The Japanese brand MINAMOTO was launched three years ago with the intent of making top-quality Japanese craftsmanship and artisanal traditions accessible to a Western audience. Today, Hajime Hori gives us an exciting insight into the brand and its philosophy.
Hello Hajime, when and where did MINAMOTO’s journey begin?
It all started at the end of 2019, with a conversation with EU management about how we could improve market recognition for our company. When I was working in Europe, I heard some comments from our customers—that they weren’t aware that our company is Japanese. So, our initial discussion was to bring that “Sense of Japan” into the product for European people. That was quite understandably an inspiration for me.
What is the brand name all about? Does the term have a deeper meaning?
MINAMOTO means “Origin”. Our team chose MINAMOTO as our brand name because we wanted more people to know about the spirit of Japanese craftsmanship and the roots of our company.
Is this meaning found anywhere else in your company?
The logo is expressed with a single Kanji character that refers to the beginning (origin) of a water flow (a spring). The logo represents our hope that our Japanese products will be accepted and loved by Europeans, just as a small spring becomes a river and, after a long distance, eventually pours into the sea and mixes with it.
What can be described as the DNA of the brand? What is your philosophy?
It can be described with two words: Zen and Craftsmanship. The word Zen has a broad meaning, but in terms of what Zen means to MINAMOTO, it’s about eliminating what is unnecessary and maximizing its value. You might have heard of a single-flower vase; that’s our typical example to express what Zen means for MINAMOTO’s design. The eye should be focused on that single flower, which is selected with the utmost care so the viewer can experience the beauty of the flower to its fullest extent.
Craftsmanship isn’t just about the technical aspect of manufacturing eyewear, but also to the attitude of the person—approaching manufacturing critically to make things better. Needless to say, we consider craftsmanship to be one of our company’s key principles.
You also represent the typical Japanese idea of ai-chaku. What is behind this?
Here is an interesting experience from my own life. When I was a student, I used to wipe my glasses clean every day and after years of use, the gold plating wore off and the layer became thinner. Finally, the silver color of the base metal became faintly visible. Considering only physical parameters, nothing can really avoid deterioration. However, sometimes that same deterioration creates irreplaceable value. That was my first experience with “ai-chaku”, and I would like everyone who wears MINAMOTO to have “ai-chaku” for their glasses as well.
Japanese brands are known for their attention to detail. Does this also play a role for you?
Superficial, detailed shapes and patterns are not essentially important in MINAMOTO’s designs. What is most important is that the product will be used for a long time. Every detail of each pair of MINAMOTO glasses is carefully designed—for example, not to show mechanical elements like hinges or rimlocks obviously, and to avoid plastic nose pads or end tips.
It’s not surprising that you specialize in titanium. What speaks for this material?
Light, Durable, Hypoallergenic, chemically stable titanium is the best material for eyewear. And titanium is also a part of our origin, so it is a perfect match to our brand.
Where is your journey going in the future?
I’d like to grow the number of MINAMOTO fans more and more. I’m going to continue to confront the brand as a craftsman, to make it better. This is the same mindset that craftsmen always pursue. In a personal sense, it is also a journey to grow the craftsmanship of MINAMOTO in myself.
photos RAPHAEL SCHMITZ