Nowadays it is unthinkable that a company wouldn’t devote a large chunk of their money to advertising. This, however, has not always been the case. Before WWII, for example, only medical and cosmetic companies devoted money to advertising. KAI’s founder, Saijiro Endo, first began advertising his products in the 1930’s, at a time when advertisements for knives were virtually nonexistent. His products were often advertised alongside eye drops, stomach medication, and other miscellaneous products. Saijiro proved to be a savvy businessman. He handed out rice cookies that looked like replaceable razor blades (with sugar coating the ‘blade!’) to people who visited his company. In addition, Saijiro had the company’s name monogrammed onto tea cups and soap that were used in the office.
It was largely due to Saijiro’s ingenuity that led to the spike in pocket knife, scissors, and razor sales following WWII. At the end of WWII, more than ten companies were involved in blade production in Seki city. Feather, KAI’s original name, prided itself on controlling the market - holding 90% of the shares in Japan. By 1949, however, procuring raw materials became difficult and power shortages at the factory led to a supply and demand problem. At that time, there are only a few products on the market and their good quality led to good sales. The fact that they sold so well can probably be attributed to the name recognition they had received due to pre-war advertising. The entire blade packaging process was automated in 1955. This allowed production to explode, with 3 million blades being produced a month. Several other companies began manufacturing replaceable blades around this time; KAI, however, remained the dominant force in the industry.
The Emperor and Empress of Japan visited Saijiro’s factory in Seki in 1957. Saijiro later said that it was the greatest honor he could have ever received. It was probably the best day of his life. A beautiful photo was taken of the tree planting ceremony that was held to commemorate the Emperor’s visit. Saijiro sadly passed away a year later in February, 1958.
Saijiro was a unique and modern man. Whenever he left home, he wore a suit and tie. He rode to work every day on a bike, he loved old Japanese narrative music, and he loved playing go and pachinko. He and his wife also enjoyed investing in the stock market. Whenever Saijiro found himself encountering adversity he would often yell: ‘mother nature!’ He took strength from fragile plants surviving in harsh environments. He once said: ‘You don’t have to surrender. As long as you are in the right you can solve any problem.’ Like the Buddha attaining enlightenment, Saijiro was a master of managing his feelings. Ever since its foundation, KAI has continuously drawn great strength from Saijiro.