When Kayoko and I started choosing glassware for the shop, we wanted simple and functional glasses that would also look beautiful in any kitchen. With that in mind, we knew one of our mainstays would be the Hard Strong Stacking glasses manufactured by Japan's famous glass company Toyo-Sasaki. Ramen shops and teishoku (set meal) joints use these glasses mainly for water, making them ubiquitous pretty much anywhere in Japan.
As we expanded our glassware selection to include highball glasses and various stemware for cocktails, we noticed that the durability that Hard Strong glasses offered were ideal for the busy bars and long dishwashers cycles of 'Merica.
Back in February, we were lucky enough to visit Toyo-Sasaki HQ. We were excited to go to their office in Tokyo, but what we REALLY wanted to see was the factory where they actually made our glasses.
The factory was about an hour out from Tokyo, in a city called Chiba.
When we arrived, they had a "welcome board" greeting us. USA and Japan: together forever.
The Toyo-Sasaki Glass (TSG) showroom.
Enough glassware to keep us inspired for a lifetime.
Once we got to the factory, we were asked to wear smocks and helmets.
Kayoko: Always werkin'.
Our guide leads us towards the action. Suspense...
This was the main stage for hand-blown glass. What's he looking at in the ground?
Molding apparatus in the ground.
Finishing off the rim with some pyrotechnics.
Mold check, one-two, one-two.
Our guide was kind enough to let (trust) us to blow our very own glasses.
High level of concentration required.
And now the bulb gets nestled into a mold, where you gently blow so that it shapes to the sides of the mold.
There it is!
The glass is hot and handled with tongs.
The glass is then transferred to the annealer or cool down 'oven' where it'll spend about four hours to get back to room temperature.
As humble merchants, it was such an honor to be taken through the whole process of glass-blowing. The craftsmanship that goes into every glass is so meticulous, that even after 30 minutes of standing there and watching these guys hand-blow glasses, over and over again, it never got boring or repetitious. Observing for weeks would not be enough time to catch every nuance and movement that these makers move through so effortlessly.
After visiting the factory, not only do I appreciate the simplicity and functionality of the glasses once they arrive to our shores, but more so the many human hands that made each glass.
*Check out a video of Yoko blowing glass on Instagram!