For me, there are two perfect kinds of antique stores. The first is a carefully curated small shop, while the second is a large unorganized warehouse that you have to search through. Mizue Sasa’s Okura Oriental Art is the former and it is a jewel – my favorite in central Tokyo. She and her husband Yasuhiro Shimizu are celebrating their 10th anniversary of owning Okura this year.
In addition to wonderful tansu and porcelain, Sasa-san has a great mix of hard to find items such as altar candlesticks…
antique maps of Tokyo and Japan, both framed and unframed…
She is also the only dealer I have found who carries traditional copper rain chains, which are the “gutters” of Japan. These are not antique, but they patinate quickly and easily. An amazing sayonara or housewarming gift!
Sasa-san’s pick? This Meiji period tai (sea bream) jizaikagi yokogi (decoration on hanging hearth pole) is a great piece of folk art. Used over a traditional irori (open sunken hearth) it held the kettle above the flame.
My current pick? This hard to find small size step tansu. Often they are very large and very deep and can be impractical if you don’t have the perfect space.
Sasa-san has a fully detailed on-line catalogue and a loyal customer base that visits often from around the world. She handles on-line sales easily, speaks English and ships just about anywhere. She also has a decorating site with staged rooms – you can purchase a whole look if you like or just browse for ideas. Sasa-san will also help her customers arrange their items and improve their decorating in their home. She is not afraid to tell clients to get rid of stuff (which is unusual here). She will also track down specific items for you – just give her dimensions or good descriptions.
I love the juxtaposition of the poured concrete wall with the tansu and the giant porcelain plate that she shows in the photo below. Sasa-san is interested in mixing antiques with modern furniture, a trend that is just getting off the ground here in Japan.
Here she stages vintage blue and white in the bathroom.
The shop is full of great gifts for the holidays!
Image credits: All shop photos taken by me, courtesy of Okura. Decorating photos by Mizue Sasa.