17 April 2023

Interview with Mr. Tatsuro Hirota-President of Hirota Glass Co., Ltd (Part 2)

Hirota Glass is a Japanese company that specializes in the production of glassware. The company was founded in 1899 in Tokyo, and over the years has become known for its high-quality glass products and innovative designs.

Hirota Glass produces a wide range of glassware, including tableware, drinkware, vases, and decorative items. The company's products are known for their exceptional clarity, durability, and elegant designs, sold both domestically in Japan and internationally. What's more, Hirota Glass' designers are known for their use of traditional Japanese motifs and techniques, as well as their incorporation of modern design elements.

Today, Hirota Glass continues to be a leading producer of glassware in Japan, and the company's products are highly sought after by collectors and design enthusiasts around the world. I had the pleasure of sitting down with the fourth president of the company, Mr. Tatsuro Hirota, to hear his thoughts on glassware and how he wants to continue spreading its charm.


  • Keeping Up with the Times
  • Revitalizing Past Trends
  • The Globalization of Glass

Keeping Up with the Times

The glassware industry in Japan has undergone significant changes over the years. In the early days, glass production was primarily focused on traditional crafts, such as Edo Kiriko, a type of glassware with intricate patterns and designs cut into the surface of the glass.

However, with the introduction of Western glass-making technology in the late 19th century, the industry began to shift towards more modern, industrial production methods. This led to the growth of large-scale glass factories that were able to produce large quantities of glassware quickly and efficiently.

Mr. Hirota shared his thoughts on keeping up with the changing glass industry while maintaining Hirota Glass' traditions. He was also open about the process of creating new products.

"Overall, I believe that the cycle of production and purchase is extremely important. To elaborate, I want people to be excited and continue to buy what we produce. The flow of this cycle is crucial to glassware's success. Hirota Glass is especially mindful of keeping up with the latest trends while implementing the company's traditions. This is realized in our designs and keeping some of our classics available."

"When it comes to our newer products, we make sure we stand out. Many glass products are round or dimensional. However, our heart-shaped glass, for example, is a unique piece that reproduces glassware used in Japanese coffee shops in the 60s. Some manufacturers make heart-shaped glass by machine, but the outcome is inevitably more circular than heart. The molds for our heart-shaped products are made by professional mold makers, and are a rare product unique to Hirota Glass."

Another innovative series by Hirota Glass is the lidded Edo Kiriko. Edo Kiriko glass is a traditional glassware craft that originated in Edo, which is now known as Tokyo, Japan. Historically, it was primarily made for and used by men, particularly those in the samurai class during the Edo period (c. 1603-1867). It was regarded as a luxury item used during gatherings to enjoy sake, acting as a symbol of wealth and prosperity. As Edo Kiriko is presently available to everyone, Mr. Hirota wanted to add more inclusive pieces to his collection.

"Edo Kiriko glass was originally targeted toward men, but due to recent demand from our female clientele, we decided to create a special version. This series is designed by a female designer with the purpose to create a multifunctional piece. We also created this product with the hopes that our customers would be filled with excited anticipation before opening the lid and taking a look at the design inside."

Revitalizing Past Trends

Hirota Glass is not only masterful in producing new and attractive products, but also in reissuing and bringing back old styles. A prime example of this is the Taisho Roman series, a collection of glassware produced by Hirota Glass inspired by the artistic and cultural trends of Japan's Taisho period (1912-1926) and characterized by its elegant, Art Deco-inspired designs and use of vibrant colors and intricate patterns. Mr. Hirota provided insight on what the process of reissuing Taisho Roman pieces was like.

"The Taisho Roman series was brought back when my father was the president of the company. We wanted to incorporate a manufacturing method that was popular during the Taisho period, a time when the Japanese economy was booming."

"However, we were at a loss at how to realize this method. We eventually found a solution to this by asking seasoned craftsmen about their techniques. After many prototypes, we were successful in creating our product."

"I would say a difficulty throughout this entire process is that once the production of a product has been discontinued, it is very difficult to recreate it. The secrets of glass work are usually handed down, and not so easy to acquire."

"With this being said, the Taisho Roman series is actually one of my favorites and has done really well overseas. It's a versatile item that can be used to enjoy drinks, appetizers, or desserts, and its milky-white coloring and uneven texture give it a rare charm. As an avid coffee lover, I would personally recommend it for some iced coffee."

The Taisho Roman series has been well-received both in Japan and internationally, and it has become a popular choice among collectors and design enthusiasts. Its unique blend of traditional Japanese aesthetics and Art Deco influences has helped to set it apart from other glassware collections and has cemented Hirota Glass's reputation as a leader in the Japanese glass industry.

The Globalization of Glass

Through increasing popularity abroad, Hirota Glass has expanded its global reach. The company has pursued partnerships and collaborations with other companies and designers around the world. 

Additionally, the company has expanded its distribution channels and has come to work with distributors and retailers in various countries. Hirota Glass has participated in international trade shows and exhibitions to showcase its products and build relationships with potential customers and partners.

When asked about the globalization of Hirota Glass and the company's approach to expansion, Mr. Hirota emphasized staying true to the company's roots.

"Though the glass industry has changed, and it's now much easier to meet global demand, I never want to make products that cater specifically to foreign consumers. The charm of Hirota Glass lies in its traditions and how it embodies Japanese culture. This is something that I don't want to change. I want to continue to make glass that fits the image of the company."

Mr. Hirota's commitment to tradition, quality, innovation, and collaboration has helped it to maintain a strong position in the competitive global glassware market. The emotion and dedication in crafting handmade pieces and designs is what captures the heart of many.

The Charms of Hirota Glass

At the heart of Hirota Glass' mission is a commitment to excellence in all aspects of its business. The company is dedicated to promoting the art of glass-making and preserving Japan's cultural heritage. Hirota Glass works to preserve traditional glass-making techniques and collaborates with artists and designers to create innovative new products that incorporate traditional Japanese motifs and aesthetics.

The company's glassware reflects the beauty and elegance of Japanese culture while also meeting the needs and expectations of modern consumers around the world. Through its commitment to quality and innovation, Hirota Glass aims to continue to be a leading producer of glassware in Japan and an important contributor to the global glass industry. It was an honor to talk with Mr. Hirota and talk with him first-hand about his passion for the industry.

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