Tsubota Pearl - since 1952

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Tsubota Pearl Hard Edge Lighter Disassembled - BindleStore.

We started carrying Tsubota Pearl lighters last year, but having recently added a new style of Hard Edge to the collection, we felt it would be a good time to write a little about the brand.

The brand’s founder, Tsubota Hiroshi, originally from Nagano prefecture, worked for many years in Tokyo for smoking accessories companies. In 1952, he began his own company, which he would eventually name Pearl after Japan’s first cultured pearls were produced in the late 1920s. Throughout the second half of the 20th century, disposable lighters began to become popular as plastic manufacturing became more widespread. Mr. Tsubota, however, stuck to using time-honoured manufacturing techniques to create items that could be kept for many years.

Tsubota Pearl Factory - BindleStore.

Image courtesy of Tsubota Pearl

The parts are still all manufactured in Japan - in and around Tokyo’s Asakusa district in the Taito ward. The area is a shitamachi district, historically a lower-class region of the city. Asakusa itself was a major entertainment district throughout the 20th century. The factories employed by Tsubota Pearl use traditional machinery, and the parts are made by hand by their skilled artisans. Hiroshi’s son, Tsubota Eiichi, oversees the production and engineering of the lighters to ensure his designs are produced to the highest standards.

Tsubota Pearl Factory - BindleStore.

Image courtesy of Tsubota Pearl

We often hear customers in the shop describing the Hard Edge lighter (introduced in the 90s and now their most popular product) as a Japanese Zippo. They are certainly similar, with the main difference being the  construction - which involves no glue or soldering and relies on the components being manufactured with care to fit together precisely - and the minimal sharp edges and squared corners that give the lighter its name. Since its inception, it has become the most popular model in the company’s catalogue, and has been produced in collaboration with brands such as Saint Laurent and Supreme. We recently added in a new clear model pictured below.

Tsubota Pearl Hard Edge Clear Lighter

Alongside the iconic Hard Edge, we were also drawn to the Sigaretta model, designed with the size and appearance of a cigarette. The tiny mechanism is a stunning piece of engineering work, and watching people’s reactions to realising they’re holding a lighter is very enjoyable. QUEUE is a very similar lighter, originally available in the 70s and reintroduced in 2004. The squared design and vibrant colours make for a distinctive modern lighter, again with the miniature internal mechanics. We’ve found they are ideal for lighting candles; their length and the fact they stay lit when used mean they can reach into partially burnt candles with no need to hold down an activator.

Alongside their own lighters, Tsubota Pearl also produce an attractive brass cover for mini Bic lighters, elevating them from a cheap plastic object to a beautiful item.

Tsubota Pearl QUEUE Lighters - BindleStore.

Tsubota Pearl Brass Lighter Case - BindleStore.

Browse our collection of Tsubota Pearl lighters here!

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