Established in 1933, this Hachioji factory produces lights, indicators, panels and buttons for elevators. While you’ve probably never given the design of elevator buttons a second thought, Shimada certainly has – its products all have a unique look, making them instantly recognisable.
The factory itself is like something Willy Wonka would build if he discovered a passion for industrial design. There’s a massive wall featuring more than 1,000 elevator buttons in different shapes and colours that light up when you push them, so you can try to press them all as fast as possible.
Plus, you can purchase keychains (¥1,360) in the shape of elevator buttons here. Each one is handmade by Shimada employees.
The company even has its own mascot character, called Button-chan, which adorns a number of souvenirs, such as tote bags (¥2,717), towels (¥1,980), keychains (¥462) and even hoodies (¥4,730) and T-shirts (¥2,420). All the Button-chan merchandise is available to purchase online. Fun fact: Button-chan’s weight is exactly 65kg, which is the notional weight of one person when calculating elevator capacity in Japan.
The factory is only open to the public via the company’s special factory tour (in Japanese only), where you can learn more about Shimada and its history, and get a glimpse of the manufacturing process.
The tour is free, but you’ll have to make a reservation in advance. Places are limited and tours tend to fill up well in advance, so make sure to check Shimada’s website for the latest updates, or follow the company’s Twitter and Instagram accounts to see photos and videos from the factory.