The importance of pure water


‘A lens factory should be built where the water is pure.’


The above wisdom has survived many generations, and is known both in and outside of our profession. Even today, visitors to our facilities in Aizu ask about the special relationship between clean water and the manufacture of lenses.

Now, our factory in Aizu is located at the foot of the famous Mount Bandai, a place blessed with mountain streams and springs so pristine they were included in the list of Japan’s ‘100 remarkable waters’. Boiling the rice produced here in local water creates an unusually soft, sweet taste. People visit from far away to drink the water here and take some of it home.
Many lens factories by other companies — especially in the long history of optical manufacture— were built near mountains and hills with generous access to clean water.

However, there is actually no direct relation between the quality of a lens and the purity of the water used to refine it. Of course, water that’s cloudy from all the brown dirt in it will make creating good lenses rather difficult. But as long as the water satisfies general standards of ordinary drinking water, there will be no problem creating high-quality lenses.

I think — and this is nothing but personal speculation — the belief that clean water is a necessity for lens creation probably stems from a time before access to clean water was as widespread as it is today.
And while I do think there’s truth to the notion that ‘lens factories should be built where the water is pure’, I do so for a different reason. In my view, it is the mentality of the people living near clean water, rather than the water itself, that is an essential element of excellent lens manufacture.

In general, areas with access to clean water are often located in higher regions, with the accompanying harsh weather conditions and heavy snowfall in the winter. The Aizu region in Fukushima, including the town of Bandai where our factory is located, is a perfect example of this. Even today, in the winters the region occasionally suffers periods of prolonged heavy snowfall, during which everyone gets up an hour earlier in the morning to shovel snow before heading to work.
In short, the living conditions here require the people to work with diligence and discipline. I imagine that generations spent in a region which demanded hard work during the few warm days to prepare for a cold winter which was stoically endured have shaped the local mentality.

For the development of high-end optical instruments, which requires precision on a micro- and even nanoscale, such working morale and discipline is nothing short of essential. Attention towards the minutest procedures and the care to finish each individual task with accuracy and dedication form the foundation for high quality and performance.
We will continue our quest to develop the highest possible optical products, with the morale and care to attention of the people from Aizu and other cold regions as one of our strongest fortes.

(text / Kazuto Yamaki CEO of SIGMA)

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