Before you jump directly to the comments section to scold me about the proper usage of “literal” and the dangers of hyperbole, just know first off that the long-running Ikebukuro institution Rougan Megane Hakubutsukan (老眼メガネ博物館, or literally, “Aging Glasses Museum”) actually sells bowls full of retro sunglasses. And for just 280 yen (US$2.80) at that.

And, besides enabling writers like me to use the phrase “literal bowlful” in relation to something that isn’t a food item, Rougan Megane Hakubutsukan defies expectations in a lot of other ways, too.

Rougan Megane Hakubutsukan was once more myth than actual shop, says one of our Japanese staff writers who hails from Ikebukuro. The bizarre sunglasses retailer apparently started out decades ago selling scraps, detritus and junk that, according to (possibly apocryphal) rumor, looked to have been obviously dug out of dumpsters and landfills and labeled as “secondhand;” which I suppose would still technically be a correct label.


Recently, the store reinvented itself, limiting its selection solely to retro sunglasses and – alarmingly – prescription glasses acquired from vendor overstock. Apparently, since the bald, aging and eccentric owner figured everybody in the neighborhood already knew he was kind of cooky anyway, Hakubutsukan also started running a host of insane promotions around this time.

The store’s most famous promotion is its ongoing “free glasses for tour buses” campaign, which gives free glasses to guests on Tokyo tour buses who incessantly annoy the bus driver until s/he agrees to take a detour to Ikebukuro and stop in front of the shop. Now, for the unfamiliar, Ikebukuro is kind of like the poor man’s Shinjuku – a district that folds nightlife, shopping, bars and restaurants into a single, slightly smaller and grubbier package – and tour buses really have no business stopping there.


Hakubutsukan’s other popular promotion is its Sunglasses Beef Bowl, which – somehow without encountering any Cease and Desist orders – packs an actual Yoshinoya bowl full of nine pairs of sunglasses for the same price as a bowl of beef gyudon. We have no idea how this promotion was conceived, but our best guess is it came to the owner in a peyote-induced spirit dream.


Finally, the store is also quickly gaining a reputation for its dirt-cheap prices for prescription glasses and sunglasses that are (or at least, once were) considered designer. Hakubutsukan supposedly achieves these low prices – sometimes up to 99% off original retail value – by buying up over-two-year-old stock from other retailers. Unbeknownst to us, it appears glasses over two years old can cause a variety of eye problems from the time-induced warping of the lenses and so most vendors just toss out unsold stock after two years.

But hey, what’s a little nearsightedness when you can buy a whole bowl of sunglasses for under three bucks!?






If you’re in town and can navigate a Japanese webpage, you can check out the store’s official website (with map) here.

Photos: RocketNews24
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