Does it spark joy?

Barry’s Tele Vue collection with Tele Vue eyepieces and mounts (L-to-R): Brass Ranger with 10.5mm Plössl on Executive Mount, Pronto with 21m Plössl on Telepod mount, Oracle with 19mm Wide Field eyepiece on Panoramic mount, Tele Vue-85 with 20mm Plössl on non-Tele Vue equatorial mount, and Brass Renaissance with 55mm Plössl on a Gibraltar Mount. Image © Barry Kawa with all rights reserved.

Tidying means taking each item in your hand, asking yourself whether it sparks joy, and deciding on this basis whether or not to keep it. Marie Kondō, Japanese organising consultant and author

My wife had been after me for many years to tidy up our cluttered storeroom of the numerous Japanese telescopes, mounts, eyepieces, etc., that I’ve accumulated over 20 years living in Japan.

Think of Marie Kondo, she told me, the famed Japanese decluttering guru, whom she frequently quotes.

“Does it spark joy?” If not, get rid of it. Usually, it’s clothes, backpacks, old computers, electronic tablets, etc.

But this time, when she was unable to go into our storage room without bumping into my old SP-DX and Vixen Custom-D alt-azimuth mounts, it was time to declutter.

I went through all my various old Takahashi, Vixen, Borg and other older Japanese makers of 60mm refractors with the former 0.965″ eyepiece standard.

None sparked joy in me. But one scope did: my old brass Tele Vue Renaissance, which resides proudly in our living room.

It brings back memories of a time after I got married and jumped back into astronomy with both feet, now that my single days were over.

We were living in Columbus, Ohio, in 1995, and I was assigned there for the Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper. I saw an ad in the classifieds section of the paper, back when newspapers had a full classifieds section, in the misc. items, for a telescope.

Since I had to drive to Cleveland for a meeting, it worked out perfectly to drive over to Mentor-on-the-Lake and check out the scope in person.

The older gentleman had a home on Lake Erie, and he had a beautiful baby-blue 94mm Brandon scope out on his deck. But in his living room, I saw a gorgeous brass telescope on a wooden mount. I asked him about that scope.

“It’s a Tele Vue Renaissance,” Jim said. “But it’s not for sale.”

So, I bought the Brandon 94 and went on my way, although I could not get that brass scope out of my mind.

Vintage Tele Vue Brass Renaissance advertisement. The 550mm f/5.5 Renaissance was introduced in 1984.

A few days later, Jim called me and said he made a mistake in selling the Brandon. He had driven up to New York and bought it personally from Don Yeier, owner of Vernonscope. So, it had some sentimental value to him.

Would I sell it back to him and buy the Renaissance instead? I thought about it for a second and happily agreed. I really liked the Brandon, but the Renaissance would look better in our living room next to our piano and had a vintage look my wife would approve of.

I met Jim half-way between Cleveland and Columbus and we swapped the scopes.

That set me down a slippery “swap-and-sell” path for many years. As much as I liked the Renaissance, when I responded to an ad in the old Starry Messenger for a Questar, which I had seen ads for since I was a kid, I couldn’t resist when the owner offered a trade.

But soon, that Questar was in the mail on the way in a trade for a Brandon 130. For a long time, I embarked on a quest to find the perfect planetary scope, but didn’t realize seeing was the limiting factor, as well as my lack of patience for waiting for a good night of seeing and the atmosphere to steady so I could get a crisp image.

Instead, I contented myself with buying scopes, trying them out, then flipping them.

I had an early Tele Vue-85 after I was transferred to Cleveland. But in 1999, when I took a job with the Dallas Morning News, I saw an ad on Astromart looking for a trade for a Genesis SDF.

Since my wife and I were driving to Texas on our move, I told her that I wanted to show her the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, although it was a longer route.

She said she knew something was up, and she was right, when I pulled over at a rest stop outside of St. Louis and made the swap for the Tele Vue Genesis SDF and a Tele Vue Systems mount.

Vintage Tele Vue Genesis and Oracle advert. The 560mm f/7.4 Oracle was introduced in 1987 and the 500mm f/5 Genesis was introduced in 1988.

Even though I enjoyed using the Genesis off the balcony of our apartment in north Fort Worth, Texas, I never could resist trying something else out, especially when I couldn’t figure out how to mount an after-market drive I had purchased to my Systems mount.

So, the Genesis and mount was off to another happy owner on Astromart, and I contented myself buying an abundance of used scopes in the Dallas-Fort Worth area being sold by local astronomy club members and in the classifieds and on Astromart.

We moved to Japan in 2001 when I took a job with Pacific Stars and Stripes, so I sold off a big 10-inch Parks Newtonian that I had on my deck in Arlington, along with a Celestron Ultima 2000 and a Coulter 8-inch Dobsonian.

One of the big attractions was all the telescope stores in Tokyo, including a good used one, at the time.

Since then, I’ve had a lot of used scopes come and go.

Once I sat there with a collection of Takahashi FC-50s and FC-60s and a few rare Takahashi tabletop mounts for them. I realized that I had bought them with the thought of their value if we ever moved back to the States.

I enjoyed using them, but would I miss them if they were gone? This was in the pre-Kondo days, but I was still channeling some of her future vibe. Nope.

So, I sent them off in trade to Germany for a Questar package, figuring that would be it, I would be happy with that scope and a big Unitron 102 that I gotten in trade for my Vixen 130ED SS refractor. To those, I added a Questar Duplex in a trade for one of my Borg scopes.

Owning a Questar or two did bring me a certain satisfaction of ownership, since I had ordered the Questar catalog in my youth at a time when my family could only afford to buy me a 60mm Sears refractor for Christmas.

Vintage Tele Vue Ranger advert. The 480mm f/6.8 Ranger was introduced in 1995.

But outside of taking the Questars out of their luxury cases and admiring them, I didn’t use them at all when the moon or the planets were in the sky, even though some brighter star clusters and deep-sky objects were visible from my heavily light-polluted backyard, which were not the Questar’s forte.

In the end, I sold them all off to a used telescope shop in Japan, whose owner drove over to my house in a van, like in American Pickers. He gave me a fraction of what they were worth, but at least, I could start over.

I still kept collecting and buying whenever I would see a good deal and built my collection back up of Japanese scopes.

A few years ago, I was reunited with an older Tele Vue Renaissance on Gibraltar mount with the brass fittings. When I saw one listed on Astromart, I remembered my first love in Columbus. I brought it back with me to Japan after my next trip to the States, to once again have it happily reside in my living room next to my wife’s grand piano.

That scope brought me a lot of joy, the brass finish, the Tele Vue nameplate and the versatile, wide-field views and also being a capable planetary and lunar scope.

Along with the Renaissance ads in the old S&T and Astronomy Magazine, I never forgot the ads for the Oracle 3, the Pronto and the Ranger.

Some of that allure were the great names that Tele Vue gave its scopes.

“Renaissance,” “Genesis,” “Oracle,” “Pronto” and “Ranger” sound a lot sexier than a 102F, FC100 or 89ED or something like that.

Vintage Tele Vue Pronto advert. The 480mm f/6.8 Pronto was introduced in 1992.

So, through the magic of eBay, I got my first Pronto and Ranger, and on Astromart, a white Tele Vue-85, this time, an absolute beauty, with a Feather Touch focuser. I never forgot the superb views the one in Cleveland gave me and if it had been white instead of green, I would have kept it.

Each was a thrill to unbox and try out and test under the night sky, after looking at those old Tele Vue ads over the years and lusting after them. They are as beautiful as they are functional and versatile.

When I hold any of my Tele Vue scopes, they do “spark joy,” in me and give me a great deal of pleasure.

The Tele Vues give me “joy,” but the rest in my storage room didn’t. So, I packed up my old Takahashi FC-100, Vixen VMC-200 and other items and sent them off to the States in trade for an Oracle 3 and Panoramic mount, and my “collection” is now complete, at least for the time being, until an original Genesis with a white dew shield and Systems mount come along.

When I hold any of my Tele Vue scopes, they do “spark joy,” in me and give me a great deal of pleasure. For my limited observing time under heavily light-polluted skies in Japan, my portable Tele Vue scopes are just right. I can keep them set up on either my Gibraltar, Panoramic or Telepod mounts for quick grab-and-go portability. For the brass Ranger, I couldn’t resist when I found out on Twitter that Tele Vue still had some of its walnut Executive tabletop mounts that are a perfect match for the brass Ranger for sale.

Barry’s Brass Ranger on Tele Vue table-top Walnut Executive Mount. (Contact Tele Vue if interested in the mount.) Image © Barry Kawa with all rights reserved.

In the winter, they are perfect for a wide-field view of the Pleiades or Hyades, along with the Orion Nebula and Double Cluster.

When the planets and moon are in the night sky, they offer me razor-sharp views, no matter the seeing conditions, with little cool down time needed.

I now have my storage room tidied up thanks to my Tele Vue scopes and mounts.

Somewhere, I think Marie Kondo is smiling.


Barry Kawa is a longtime U.S. journalist now living in Japan and working as the slot editor for the Asia & Japan Watch digital newspaper of The Asahi Shimbun in Tokyo.

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