May 28, 2019
Reasonably-priced eyewear retailer Zoff (Zoff Inc.) opened its first store in Japan in Shimokitazawa, Tokyo in 2001. Eight years later this expat living in Japan bought their first pair of glasses from the chain this month. Here’s how it got done.
"How to buy a pair of glasses from Zoff? Pretty easily it turns out."
I went to the branch of Zoff in the PARCO department store in Ueno. It was sort of an impulse buy. I wear contact lenses most of the time (I’m shortsighted) but had for some time wanted to supplement these with a pair of glasses. The impulse bit is that I hadn’t been eyeing-up a purchase on this particular day. Perhaps it’s a testament to the smooth nature of the procedure at Zoff that I came away with a pair of glasses on this occasion.
Choosing glasses at Zoff, how much do they cost?
The price of glasses at Zoff is generally in the 5,000 - 15,000 yen range. In my case, “a pair of glasses” means frames, lenses, and glasses case. I picked out a pair that cost 9,000 yen. Perhaps the greatest challenge for me in finding glasses that suit here in Japan is my thin face (as opposed to the slightly flatter profile of the Japanese -- I hope I’m not offending or stereotyping here!). As such, it’s often the case that frames in Japan kind of protrude from my profile in a way that makes me feel really self-conscious. Lighter colors or the order of the day for me.
At the counter
Frames selected and it was over the counter. The member of staff that dealt with me at this Zoff was unable to speak English, not that I was expecting them to. I was presented with a tablet device though, that did have an English-language setting installed.
I was taken through a series of basic questions to answer on the tablet -- First time wearer? Contact-lense user? Name? Phone number? How did you find us? … and a few more questions that were all simple enough to answer.
At this point the sales pitch about upgrading to a higher standard of lense, insurance etc was delivered. I declined. No problem. I wasn’t given the hard sell.
I was given a ticket though indicating when it would be my turn to be seen for the eye test. On a busy Golden Week holiday there were already a few people being seen to so it was around 20 minutes before I could get my eyes looked at.
The eye test at Zoff
At this particular branch at Zoff the eye test was conducted pretty much out in the open where other customers could see what was going on. I don’t care about this personally, but maybe something to bare in mind for some.
Note - I’m going with term “eye test” because it seems more natural to me. Actually, as far as my limited understanding goes, what happens at Zoff isn’t a test to determine the health of your eyes, or their suitability for glasses. The “test” is essentially about measuring your vision -- 視力測定 / shiryoku sokutei / vision measurement, according to Google Translate.
Prior to the test I had to take my contact lenses out for which there was a sink, paper towels, contact lense fluid and cases. (I kept the case.)
The test was conducted in Japanese. This might have been because I let on that I could speak Japanese. I think you could scrape through it even if you don’t speak the lingo but things might get a little tricky when it comes to the fine-tuning required to find the most suitable lenses.
The tests were of the kind that you might be familiar with back home -- the autorefractor test to measure one’s ability to focus (the one with the hot air balloon), a duochrome test to check short / long sight (the one with the red and green backgrounds), and the Snellen chart (with the letters presented in ever-decreasing size).
In regards to the Snellen chart, the staff at Zoff offered me either the hiragana (or was it katakana) version or the Roman-alphabet version. Foolishly I opted for the former but soon checked myself and asked for the latter.
And then, of course, you have to don those ridiculous frames into which staff can test a variety of lenses.
The eye test at Zoff probably took around 10 minutes. As I mentioned earlier, the tricky part was when it came for me to decide the exact strength of the lenses I wanted. It wasn’t a language issue for me but it might be for others who want to get a finer understanding of the explanations.
How long does it take for glasses to be made at Zoff?
Contact lenses back in and it was back to the counter to pay for the glasses (cash in my case) and to collect a receipt indicating when to come back to collect. It took about 40 minutes for the staff at Zoff to have my glasses ready.
The fitting / styling aspect at Zoff was minimal. Perhaps this was simply because I lucked-out that the frames were a decent fit from the start. I don’t know. Anyway, I took a seat on a bench in the store and a member of staff took about the brief task of checking and minor adjusting.
I was presented with a number of options in terms of cases, which were included in the price. The case I chose is that which is pictured in the blog post. I think at this point there was some talk about warranty and repair. For my sins, I had kind of tuned out at this point, and it wasn’t / isn’t such a concern for me.
How to buy a pair of glasses from Zoff? Pretty easily it turns out. In fact, this kind of fast-food, 1,000 yen-10-min-haircut service that you get at Zoff is right up my street. I don’t enjoy doing this kind of thing, I wasn’t looking for any pampering or styling, and I wasn’t interested in shelling out a tonne of money on my glasses. In this regard then, everything was great, especially when it’s all done and dusted within a couple of hours.
I suppose with this though comes the risk that you might not end up with the exact set of frames and lenses to suit. Not such a problem for me because, as I mentioned earlier, the glasses are essentially a back-up for contact lenses. If your requirements and tastes are more finely tuned though, I don’t know, maybe you should approach Zoff with a degree of caution. Ultimately, as with so many things, you get what you pay for.
Note - just in case anyone thinks I know my stuff when it comes to Snellen charts and autorefractor tests, I don't. These terms were the result of a bit of light internet research.
Helpful! I've only bought glasses here in Japan from Jins, and it's a similar kind of process. Very quick and easy - but like you my main struggle has been finding ones that fit my face.
I’ve had great service from Zoff. They fitted me for a reasonably priced pair of glasses, and sent them to my by post. They can even do difficult prescriptions like mine- I’m far sighted and astigmatic- though it takes time.