Yashica 1958 & Yashica 2019

The title is a bit misleading – well actually very misleading as Yashica (the original Japanese company) no longer exists. Yashica was acquired by Kyocera in 1983 and killed off by 2004. My good friend Paul Sokk and I have been on a quest to find some of Yashica’s old factory buildings and because Paul has a sharp eye for details, he was able to find Yashica’s factory in Shimosuwa (Nagano Prefecture) while conducting some research.  The first image below is a scan from a sales brochure that I have from 1958.

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Yashica’s main office building located on the factory campus in Shimosuwa, Nagano Prefecture, Japan in 1958.

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The same building as seen this April (2019). The company that currently operates from the building (Mutoh) has no ties to either Yashica or Kyocera. Photo courtesy of Paul Sokk.

Notice in the current picture that the building has had an addition added to its near side (enclosing a previous carport) and received a rather mundane paint job especially compared to what I’m sure was a very colorful design originally.

By the way, the current occupant, Mutoh Industries, Ltd., makes large format printing machines. More can be found here.

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Aerial view of the Yashica factory campus with the office building (viewed from behind) in the center.

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The Yashica gym and auditorium as seen today. Look at the aerial view in the image above this one to see the gym as it appeared in the late 1950s. Photo courtesy of Paul Sokk.

Many thanks to Paul Sokk and his wife Kathy for sharing photos from their most recent trip to Japan. Paul is the creator of THE site for anything about Yashica TLRs and early Yashica history the site can be found at www.yashicatlr.com

Thanks for stopping by! – Chris

Please respect that all content, including photos and text, are the property of this blog and its owner, Yashica Pentamatic Fanatic, Yashica Sailor Boy, Yashica Chris.

Copyright © 2015-2019 Yashica Pentamatic Fanatic, Chris Whelan
All rights reserved.

Yashica’s New Factory – 1972

Yashica opened a modern factory in Okaya, Nagano Prefecture in October 1972. They moved from their previous factory location in Shimosuwa (within 2 kilometers or so).

Here’s a picture of the factory taken on or near opening day. This image was “found” inside a Photax Catalogue from 1973/1974. Photax was the exclusive importer for Yashica products in the U.K.

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Image captured from the catalog (by me).

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Current view of the same location which is now occupied by Kyocera. If you look closely you’ll notice that the overall boundaries of the complex haven’t changed or expanded past the original walls. The front drive and entrance to the Kyocera facility are basically the same as it was back in 1972. Of course, Kyocera purchased Yashica in 1983 and by 1986 the Japanese brand Yashica was killed off.  The present-day users of the name Yashica have no ties to the once proud Yashica Company.

For more about the history of Yashica’s factories please visit my previous post here.

As always, thanks for stopping by! Be sure to also stop by the “gift shop” at http://www.ccstudio2380.com for some amazing deals on some vintage photo gear.

Chris

Please respect that all content, including photos and text, are the property of this blog and its owner, Yashica Pentamatic Fanatic, Yashica Sailor Boy, Yashica Chris.

Copyright © 2015-2019 Yashica Pentamatic Fanatic, Chris Whelan
All rights reserved.

 

Yashica’s Factory in the late 1950s – Shimosuwa, Nagano Prefecture

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.

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Likely 1954 advertisement in an English language newspaper circulated in Japan. As best as I can tell it may be the first ad for the Yashima Flex in English.

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.

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Yashica’s “new” factory in Shimosuwa as it looked in late 1956 (at least to the artist). Lake Suwa and the distant shoreline can be seen in the distance.  Of note, this artists rendering is in no way even close to scale – many of the buildings are in the wrong location and the smokestacks seem to be placed for artistic “balance” vice accurate representation. Of course, this drawing may be more conceptional and not reflective of reality.

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.

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Looking south across Yashica’s factory campus as it appeared in the mid-1960s. The large building on the bottom center in this picture is Yashica’s gym and auditorium. The administration building is shown about centered in this scan.

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The famous and easily identifiable Yashica factory administration building at night.

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Aerial view of the Yashica factory campus from around 1959 or so. The gym building is on the extreme upper left in this picture. The factory administration building with the large verticle “Yashica” on it can be seen from behind (from the south looking north).

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This image is from a 1958 Yashica sales brochure. The distinctive Yashica factory administration building as it looked when new. At this point in time, it still had the covered parking area just to the building’s right – two modern full-sized “service” vehicles are parked underneath.

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A view of the Yashica factory campus from around 1960. I would guess that the view is taken from the hillside that overlooks the grounds. Very similar view of the artist’s rendering from 1956. (Document scan courtesy of Paul Sokk)

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Current view of the original site of Yashica’s first factory in Shimosuwa, Nagano Prefecture. The present use of this site is by Mutoh Industries, Ltd. – a maker of large-scale inkjet printers for commercial use and sold around the world.

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!

Chris

 

Yashica “J” Series of 35mm SLRs – 1960s

The Yashica ‘J’ series of 35mm SLR film cameras. Top body is the J-7, next is the J-4, then the J-5 and finally the first one in the series the J-3. These were heavyweight cameras in their day…the best (for the most part) that Yashica produced from their factory in Nagano Prefecture (Shimosuwa).

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Produced in 1962 to around 1967 to early 1968. The black body J-3 was Yashica’s first 35mm SLR ‘Pro Black’ camera. They were released in the following order… J-3, J-5, J-4 and J-7. These cameras feature lots of brass and glass. They also represent Yashica’s first SLRs with built-in exposure meters. TTL exposure metering was just around the corner for Yashica after the release of the J-7 in the form of the TL Super.

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The J-5 was super popular in the mid 1960s.

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Another tough one in the series to find complete and in mint condition.

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One of the harder ones in the series to find in mint condition.

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A J-3 all set for just about anything.

Thanks for your visit.

Chris

Yashica Moves to a New Factory 1972

We’ll be the first to admit – not an exciting title or topic for a blog. It may even be a stretch for a blog named the ‘Yashica Pentamatic Fanatic’. But we feel compelled to share information about the Yashica Company, however slight and trivial, with our dear readers.

Yashica’s first factory was along the shores of beautiful Lake Suwa in the small town of Suwa. The next location (from Yashica brochures) was in Shimosuwa-machi, Suwa-gun, Nagano Prefecture. This was the industrial campus of Yashica and it grew over the years to occupy almost every square meter of the property.

Yashica's Shimosuwa Factory

Opened in 1956 along the shores of Lake Suwa in Nagano.

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A different view of the same campus. Yashica was running out of room by the mid-1960s.

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Back cover of the Yashica TL Electro-X ITS instruction booklet. The booklet was printed in Japan in June 1972.

At the time of the printing of the above book, Yashica was operating 3 factories. The top line that begins with the Yashica ‘Y’ on the far left is the address of the main headquarters of Yashica which was in Shibuya-ku, Tokyo. The next line is the location of the Suwa plant – Shimosuwa. The third line is the new plant in Okaya which was still in Nagano Prefecture. The 4th line was an unknown (to us until recently) factory in Sagamihara-shi, Kanagawa Prefecture (southwest of Tokyo and just west of Yokohama). As you can see, Yashica operated at least 14 other sales offices and service centers across Japan in mid-1972.

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Back cover of the Yashinon Lenses & Accessories booklet printed in Japan in January 1973.

Between June 1972 (the first book above) and January 1973 (the second book above), Yashica closed its campus and factory in Shimosuwa. The only factories listed are the new Okaya factory and the Sagamihara factory. That was a big move for Yashica and as we understand it, they had purchased the old silk mill in Okaya as far back as 1959. As of this book, Yashica did not close any of its other sales offices listed from the previous book.

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The factory was officially dedicated in December 1972. According to Yashica documents, the factory didn’t achieve full production until late 1974 or early 1975.

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The Yashica Okaya factory complex in the summer of 1974.

Why is any of this important? It isn’t unless you’re a Yashica Fanatic like us. Oh, it did have a strong ripple effect on the company though. Japan was in a bit of an economic slowdown in the early 1970s and it came to a head in late 1974 for Yashica. Mismanagement and embezzlement (and the costly move) caused Yashica to lay off workers – unheard of in Japan at the time. They closed the Sagamihara factory which put 900 Yashica employees out of work. That had an effect on the factory at Okaya and Yashica was soon in deep financial trouble. Their cameras were still top notch but the first warning shots about their future were fired.

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It is my understanding that Mr. Shiro Kaneko was installed as the new president of Yashica by the Nissho-Iwai Company (Yashica’s distributor) and by the Taiyo Kobe Bank which by 1974 had put its full financial resources behind Yashica’s new marketing efforts.

Thanks for your visit! Hope you got a little something out of it. – Chris