Last time I was in Tokyo, I spent a couple hundred bucks on a really nice pair of glasses at a boutique shop in Harajuku. A few months later, my puppy Malcolm chewed them to bits — to be exact, he cracked one of the lenses and gnawed on the earhooks. So when I came back to Tokyo this time, I went back to the store to see if they could either fix them or order me another pair. But the store was gone. “That store went out of business,” a neighborhood cop told me. “They couldn’t compete, the rent was too high and they weren’t making enough money.”
You know what I think happened? Zoff happened. I’m not sure exactly when the first Zoff glasses store was launched, but on my last few trips back I have noticed that they are now everywhere. There is one each Ebisu station, Meguro station, Shibuya station, and Harajuku station. Basically, Zoff brings the fast food model to eyeglasses. They have a very basic recipe — two or three lens shapes that fit into a variety of frames that they claim are custom-made to look good on a Japanese person’s face. They guarantee new glasses to be made for 5000 yen ($50) within half an hour. The process of purchasing glasses is basic assembly line style: pick a frame, get your eyes checked, make a payment, find out availability, wait 30 minutes. It’s so cheap and fast that you could even just get one made for the day if you forget to bring yours to work. After browsing several glasses stores near my house, I too was sucked into a pair at Zoff because of how cheap and easy it was &mdash and also because the cheap plastic purple frame was kind of cute.