A more modern shaving cup

Most of the shaving cup and shaving mug patents I’ve have riffed on are old. Some are very old. But today I have a patent for a modern shaving cup to share – patented only twenty nine years ago!

Okay, typing that last bit made me feel old. But not as old as, say, Fuer & Knaus’ combined water boiler and scuttle from 1873. Or Schauble & Dohm’s shaving mug with threaded soaps from 1875. Or Heston’s shaving mug with detachable soap container1 from the same year. I’m not even as old as Lupowitz & Mackilbank’s aseptic shaving cup or Scott’s disposable shaving cup, both from just before the Great War.

But I am definitely older than Yoshiaki Shimizu’s2 shavings cup patented in 1992 (published two years later). I had in fact even started to shave when he patented it, and already decided that brush and cream was better than canned goo. The patent is in Japanese3, but the automatic translation don’t read half horrid.

I find it interesting that the Japanese patent have a section at the very start about prior art, which in this case do go into some detail on what a barber is. And their history in Japan, which I was not too familiar4 with. To quote the translation – and it’s a long quite because, hey, interesting.

The history of the Japanese Barber

A barbershop is generally called a barber, and refers to the type of job or shop whose main business is to trim hair, tie it, etc., or to have a beard, or the person who follows it. The barber shop first appeared in history as a profession in the Edo era, but at that time, the barber shop was used to open a hypothetical barber shop at bridge filling, riverbanks, roads, etc. and houses in the town. There was an inner floor that was open. After that, in the Meiji era, due to the influence of the haircutting law enforced in 1871 and the fact that overseas travelers or the Emperor cut their own hair, haircutting customs began in Yokohama and spread to Tokyo and other major cities.

Many barbershops, which are the prototypes of today’s barbershops, have opened. In 1901, the Metropolitan Police Ordinance promulgated the “Hairdressing Business Regulations”, and it was obliged that the person doing the hairdressing business should report to the police station under their jurisdiction, and at the same time, formalin liquid, lime acid water, carbonated soda water. Liquid sterilization, steam sterilization, boiling sterilization, and other business respects have been established.

In the Taisho era, starting from the Imperial Hairdressing School founded in Kyoto in 1951, private and union hairdressing schools opened one after another in Osaka, Nagoya, Kure, Yokohama, etc. A barber qualification test has been introduced. Then, in 1945 after the war, the barber industry decided to work on rebuilding the industry, which had been almost dismantled in the war, and formed the National Barber League the following year. After that, in 1947, the “Barber Law” was promulgated, and the barber’s license system was established and the barber’s social and cultural mission was clearly shown.

The current barber industry has broken away from the traditional apprenticeship system and changed to an education system based on barber training facilities, and a curriculum in line with the new era has started. The “National Barber Federation” is now disbanded and is now a “National Barber and Environmental Hygiene Trade Union Federation Organization”. On the other hand, the scientific container tools represented by scissors, combs, hair clippers, razors, etc. have progressed dramatically with repeated inventions and improvements, and the barber’s skill has also made remarkable progress since World War II.

A razor and a shaving cup are typical tools used for shaving a face and a beard among these various kinds of processing containers. A shaving cup is generally an oval cup made of ceramics with a handle, and the inside of the cup is divided into a tank for storing hot water and a tank for bubbling soap bubbles with a brush. Then, apply soap bubbled with this shaving cup to the shaving area of the face with a brush and shave it with a razor from above. Therefore, one razor, shaving cup and brush will be used by an unspecified number of people, so they are sterilized and used repeatedly.

From Japanese patent H0638806

Back to the patent

Okay, that was a little beside the point. But the patent goes on to claim that mistakes made at the barbershop often leads to serious illness. This is, when all is told, the same as the anthrax scare. Although Yoshiaki Shimizu did play up on the fair of AIDS instead of anthrax, since antibiotics5 have made the later less scary. Even if playing on fear, the more modern shaving cup copies the claims of being hygienic, sanitary and easy to use.

Drawing from Japanese patent publication H0638806 showing Yoshiaki Shimizu's more modern shaving cup
Drawing from Japanese patent publication H0638806 – Fig 1 is a perspective view, while Fig 2 is a cross section view of the more modern shaving cup.

Yoshiaki Shimizu identified that the big problem making other shaving cups less sanitary is the difficulty of cleaning them properly. Without them falling apart, that is. To solve this pressing issue, he changed the shape of the shaving mug and added a thumb rest on what is amusingly translated as the frothing cup.6 In the words of the patent again:

The present invention, which is made to achieve the above object, includes a cup body having an elliptical opening, a handle attached to a predetermined position outside the center of the body of the cup body in the longitudinal direction, and Shaving consisting of a shallow frothing cup that is attached to and detached from either the left or right opening of the body handle of the cup body, and a cushioning member that is provided below the flange on the outer edge of the frothing cup opening. In the cup, the collar portion of the whipping cup is characterized in that a tongue piece is projected toward the handle direction, and a cushion protrusion member whose front end contacts the upper surface of the handle is provided on the lower surface of the tongue piece.

From Japanese patent H0638806

The tongue piece allowed the barber to hold the frothing lathering cup securely when making lather and when cleaning up. It is – the patent claim – even possible to turn the cup upside down without danger.

My thoughts on the more modern shaving cup

While I certainly don’t agree with the fearmongering the patent engages in, I do like Yoshiaki Shimizu’s modern shaving cup. It has an interesting shape, seems easy to keep clean, and have a built in brush rest.7 The only real question is… where do I get one?

I can certainly see a shaving mug like this appealing not only to professional barbers, but to wetshaving enthusiasts. Similar mugs are sold, but I’ve yet to see one matching the patent in both shape, placement of handle, and the tongue piece on the frothing lathering cup.

The full patent can be found on Espanet, with a good machine translation available on Google Patents. If you’re interested in more (and older) shaving related patents and other oddities, I posted a lot of them on my blog.


  1. A device I can see being made and sold today. If artisans managed to agree upon a standard size and thread, that is.
  2. At least that is what Google Translate tells me that 義昭 志水 transliterate as.
  3. A language I don’t even know how to swear in.
  4. As in: Not at all familiar with.
  5. While the use of molds to cure infections was documented by John Parkinson during the baroque era, modern penicillin was discovered by Alexander Flemming in 1928.
  6. I can see how machine translation can go from lathering to frothing. It amuses me nevertheless.
  7. Marked ‘H’ on figure 1.

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