Brussels headquarters in Belgium. He had a deep knowledge of Japanese culture, especially tea ceremony, flower arrangement, and Zen, and deepened his friendship with his father, a practitioner, whenever he visited Japan. He was fond of saying, “The Japanese market should be left to the Japanese, and I am responsible for product strength and sales promotion budgets.

Peter Oliver, who left Gillette and came to Japan again, this time as manager of the Far East Division of Schick.

In any case, the success of Sick Razor in the Japanese market has been of great interest to many people, and each time I have tried to explain the background to them as much as possible from a third-party perspective. I have also been interviewed by the Washington Post, Nihon Keizai Shimbun, and other media outlets in Japan and abroad. It is a rare case in the world that Gillette, which boasts a 65% market share in the U.S. mainland, has a low 18% market share in Japan, while Chic has won more than 65% of the market. This is a rare case, even by the world’s standards. Indeed, the success of Gillette in the Japanese market, which set such an exceptional example, was a valuable story, and a very interesting learning experience for those who aspire to marketing. Later, my father, Kinzo, casually reminisced that Chic’s success was a way of life, a dogged determination to make it through. Even if he could not prove it theoretically, he was satisfied in his own way that it had turned out that way.

There must be many people in the world who, like craftsmen, are skilled in their craft but cannot explain it well to others. Even if they are well educated or theoretically armed, they are still useless. I have heard that it takes about 20 to 30 years to become as skilled a craftsman as anyone else, even to finish a single kitchen knife. It used to be the same with razors. And about 100 years ago, King C. Gillette of the U.S., in 1904, after much effort, developed the first razor with a replaceable blade. In 1904, King C. Gillette of the United States painstakingly invented the prototype of the replaceable blade safety razor, and later succeeded in automating its mass production system. Later, in the 1960s, stainless steel razor blades were introduced by Wilkinson & Co. in the U.K., creating quite a stir. Today, stainless steel razor blades are already the mainstream in Europe, the U.S., and other developed countries. Around 1962, the double-edged razor blade was replaced by the single-blade thick injector. Since then, the 1970s has been the heyday of the Schick razor, and it continues to reign as the top brand, far ahead of its competitors.

Razors started with a single-blade blade, then two-blade, three-blade, four-blade, and finally, in the early spring of 2006, Gillette, the largest razor manufacturer in the world, introduced a high-tech, cutting-edge five-blade razor in the U.S. market. In the short 35 years since the first two-blade razor blade was developed in 1970, remarkable technological progress has been achieved. In the 35 short years since the two-blade razor was developed in 1970, remarkable technological progress has been made, and the razor itself has undergone major changes. With the advent of the double-blade era, Gillette introduced a new sensor in 1989, and after that, each manufacturer developed its own products, and the interchangeability of blades, which had been common for a long time, almost disappeared, causing confusion among consumers. This has caused confusion among consumers, and I fear that this has had a negative impact on the wet razor market as a whole. If the current situation continues, the gap between manufacturers will widen and the market will become an oligopoly dominated by U.S. capital.

The first poster of the Sick Injector Razor in our country (a smiling picture of father and son shaving) presented by Peter Oliver to his father, Kinzo, at that time (1960s).

At any rate, shaving is an indispensable privilege for men, but it is also a hassle. Using an electric razor is not a bad idea, but for serious shaving, the wet method with water is the only way to go. With an electric razor, the outer blade protects the beard on the face while the rotating inner blade trims it, which is safer, but less satisfying when it comes to a deep shave and a refreshing sensation. Wet shaving, on the other hand, allows a deep shave without leaving any residue because the tip of the blade is in direct contact with the face. The feeling of exhilaration after shaving with lotion is a manly ritual that brings the best of both worlds. Both electric and water-washing methods have their advantages and disadvantages, so it is difficult to say, but there are still many people who use both types of shaving machines. The market value is said to be 50:50.

Recently, many fashionable razors for women can be found in stores. Many of them are safe and have colorful and wonderful designs that men’s razors do not have. These razors are perfect for single women. However, if you look closely, you will find that many of them use men’s replacement blades. In essence, there is no need to change. As more and more skin is exposed in our fashionable society, more and more women are taking care to remove unnecessary hair and shin hair. The “Flicker,” a razor with a safety guard for women, was introduced in the U.S. in 1970. Flicker, a razor with a safety guard specially designed for women, was introduced in Japan two years later. This type of razor is the origin of the safety razors with guards that are now the mainstream, but the Flicker was initially imported by Mitsui & Co. This manufacturer is the oldest of the three major razor manufacturers in the U.S., having been established in 1873. In the mid-1960s, Kao marketed a double-edged razor as Kao Persona to compete with Lion’s Wilkinson, but the result was a failure.

While in college, he accompanied his father on his first visit to Eversharp Schick, Inc. In the center is Robert Alfredson, then Vice President of the Thick Razor Division, and on the left and right are Kinzo Takeuchi, & Yasuoki Takeuchi, January 1964, Mill, Connecticut, U.S.A. in Ford, Connecticut, U.S.A.