In recent years, it has become a trend for anime to collaborate with companies in various ways: events, food, and character goods. These increasing collaborations, though, have started to lose their freshness and originality, and the industry is looking for innovative ways to partner with other businesses. In this situation, there are some collab-products in which we can feel the creativity and strong passion put in by the makers. Shitsuji Megane
Shitsuji Megane eyemirror (Butler Glasses eyemirror) is a glasses store in Ikebukuro, Tokyo which offers unique eyeglasses we usually associate with butlers. It is one minute away from Animate’s flagship store. This store opened in 2012, and all staff members have butler outfits all fit with a pair of butler glasses. The store is decorated like a European house, and it has an elegant atmosphere. When you order a pair of glasses here, you are lead to a waiting room by a staff member, and they provide you with a cup of tea and some snacks. The customers are treated with the greatest of hospitality, and it’s hard to believe that the place is just a glasses store.
The various glasses displayed in the store are all selected by the staff members and are very beautiful. They each have unique designs, and they include not just brand-name items, but also collaboration glasses with anime and manga. Many of the collaborative glasses are only available at Shitsuji Megane eyemirror, including the ‘Touhou Project glasses’ which were released in 2013. I was surprised by their excellent designs and felt the passion put into these glasses.
In 2016, the store has joined Comiket as a commercial booth and is continuing to expand their business. I got the chance to interview Kyousuke Asakura, the store owner, and asked him about his thoughts and love towards eyeglasses.
Shitsuji Megane eyemirror
‘Butler’: The Important Aspect for Spreading the Charm of Eyeglasses
Shitsuji Megane eyemirror is a store with the new concept of ‘Butler x Glasses’. Could you tell us the reason behind the establishment of this store?
‘I have been working in the glasses industry for a long time, and have always been thinking about how to publicize the charms of eyeglasses in a new way to the younger generation. In recent years, there have been more and more glasses stores providing products at reasonable prices. Of course, this is not a bad thing. However, when I was previously working at a different store, some of my customers said to me, ‘All the glasses look alike.’ Also, there were customers who felt that the glasses were too expensive. Therefore, my goal was to provide items in a wider price range and to tell young people that there are many unique eyeglasses available. That is why I opened this store.’
Why did you add the aspect of ‘Butler’ to this store?
‘Eyeglasses are one of the most expensive items we wear in our daily lives, so the staff members working at glasses shops try to serve the customers with the greatest of hospitality. It is a job in which speaking to the customers plays a huge part, so there are many clerks who have a butler-like character. I knew that many young people today are familiar with maids and butlers from anime and manga, so I thought that ‘Butler’ would be an interesting concept which young people would be able to accept easily.’
Were you planning to wear the butler outfit yourself from the beginning?
‘Actually, no [laugh]. Also, my father helped me open this store, so when I first explained the store’s concept to him, I used the ‘Butler Cafe’ as an example, but he’d never heard of such a thing. The whole time I was explaining to him, he thought I was talking about a “sheep” (hitsuji) instead of a “butler” (shitsuji) and that I was trying to open a store where the staff members wear a sheep costume.’
He had mistaken the sound ‘shi’ to ‘hi’ [laugh].
‘Exactly. I thought that my father had understood what I explained to him, but actually, he had the mistaken idea for about a month. He kept on telling me, “It’s definitely not going to work out,” and I was thinking, “What is the big problem? Why is he saying this?” It was just that he had misheard me [laugh]. He finally understood the concept when I showed him a photo.’
So, you two had been misunderstanding each other for quite a long time. Were there any other problems or difficulties in opening this store?
‘There had never been a glasses store with such an unusual concept; supplying our stock was the most difficult challenge. Of course, there was no business record or reputation, so I was turned down by many manufacturers telling me, “We can’t provide goods to such a store.” However, I now get many offers from manufacturers to display their products in my store, and for that, I am very grateful.’
I’m pretty sure the makers understood the effort and passion you put into this business. I can tell from looking around this store. What were some of the things you were most selective about for your store?
‘The most important thing I cared about was to make the store a “proper glasses shop.” This is something that I must always keep in mind, so I try to take care of my customers with the best service. We give thorough eyesight tests, and it takes about twice as long as normal tests in other glasses stores. I usually am in charge of the store’s designs and interior decorations, so I try to create an elegant room, close to a European mansion, which has a completely different atmosphere from your daily life.”
Is there any reason for choosing Ikebukuro as the location?
‘I wanted either Ikebukuro and Akihabara, but since there are many female fans of butlers, I thought that the town which women go to more often would be better. On top of this, I heard that Ikebukuro is to be redeveloped, so looking ahead to the future, I decided to open the store in Ikebukuro. At the beginning, women were our main customers, but as the store became publicly known through word of mouth, the number of male customers started to increase. I believe that men tend to be more selective and are more fond of collecting accessories such as watches and eyeglasses than women are.’
So, there are a lot of male customers. That’s very interesting.
‘Yes. At first there were more female customers than male customers, but now, more than 60% of our customers are men. We offer anime-collaboration glasses, so many anime fans also come to our store.’
Are there any differences in the glasses which men and women tend to prefer?
‘Many women like to choose glasses with cute designs, vivid colors, and fancy decorations. Men prefer something more unique. Interestingly, the most popular color among both men and women is red. In general, the most popular colors for eyeglasses are black, silver, and brown, but at this Shitsuji Megane, red is the most popular. Then comes blue, and black is in third place.’
Red! Oh, I see. Many anime characters wear red glasses.
‘Yes, indeed [laugh].’
There also seems to be glasses from various brands. How are they selected?
‘I want to display eyeglasses which the customers have never seen before, so we choose ones which look interesting at first glance. There are many glasses stores in Ikebukuro, and our store is a little far from the station, so it is important to offer special glasses which are unique to our store.’
（Next page: The Collaboration Eyeglasses which Started from Touhou Project）