shopping_cart Shopping


place5 minute walk from Exit A3 of Kiyosumi-shirakawa Station

A Field Trip in Japanese Craftsmanship

Published: April 25, 2017

Field trips are a distant memory for many of us, but hopefully those memories are tinged with feelings of excitement and fun :)


Luckily, there are many places in Koto City that offer visitors a chance to get some hands-on experience, look behind the scenes, and learn an interesting factoid or two about Japanese culture, all without the hassle of obtaining a permission slip. One such place is GLASS-LAB in Kiyosumi-shirakawa.



The learning objective: making a drip-proof soy sauce jar by sanding down glass.



These colourful drip-proof sauce jars became a media-sensation with their charming design and indisputable functionality. If done correctly, not only will the resulting product be drip-proof, the fit between the stopper and the neck will be so precise that the stopper will defy gravity and stay tightly put even as it allows a steady stream of liquid to escape.



If you decide to partake in the experience*, which takes around 20~30 minutes on average, you will be given an unfinished sauce jar to sand down with a diamond-encrusted drill file until it matches the corresponding stopper, all under the careful guidance of a master glass artist. You will, of course, be able to take your creation home.

(*Available weekends and holidays; reserve by phone, email, or Facebook message. 4000 yen per session.)


“It can be pretty difficult for first-timers to get the hang of it, but I’ve seen some intuitive people finish in 5 minutes,” recants Mr. Shiina, CEO of GLASS-LAB.



The family-owned business is three generations strong and boasts an impressively old factory system kept intact since 1950. It is one of the last glass ateliers in Japan to continue the art of glass refinery by hand, and being able to witness all of the belts and pulleys alive and humming is another attraction for many.


“We’re the last factory in Japan to still use the same technology as when we first started. All of the contraptions are connected to one single motor. It’s a rare sight,” Mr. Shiina tells me.



Their main business is refining glass products. Using techniques such as hira-kiriko (flat-surface polishing), sandblasting and drilling, they handle everything from paperweights to plates to lampshades, and their customers are just as diverse.


Corporations, restaurants, and individuals who need glassware to be cut or frosted just-so can commission GLASS-LAB to put a high-quality finish on their products.



Want to make a vase out of that special champagne bottle, or wish to own a frosted glass tumbler that captures the Tokyo skyline? No problem. Just give them a call, and they’ll be happy to help you out!



Aside from being able to tour the nostalgic premises and renew your appreciation for one of the most respected Japanese crafts, you can also shop for one-of-a-kind gifts from their product lineup, which often feature collaborations with independent artists and shop-owners. The “broken glass” accessories shown above are only made possible because of Mr. Shiina and his family’s ability to sand down and polish glass with definition and precision that comes from years of expertise.


When asked for a comment on why his shop is special, Mr. Shiina had this to say: “For anyone who’s looking for a taste of “the real thing”—real people, real workshop, real craftsmanship—I think this will be a treat”. Indeed, GLASS-LAB is about as genuine as it gets for meeting true-blue Tokyoites who take pride in their roots.


So drop by if you’re in the area! Mr. Shiina, who has recently been studiously improving his English to better guide tourists, will be happy to greet you. Now who said learning can’t be fun?



editor: Xianru Shen (Koto City Office Coordinator for International Relations)