Spectacles Japan

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Japan is one of the most myopic nations on the planet. Between 50%-60% of Japan's general population wears eye glasses or contact lenses.

With 60-72 million potential customers, competition between rival opticians and contact lens retailers is fierce. 25 years ago, each neighborhood would have a local optician, these small family businesses have largely disappeared, replaced by cut-price mega stores with 1000s of pairs of eye glasses from different makers to choose from. Styles range from cheap and functional to highly fashionable designer specs costing 100s of dollars.

Many stores make a literal spectacle of themselves to increase custom. Here outside this store in Tokyo a young man takes to rapping to draw the crowds.

The Japanese word for spectacles is megane, often seen written in katana - メガネ or hiragana めがね.

It is thought the first spectacles where brought to Japan by the Jesuit priest Francisco Xavier (1506-1552) and presented to a local feudal lord.

Early Japanese spectacles often used tortoiseshell (鼈甲, bekkou) in their manufacture and an early pair of ivory-made glasses can be seen at Daisenin Temple in Kyoto. Other historical eye-glasses are a pair that belonged to Ieyasu Tokugawa kept at the Tosho-gu Shrine in Nikko.

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