"Made in Japan."
It's seen as a badge of quality inside and outside the country, as well as an indicator that you're probably paying a bit more. But what does it actually mean? When Fujifilm, a company that proudly etches "Made in Japan" onto almost all of its mirrorless cameras, invited me to its Taiwa factory in Sendai last week, that was the main thing I wanted to find out.
The Taiwa plant handles final assembly on Fujifilm's most prestigious products: the X100T, the X-T1, and the new X-Pro2 — on which I shot all the photos in this article — as well as lenses like the 35mm f/2 and the just-introduced 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6. In the case of the X-Pro2, for example, the metal body is cast in a factory elsewhere in Japan, and shipped to Taiwa to be put together with all the other components.
As far as lenses go, Fujifilm says its optics subsidiary is the only company in its field that turns raw materials all the way into finished product. Fujifilm Optics Co. has three other factories in Japan to deal with glass molds, barrel processing, and lens polishing, along with two in China and the Philippines that handle polishing for other lenses and two in China for subassembly. Fujifilm dates the optics business back to the 1940s, and its Fujinon lenses are also used in medical equipment, high-end cinematography, satellites, and countless other products.
I've shot Fujifilm cameras ever since the X100, which boosted the company back into enthusiast relevance in 2011, but I didn't really know how they were put together. The answer, it turns out, is that they're not assembled by robots, but by actual humans with a lot of work and care.