I’ve been on a rather long quest to discover Yashica’s roots during their earliest days as a start-up in the tech-savvy region along the shores of Lake Suwa – also known as the “Switzerland of the Orient”.
With the help of my good friend Paul Sokk from Australia (www.yashicatlr.com), we’ve nailed down the location of Yashica’s second factory which was opened in 1956. I say second because Yashica’s (then Yashima) first factory was located across Lake Suwa in the town of Suwa – possibly established as early as the late 1940s. Yashica likely operated its first camera factory in Suwa – an early 1954 advertisement in English claims that the head office was located at 244, 4-Ku Ohwa, Suwa City, Nagano Prefecture, Telephone: Suwa 1350-4 (see scan below). My thinking is that is a less than an accurate translation of the Japanese to English. I’ve had more luck in finding the general area on today’s maps by using 2-4-4 Owa, Suwa which brings me very close to the present day Seiko-Epson headquarters.
My fear all along during this search was that since Yashica was bought out by Kyocera in 1983 that the fate of the factory in Shimosuwa would be lost in time since Kyocera’s current factory in Okaya is not related to the Shimosuwa factory.
With Paul’s sharp eyes, attention to detail, and sheer determination he was able to find Yashica’s old factory in present-day Shimosuwa.
The image above is an artist’s rendering of the Shimosuwa factory complex before the addition of the massive gym structure (see below) and before the central administration building was built.
In the above capture, Yashica’s gym building (large silver roof structure in the upper left portion of the highlighted area) can still be seen. Most of the original buildings appear to have saved.
It’s been a long but enjoyable process searching for this site. For a Yashicaphile such as myself, I would love to be able to visit the site and tour the facilities. I would like to meet with previous employees of Yashica and speak with them about their experiences while working for Yashica. Maybe someone knows the exact location of Yashica’s first factory in Suwa. That would be neat. I’ve reached out to the Mutoh company and have inquired if they would be interested in acquiring any of my collected scans of the factory from its earliest days.
Thanks for stopping by!