Updated: Jun 16, 2020
What's that you ask? Why does Japan have so many aquas with so many shades of turquoise and teals that go for days? This is the number one question I get and so here is your answer!
The simple answer is, the aqua shades predominately come from glass bottles that held sake (the alcohol), shoyu (soya sauce), soda drinks like ramune and glass fishing floats.
But why did these glass bottles come in aqua?
In a discussion with the Japan Glass Bottle Association, they shared that blueish green is the most natural colour of glass due to the iron and copper impurities in the sand here. To save time and money from having to remove the impurities, they simply just used that blueish green glass.
Even though removing impurities became easier over time, later on during the Showa period which was 1926-1989, aqua was considered the “popular” color to use for glass bottles especially like sake and shoyu because it looked “cool and refreshing”.
My absolute favorite bottle found in this color is the Japanese version of a demijohn. It is called an "Ittobin" which simply translates to 18 liters (5 gallons). Domestic manufacturing started 150 years ago. It is basically a big size unit of measurement and used commonly for sake, shoyu, water, vinegar and other solvents. Like most things, wooden barrels were first used and then glass until the 70's and now plastic.
You can see just how thick the rims are and also the bottoms. This could easily lead to some thick sea glass I find. More modern sake bottles also have thick rims and bottoms.
The interesting thing is that this aqua color seems like it would be a really bad idea to store alcohol in. The Japan Glass Bottle Association said that they simply had no idea at the time that the contents were being spoiled with the light easily penetrating through the aqua glass. Nowadays, aqua is still used for some sake bottles but it is considered more a summer drink that is not heated but only drunk cold and also drunk quickly. It also tends to be cheaper than its brown bottled counterparts.
Another common use for glass in Japan is glass fishing floats - but we'll save that for another post!
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