Glass globe buoys have been an indispensable tool for the fishing industry for years. I recently had the chance to visit the Asahara Glass Factory in Otaru, which has been the sole Japanese producer of these globes for many years. The glass globes produced here make an excellent interior decoration, bringing the nostalgic feel and salty smell of the sea along with them.
The Asahara Glass Factory was founded in 1900, and is currently the oldest of many glass factories that can be found in Otaru. The factory first began producing the glass globes ten years into operation, in 1910. The fishing industry had long been using wood and bamboo floatation devices on their nets, but these were unreliable and needed mending often. So, after receiving a request for a glass flotation device, the factory's laboratory created the first generation of glass globes. Nowadays plastic tools have become more commonly used, and demand for glass globes has decreased, but using techniques passed down through the generations the factory has continued to produce charming new products.
▲ Developed for the fishing industry, the use of glass globes from the Asahara Factory has spread all across Japan.
Currently working in the factory, using an old brick oven and new hand-crafted furnace, is Mr. Osamu Ichiro. Breath by breath he takes recycled glass from old juice, milk, and sake bottles, and turns them into beautiful glass creations. As he says, "I’m finding new uses for objects used in everyday life." He creates a variety of glass products, including glass panes, glass globes, and glass buoy candle holders.
▲ The "Glass Buoy Candle Holder" features an open top, making it the perfect candle holder. These beautiful buoys were used to light up the canal in the "Otaru Lit Snow Path" festival.
▲ The "Cracked Flower Glass Buoy." Perfect for use as a hanging decoration.
▲ After studying glass working for 10 years at the factory, Mr. Ichiro spent some time away from Otaru. However, five years ago, when the factory's head passed away, he returned to take up the mantle as 4th generation factory head. "I just didn't want the factory, which has been running for over 100 years, or the techniques I learned here to fade away."
The factory also offers visitors the chance to make their own glass globe (reservations required). So be sure to stop in for a once-in-a-lifetime experience!
※ You can purchase glass globes, as well as many other products, from the factory's homepage.