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Posts Tagged ‘shrine sale’

My long weekend in Tokyo was simply sublime. Days of friends and food and lots of shopping were just the restorative I needed. The weather didn’t cooperate, but it didn’t really matter. Kawagoe was a bit thin on the ground because of the threat of rain and unfortunately the next two days delivered the promised precipitation, although it didn’t keep us from the markets. It did however keep me from taking lots of photos, so most of the finds recorded are from the first day out. I also broke my own rule of “buy it when you see it” a few times, mulling over the weight and difficulty of transport, which meant I lost out on a few things, although as usual, there is a funny story attached to one of them.

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There were some things that didn’t get away – like these swirling blue and white dishes – and others that did – like these kutani lidded teacups – so beautifully painted they looked like brocade.

kutani lidded teacups

This very fine takamakura, complete with original buckwheat filled pillow went home with a friend.

takamakura

A search for a tansu was successful, yielding this lacquer beauty for a fraction of its retail price. Tansu at shrine sales are often in poor condition which is why they are a bargain, but this dealer had lovingly restored this piece.

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Brought home and placed in the entry it will be a workhorse, holding gloves and scarves and general entry clutter.

lacquer tansu

Speaking of tansu in poor condition, I also popped in to the The National Art Center to view the Joint Graduation Exhibition of Art Universities. Not sure what the meaning of this installation of destroyed tansu by Shunsuke Nouchi is meant to represent, but I couldn’t resist including it. Student exhibits in Japan, as elsewhere, can be really fun, ranging from discoveries of major talent to down right awful. I can’t help but feel bad for these chests!

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Another friend and client scored really big, bringing home all kinds of treasures. The giant wooden gears – very Vincente Wolf - will be hung as a focal point on a bare wall. We got very lucky, finding three with just the right amount of variety in size, shape, color and detail. A vintage onbuhimo, better known as a baby carrier, has lovely indigo cloth woven into its straps. And a large lacquer carrying chest, billed as Edo period by its dealer, but not, is extremely decorative with its etched brass hardware.

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As for my haul, I had to keep reminding myself that I had to carry anything and everything I bought home. So I left behind an entire basket of small fishing floats and even some charming porcelain. I had to have the gray and white bowls – which were likely the more expected blue originally but now faded – because I knew they would look great with the dining table and they are that perfect not too big, not too small size. I picked up a few wooden pieces, a tray and some itomaki, including this unusual long one. A small hibachi with the great geometric asa-no-ha or hemp pattern was also a keeper. But as always, my eye and my wallet are equally lured by non-Japanese discoveries and I fell in love with these bright Turkish glasses and a cut glass jam pot. I’ve been having a bit of a glass fetish lately – wait, aren’t I always having some kind of glass fetish?

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The promised funny story is about the glasses, made for serving arabic tea, but I can imagine them holding dessert or even wine. I saw five of them, 3 pink and 2 purple, on a table at one of my favorite dealers at Kawagoe and passed them only because I decided there weren’t really enough to be useful and their fragility made them hard to transport. My mind kept returning to them over and over (those silver mounts!) as I wandered so I went back only to discover they were gone – massive bummer!

arabic turkish tea glasses

Imagine my surprise when later that evening I walked into the kitchen of the dear friend I was staying with for the week. Long my partner in crime and shrine sales, SHE had bought the glasses and they were now sitting on her kitchen counter. It was one of those moments of fierce purchase jealousy, but the truth was if I couldn’t have them, better she did than some stranger. Or at least that’s what I kept telling myself while contemplating going to the mat for them.

Turkish glasses

The surprise continued when we saw the same dealer the next day and once again he had 5 of the glasses out on his table. It was a confusing moment of déjà vu, but we at least had the good sense to ask if he had more and it ended up he had an entire box! So all’s well that ends well and one day we have to have a massive party together and use them all!

Related Posts:
Shrine Sale Stories…Recent Treasures
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Shrine Sale Stories…Vintage Matchboxes, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Imperial Hotel and The 1948 London Olympics
Shrine Sale Stories…Yamamoto’s Steamer Trunk
Shrine Sale Stories…My French Moderne Bar Cart

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doha corniche

So I have been here three weeks now and settling in fairly nicely. The house is getting unpacked, albeit more slowly than I might like. There is not an inch of hanging room left anywhere and three wardrobe boxes yet to unpack. Amazing that my much smaller Tokyo house had much better storage, isn’t it? The girls have found their way at school and both are happy – even the teenager has admitted (in front of me no less) that she is liking it here. My sweet husband is just so glad that we are all together again and brought me such joy today by surprising me with reversing the refrigerator and freezer doors so that they open the correct way. Such a small thing can make me happy, especially in these early days. And everyone said it couldn’t be done so trust him to make it happen!

The part that is taking longer is figuring out exactly how to start reinventing the Tokyo Jinja side of me – my blog, my business, my personal identity, so that I can grow but keep you all traveling with me. I’m not going to let go of the Japan side of things and if you pop over to the Shrine Sale/Antique Show Schedule, you’ll see that I have updated it. I’m timing this post so that all my devoted readers in Tokyo can wake up on Sunday morning to a fresh fall schedule. But as a shout-out to those readers – I can’t do it alone! I look forward to hearing from you about life at the sales, whether it be stories about favorite dealers, photos of finds or news on the ever-changing schedule front. You are now my eyes and ears and I am happy to spread the word. I’ve also updated the About Me page, which was long overdue.

On the shrine sale front I have to mention a few things, including what seems to be the closing of the beloved Oedo Antiques Market (more here, here and here) at the International Forum in Yurakacho at the end of 2013. Right now I don’t know if that is temporary or not and I will get back to you with the news as soon as possible. The smaller market in Yoyogi will still be taking place once a month on an irregular schedule and it is unclear to me whether all the dealers may flock there. Details in the new schedule, but let me know if you hear anything please!

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Before I left Tokyo I had a few chances to visit one of the newest sales in central Tokyo, but never got around to writing about it. Mid-way along Kotto-dori a small and very decorative market has opened.

kotto dori market

It is mostly European and American vintage goods and collectibles, but sometimes you need a fix of those. You all know how I feel about vintage luggage…

suitcases

…not as hot for the antler craze, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t.

antlers

So in many ways nothing has changed. I’ll continue to be out there at the forefront of the search for the antique, the handicraft, the artistic and the artisanal. Tokyo Jinja is a state of mind no matter where my body may reside and I hope you’ll stay with me along my journey.

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I am always asked what the best thing is to buy at a shrine sale. Indigo textiles – shibori, boro, katazome? Porcelain – Imari, Kutani, Seto? Bamboo and wood – baskets, ikanbari vases, kashigata? The assumption is always that something quintessentially Japanese is the real deal, the real steal. But the truth can be quite different. Textiles are often very expensive and for porcelain you need to really understand what you are looking at. The bamboo and wood items are easy to come by and can almost become commodities. Personally, I think art is the best bargain at the market.

1000 yen is about 10 dollars, but as the yen doesn’t go as far, it feels like only a couple of bucks. I often go through the art stacks with an eye for anything charming – Japanese provenance is not necessary – and an ear for prices. Lately I’ve been lucky, finding works on paper and canvas for about 1000 yen. Many even come in just the right frames, or ones that can be painted or spruced up. Come take a quick tour with me through my latest discoveries…

A charming French watercolor in an aged gold frame just needed to be opened and cleaned and freshened up with a colored mat.

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A typical modern Japanese woodblock print had a water damaged back and mat, and even a little water damage on the print, but nothing that showed when rematted.

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It’s the dotted trees with just a suggestion of cherry blossoms that sold me on this one.

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An acrylic on canvas with more charm than mastery but nice color.

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Sweet daisies in the oval, always a nice shape variation for an art wall. My youngest daughter claimed this one immediately.

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And this weekend’s find is my favorite. This oil painting of pansies was in a big ugly frame, but I took it out and love the casual look of just the canvas on the stretcher. (And psst, truthfully, it was a bit more than 1000 yen).

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You’ve seen other shrine sale art finds of mine here and here (although the butterflies weren’t 1000 yen, yet certainly a bargain), but I am not the only one to find them.  Here are some great 1000 yen finds made by readers and friends…

A 1958 Oil of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, probably painted by a local returning from vacation – the signature is a Japanese name. I often come across European scenes, particularly London or Paris, painted in all kinds of styles.

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I’ve gone out of my way to show fairly non-traditional items, but you can occasionally luck into some typical Japanese art such as ukiyo-e, scrolls and katagami for bargain prices. This huge shodo (Japanese calligraphy) painting was a steal at 1000 yen. It had quite a bit of water damage which was basically erased with a damp cloth and some dish soap at home. The dramatic kanji is hito or person.

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To be honest, sometimes I can clean them up myself, but other times I invest a few more yen and have my local framer (he makes house calls!) do it.

I’d love to see and hear about your art bargains!

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