Japanese External Reverse Porro Prism Binoculars. VIRTUAL MUSEUM


Nippon Kogaku Kogyo NIKKO MIKRON Binoculars.

日本光学工業株式会社 Mikron 小型双眼鏡 .

While the origin of the miniature external reverse porro prism binoculars design of 1919 (Fata Morgana by Alfred Baumann) came from the post WWI German optical industry, it was quickly followed in Japan in 1921 (Nikko Mikron 6x by Nippon Kogaku). While   German models disappeared in he mid 1920’s German economic chaos, Japanese production continued in small quantities by various companies until WWII, and surviving interwar examples are quite uncommon and coveted both in Japan and elsewhere. But this design primarily owes it’s volume, popularity, production, manufacturers, and brands to the immediate post WWI occupation mandate for the Japanese optical industry to produce exports as part of reconstruction, with production continued through the rest of the 1950’s and 1960’s and 1970’s in response to consumer demand for this design of binoculars that offered a novel miniature configuration which still performed on a level not far below that of full sized prism binoculars five times their size. And this design is still in more limited production in much the same form nearly 100 years later.

Japanese NIKKO MIKRON 6x binoculars made by Nippon Kōgaku Kōgyō Kabushikigaisha . Serial no 34972. The logo   “NIKKO” was used 1921-1945; this second variation of the logo was used 1932-1945. Collection of Nico Westphal, Netherlands, binoculars from UK. Photos: Nico Westphal

This seminal Japanese miniature binocular brand and design design was made between the world wars as NIKKO by Nippon Kōgaku Kōgyō Kabushikigaisha ( 日本光学工業株式会社 ). (today this company is Nikon).  

Though largely absent from US school lessons, Japan declared war on Germany in WWI on Aug. 1914, three years before the US did in April 1917. Japan assisted Australian and NZ troops capture the Caroline, Mariana, & Marshall islands from Germany. Japanese marines helped British troops suppress a mutiny by Indian troops in Singapore; sent ships to help guard South Africa and Malta; and in 1918 joined US troops supporting white Russian armies against red armies in Siberia. My great uncle, a British citizen, (but not Irish) joined the 2/18 London Rgt: the 2nd London Irish Rifles (a UK Territorial Army unit) on the British declaration of war in 1914. He carried a Japanese Arisaka rifle from Sept 1914 until Jan. 1916, when Short Magazine Lee Enfield rifle production caught up (the British purchased 150.000 Japanese type 30 & 38 rifles). When he was shipped to Egypt & Palestine to fight Turkish forces, his British convoy was protected by a Japanese destroyer. This illustrates the Anglo Japanese alliances that lasted from 1894 to 1923, and were only withdrawn due to heavy U.S. pressure (US “War plan Orange” preparations for war with Japan commenced in 1906, and were formally adopted in 1924). Japanese/UK relations remained good until the Tiensin Incident in China in 1939. These political and trade relations are the reason that Japanese miniature binoculars from between the world wars turn up in the UK and the Commonwealth. Japanese [naval] military experience heavily it’s optical industry. During the First Sino Japanese war of 1894-1895 Japan destroyed the Chinese Beiyana fleet. During the Russo Japanese war of 1904-1905 Japan destroyed 3/4 of the Russian fleet at the battle of Tsushima Straight. Keys to naval battle success in regard to optics included achieving earliest detection of the enemy; accurate ranging; superior gunnery due to optical targeting & ranging & trajectory calculation; and quick gunnery corrections based on optical observation of shell fall. The famous pictures of Admiral Togo in the Russian Japanese war in 1905 show Togo on the British built battleship Mikasa holding German Zeiss binoculars and standing in front of a British Barr and Stroud optical rangefinder. This conspicuous dependence on foreign equipment is probably why just prior to the conclusion of WWI the Japanese government undertook a concerted effort to develop an advanced domestic Japanese optical and optical glass and optical weapons industry. Germany previously dominated those industries. Nippon Kōgaku Kōgyō Kabushikigaisha was created on July 25 1917 to be an optical weapons manufacturer, by merging the optical measuring division of Tokyo Keiki Seisaku-sho, the reflector division of Iwaki Glass Seizo-sho, plus Fujii Lens Seizo-sho. In July of 1919 while traveling in newly defeated Germany, Ryuzo Fuji (who studied optics in Germany for 3 yrs prior to 1900) recruited eight German engineers under a 5 year contract to work for Nippon Kōgaku KK, and the engineers arrived in Japan in January 1921. (per Nikon Corporate histories) They included Ernst Bernick, Hermann Dillmann, Karl Weise, Albert Ruppert, Max Lang, Adolf Sadtler and Otto Stange, working under Heinrich Acht. (Lang and Stange died in Japan in 1923 and 1924 respectively. Bernick, Dillmann, Weise, Sadtler & Ruppert returned to Germany in 1926, and Acht in 1928). Four German engineers were assigned to the 3 year old Ohi factory in the Ō district of Shinagawa-ku Tokyo, and four to the Shiba factory. While they worked on military oriented lenses, lens polishing, and processes, they also helped develop microscopes, camera lenses, and in 1921 they developed the [civilian] miniature Mikron 4x and 6x external reverse porro prism binoculars. These were of a very similar configuration to, and almost certainly were inspired by the German Fata Morgana and Optistar binocular design of 1919. These are sometimes called Nikon’s “first binoculars”, and are so in terms of being a company design. Actually Nippon Kōgaku KK inherited a number of conventional binoculars models and brands from Fuji Lens (such as the Asahi, Fuji, Yamato, Sakura, Nippon models) plus an opera glass and the Victor export model which was renamed Tenyu under the new company, and was primarily a military model. Some Nippon Kōgaku KK binoculars of various types initially appear branded as “ JOICO ” (though not the miniatures) which is believed an abbreviation of “ J apan O ptical I ndustries Co rporation”, which in turn is a westernized translation of Nippon Kōgaku Kōgyō Kabushikigaisha and others appeared branded as “ NIKKO ” (including miniatures). According to a historical document held by Anna & Terry Vacani, the brand Nikkō ( 日光 ) appears to have been used on binoculars from 1927-1950. NIKKO is believed to be an abbreviation of the romanji name Ni ppon K ōgaku gyō. Nikkō also means “sunlight”: means sun. means light. Which also invokes a patriotic component, as the Japanese name for “Japan” is Nippon or Nihon ( 日本 . ), which means “origin of sun”. Certain binoculars, including the miniature binoculars, were also branded “ Mikron”, which is a Greek word indicating miniature or small size. The company reportedly produced over 21 variations of their miniature reverse porro miniature binoculars over the next 96 or so years, and these are generally regarded to be among the highest quality and most desirable of this type of binocular. A center focus (CF) model was developed in 1948 for the US market, which preferred center focus binoculars, and which was the largest and most affluent market immediately after World War II. While my research on the origins of the design proves the German Fata Morgana binoculars were developed prior to the Japanese Mikron binoculars, and were presumably the inspiration for the Japanese designs, my search of Japanese patent databases gives no indication that Alfred Baumann ever patented his designs in Japan. Nor does it seem likely that the Nippon Kōgaku Mikron miniature designs were initially intended to be or were marketed outside Japan until long after all the Fata Morgana and Optistar and their European and US patents were long defunct. The Fata Morgana (indirectly), and the miniature Nippon Kogaku logo “MIKRON” and “NIKKO MIKRON” 4x and 6x binoculars were the direct precursors of a limited number of similar ultra small prismatic binoculars with form fitting external prism covers that were produced in Japan between the world wars. They were produced for export in large quantities in the late 1940’s and in the 1950’s (including the middle to end of the occupied Japan period of 1945-1952) as well as in the 1960’s, 1970’s, 1980s, and to a lesser degree subsequently. While I refer to these binoculars as “miniature”, and most were, some models were scaled up to be full size or even to be rather large binoculars (Simor, Vixen, & Super Zenith in 15x50), particularly for the UK & European markets. The design was also widely used for monoculars, and occasionally for spotting scopes. Some binoculars of this design are still actively produced. And Nikon released “anniversary models” of the original Mikron 6x15 binoculars in 1997 (albeit with center focus and modern coatings), and they are still in production, available, and quite popular and very well regarded in 2017, ninety six years after their initial introduction.

Miniature Binoculars and JAPAN (and Nikon). 小型双眼鏡 と日本 ( 本光学工業株式会社) . Miniaturferngläser und Japan (und Nikon). Jumelles miniatures et le Japon (et Nikon). Миниатюрные бинокль и Японии (и Nikon). Los Prismáticos en Miniatura y el Japón (y Nikon). Binocoli Miniatura e Giappone (e Nikon).

Japanese NIKKO MIKRON 6x binoculars made by Nippon Kōgaku Kōgyō Kabushikigaisha with Original case . Serial no 36541. Second variation “NIKKO” logo used 1932-1945. Collection of Mike Symons, British Columbia, Canada, Photos courtesy of Mike Symons

A Geopolitical History of Binoculars. Ein Geopolitische Geschichte des Fernglases. Une   Histoire Gèpolitique des Jumelles. Урок истории. 歴史 レッス. Une Historia Geopolítica de Los Prismaticos. Una Storia Geopolitica dei Binocoli.





























































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Understanding Early Post War US Importation of Japanese  

Miniature Binoculars: Bushnell & Asahi Kōgaku Kōgyō  

Kabushiki-geisha ( 旭光学工業株式会社 ) 米国 の日本小型双眼鏡の早期の歴史 ,  

Einfuhr Von Japanischen Miniaturferngläsern in Die US in   Den Fünfziger Jahren. Importation des Jumelles Miniatures Japonaises Aux Etats Unis Pendant les Années 1950. Импорт японских миниатюрные бинокль в США в 1950- х. Förstå Import av Miniatyr Japanska kikare till usa: Före 1950. Importación de prismáticos en Miniatura Japonés en los Estados Unidos después de 1950

In 1948 David P. Bushnell (March 31, 1913-March 24, 2005 ) became an influential pioneer of the importing of Japanese binoculars into the United States. Richard Buchroeder and Peter Abrahams interviewed David and Nancy Bushnell on Oct 29, 1999. This [transcribed oral history] gives fascinating direct insights into why and how the post WWII US binocular market and specifically the market for miniature binoculars developed the way it did within the political and economic factors present at the time. And it gives interesting insights into distribution, gaming the tax system, and naming products. Richard Buchroeder and Peter Abrahams deserve enormous credit for capturing and preserving this glimpse into binocular history, and for sharing it. David Bushnell to Richard Buchroeder and Peter Abrahams. “...This was 1947. I was 34 when I discovered binoculars. I looked all over, you couldn’t buy binoculars, because they had been given to the military during the war…”

David Bushnell in 1949

1950 Bushnell Ad in a Hunting Magazine

Asahi made Bushnell binoculars

Asahi made “AOCo” and Bushnell marked binoculars, “made in occupied Japan”, presumed manufactured between 1949 and April 1952.

Early post war Hercules 6x15 binoculars made by Asahi Optical of the type David Bushnell carried to Bangkok Thailand in 1948.

For full David Bushnell interview with Richard Buchroeder and Peter Abrahams see: http://www.europa.com/~telscope/bushnell.txt

US WWII Posters asking the public to loan Zeiss & Bauch and Lomb binoculars to the US military. The binoculars were to be returned after the war. (a few actually were) Ironically by asking for German Zeiss binoculars to fight Japan & Germany it promoted Zeiss as being most desirable among a huge number of people who knew nothing about binoculars.

“...I found a used pair of 6x30s at a pawn shop for $50, made by Universal Camera in Minneapolis. December 1947 to January 1948, was my first trip to Japan. So, off I went to the Orient...We sailed into Manila Bay, [Phillipines] going around the sunken ships and into the berth. I was standing on the deck, and someone on the deck called out ’do you want to sell those binoculars?’ I said ’sure’, I didn’t want them anyway after I got off the ship. He said ‘I’ll give you a hundred dollars for them.’ That was my first sale, and a profitable one. That shows how scarce binoculars were at the time. I delivered the steel and flew on to Shanghai. [China] At   Shanghai in the hotel, there was a Dutch trader who had just come back from Tokyo. He showed me the samples of products that he had bought there, and one was a nice 7x50 binocular. I asked him what he paid, and he said eighteen dollars. It was a military binocular converted to civilian use, and a good one. To get into Japan I needed a permit from Washington. Fortunately I was able to get a permit, having traded with Japan before the war. I was one of the first commercial traders in Japan after the war. A couple of New York importers arrived shortly after my visit. We landed in Yokohama, and everything was flat all the way to Tokyo, bombed out. The only things standing were a few chimneys. MacArthur was quite a character over there, we’d see him arrive and leave, with crowds around him, he was a real showman. I did not meet him. Later, I had to wait until MacArthur left Japan to make riflescopes. In Tokyo one building had an exhibition of all the products Japan had available for export, and there were the binoculars. I looked through several and they looked all right to me. I bought some samples and had them sent back to my office in Los Angeles. At that time I had about six employees. They were busy exporting a lot of chemicals to China. I continued around the world. I flew on to Bangkok, [Thailand] and carried a little pair of 6x15s. I thought they were wonderful, that these were what the spies carried during the war. I was fascinated with them. The brand was Hercules, made by Asahi Optical...”

“...This was before Asahi made the single reflex camera… So I got back to Pasadena, and they had taken some orders from dealers for binoculars, based on the samples. About 400 pair of binoculars were sold. The first binoculars we imported were Asahi 6x15, open frame, pocket binoculars. [Japanese external reverse porro prism miniature binoculars]. This was in ‘48, but there was a long strike by the steamers [ 95 day Nov.1948 ILWU longshoreman’s strike] , which lasted for months, and we couldn’t get them off the ship. After Christmas, they [resellers& dealers] said you couldn’t sell Japanese products, the stigma was too strong, and the French [binocular makers] will be back, and eventually the Germans as well. The merchants thought they could not sell the Japanese products. Late in December, I was able to get them off the ship, in time for the Santa Anita [horse] race track to open. I put an ad in the Los Angeles Times [newspaper], 7 x 50s for $49.50. I wrote my own advertising. Then came my first ads in the American Rifleman [National Rifle Association magazine sent to all members] , especially the 4” ad featuring the 8x30 for $30, which started the whole mail order business. In Pasadena, I bought a small building at 41 Green St, right across from the old Green Hotel, but the building is no longer there. I opened a retail store in front of the building and had merchandise inventory in the back. It was solely a retail business. After I sold the original pair, I ordered more and sold them. Another secretary said ‘why don’t you put your name on the binoculars?’ I said ’I don’t know how long it’s going to last, and there’s many other products for us besides binoculars’. But with the next lot, I told Asahi Optical to put ‘Bushnell’ on the cover plate, and I drew a nice little lens, a cutaway of an achromat, and put ‘triple tested’ on it. One customer asked ‘what does triple tested mean?’ I said ‘it is tested by the factory, it is tested by us, and it is tested by you’ . We did test a few of each shipment...

“...Asahi was run by very good people. I knew Mr. Matsumoto, the chairman. Every time I came over to Japan he was out in the yard looking through a camera with a hood over his head. The first time, he said ‘look down in that ground glass.’   Another time he said ‘Now look, you can look straight through there, you don’t have to look down, we use a pentaprism.’ We had lunch, and he said “We’ve got to think of a name for this camera.’ We were coming up with all kinds of names for the camera, Cyclops and others. He thought of Pentax, and we said , that’s it. For those early orders [of binoculars] we advertised on radio...When I saw there was a market here, in 1950, I talked with the sportscasters, Tom Harmon and others, and asked what they wanted as an ideal binocular. They said wide field [of view] , light weight, and reasonable price. I also corresponded with the editors of outdoor magazines, and they gave me their input. Then I went to Germany, in 1949 or 1950, and called on Hertel & Reuss, Leitz, and Beck Kassell. They said ‘Mr Bushnell, we were making binoculars before you were born. We will make what we feel the market wants.‘ I took the next plane to Tokyo, which went through Moscow and across Siberia to Tokyo. The flight across Siberia in the winter was really something, especially with those noisy airplanes. The stewardess, instead of passing out food and drinks, was tightening fasteners in the plane! We landed in Tokyo. The engineer said, ’Tell us what you want, anything you want.’ So in two or three weeks, they had a prototype made. Day and night they’d work. The first one was a 7x35, a Japanese design with an aluminum body, it turned out well….My vision was that everyone in the Rose Bowl [college football] on New Year’s day should have a Bushnell binocular. The Rose Bowl Commission always bought a hundred binoculars, paid for them, and gave me 6 seats on the 50 yard line. They thought I was doing them a favor. We engraved them ‘Rose Bowl participant’... A neighbor in the office building was an advertising representative for Sports Afield magazine said ‘David, you’ve got to advertise in our magazine. It will cost around $800, it will appear just once, and it will take two months before it appears. It costs $200 to make the [printing] plate, and then you’ve got the artwork. I asked, ’All that , just to appear once? He said ‘Trust me’. So we put a four inch ad in Sports Afield, offering 8x30s for $30. After that the checks came in every mail. We had to add 20 percent luxury tax, which I didn’t have to pay until the end of the year, so I had that 20 percent capitol to use during the year, plus the profit...We billed the binocular cases separately because that didn’t require luxury tax, and saved the customer a dollar or two. That was my first experience in mail order.

Then we began to get inquiries from dealers, and there wasn’t enough margin through dealers, so I raised the [retail mail order] prices. I began to sell through dealers, but continued to sell directly to the consumer. At one time, I had a separate product line for dealers, not the Bushnell name, but that didn’t go at all, they wanted the name. [brand unknown at this time ]. American Rifleman [member magazine of the National Rifle Assn] was my best advertising medium. Later I set up Aries Agency (because I’m an Aries), instead of paying 15% to an advertising agency. [Advertising agencies got a commission or kickback for booking ads]. We wrote all our own ads and pocketed the commission . At one time I had about a dozen corporations because the first $25,000 earned by the corporation was assessed at a lower tax rate. I had a company that bought binoculars, a company that shipped binoculars, that inspected binoculars, retail, wholesale, and the U.S. optical laboratory: the inspection and further guarantee outfit that gave us the seal of approval. Before long, someone who had read an article in American Rifleman about coated lenses, asked us about them. I inquired around and found a fellow in Hollywood who was coating lenses for the movie makers, and for a while we would bring them to him and he would coat the inside of the objectives only, [objective lens] so we could use the term ‘coated optics’...The second trip to Japan was in spring of 1952. The third was in 1954. The forth was in 1956. I’d go to Japan, sit in a hotel room, and they’d [binocular companies] be lining up in the lobby. I’d give them about 15 minutes each, and one after the other would come in. I would visit all the plants. Some were mom and Pop operations, but they wouldn’t complete the binoculars, they’d be making prisms or eyecups, bodies & so forth; and they’d be assembled by another firm. We would say, ‘can you try a certain field of view’, and they would say ‘how about this?’ They would try to do anything we asked them to. For example, the birders wanted close focus...It was all gentlemen’s agreement, they trusted us and we trusted them. Running the business was always fun...One lady sent a binocular back to us and said, ’for heavens sake, please fix these in a hurry & get them back to my husband, he’s a dedicated birder, he specialized in golden crested double breasted mattress thrashers [blond bimbos] ... In 1971, we were selling 10 million [binoculars] a year.

Bushnell’s “Triple tested” blurb was intended to address US consumer concerns about Japanese origin and quality.

Japanese Companies Involved in the Manufacture of Miniature Binoculars. さな日本双眼鏡生産する企業 . Japanische Firmen die Miniaturferngläser Herstellten. Sociétés Japonaises Qui Ont Fait les   Jumelles Miniatures. Японские компании, вовлеченные в производство миниатюрных бинокль. Las Empresas Japonesas Involucradas en la Producción de los Prismáticos en Miniatura. Aziende Giapponeisi Coinvolte Nelia Pruduzione de Binocoli Miniatura.

The following list is of manufacturers I have observed to have been involved in the manufacture of the many various brands of these Japanese (miniature) External Reverse Porro Prism Binoculars, either as the assembling manufacturer of record (JB number), or as the parts manufacturer of record (JE number), or as an identified subcontracting manufacturer or manufacturing distributor. Please note that some manufacturing efforts in the 1950’s and 1960s were essentially consortium group efforts so that there were almost certainly many other manufacturers in addition to the assembling and/ or parts manufacturer of record. So the list should be regarded as accurate but incomplete. Where possible the companies are listed in their “translated” form, and in rōmaji, and in Kanji (see the section “ Understanding the Name Variations ” on the page ” INTRODUCTION ” for a complete explanation). Addresses, where available, are normally from a 1959 list of binocular makers published by the Japan Binoculars Export Promotion Co and made available by Peter Abrahams at:

http://home.europa.com/~telscope/j-list.txt   Be aware that if a company had more than one location at the time, then this address is probably a sales office address, rather than a factory address, but it could be either.

Akebono Optical Co., Ltd. (Akebono Kōgyō Seisakujo) ( 曙光学工業 ) : 1-956 Nogata-cho, Nakano-ku, Tokyo

Asahi Optical Co.Ltd. ( Asahi Kōgaku Kōgyō Kabushiki-geisha) ( 旭光学工業株式会社 ) 980 Shimura-maeno-cho, Itabashi-ku,Tokyo

Asanuma & Co Ltd

Carton Optical Industries Ltd ( カートン光学株式会社)

Fuji Photo Optical Co,. Ltd:   1-24 Uetake-cho, Omiya-Shi, Saitama

Furukawa Kōgaku Seisakujo ( 古川光学製作所 )

Hoya Optical Co, Ltd. (Hoya Kōgaku Kōgyō Kabushiki-geisha) ( 保谷光学株式会社 ) 38 Oyama-Kanai-cho, Itabashi-ku, Tokyo

Ibuki Kōgaku Co. Ltd.   ( 伊吹光学株式会社 )

Iikura Optical Works (Iikura Kogaku Seisakujo Inc.) ( 飯倉光学製作所 ) : 43 Tokumaru-cho, Itabashi-ku, Tokyo

Kamakura Optical Co, Ltd: 2-51-2 Shimo-machi, Kita-ku, Tokyo

Kuroki Kogaku Kogyo Co Ltd

Meiji Seiko Co, Ltd. ( 明治精工株式会社 ) : 803 Yukigaya-cho, Ota-ku, Tokyo

Nikkei Optical Co, Tokyo ( 日経光学株式会社 )

Nippon Kogaku Kogyo Co.Ltd. (Nippon Kōgaku Kōgyō Kabushiki-geisha) ( 日本工学株式会社 )Oi-Morimae-cho, Shingawa-ku, Tokyo

Oei Kōgaku Co Ltd. ( 応永光学株式会社 )

Ofuna Optical Instrument Co., Ltd (Ofuna Kōgaku K.K.)( 大船光学工業株式会社 ) 659 Dai, Kamakura-shi, Kanagawa

Oji Optical Machine Co. Ltd (Oji Kōgaku Kikai K.K.)( 王子光学機械株式会社 ) 5-34 Inatsuke-Nishi-machi, Kita-ku, Tokyo

Okaya Optical Co, Ltd (Okaya   Kōgaku Kikai K.K.) 岡谷光学機械㈱ ,   ( Vista brand binoculars)

Omiya Kōgaku Kikai Seisakujo, Tokyo ( 大宮光学機械製作所 )

Omori Sogo Kōgaku Kōgyō Ltd. ( 大森総合光学工業 ) : 202 Ikegami-Honcho, Ota-Ku, Tokyo

Oshimoto Kōgaku Co Ltd

Otake Optical Co (Otake Kōgaku Kōgyō Kabushiki-geisha( 大竹光学工業株式会社 )  

Pentax Corporation (Pentakkusu Kabushiki-geisha )( ペンタックス株式会社, )

Rikken Optical Co., Ltd. (Riken Kōgaku Kōgyō K.K.) ( 理研光学工業㈱ )

Sankyo Optical Co Ltd.   (Sankyo Kōgaku Kōgyō Kabushiki-geisha) ( 三共光学工業株式会社 ) : 2-8 Naka-Jujo, Kita-ku, Tokyo

Siewa Optical Co. Ltd. (Seiwa Kōgaku Kōgyō Kabushiki-geisha ) ( 清和光学株式会社 ) : 5-1617 Naka-machi, Nerima-ku, Tokyo

Tanaka Optical Co Ltd (Tanaka Koki Seisakujo) ( 田中光機製作所 ) 4 Fujimi-cho, Itabashi-ku, Tokyo

Toa Optical Co., Ltd. (Toa Kōgaku Kōgyō Kabushiki-geisha )( 東亜光学株式会社 ): 1-7 Chihaya-cho, Toshima-ku, Tokyo

Tochihara Optical Co ( 栃原光学株式会社)

Tokuhiro Micro Binocular Co: (Tokuhiro Koki Seisakusho Inc)( 徳弘光機製作所株式会社 )9-1101 Nippori-machi, Arakawa-ku, Tokyo

Ueta Seiki Co. Ltd

Yashica Co Ltd ( Yashica Kōgyō Kabushiki-geisha ) ( ヤシカ ) plus U.S. subsidiary marketing firm Yashica Inc.

Yoshimoto Optical Co Ltd. : ( 吉本光学株式会社 ) 1-3340 Nishi-Sugamo, Toshima-ku, Tokyo

Zuiho Optical Instrument Co Ltd. ( Zuihō Kōgaku Seiki K.K., Tokyo )( 瑞宝光学精機工業株式会社 ) 3-7 Kyobashi, Chuo-ku, Tokyo


David Bushnell’s blurb “Triple tested”, though pure marketing nonsense, was later adopted by many other non Bushnell brands, as was his style of logotype, which is rather amusing.

Saburo Matsumoto, chairman of

Asahi Kōgaku Kōgyō


These binoculars are believed to be a pre production prototype model from around 1921 of the Japanese MIKRON 6x binoculars made by Nippon Kōgaku Kōgyō Kabushikigaisha. Note reinforcing band on prism cover. Only example known with that and in this color. No serial number. Collection of Nikon Corp , 株式会社 ニコン, Kabushiki-geisha Nikon. All photos courtesy   of Hans Braakhuis, all rights reserved (middle photo is sectional enlargement of left hand photo) Noted Nikon historian and authority Hans Braakhuis took these photographs at the Nikon Ohi West factory during a visit in 1977

1949 Bushnell magazine advertisement


Typical early Bushnell dealer newspaper ad,   Binghamton New York, 1953.

Text Box: Asahi Optical Co Factory & Employees 1953

1948 Christmas ILWU dock strike

Attractive unusual Chocolate Brown and Gold Bushnell 6x15 center focus binoculars, no Asahi markings, no manufacturer code

Bushnell embossed leather case

“BOL” stamping found on some Bushnell binoculars, for Bushnell Optical Laboratory Inc. 2828 East Foothill Blvd, Pasadena Ca 91107, incorporated on 1/02/1952. “I had...the inspection and further guarantee outfit that gave us the seal of approval.” David Bushnell interview

Early Nippon Kogaku Kogyo “MIKRON” miniature binoculars. 日本光学工業株式会社 « Mikron » 小型双眼鏡   Frühe Produktion Nippon Kogaku MIKRON Mini Fernglas, Начало производства Nippon Kogaku “ « MIKRON » . миниатюрные бинокль, Producción Tmprana en Miniatura Nippon Kogaku « MIKRON » Prismáticos. Binocolo in ura Nippon Kogaku « MIKRON » in Anticipo.

Japanese NIKKO MIKRON 6x binoculars made by Nippon Kōgaku Kōgyō Kabushikigaisha . Serial no 39554. Second variation “NIKKO” logo used 1932-1945. Collection of Mark Ohno, USA, binoculars obtained in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

3 テスト

Japanese NIKKO MIKRON 6x binoculars made by Nippon Kōgaku Kōgyō Kabushikigaisha with original case (with broken catch) . Serial no. 36110. Second variation “NIKKO” logo used 1932-1945. Collection of Mark Ohno, USA, binoculars obtained in the UK.

Logo of Nippon Kōgaku Kōgyō Kabushikigaisha 1917-1932

Ursprünge der Japanische Miniatur Fernglas

Origines des Japonais jumelles miniatures

Истоки японского миниатюрного бинокль

Los orígenes de los prismáticos Japoneses en miniatura

日本 のミニチュアの双眼鏡の起源

“The Rose Bowl Commission always bought a hundred [7x35 aluminum body] binoculars,…We engraved them ‘Rose Bowl participant...”   - David Bushnell. “Rose Bowl Participant   1957” marked Bushnell 7x35 binoculars and case. Collection of Mark Ohno

“Rose Bowl Participant” marking on binoculars case

Ryuzo Fujii

1930’s Nikko Mikron 6x binoculars

Heinrich Acht, engineer at Nippon Kogaku, 1921-1928

Japanese NIKKO MIKRON 6x binoculars made by Nippon Kōgaku Kōgyō Kabushikigaisha . Serial no 39738 ca 1932-1945. Captured as a war trophy during the Battle of Saipan, Mariana Islands July 1944 by 19 year old Dewain Clift, who was probably a member of the U.S. 708th Amphibian Tank Battalion, and probably obtained the binoculars from a deceased member of the Japanese 43rd Div. Collection of Mark Ohno, USA, binoculars obtained in the USA. Though taken as a result of a battle, this represents a soldier’s personal item and not military issued equipment. (Similar to the “meatball” Japanese flags signed by well wishers many Japanese soldiers carried).

Japanese NIKKO MIKRON 6x binoculars made by Nippon Kōgaku Kōgyō Kabushikigaisha with Original case . Serial no 37803. Second variation “NIKKO” logo used 1932-1945. Unusually good original condition. Collection of Mark Ohno, binoculars obtained in the USA.

Appreciate the assistance of William Kinzalow of Georgia USA for the acquisition of these binoculars.  

Amtrak amphibious tanks/tractors during battle of Saipan, June/July 1944


CONTACT US WITH INFORMATION OR COMMENTS:   miniature.binoculars@gmail.com

Civilian Zeiss Silvamar 6x30 binoculars with defaced U.S. Navy property stamping. Collection of Mark Ohno