さんち 〜工芸と探訪〜

SUNCHI ~ Explore japan through regional crafts ~

Follow us on:
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Instagram
このページの先頭へ

Mt. Fuji Glass for new adults A gift giving for coming of age day in January

Published : January 9, 2017
Production area : Kujyukuri
  • LINE

Hello, this is Kanako from SUNCHI editorial desk.
It is fun to both give a gift and also to receive a gift from someone, isn’t it? In Japan we have celebrations each month, for example the coming of age day ceremony in January and Mother’s day in May. For each of these celebrations we normally purchase gifts, so it is best to select a nice gift that properly represents your words. In this column series, I will select and introduce you to a potential gift for each month’s celebration.

To launch this series, I have chosen a gift appropriate for the coming of age day celebration. In Japan we celebrate those who have newly become adults (20 years old in Japan) on this day. This celebration was started in the Showa Era (1929-1989), so it is a relatively new custom, however it is already regarded as one of the main seasonal traditions. After some consideration, for those new adult friends who can finally enjoy adult life, I concluded Mt. Fuji Glass would be the best choice I could offer.

shohin_304-0001-000_sub01_ll

The Mt. Fuji Glass has been commercialized after winning the special recognition award at the Tokyo Midtown Award Design completion in 2008. This is a fantastic glass that combines a beautiful shape and sheer happiness that MT. Fuji appears when you pour drink into it. Alcohol is one of the perks of adult life and this glass will surely make your time with alcohol more attractive. It also implies a message; be the bigger person who is open-minded and tolerant like the big Mt. Fuji.

I was wondering how the shape of Mt. Fuji, which is the soul of this product, was made. In order to explore the secret, I have visited the workshop and then got to know there were even more reasons this glass was really best for the celebration of coming of age day.

Visiting the glass workshop in Kuju-Kuri where sea breeze blows

I visited Kuji-Kuri, Chiba prefecture where there is the main office and the factory of Sugahara Glassworks Inc., the company that produces the Mt. Fuji Glass. I was lucky enough that the president Mr. Yusuke Sugahara personally accepted my interview and guided the factory tour.

The president, Mr. Yusuke Sugahara guides us to each section of the factory

The president, Mr. Yusuke Sugahara guides us to each section of the factory

The grandfather of Mr Sugahara set up the first factory manufacturing glass works in Tokyo in 1934 and later he moved the factory to Kuji-Kuri. But why Kuji-Kuri?

“There used to be many glass factories in old towns in Tokyo and the one my grandfather set up was also in Sumida-ku region”

Mr. Sugahara explained, “But at the time he started feeling the factory was becoming too small for the increasing orders and looking for other place to move to, he had an opportunity to visit Kuju-Kuri to view the beautiful cherry blossoms and then he liked the place as its temperature and people were mild” Within the site of the company, there are a lot of cherry blossoms planted and now it is a secret spot for viewing the pretty cherry blossoms in Spring.

Cherry blossoms that blooms pretty flowers in Spring.

Cherry blossoms that blooms pretty flowers in Spring.

“It is essential to use sand for glass making. So we are often asked the reason why we are located here, and that is because we like the sand here.” Mr. Sugahara continues, “But that’s not the exact reason. Actually good ventilation of sea breezes contributes more than that since we regularly set fire in kilns”

In summer room temperature goes up to 50 degrees but still anyone can come to visit the workshop (pre-booking is necessary). The workshop creates and sells a range of 4000 different glass works annually and all of them are initially hand-made here. Of course this includes the Mt. Fuji Glass as well!

The moment of the production of the Mt. Fuji Glass

Firstly Mr. Sugahara showed us a prototype of their crucible, which is exhibited at the entrance of the workshop.

The shape from the top to the back is rounded like a cat so this crucible is also called Cat-Pot. There is only one company in Japan that can create it now.

The shape from the top to the back is rounded like a cat so this crucible is also called Cat-Pot. There is only one company in Japan that can create it now.

Artisans pour raw materials of glass and melt them in the crucible and once they are melted like a starch syrup, they wind it up into a ball. That’s how the glass making starts.

The workshop has a huge furnace at the center, which has 10 taps for crucibles.

The workshop has a huge furnace at the center, which has 10 taps for crucibles.

Mr. Sugahara explains, “Glass starts its solidification at around 600 degrees. So we must create a certain form before the temperature goes down to that point. In order for stable mass-production, we divided and share tasks. For example 4 artisans make 1 group for production of the Mt. Fuji Glass.”

There were more than 20 artisans in the whole workshop. I recognized there were some groups working on different products and each group was divided by the central furnace. I was fascinated by how perfectly their teams work and how flawlessly well organized they appeared to be.

Surrounding the furnace, different groups work on different projects.

Surrounding the furnace, different groups work on different projects.

By stretching technique, they are about to make a plate. The lump of melted glass looks like a fire ball!

By stretching technique, they are about to make a plate. The lump of melted glass looks like a fire ball!

Glass sculpture: a glass work without a using cast requires higher technique. Done by a duo of expert and new recruit.

Glass sculpture: a glass work without a using cast requires higher technique. Done by a duo of expert and new recruit.

A ring inside the crucible: as a crucible has no door, it cannot avoid foreign contaminations to be entered. The ring helps reducing such foreign contaminations drastically. Artisans can take melted glass inside the ring and that contributes reducing incidences of failures.

A ring inside the crucible: as a crucible has no door, it cannot avoid foreign contaminations to be entered. The ring helps reducing such foreign contaminations drastically. Artisans can take melted glass inside the ring and that contributes reducing incidences of failures.

After wandering around the workshop, we finally arrived at the group of Mt. Fuji Glass. They flexibly changed their ordinal workflow, which is done by 4 artisans, to a special workflow by 3 artisans so that it is easier for us to get a complete view of the production. Even though they lack 1 artisan, still their work flow was fluently interconnected and that was simply amazing!

They showed us the “mold blowing” technique; the first artisan makes a small lump of glass at a tip of a pipe (process 1), and then the second artisan uses it as a base and make it bigger ball-shaped by winding up some glass in the furnace (process 2)

Process1: Small ball at the beginning

Process1: Small ball at the beginning

Process 2: Bigger ball after winding some glass in the furnace. Then it is handovered to other artisan specializing in blowing.

Process 2: Bigger ball after winding some glass in the furnace. Then it is handovered to other artisan specializing in blowing.

After the third artisan sets the ball into a mold, then he rotates it and blow evenly in order to make the shape into the right form. (Process 3)

Process 3: Blowing; he blows a little before set the ball in the mold.

(3)Process 3: Blowing; he blows a little before set the ball in the mold.

Process 3: The mold of Mt. Fuji glass. You can see the mold is slightly divergent-shaped.

Process 3: The mold of Mt. Fuji glass. You can see the mold is slightly divergent-shaped.

Process 3: The ball set in the mold; by blowing and rotating the pipe evenly, the shape is becoming…

Process 3: The ball set in the mold; by blowing and rotating the pipe evenly, the shape is becoming…

Process 3: The Mt. Fuji!

Process 3: The Mt. Fuji!

Soon after the shape is fixed, the first visual inspection is performed. Only glasses that cleared the inspections move onto a cooling process at an annealing furnace, which slowly cools down the glasses. (Process 4)

Process 4: After the inspection on various points such as the thickness of bottom and foreign contaminations, glasses are cooled down in the annealing furnace.

Process 4: After the inspection on various points such as the thickness of bottom and foreign contaminations, glasses are cooled down in the annealing furnace.

When glass is cooled rapidly, only the surface shrinks first and loses the integrity. That leads to possible fractures or cracks. So it is essential for all the glass works to slowly cool down in the annealing furnace.

Process 4: There are a lot of works here in the annealing furnace.

Process 4: There are a lot of works here in the annealing furnace.

“The surface of the glass will be rough if you blow too rapidly” the artisan who specialized in this process explained. They use water to wet the mold before they set the ball to blow. The water evaporates when it touches the hot glass ball and that makes a water screen in between the mold and the glass ball.

Watering the mold before use

Watering the mold before use

“This water process protects the glass surface not to touch the mold and that very much contribute achieving the beautiful surface” the artisan carefully explained “it is necessary to blow strongly in order to make it the target shape however if blowing is too strong, it breaks the water screen so the glass surface touches the mold directly. In the result the surface traces a texture of mold. So it actually requires technical skill to blow at the perfect balance to achieve the clear shape utilizing the evaporated screen”

According to Mr. Sugahara, among their range of 4000 glass works, the Mt. Fuji Glass is indeed one of the more “difficult” products to produce.

1 2
1⁄2
  • LINE

Follow us

Discover the regional crafts and production areas of Japan with new articles added daily.

We are on social media! Follow our accounts to get the latest information hot off the press.