Beginnings: Japanese couple searches for Fire-King glassware

Monday, October 26, 2009 | 5:00 a.m. CDT; updated 9:12 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Kiwamu Tanaka and his wife, Yuki, collect Fire-King wares, which is a division of the brand Anchor Hocking glasswares.

COLUMBIA — MU post-doctoral researcher Kiwamu Tanaka and his wife, Yuki, want quality housewares with value. They don’t, however, measure worth by dollar amount. Instead, they prize distinctiveness, especially that of Fire-King wares.

Slowly but surely, Fire-King wares have begun to accumulate around their kitchen. Fire-King is an Anchor Hocking brand of glassware, originally produced in the 1940s and now widely hunted by vintage collectors in antique stores, at garage sales and on eBay. The Fire-King line includes bowls, cups, plates, serving platters and more.


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Kiwamu, 32, and Yuki, 34, are not big collectors; in fact, they remain at entry-level. “The idea is to decorate our house with unique, distinctive, yet affordable things,” Kiwamu said.

Yuki first learned about Fire-King from a Japanese friend a year ago. She immediately fell in love with its quaintness and usability.

“The first time I saw Fire-King at my friend’s house, I found it pretty and unique,” Yuki recalled in Japanese. “When I learned that it was oven-safe and microwaveable, I liked it all the more and wanted it.”

Yuki also admired Fire-King because she found something uniquely American. She soon learned about where to find it.

The first time Kiwamu saw Fire-King bowls, cups and plates carelessly piled up on a shelf at an antique shop, he was not impressed.

“They appeared cheapies,” Kiwamu said in Japanese. “Designwise, they were eye-catching.”  

Yuki’s affection was contagious. Kiwamu soon developed a habit of looking for what would match the existing kitchen decorations.   

“We’ve started to collect white ones, which have little patterns,” Kiwamu said.

“White harmonizes well with any other colors,” Yuki said. “The Fire-King line includes various colors, but we stick with white."

The Tanakas take pride in a small collection of Fire-King wares. “We get lots of compliments,” Kiwamu said.

“When we need a serving platter and our budget is $10, we go to an antique store for Fire-King instead of shopping at any of those chain stores,” Yuki said.

“It can take extra time to find what we want, but it’s all worth it,” Kiwamu said.

Three years ago, Kiwamu and Yuki met at a dance center in the Japanese prefecture of Kagoshima, in southern Japan. Yuki was already an intense salsa dancer, whereas Kiwamu was a beginner. Their relationship began to build on the mutual interests.

“When I first touched Kiwamu’s hands as we first practiced salsa together, I knew he would be the one,” Yuki recalled in Japanese. “Dancing with a partner requires a sort of feeling. I clicked with Kiwamu, and I felt it through our hands.”

Kiwamu said with a smile, “I don’t remember anything like that.”

That was the beginning. 

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