Eyewear Artisan (Wood and Bamboo): Yutaka Kasashima
After graduating high school 40 years, Yutaka Kasashima aimed to follow in his father’s footsteps as an eyewear artisan and has continued on that career path since. He also has in his bloodline ancestry of temple woodcarvers. He is the only artisan in Japan who makes bamboo eyeglass frames.
Nowadays a person can buy eyeglasses, including lenses, if they spend $100. I myself have numerous pairs of glasses. But none of them truly grab me. Because glasses are something that continually stay in contact with my skin, I want something that is natural and conforms to me. I’d been thinking since a while ago I’d like to make eyeglass frames made out of natural materials, like leather, wood, or bamboo. I wanted to make something that I’d want to call mine my whole life, to appreciate having with me throughout my various experiences, and to grow old together with. I wanted something I could feel fond of, like my partner.
At some point during all this, I made my own pair of eyeglass frames out of wood due to circumstances related to my grandfather, a renowned woodworker for temples and shrines, and exactly one year later, encountered Mr. Kasashima.
Mr. Kasashima is based in Sabae city, Fukui prefecture, and is the only artisan in Japan who can make eyeglass frames out of bamboo. With a career of over 40 years making eyewear, his bamboo loupe won the award for Eyewear of the Year in the accessory category at the International Optical Fair 2012.
Since meeting Mr. Kasashima, I have traveled to Sabae many times and each time I discover something new. The process of making eyewear is truly varied and precise, and especially when it comes to making frames out of bamboo or wood, the sense of the artisan’s hands, developed over years of experience, is essential in addition to knowledge. In the workshop attached to his house, Mr. Kasashima has the support of his family in making eyewear like no other.
The bamboo that is used for the eyeglass frames is not the round kind that we are all used to seeing, but, found through trial and error, ‘sure bamboo’ specially made in Kyoto. This special bamboo is shaped carefully since when it is a young shoot through maturity by meticulously adjusted square-shaped frames, and then processes and shaped to provide flat material with which artisans can work. Furthermore, before actual use, the bamboo is laid to rest for years in order to properly dry. By this long process of drying, the individual idiosyncrasies (e.g., irregularities) of the bamboo come out. It is here that the artisan puts his skills to work to make the best of these ‘quirks’ of the bamboo, just as with human beings.
- Mayumi Hasegawa
The only person in Japan who crafts bamboo eyeglass frames is Yutaka Kasashima. Through trial and error, the bamboo that has come to be used is not the round bamboo that we are all used to seeing, but the square Kyoto Bamboo (bamboo that is specially grown through square-shaped frames through its entire lifespan).