Take the long journey across the Pacific Ocean to the island nation of Japan and you’ll find several unmistaken characteristics: impeccably clean city streets, professional acumen like none other, and attention to detail — especially for eyewear — that’s second to none. Time to step aside Italy, there’s a new kid on the block and he means business. Actually, for over 200 years the region of Fukui has been at the forefront of Japanese eyewear. Specifically, we’re speaking of prescription lenses and frames. But more recently throughout the 20th century, expert craftsmen in Japan began releasing meticulously-built yet incredibly durable and fashion-forward sunglasses for our enjoyment.
And while the quantity of what is considered the best of the best might be small, Japanese sunglasses brands are often handbuilt from premium materials, molded into a groundbreaking style. It’s here where high-end acetate, bespoke stems and handmade attention to detail reign supreme. Sound familiar? It’s no secret Japanese products possess a certain level of manufacturing acumen for which other regions of the world simply can’t compete. Take lean manufacturing, for instance, the groundbreaking assembly line process that sent Toyota into the stratosphere of accessibility and affordability after the Second World War. But we digress, for we’re simply concerned with stylish shades in this regard. For, as the saying goes, if beauty is in the eye of the beholder, it could be assumed that the eyes are also the gateway to premier style. In that regard, Japan has us covered.
Boston Club Builder Sunglasses
Despite what you may have inferred by the brand name, Boston Club does not hail from Boston, MA. They’re a Japanese brand through and through, established back in 1984 to build reliable and classic frames made from acetate and alloy while keeping in line with the merits of minimalism. Case in point, the Builders (seen here). This fine pair hosts all the attention to detail and precision you’d come to expect from the iconic brand, thanks to sleek golden silver accents in addition to a predominantly midnight black colorway. And we all know how attractive blacked-out gear can appear no matter what the season.
Founded in 1995, DITA immediately worked to reinvent eyewear by adopting a new definition of luxury — based on bold character, interpretations of timeless shapes, and innovative technology to keep everything in place. One of their models, the Kohn, does just that — hosting a bridgeless frame alluding to early 20th-century style points but with a titanium browbar and hinges, acetate lens rims, custom titanium nose pads, and the brand’s unique hex screw hinges. Unique, sleek and one-of-kind, it’s what DITA does best. Find them housed at a high-end boutique near you or feel free to inquire on their site for more details.
Eyevan 7285 775 Sunglasses
Hands-on production and throwback contemporary product models need not only lend themselves to apparel. For Eyevan, this mantra rings true for each and every product in their astute lineup. Self-proclaimed as the first fashion eyewear brand of Japan, Eyevan offers up both beautifully-designed frames that are the highest of quality. Take their 775 sunglasses, for example, each acetate-built pair hosts five-barrel hinges taking inspiration from vintage flight jacket zippers, an iconic design, and original branded curved mineral lenses.
Globe Specs The Reggie C3
Built out as the house brand for Tetsuya Okada’s lux boutique in Tokyo, Globe Specs are simply some of the best in the biz when it comes to eyewear. That’s because Okada works to incorporate the likes of Japanese acetate, titanium, and Carl Zeiss Vision CR-39 lenses into each product. The Reggie C3 is no different, utilizing a mid-century vibe with their style, tortoiseshell-toned frames, and a fine Wellington shape. Think of these as a Japanese rendition to the popular wayfarer style iconically worn by Madison Avenue ad men.
Masahiro Maruyama Broken Sunglasses
As you may have guessed, there’s a single solitary mind involved in this forward-thinking Japanese brand: designer Masahiro Maruyama. In fact, the entire self-titled brand bases their lineup off the design principle of “Unfinished Art.” From here, Maruyama crafts beautiful frames that are perfectly imperfect — thus serving as a general statement to our inherent value of how “perfection” is defined. The Broken Sunglasses are a perfect example of this mentality — boasting a minimal design, unfinished molding, asymmetric hand-sketched lines, and a 100-percent titanium frame. Perfectly imperfect, yeah that sounds about right.
Masunaga Empire II
First establishing themselves on the scene back in 1905 in Fukui, Masunaga brought in skilled craftsmen from both Osaka and Tokyo with the intentions of solidifying the brand’s iconic legacy in the realm of both prescription eyewear and stylish sunglasses. Today, over 200 manual processes go into each pair. What’s more, the Masunaga Optical is the only brand in Japan that’s in charge of the entire production process: from raw material acquisition to actual production and finishing. And it’s that very in-house dedication that shines through in each and every pair that hits the storefront — the Empire II’s included.
Once considered one of the leading Japanese menswear designers, Mitsuhiro Matsuda was Tokyo’s go-to guy for ahead-of-the-curve trends during his tenure as the founder of Nicole Co. Later influenced by the Art Deco period and metalwork of the late 19th century, Matsuda’s attention to detail became almost immediately apparent in his eyewear collection. One of our favorite flagship products, the MO358, boasts just that — a minimal yet stylish aesthetic complete with gold mirror lenses, frames crafted entirely from titanium, and handsome round lenses alluding to classic prescription spectacles. If we had to choose, we’d add a pair to the daily getup without a second thought.
Nackymade Taka Tie #2
Taking its namesake from brothers Naoki “Nacky” Nakagawa and Tomoko Nakagawa, Nackymade exudes the merits of humility that make its owners so charming. The brand is based out of Kobe, Japan and with a unique take on eyewear they work with some of the finest materials around to handcraft each pair. We’re talking durable acetate, their signature hinge, and one-off design elements that function in harmony to make flagship offerings like the Taka Tie #2 incredibly desirable among the fashion world. Nothing like humbly handmade products to really showcase an item’s true potential.
The 5 Best American-Made Sunglasses
For more homegrown sun-shielding ingenuity, be sure to check out any one of the five best American-made sunglass brands. You might be surprised at how few sunglasses are actually made here in the states. This guide can help.