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(Published: Dec. 8, 2016, Updated: 2016: 17 Dec. , 2017: Jan., March, April, Mai, June, July)
Before I begin, please keep in mind that I don’t speak or read the Japanese language,
most of the information is gathered from Japanese sites, which I’ve translated with
different translating programs. Although I only give information of which I am certain
(or almost certain), bear in mind that there possibly could be mistakes somewhere!
(Should you find a mistake, please contact me using the contact form below)
岩崎 = Iwasaki, 三条製作所 = Sanjō seisakusho = Sanjo Works (1),
often with “Maru-san” ㊂ (三 ,san, within 〇,maru = brand name)
He was one of the masters, the master, who made Tamahagane razors
岩崎又造氏 = Iwasaki Matazō-shi = Mr. Matazō Iwasaki (father of Kōsuke)
岩崎航介氏 = Iwasaki Kōsuke-shi = Mr. Kōsuke Iwasaki (father of Shigeyoshi)
岩崎重義氏 = Iwasaki Shigeyoshi-shi = Mr. Shigeyoshi Iwasaki
水落良市氏 = Mizuochi Ryōichi-shi = Mr. Mizuochi Ryōichi
飯塚解房氏 = Iizuka Tokifusa-shi = Mr. Iizuka Tokifusa (“Shigefusa” 『重房』)
上條幸夫氏 or 上条幸夫氏 = Kamijō Yukio-shi = Mr. Kamijō Yukio
(Dr.) Mr. Kōsuke Iwasaki designed the Iwasaki kamisori, and also became
the famous metallurgist who has classified Japanese steels i.e. “yellow paper”,
“white paper”, “blue paper”.
Mr. Kōsuke Iwasaki’s father, Mr. Matazō Iwasaki was a famous cutlery distributor
in Sanjō, Niigata, Japan, famous for their cutlery production. However, Mr. Matazō
Iwasaki’s family business was defeated by the competition with Germany, which
had been revived after World War I.
Mr. Kōsuke Iwasaki (°1903), second son of Mr. Matazō Iwasaki,
wanted to elucidate the secret of the Japanese sword, represented by “Masamune”
which is said to be top of the world. He desired to make such kind of knife, hereby
trying to defeat Solingen (Germany) once again… His life was dedicated to the Japanese sword and Tamahagane, which made Mr. Kōsuke Iwasaki very famous for his research
of the old Japanese sword, the sword smith and its revival.
For the study of Japanese sword and to
unravel sword smith secrets, Mr. Kōsuke Iwasaki first studied the ancient documents at
“Tokyo Imperial University Faculty of Letters Department of national history”
After this, in order to furthermore elucidate the scientific process of Japanese sword,
he went to the University of Tokyo (metallurgy department) and did different studies.
He obtained several different bachelor degrees, and also master degrees in metallography.
Mr. Kōsuke Iwasaki also became an apprentice of a Japanese sword blacksmith and Japanese sword whet master, became a famous sword smith in the school, and started a prototype research of the Western razor, this in cooperation with a barber. He learned how a sword is forged, polished and sharpened.
Mr. Kōsuke Iwasaki developed his own process of producing Tamahagane for razors.
The special Tamahagane used to make his razors took Mr. Kōsuke Iwasaki (together
with other knife and razor makers) 10 years to develop, as the 60-62 Rockwell of katana blades with a carbon content of 0,8% wasn’t high enough for the edge retention of a razor. The Iwasaki Tamahagane razors where hardened to a 64-64,8 Rockwell, some
even to 67 Rockwell…
Unfortunately, some equipment broke when they moved the forge to its current
location, which makes it harder and harder each time to make Tamahagane again…
During his studies at the metallurgy department, his eldest son, Shigeyoshi, was
born in 1933. In 1935, the family moved from Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture
to Zushi (逗子市, Zushi-shi), Kanagawa Prefecture, Japan.
When completing graduate school in 1938, Kōsuke was 36 years old. He became an
assistant of the University of Tokyo engineering department until 1945. At the end
of WWII, he tried to make high quality Japanese swords with government support.
The Iwasaki family moved in 1945 to Sanjō, hometown of Mr. Kōsuke Iwasaki’s father.
After the war, in 1946, he established “Sanjō Works“ (“Sanjō-seisakusho” or
“Sanjō-seisakusyo”) in Sanjō, which made the world famous Iwasaki razors.
As he kept on researching about Tamahagane, including scientific analysis
of metallographic structure by a “metallographic microscope”, he also began
a field survey at the mountains of Kyoto and Mikawa for a study of whetstones
which influences the sharpness and polish.
In 1952, a study of the process of excellent forged cutlery using Tamahagane steel
was admitted, thereby, Mr. Kōsuke Iwasaki was given a grant (subsidy) of 600.000 yen
from the “Ministry of International Trade and Industry” for technology research.
There was also support of an acquaintance, of which equipment was borrowed.
Mr. Kōsuke Iwasaki had built a smithy on the basis of the subsidy.
In 1954, he started the manufacturing and production of the razor, made of
Tamahagane steel, a steel which keeps its sharpness as best of the world!
In 1961, Mr. Ryouichi Mizuochi 水落 良市氏 and Mr. Tokifusa Iizuka joined the company.
With only 7 people, including Mr. Shigeyoshi Iwasaki and his father Mr. Kōsuke Iwasaki, together with two younger brothers and a sister of Mr. Shigeyoshi Iwasaki (see further),
the production of the Western razor (西洋剃刀 or Seiyō kamisori) and the Japanese razor
(和剃刀 or wa kamisori) came into full swing. Later on, Mr. Iizuka became independent, known as “Shigefusa”『重房』(see further).
Mr. Kōsuke Iwasaki got cancer in 1963, Mr. Shigeyoshi needed to take responsibility
for the technical guidance of pupils, business management, production and sale of
In August, 1967, while continuing to promote the scientific investigation of swords,
he died of recurrence cancer, he became 64 years old.
At this point, Mr. Kōsuke Iwasaki’s research and scientific analysis of steel is taken
over by his eldest son Mr. Shigeyoshi Iwasaki, who, due to his outstanding skills and
extraordinary leadership, as a leading black- and smith, thereby giving a significant
impact on the technical improvement of subsequent Sanjō cutlery industry.
Because of his studies, razor manufacturing, innovative cutlery making with
scientific analysis using a “metallographic microscope”, and bringing this to
the cutlery blacksmith, Mr. Kōsuke Iwasaki has contributed greatly to the local
manufacturer technology and its quality improvement. He kept on researching
Japanese swords and steel, and influenced the Sanjō steel industry in Niigata a
lot, as well as the entire steel industry in Japan.
Mr. Shigeyoshi Iwasaki has devoted his entire life to razors and cutlery.
(°1933, Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, father: Kōsuke Iwasaki, mother: Shinko)
In 1945, he went to the private junior-high school “Zushi Kaisei”, he graduated
from high school, Prefectural Sanjō, 1951. In the midst of poverty, he saw promise
in the farming technology. He got a job in the poultry farming business near Tokyo.
Around September 1951 he was confronted with restructuring because of the
post-war depression restructuring.
After this, Mr. Shigeyoshi Iwasaki began to help his father with his research.
After Mr. Kōsuke Iwasaki is given a grant (subsidy) of 600.000 yen for technology research in 1952, extra equipment was borrowed, a smithy was built, 300.000 yen was borrowed from the “People’s Finance Corporation” for a “micro Vickers hardness meter” and a camera for taking picture of the metal structure. It was important for Mr. Kōsuke Iwasaki to have excellent machinery and equipment for taking good judgments concerning steel.
Although Mr. Kōsuke Iwasaki’s knowledge of metals was extensive, possibly
he had little experience as a blacksmith, he was a sword maker though.
Some say the Iwasaki family were blacksmiths, others say they weren’t…
After young Shigeyoshi had graduated from high school, he was send by his father to
be an apprentice with several master blacksmiths. One of them was sword smith Master Nagashima Munenori, Mr. Shigeyoshi Iwasaki’s Tamahagane and sword forging mentor.
Combining the theoretical study of father Kōsuke, and the practical blacksmith
technology mastered by Shigeyoshi, in 1954 they succeed in the development of the
Tamahagane steel made Western razor. Actually, Sanjō Seisakujo had beaten Solingen (Germany) razors for the quality and performance, however they could not produce
their Western Tamahagane razors as much as Solingen could produce their razors.
Unlike conventional blacksmiths, Iwasaki used scientific equipment, such as
a device that tests hardness and a metallographic microscope.
Mr. Shigeyoshi Iwasaki got married in 1958 to Fumiko (or Ayako) Satō, a childhood friend.
Mr. Shigeyoshi Iwasaki also had several apprentices, for example Mr. Tokifusa Iizuka, or “Shigefusa” (1954), Mr. Shigetoshi Sato (1967), Yoshikane,…
In 1998, Munich, Mr. Shigeyoshi Iwasaki received the “Bavaria Prime Minister Gold Medal”
for “technology to create a superior cutlery using tamahagane”, which is a grand prize of craftsmanship.
Which began as a rivalry, has now become a mutual recognition of the qualities
in each other.
Mr. Shigeyoshi Iwasaki also shared his skills and knowledge to whoever wanted to learn.
Several years ago he organised “Sanjō Kaji Shudan”, a volunteer group of 30 Sanjō smiths
who help ordinary people try out smithery once a month. Some became professional
sword smiths. His sharing wasn’t limited to Japan. Since 1983 he has been regularly
dispatched by the “Japan International Cooperation Agency” for developing countries
such as Bangladesh, Nepal and Kenya to instruct local smiths in advanced skills.
Some people said if Iwasaki sold that kind of super high quality razors, they weren’t
able to sell lots of razors, and weren’t able to make money. Iwasaki thought it wasn’t
good to think that way. If they were able to make razors to be used from father to son,
and from son to grandson, it could beat German razors. Nobody else made/makes that
kind of razors, which made it able to sell all over the world, and that was exactly what
Mr. Kōsuke Iwasaki wanted.
At one time, “Sanjō Works” had Mr. Kousuke Iwasaki, Mr. Shigeyoshi Iwasaki,
two of his other sons, Mr. Mizuochi (who presently makes Iwasaki razors), and
Mr. Tokifusa Iizuka (who makes “Shigefusa” 『重房』knifes) as their workers, the
company really had a dream team of Japan cutlery.
Mr. Ryoichi Mizuochi worked at “Sanjō Works” when he was young but he had
to succeed his fathers shop and stopped making razors. When he got 60 years old
he came back because Mr. Shigeyoshi Iwasaki got ill and couldn’t fulfil orders.
Mr. Mizuochi is still engaged in manufacturing traditional Japanese razors at
Mr. Iwasaki’s factory. He is also an active traditional craftsman. The number of
orders are so large, there is a year waiting list.
All these members are part of the “Echigo Sanjō Blacksmith group”.
Here is a picture of the staff of “Sanjō Works” around 1963:
From right to left:
次弟尚武(ひさたけ)氏 = Younger brother (of Mr. Shigeyoshi Iwasaki) Mr. Hisatake
末弟勝介(かつすけ)氏 = Youngest brother (of Mr. Shigeyoshi Iwasaki) Mr. Katsusuke
水落良市氏 = Mr. Ryouichi Mizuochi
岩崎重義 = Shigeyoshi Iwasaki with child:
長女恵 (めぐみ) Eldest daughter Megumi
妹頁子さん = Younger sister Ms. Pējiko
文子夫人 = Mrs. Fumiko (or Ayako = wife of Shigeyoshi Iwasaki), 佐藤文子 = Fumiko (or Ayako) Satō, with child:
長男覚 (さとる) Eldest son Satoru
飯塚解房氏 = Mr. Tokifusa Iizuka
後に独立し庖丁緞(or瑕)冶 which later became independent
重房を名乗る then called “Shigefusa“
Around 1954, Mr. Tokifusa Iizuka (Seiso Izuka) began his apprenticeship as a
teenager with sword maker Mr. Kousuke Iwasaki and Tamahagane razor maker
Mr. Shigeyoshi Iwasaki at “Sanjō Works”, making traditional Japanese razors.
After 10 years, he decided to become a maker of cutlery. In 1964, Mr. Tokifusa Iizuka
was introduced by Mr. Shigeyoshi Iwasaki to the famous Mr.Munenori Nagashima,
who made Japanese swords before becoming a (Kasumi) knife maker following
World War II. After being an apprentice of Mr. Nagashima for several months,
learning how to make knives, he started his own business “Shigefusa”『重房』
in 1964 (which later on included his 2 sons, Masayuki Iizuka and Yoshihide Iizuka).
By the age of 38 he had already been celebrated as the best houchou (Japanese style
chef’s knife) blacksmith in Japan. Mr. Izuka is currently still an active master as a
traditional craftsman of Traditional Japanese knives.
On Iwasaki Tamahagane kamisori (single edged Japanese razors),
there are three types of engraving, found on the blade (Ura):
- “Tamahagane Iwasaki” 「玉鋼 岩崎」
- “Tamahagane ㊂ Iwasaki” 「玉鋼 ㊂ 岩崎」
- ” Tamahagane ㊂ Shigeyoshi” 「玉鋼 ㊂ 重義」玉鋼 岩崎 玉鋼 ㊂ 岩崎 玉鋼 ㊂ 重義
In addition, there are three types of engraving on carbon steel/ Swedish steel razors:
- “Carbon steel Iwasaki” 「炭素鋼 岩崎」or 「炭素鋼㊂岩崎」
- “Registered ㊂ Iwasaki” 「登録 ㊂ 岩崎」
- “㊂ Iwasaki” 「 ㊂ 岩崎」炭素鋼㊂岩崎 登録㊂岩崎 ㊂岩崎
In the end roughly six types of engravings can be seen.
The stamp “Tamahagane Iwasaki” 「玉鋼 岩崎」, without the ㊂ sign seems to be
the oldest type.
In the early Iwasaki Tamahagane kamisori there are numbers (in Arabic) engraved in
the middle of the handle (which is made of soft iron). It is not clear why the first Iwasaki
kamisori don’t have a ㊂ sign, or when exactly the custom of using the ㊂ sign has started.
What is known though is that the serial numbers (SN), going from 200 to about 950, are
associated with the「玉鋼 岩崎」stamp (without the ㊂ sign), for example:
Interesting is the following 「玉鋼 岩崎」with SN 907·7:
Assuming to be an original box and papers, we see the ㊂ sign on the paper, but not
on the razor itself, maybe there was a transition period, or maybe they did it like this
at the beginning… (or the box and papers aren’t original…)
Update, 17 Dec. ’16 Somewhere between SN 907·7 and 949·37 the stamp「玉鋼 岩崎」 changed to 「玉鋼 ㊂ 岩崎」
The newer series, with SN (in Arabic) around 950 and higher are seen with
the current type of stamp:「玉鋼 ㊂ 岩崎」(“Tamahagane steel ㊂ Iwasaki”):
(Update, 17 Dec. ’16)
(Update, April ’17)
(Update, Mai ’17)
Strangely enough there are also razors to be found with the newer
“Tamahagane ㊂ Iwasaki”「玉鋼 ㊂ 岩崎」stamp, though with a serial
number lower then 100…
(Update: ’17, April, Mai, June)
(wrapping paper “SN 10·8”)
The Tamahagane symbol on Japanese razors (kamisori)
seems to change now and then (look at the 玉):
Sadly I don’t know the meaning of the serial numbers lower then 100…
Maybe the numbering started over again with the move of their forge, I don’t know…
What I do know is that at a certain moment (unknown timeframe) the custom of
using serial numbers on the handle disappeared, making it very hard or impossible
to know wether it concerns a new or an old kamisori…
→ All statements above are applicable to the Tamahagane Japanese razors (kamisori)
→ Serial numbers (SN) can also be seen on carbon steel made kamisori, for example:
→ Often a paper can be seen wrapped around the kamisori:
岩崎の日本剃刀 = Iwasaki no Nihon kamisori = Iwasaki’s Japanese razor
検査済 本刃付 = kensa sumi honbadzuke = this razor is “fully inspected”
三条製作所 = ” Sanjō-seisakusho / Sanjō-seisakusyo” = “Sanjo works; factory; plant”
⇒ Japan razor (kamisori) of Iwasaki, fully inspected, Sanjo Works
On Iwasaki double edged Western straight razors, made of
Tamahagane, there are also serial numbers to be found, roughly
around 200 – 1900. In contrast to the Arabic written numbers on
kamisori, the straights have numbers written with Japanese kanji
(numbers from 1 to 9: 一二三四五六七八九).
Early straight razors with serial numbers lower then 800, as seen below,
can have a combination of both stamps 岩崎 (Iwasaki) and 上條 (Kamijo).
( → Kamijo, see further)
Somewhere between Serial Number “636·2” & “707·7”, the trademark
changed from「 岩崎·上條」to「 ㊂ 岩崎 」, Kamiju disappeared…
The Tamahagane razors with SR around “707·7” – “820·4” apparently
had an extra “Arabic” number on the tang, which indicated the last number
of the SR ( = the number of the razor, out of one single Tamahagane
lot/piece, for example 八二◯·四玉鋼 (= 820·4), on this razor we see an
extra “4” written in Arabic)
(Updated: 2016: Dec. ; 2017: Jan., March., April, Mai)
- 「 岩崎 ·上條」「 二一三·五玉鋼」= Iwasaki Kamiju 213·5 Tamahagane
- 「 岩崎 ·上條」「 二七三·三玉鋼」= Iwasaki Kamiju 272·3 Tamahagane
- 「 岩崎 上條」「 四◯九·三玉鋼」= Iwasaki Kamiju 409·3 Tamahagane
- 「 岩崎 上條」「 五二三·一玉鋼」= Iwasaki Kamiju 523·1 Tamahagane
- 「 岩崎 上條」「 六一七·六玉鋼」= Iwasaki Kamiju 617·6 Tamahagane
- 「 岩崎 上條」「 六三六·二玉鋼」= Iwasaki Kamiju 636·2 Tamahagane
- 「 ㊂ 岩崎 7」「 七◯七·七玉鋼」= Iwasaki 707·7 Tamahagane
- 「 ㊂ 岩崎 5」「 七二九·五玉鋼」= Iwasaki 729·5 Tamahagane
- 「 ㊂ 岩崎 4」「 八二◯·四玉鋼」= Iwasaki 820·4 Tamahagane
- 「 ㊂ 岩崎」「 八八四·四玉鋼」= Iwasaki 884·4 Tamahagane
- 「 ㊂ 岩崎」「 八九四·二玉鋼」= Iwasaki 894·2 Tamahagane
- 「 ㊂ 岩崎」「 九三二·四玉鋼」= Iwasaki 932·4 Tamahagane
- 「 ㊂ 岩崎」「 九六一·五玉鋼」= Iwasaki 961·5 Tamahagane
- 「 ㊂ 岩崎」「 九八一·二玉鋼」= Iwasaki 981·2 Tamahagane
- 「 ㊂ 岩崎」「 一◯五九·七玉鋼」= Iwasaki 1059·7 Tamahagane
- 「 ㊂ 岩崎」「 一◯九三·二玉鋼」= Iwasaki 1093·2 Tamahagane
- 「 ㊂ 岩崎」「 一一〇五・五」= Iwasaki 1105·5 Tamahagane
- 「 ㊂ 岩崎」「 一二三六·六玉鋼」= Iwasaki 1236·6 Tamahagane
- 「 ㊂ 岩崎」「 一三二◯·一玉鋼」= Iwasaki 1320·1 Tamahagane
- 「 ㊂ 岩崎」「 一三三七·五玉鋼」= Iwasaki 1337·5 Tamahagane
- 「 ㊂ 岩崎」「 一三四二·二玉鋼」= Iwasaki 1342·2 Tamahagane
- Iwasaki 1363·1 Tamahagane
On the box, is written 1363·1 in Arabic, and Hv 860
(Hardened to Hv 860 on the Vickers scale = 66.3 Rockwell!)
- 「 ㊂ 岩崎」「 一三六四·七玉鋼」= Iwasaki 1364·7 Tamahagane
- 「 ㊂ 岩崎」「 一三六五·五玉鋼」= Iwasaki 1365·5 Tamahagane
- 「 ㊂ 岩崎」「 一三七四·三玉鋼」= Iwasaki 1374·3 Tamahagane
- 「 ㊂ 岩崎」「 一三九五·六玉鋼」= Iwasaki 1395·6 Tamahagane
- 「 ㊂ 岩崎」「 一三九八·四玉鋼」= Iwasaki 1398·4 Tamahagane
- 「 ㊂ 岩崎」「 一四一〇・五玉鋼」= Iwasaki 1410·5 Tamahagane
- 「 ㊂ 岩崎」「 一四三三·一玉鋼」= Iwasaki 1433·1 Tamahagane
- 「 ㊂ 岩崎」「 一四五一·二玉鋼」= Iwasaki 1451·2 Tamahagane
- 「 ㊂ 岩崎」「 一四四八・二玉鋼」= Iwasaki 1448·2 Tamahagane
- 「 ㊂ 岩崎」「 一四六六·四玉鋼」= Iwasaki 1466·4 Tamahagane
- 「 ㊂ 岩崎」「 一四六八·四玉鋼」= Iwasaki 1468·4 Tamahagane
On the box, is written 1468 in Arabic, and Hv 810
(Hardened to Hv 810 on the Vickers scale = 64,4 Rockwell)
- 「 ㊂ 岩崎」「 一五◯八·三玉鋼」= Iwasaki 1508·3 Tamahagane
- 「 ㊂ 岩崎」「 一五◯八·九玉鋼」= Iwasaki 1508·9 Tamahagane
- 「 ㊂ 岩崎」「 一五一一・九玉鋼」= Iwasaki 1511·9 Tamahagane
- 「 ㊂ 岩崎」「 一五三二・九玉鋼」= Iwasaki 1532·9 Tamahagane
- 「 ㊂ 岩崎」「 一五四◯・九玉鋼」= Iwasaki 1540·9 Tamahagane
- 「 ㊂ 岩崎」「 一五四七・三玉鋼」= Iwasaki 1547·3 Tamahagane
- 「 ㊂ 岩崎」「 一五七五・六玉鋼」= Iwasaki 1575·6 Tamahagane
- 「 ㊂ 岩崎」「 一六◯四·六玉鋼」= Iwasaki 1604·6 Tamahagane
- 「 ㊂ 岩崎」「 一六◯四·七玉鋼」= Iwasaki 1604·7 Tamahagane
- 「 ㊂ 岩崎」「 一六◯七·八玉鋼」= Iwasaki 1607·8 Tamahagane
- 「 ㊂ 岩崎」「一六一四 ・五玉鋼」= Iwasaki 1614·5 Tamahagane
- 「 ㊂ 岩崎」「 一六五八·八玉鋼」= Iwasaki 1658·8 Tamahagane
- 「 ㊂ 岩崎」「 一六六六·五玉鋼」= Iwasaki 1666·5 Tamahagane
On the box, is written 1666.5 in Arabic, and Hv 790
(Hardened to Hv 790 on the Vickers scale = around 63,6 Rockwell)
- 「 ㊂ 岩崎」「 一六七六·三玉鋼」= Iwasaki 1676·3 Tamahagane
- 「 ㊂ 岩崎」「 一七二一·九玉鋼」= Iwasaki 1721·9 Tamahagane
- 「 ㊂ 岩崎」「 一七二七·一玉鋼」= Iwasaki 1727·1 Tamahagane
- 「 ㊂ 岩崎」「 一七三五·七玉鋼」= Iwasaki 1735·7 Tamahagane
- 「 ㊂ 岩崎」「 一七五七・八玉鋼」= Iwasaki 1757·8 Tamahagane
- 「 ㊂ 岩崎」「 一七七四・一 玉鋼」= Iwasaki 1774·1 Tamahagane
- 「 ㊂ 岩崎」「一八一四・三玉鋼」= Iwasaki 1814·3 Tamahagane (private collection)
- 「 ㊂ 岩崎」「 一八一七·三玉鋼」= Iwasaki 1817·3 Tamahagane
- 「 ㊂ 岩崎」「 一八一九·一玉鋼」= Iwasaki 1819·1 Tamahagane
- 「 ㊂ 岩崎」「 一九◯◯·五玉鋼」= Iwasaki 1900·5 Tamahagane
- 「 ㊂ 岩崎」「 一九◯一·六玉鋼」= Iwasaki 1901·6 Tamahagane
A peculiar something:
- 「 ㊂ 岩崎」「 ◯千·四二玉鋼」= Iwasaki 0 1000·42 Tamahagane
(“◯千” = “a thousand” or “one thousand”?)
- 「 ㊂ 岩崎」「 ◯九八四·五玉鋼」Iwasaki 0 984·5 Tamahagane
I don’t know why “7” is stamped…
The Iwasaki Western straight razor isn’t manufactured anymore (since the 1980’s,
see further), the Japanese razor (kamisori) is still made though, but without serial number…
The meaning of the serial numbers probably has something to do with the production
of Tamahagane. From a single Tatara production (batch) there is enough Tamahagane
to make about 6-8 straight razors (maybe 9). Tamahagane straight razors, since it is
made entirely out of Tamahagane steel, needs about 6 times more amount of Tamahagane then Japanese Tamahagane razors (kamisori), which explains why on Tamahagane
straight razors, the number after the “·” isn’t more then 9 (九), while on kamisori the
number after the “·” exceeds well above 40. The first number (before the “·”) therefore
would be the count of Tatara production (batch), the number after the “·” would stand for
the amount of razors, made of that particular batch. In that way, it also would make sense
why the serial numbers on carbon steel razors only have 1 number, and not 2, divided
with a “·”, as with the Tamahagane razors.
Iwasaki also made other kinds of straight razors, for example a 7/8 rounded square point
full hollow Tamahagane straight razor, a smaller french tip half hollow Tamahagane
straight razor, a 6/8 square point full hollow Swedish steel #90 straight razor, a shorter
bladed 5/8 Swedish steel #33 straight razor etc… This diversity filled specific needs and
requests raised by barbers who collaborated with the Iwasaki workshop when they were
developing their razors. For example, the rounded square point Tamahagane straight
razor was made for barbers who felt that a real square point easier led to nicks at the tip.
For others, a pronounced square tip helped to shave the nostrils, so they kept producing
the full square point on some straight razors. They produced half hollow straight razors
for most users, barbers who tended to shave against the grain, got more comfortable,
less nicky shaves with a thicker, half hollow straight razor. Besides Tamahagane,
there also were Carbon Steel, and Swedish Steel straight razors,…
On some Iwasaki straight razors, next to the trademark ㊂ you might see an “M”.
This would indicate a razor of medium hardness. Iwasaki straight razors, especially
the Tamahagane razors, were hardened to roughly 800-820 on the Vickers scale,
or 64-64,8 Rockwell. This makes them extremely durable, but harder to hone.
Occasionally they were hardened a little bit less, for example as seen on the razor with
SN 1666.5, which was hardened to Hv 790 on the Vickers scale (around 63,6 Rockwell)
According to Mr. Iwasaki, soon after they started making razors a fundamental
social change in Japan led to a large increase in the number of women in barbering.
These women had a lot of trouble honing the larger, harder straight razors, so they started
making softer straight razors. Razors marked “M” were only hardened to 775-795 Vickers,
or roughly 63,3-63,9 Rockwell. In addition, these razors tended to have shorter blades
then the harder straight razors, making them even easier to hone.
Sometimes also a “T” is visible on the back of the tang, many say this “T” stands
for Tanifuji (Fukutarō), there are also straight razors to be found were the full name
of Mr. Tanifuji Fukutarō can be seen on the back of the tang. Tanifuji had teached
Mr. Shigeyoshi Iwasaki, he also finished the straight razors of Iwasaki (see further).
Besides “M” (M, 3M, 6M, 7M, 9M) and “T”, other lettres that can be found:
“G”, “H”(H, 9H), “V”, and possibly more…
“Tokiwa” or “トキワ” is also something that can be seen or straight razors of Iwasaki.
Some say that “Tokiwa” was one of those who finished the straight razors of Iwasaki,
others say that is stands for “Tokiwa Shokai”, which was one of the distributors they
made straight razors for. “Tokiwa Shokai, K.K.” was founded in 1970. The company’s
line of business includes the marketing of semifinished metal products, so maybe it
could be both…
Even the combination “Mr. Tanifuji Fukutarō” and “Tokiwa” can be found, so
maybe “Tanifuji” finished the razors, which were then distributed by “Tokiwa”…
(Updated: 2017: April)
- トキワ, ㊂岩崎 = Tokiwa Iwasaki
- ㊂トキワ = Iwasaki Tokiwa, 登録商標 = tōroku shōhyō = registered trademark,
谷藤福太郎 = Tanifuji Fukutarō)
- 7Mトキワ, ㊂ 岩崎 = Tokiwa Iwasaki
- ㊂ Iwasaki
- 30 ㊂ 岩崎 (nothing on back tang)
- 30 ㊂ 岩崎, H
- 30 ㊂ 岩崎, 9H
- 30 ㊂ 岩崎, M
- 30 ㊂ 岩崎, V
- 30 ㊂ 岩崎, V (Scale carving: “N.Y. 1963”, likely this razor is made in 1963 or earlier)
- 30 4V, ㊂ 岩崎 (Updated April ’17)
- 33 ㊂ 岩崎 (nothing on back tang)
On the box, is written 33, and Hv 785
(Hardened to Hv 785 on the Vickers scale = around 63,4 Rockwell)
- 33 1/2 ㊂ 岩崎 (nothing on back tang)
- 38 Trade㊂Mark Iwasaki 上島海綿鉄
(Ueshima kaimen tetsu = Ueshima sponge iron?)
(Mr. Kōsuke Iwasaki’s initials are on the scales, making it older then 1967)
On the box, is written 38, and Hv 784
(Hardened to Hv 784 on the Vickers scale = around 63,4 Rockwell)
- 50 ㊂ 岩崎
On the box, is written 50, and Hv 812
(Hardened to Hv 812 on the Vickers scale = around 64 Rockwell)
- 50 1/2 ㊂ 岩崎 (nothing on back tang)
On the box, is written 50, and Hv 800
(Hardened to Hv 800 on the Vickers scale = 64 Rockwell)
- 51 Trade㊂Mark Iwasaki, KAMIJO, 炭素鋼 (Carbon steel) (Updated Jan. ’17)
- 60 レディ”Lady”, ㊂ 岩崎
On the box, is written 60, and Hv 770
(Hardened to Hv 770 on the Vickers scale = around 62,9 Rockwell)
- 70 ㊂ 岩崎 (nothing on back tang)
- 70 ㊂ 岩崎, G
On the box, is written 70, and Hv 770
(Hardened to Hv 770 on the Vickers scale = around 62,9 Rockwell)
- 80 ㊂ IWASAKI (nothing on back tang)
- 80 1/4 ㊂ IWASAKI (nothing on back tang)
- 80 ㊂ 岩崎, T
On the box, is written 80, and Hv 810
(Hardened to Hv 810 on the Vickers scale = around 64,4 Rockwell)
- 90 Iwasaki Made in Japan, ㊂
- 90 ㊂ 岩崎, H
- 96 Lady (レディ) (Updated July ’17)
On the box, is written 96, and Hv 810
(Hardened to Hv 810 on the Vickers scale = around 64,4 Rockwell)
- 101 Trade㊂Mark Iwasaki, KAMIJO, 炭素鋼 (Carbon steel) (Updated April ’17)
- 805 Trade㊂Mark Iwasaki, 炭素鋼 (Carbon steel)
- ㊂ 岩崎, made of Carbon steel (nothing on back tang)
Update, April ’17:
Coincidence or not, the razors with KAMIJO have a “1” at the end of the number (51, 101)
A few special ones:
- Iwasaki SKH 房総 (Bōsō)
- 房総 (Bōsō), レディ(Lady)
(Ref.: : 26 )
It is very difficult to know who exactly made a particular razor, except in the case
a stamp「玉鋼 ㊂ 重義」”Tamahagane ㊂ Shigeyoshi” is present, in that case it obviously
was made by Mr. Shigeyoshi Iwasaki.
So, who could have made those razors and when?
Reading of the text above, the following can be extracted:
During college, or shortly after, Mr. Kōsuke Iwasaki started a prototype research of the Western razor,
this in cooperation with a barber.
After the war, in 1946 (his son Shigeyoshi was 13y old), Mr. Kōsuke Iwasaki established “Sanjō Works“,
which made the world famous Iwasaki Razors right after WWII.
Some sources say that Mr. Kōsuke Iwasaki himself didn’t make razors,
others say the opposite…
In the past, many sword makers did also make kamisori. “Sanjō Works” was
established by Mr. Kōsuke Iwasaki in 1946, because of this, I do believe he could have
made the first Tamahagane kamisori at “Sanjō Works“. In 1946, being only 13y old,
Mr. Shigeyoshi Iwasaki couldn’t make kamisori by then.
Combining the theoretical study of father Kōsuke, and the practical blacksmith technology mastered by Shigeyoshi,
in 1954 (Shigeyoshi was 21y old) they succeed in the development of the Western razor made of Tamahagane steel.
Because Mr. Kōsuke Iwasaki, although he was a sword maker, presumably had little to
non experience as a blacksmith and had send Mr. Shigeyoshi Iwasaki to be an apprentice with several master blacksmiths, it is possible that Mr. Kōsuke Iwasaki didn’t make the
Western type straight razors, though he did the research. Still, maybe he did make the Western type straight razors after all, or at least helped making them…
As we will see further on, Mr. Kōsuke Iwasaki approached Master Tanifuji (Fukutarō) to
train the Iwasaki family in razor finishing and scaling. Before this, at Iwasaki’s request,
Mr. Kamijo Yukio moved his equipment to Iwasaki’s forge and taught them all he knew
about how to hand forge and grind razors. He worked together with Mr. Shigeyoshi
Iwasaki and finished most of the early Iwasaki razors. So this all would have happened
in the beginning of the production of Iwasaki’s Western straight razor, around 1954.
The previously shown Tamahagane straight razors with SN 213·5, 272·3, 636·2, and both
岩崎 (Iwasaki) and 上條 (Kamijo) stamps「 岩崎 ·上條」, are therefore undoubtably early
straight razors, not only because of its low serial number, but also because Kamijo
Now, there are obvious differences between the Iwasaki sign on this straight razor
with serial number “636·2” and those with serial number “707·7” and higher:
1a 1b Except for the obvious ㊂ mark, which isn’t present on the
“636·2” (and 213·5, 272·3,…) straight razors, the Iwasaki sign is different, which makes
me wonder if this 1a sign (without ㊂ mark), was the sign of Mr. Kōsuke Iwasaki; or maybe
it was stamped by Mr. Kamijo Yukio… Either way, IMHO it is possible that Mr. Kōsuke
Iwasaki could have been active in the making of Western straight razors
The second sign 1b is from Mr. Shigeyoshi Iwasaki. I know for a fact that some
razors with such a stamp were definitely made by Mr. Shigeyoshi Iwasaki himself, so…
The Tamahagane symbol of 1a next to 1b also differs:
The 玉 is about the same, but the 鋼 is quite different.
The Tamahagane symbol 1b on straight razors, being of Mr. Shigeyoshi Iwasaki,
remains the same until serial number “1342·2“. After this, somewhere between
serial number “1342·2” & “1364·7“, although the Iwasaki sign remains the same,
a subtle change is visible in the Tamahagane symbol 1c (look at the 玉):
Strangely enough, the 1b symbol appears back again in the course if time…
Here is a line up (with SN – Serial Number):
213·5, 272·3, 523·1, 617·6, 636·2, 707·7, 729·5, 820·4, 932·4, 981·2,
1059·7, 1105·5, 1236·6, 1337·5, 1342·2, 1364·7, 1365·5, 1374·3, 1395·6, 1398·4, 1410·5,
!! !! !!
1433·1, 1448·2, 1466·4, 1468·4, 1508·3, 1508·9, 1511·9, 1532·9, 1540·9, 1547·3, 1575·6,
1604·6, 1604·7, 1607·8, 1614·5, 1658·8, 1666·5, 1676·3, 1721·9, 1727·1, 1735·7, 1757·8,
1774·1, 1817·3, 1814·3, 1819·1, 1900·5, 1901·6
The variant of the Tamahagane symbol 1c is also seen on this kamisori:
玉鋼 ㊂ 重義 (Tamahagane ㊂ Shigeyoshi)
I have no clue why the 玉 has changed through time though…
On kamisori, other differences also are present:
2a 2b 2c
2a: found on kamisori with SN “409·1” (or lower) to “907·7” (or higher),
2b: found on kamisori with (Update, 17 Dec. ’16) SN “949·37” (or lower) to “1169·19” (or higher),
2c: found on a carbon steel (Tansoko) kamisori with serial number 2998. (Apparently these razors are one
of Mr. Shigeyoshi Iwasaki’s many experiments, developing a steel to supercede Tamahagane)
The Iwasaki and Tamahagane mark 2a is different from 2b & 2c.
IMHO 2a was the sign of Mr. Kōsuke Iwasaki. Because 2a is yet different then 1a,
my belief is that 1a could indeed be stamped by Mr. Kamijo Yukio…
Striking is the similarity between the Iwasaki stamp 1b (straight razor) and the
Iwasaki stamp 2c (carbon steel kamisori). We’ve established that 1b is the sign of
Mr. Shigeyoshi Iwasaki, he made the straight razors and carbon steel kamisori.
But why is the stamp 2b so differently? This stamp is also seen on the carbon steel
straight razors, as well on the 30, 30 M, 33, 50 1/2, 60 レディ”Lady”, 70 G, 80 T, 90 H
straight razors, it is also found on the kamisori with serial number “11·44” & “16·81″…
1b 2c 2b
As we will see further on, there are verified Shigeyoshi Iwasaki made razors with a 2b stamp, so it seems that Mr. Shigeyoshi Iwasaki used different kind of stamps.
The Tamahagane stamp 1b (Mr. Shigeyoshi Iwasaki) also does seems to be
very similar as the one on 2b:
“Recently” made kamisori are stamped as well with a 2b stamp, so Mr. Ryoichi Mizuochi, who is making the Iwasaki kamisori today, seems to be using this stamp as well, or a
very similar one… At the moment I can’t distinguish Mr. Shigeyoshi Iwasaki’s mark
from Mr. Ryoichi Mizuochi…
Here is another example, found on a kamisori which would be made by Mr. Shigeyoshi Iwasaki himself. It has the 玉 (like 1c), and the 岩崎 symbol as on 2b
So, in the end (if correctly, I’m not sure!) the different signs/marks would be:
Kamijo Yukio Kōsuke Iwasaki
Shigeyoshi Iwasaki Shigeyoshi Iwasaki(?) (or Ryoichi Mizuochi?)
Also the boxes displays different styles of stamps (aside = stamp on razor):
玉鋼 Tamahagane kamisori:
(SN 16·81) (岩崎作, made by (Shigeyoshi) Iwasaki)
(重義, Shigeyoshi) (岩崎作, made by (Shigeyoshi) Iwasaki)
(刀匠, sword smith 重義, Shigeyoshi)
Kamisori (Swedish – carbon steel):
(別打 = betsuuchi / betsuda = specially made/forged)
Kiridashi, made by Shigeyoshi Iwasaki
(with signature of Mr. Shigeyoshi Iwasaki on attached paper):
岩崎 = Iwasaki
重義 = Shigeyoshi
It is clear that Shigeyoshi Iwasaki used different stamps.
He used & , as well as , and even
There are also 2 kinds of red stamps:
the cubical one reads
岩崎重義 (Shigeyoshi Iwasaki),
the round one reads 岩崎 (Iwasaki)
Around 1954, both Mr. Kōsuke Iwasaki and Mr. Shigeyoshi Iwasaki could have made razors, though it seems very likely that is was Mr. Shigeyoshi Iwasaki who made most of the kamisori by then, and made every Western type razors.
“In 1961, Mr. Ryouichi Mizuochi and Mr. Tokifusa Iizuka joined the company. Together with two younger
brothers and a sister of Mr. Shigeyoshi Iwasaki, the production of the Western razor (西洋剃刀 or Seiyō kamisori)
and the Japanese razor (和剃刀 or wa kamisori) came into full swing, this only with 7 people, including
Mr. Shigeyoshi Iwasaki and his father Mr. Kōsuke Iwasaki”
Between 1954 and 1964, Mr. Tokifusa Iizuka began his apprenticeship as a teenager with sword maker Mr. Kousuke
Iwasaki and Tamahagane razor maker Mr. Shigeyoshi Iwasaki at “Sanjō Works”, making traditional Japanese razors
Mr. Mizuochi worked “Sanjō Works” when he was young but he had to succeed his fathers shop and stopped
making razors. When he got 60 years old he came back because Iwasaki san got ill and could not fulfil orders.
Between 1954 and 1964, kamisori could also be made (besides Mr. Shigeyoshi Iwasaki and maybe Mr. Kōsuke Iwasaki) by Mr. Tokifusa Iizuka, especially between 1961 and 1964, when he joined the company. Since 1961, the Western razor and the Japanese razors (kamisori) could also be made by Mr. Ryouichi Mizuochi, who presently makes the Iwasaki razors, although he stopped making razors for a while.
I couldn’t find what kind of work the two brothers and sister of Shigeyoshi had…
It is obvious that it is near to impossible to know who exactly made the razors, although
it seems that most razors were made by Mr. Shigeyoshi Iwasaki (1954 or earlier – until a few years ago) and Mr. Ryouichi Mizuochi (1961 – now). Likely the earliest kamisori were made by Mr. Kōsuke Iwasaki, he maybe even made the first Western straight razors
(together with Mr. Kamijo Yukio)…
Should it be that he made razors, Mr. Kōsuke Iwasaki probably couldn’t have made much
razors anymore after 1963, since he was dealing with cancer, until he passed away in 1967.
Concerning straight razors, Iwasaki didn’t do the entire work on his own.
Straight razors require an entirely other skill set then making kamisori: polishing and finishing. In order to make straight razors that met his strict quality requirements,
Mr. Kōsuke Iwasaki approached one of Japan’s three “Straight Razor Masters”,
Master Tanifuji (Fukutarō), to train the Iwasaki family in razor finishing and scaling.
However, after the training, Mr. Iwasaki realised that not only would they have to build
an entirely new workshop with new equipment, the additional time involved in proper
polishing and scaling the razors would reduce production output immensely.
So instead of doing the finishing themselves, all Iwasaki razors were finished by Master
Tanifuji and his students. This means that the blades were forged, ground and stamped
by Iwasaki, then polished and scaled by Master Tanifuji. Master Tanifuji retired at the age
of 79, around 1973, and since that time, there have been no new Iwasaki straight razors.
There are also Western carbon steel straight razors of Iwasaki to be found,
which were finished by Master Yukio Kamijō (上條幸夫 or 上条幸夫 (作)), and bear
his mark “KAMIJO”.
There are also razors to be found with the combination of 岩崎 (Iwasaki) 上條 (Kamijo):
- 「 岩崎 上條」「 六三六·二玉鋼」= Iwasaki Kamiju 636·2 Tamahagane
Actually, he was the first to finish the Iwasaki Western straight razors before Tanifuji
took over. At Iwasaki’s request, Kamijo Yukio, at the age of 92, moved his equipment to
Iwasaki’s forge and taught them all he knew about how to hand forge and grind razors.
He had been a member of Dr. Kōsuke Iwasaki’s study group. He worked together with
Mr. Shigeyoshi Iwasaki and finished most of the early Iwasaki razors.
Kamijo’s razors are now almost impossible to find in Japan and very sought after
by Japanese collectors, they are much harder to find than Iwasaki’s razors, and is
even harder to come by outside Japan.
For some, they are regarded as the best shaving razors ever, they also are
very hard, some have been tested at Rockwell 67 (880 on the Vickers scale)!
As seen before, besides Master Tanifuji (Fukutarō) and Master Yukio Kamijō,
possibly Iwasaki’s straight razors could have been finished as well by “Tokiwa” (トキワ)
(or it was one of the distributors of Iwasaki’s straight razors)
- 玉鋼 ㊂岩崎 FF , 塩澤忠明作 = made by Master Shiozawa Tadaaki
- 玉鋼 ㊂岩崎 HH , 塩澤忠明作 = made by Master Shiozawa Tadaaki
When comparing for instance the FF with a regular Iwasaki kamisori,
there is clearly a large piece that is filed away, it seems to be a restoration
Also, comparing the heel towards the handle, you see a notch were the jimps begin
So, Master Shiozawa Tadaaki most probably restored or altered these kamisori, placed jimps on the tang, made a pivot hole and scaled them, it is unclear if it was commissioned by Iwasaki or not, also it is unclear why these 2 razors have “King Pelican” scales…
A few special Tamahagane steel kamisori with unique stamps:
玉鋼 小林 ㊂岩崎 (Tamahagane Kobayashi ㊂ Iwasaki)
玉鋼 阿部 ㊂岩崎 (Tamahagane Abe/Abu/Ahe ㊂ Iwasaki)
I have no idea what the meaning is of “Kobayashi” or “Abe/Abu/Ahe“…
Iwasaki almost never made a straight razor with kamisori style.
The ones seen on ebay, etc. originally were kamisori that
afterwards got a pivot hole and scales…
scaled like a western straight. Apparently the only one in the entire world…
You can see the differences between a normal kamisori, especially the tang, which
is more straight, thicker, just like a regular straight razor
(Ref.: : 32 )
Iwasaki even made frame back razors:
Spine, blade with ㊂ symbol:
(Updated 2107, July)
上條幸夫 = Kamijō Yukio
As previously explained, “Kamijō Yukio” worked together with Iwasaki.
Sadly I don’t know anything more of the life of “Kamijō Yukio”…
It is known that he also made razors of his own, for example:
幸 (within a circle) is part of the name Yukio 幸夫 (from 上條幸夫 = Kamijō Yukio),
I don’t know why it is displayed as it is, but I’ve seen this on different Kamijō Yukio razors.
上條 = Kamijō. This is derived from the maker “Kamijō Yukio” (上條幸夫)
謹製 = Kinsei = humbly made/quality product/carefully produced/reverently made
手打 = teuchi, レーザー = rēzā (razor) ⇒ handmade razor
上條 = Kamijō
謹製 = Kinsei
手打 = teuchi, レーザー = rēzā (razor) ⇒ handmade razor
上條 = Kamijō
謹製 = Kinsei
I’ve used different sources to gather the information: