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Heiwajima Antique Fair



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Antique Fair
in Tokyo


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Heiwajima Fair VendorSince most Japanese homes have no garages it's highly unlikely to find a 'garage sale' anywhere here. Yet, temples abound throughout the country. Inevitably, temples in midsize to large cities hold monthly antique fairs on their grounds. These antique markets are like fifty or more garage sales all in the same locale. E-Y Net lists many of them and they are great fun.

Checking these places out is a good way to learn about different items and their uses as well as to train your eye to distinguish the good from the bad. And believe me, there's lots of bad.

Some antique dealers get together and have large events just like in the west and one of the largest is Heiwajima. It's held six times a year in Tokyo. In early march I went and took the following pictures.

Fair Grounds

In addition to pottery, there is furniture, textiles, glass, lacquer, prints, and jewelry. I may have missed something. For those thinking about visiting Japan in the future and maybe checking out one of these kotto ichi (antique markets) here are a few things to remember. It's okay to barter or haggle over prices. I find that some dealers, like anywhere, are quite fair. Yet around the corner I'll inevitably come across the unscrupulous person who thinks he can take advantage of the unknowing gaijin (foreigner). I love it when a guy pushes a piece in my face and says, 'Bizen, you know?' Hmm, I always play it up and ask if that's from Hokkaido!

Fair Vendor Selling Dolls

At the recent Heiwajima I saw lots of Bizen but none that were that good for the price. Prices can be higher on the first day, but as the final day draws near, some dealers are willing to let a piece go for less than lug it back home.

At large events like Heiwajima it's sometimes good to look around before purchasing. I saw a nice Edo period three-toned Seto tokkuri (flask) for quite a high price and then three booths down the same thing for three times less. Buying this way can have its drawbacks though. Someone else might come along and buy it. Or you might not remember which booth it was - Heiwajima is BIG!

Buddhist Figures

Also, on the pottery itself, check the piece thoroughly for repairs - sometimes they're very well hidden. If something looks a bit off-color, take a coin and tap it gently and listen for any noticeable sound differences compared with other areas of the piece. If there's a ping and then a thud, it was more often than not repaired.

If the piece has a signed box make sure the box inscription matches the contents. If you can't read Japanese just ask the seller or any person nearby. Most people will kindly help. I've run across many lids which said one thing while the contents were completely different.

These kotto ichi are like an open library and a great way to not only pick up reasonable items. Also they are, as mentioned, a great way to develop one's eye.

If you have any questions about kotto ichi etiquette, just drop me an email.

by Robert Yellin      




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