While not quite on par with Dixie Highway, relaxed Nishi-Ogikubo in Tokyo’s western suburbs has a grouping of 60+ antique and vintage shops gathered near the train station. Situated along the Chuo line, Nishi-Ogikubo (nicknamed Nishiogi) was a counterculture hotbed in the 1960s, then receded from notice, only to become popular in recent years as the “slow life” movement has gained steam in Japan. It seems like just the kind of place one would find a collection of quirky and individualistic antique shops.
Conveniently, a free map of the stores is available right in front of the koban (police box) on the left side of the station right outside the North Exit. The map seems fairly current but things can change overnight, so think of it only as a basic guide. Most stores do not open before 12p.m., they all seem to have variable hit-or-miss opening days, and there is not much spoken English to be had, but it is a lovely way to while away an afternoon. Hopefully this post will help steer you in the direction of the best shops!
Organized into four zones, NE, NW, SE and SW on the map, I’ll say right off the bat that the South side of the station has much less to offer than the North side, and can be skipped entirely when pressed for time. The NW zone is by far the best for traditional antiques, so I will start the tour headed in that direction, counter-clockwise around the rough rectangle the walking tour makes. The shops are numbered numerically on the listing pages, but do not always appear in numeric order on the map.
Actually the first few shops don’t even seem to be listed on the map. After peeking in grape, a small but charming vintage kimono shop with two other locations in the area, our first stop is not Japanese at all. Filled to the brim with lanterns, poufs, silvered mirrors and embroidered slippers, Morocco Marché is one-stop shopping for adding a bit of middle-eastern flair to your decor.
Weaving up and down the small side streets along the main road, we pass a few small shops, including Baby Doll (#60), which is not open, but full of antique and vintage toys and dolls. Moving back towards the main road we come to Les Yeux Noirs (#42), the unquestionable star of the tour, deserving its own individual post (coming tomorrow). Owner Haruko Hasegawa has one of the best eyes I have seen for choosing unusual and rare pieces of porcelain. We were very excited and spent a long time (and quite a bit of money) in her shop. If you are interested in porcelain, this is one of the main attractions and it is well worth the train ride for this store alone.
As we continue along the main road we pass mood (#45), full of groovy 60′s looking used goods. We try to stop into Quilt & Old Textiles (#44) way hidden in a back lane, but they are closed – perhaps to go to the Tokyo International Great Quilt Festival. At the turn in the main road, we come to Kido Airku (#59), a great mixed shop full of smaller tansu, porcelain, textiles and odd and ends. Unusual things there include vintage spool threads, great for using as plant stands or display props. A collection of old iron tea kettles looks great on these.
Some modern shibori dyed textiles.
One of the most interesting finds for me personally were wood blocks, used to print patterns on textiles. I have been scouring eBay for Indian wood blocks for a DIY project I am planning this summer, but hadn’t considered using Japanese ones. Frankly, I hadn’t realized that in addition to all the stencils, tie-dying and resist techniques used here, that wood blocks are too. Definitely something to look into more.
Numbers 48,49 and 54 were all the same named shop, Antiques Jikoh, with mainly used modern furniture. The branch at the #49 location was full of heavy oak Victorian and Arts & Crafts era furniture.
My friend H spotted a gorgeous blue and white porcelain “umbrella stand” that she loved there. I was so sorry to have to let her know it was actually a late 19th century urinal. Needless to say, she could not look past its original use.
The next two shops were eureka! moments for me. I have been searching for the perfect vintage milk glass ceiling fixture for the bathroom in the beach house, passing up many individual pieces at shrine sales. Imagine my delight at stumbling across the Teardrop Club (#53). I’ll be dragging my patient husband back there soon. If you too are interested, please note they are open 12-6 and not on Wednesday. More photos here and here.
Rakuda (#51) which means camel, also had numerous vintage light fixtures in addition to ranma (transom) panels, old doors, stained glass and cut glass…
Turning the corner right after Rakuda completes the NW zone. The tour continues east, crossing a small river. Other than the charming Le Midi (#37) full of imports from the South of France, not much else was open. Any visit to Nishi-Ogikubo comes with that risk.
Continuing to the next major intersection the tour turns right to head south back to the station. Most of the shops along this NE section seem to specialize in vintage clothing and used goods. Perhaps because we were getting hungry, they didn’t hold our attention. In the grand tradition of antiquing outside of Tokyo, we ate Indian food for lunch at Ganesha Ghar, right near #31 and the bridge over the river on the map. As would be expected, it was packed! And following shortly thereafter was Amy’s Bakeshop, which billed itself as “NY Style Sweets & Things”. Of course we had to stop!
If you arrive hungry, it might be easiest to head the opposite direction (clockwise from the station) and eat first as shops don’t open until lunch time or afterwards.
We skimmed the shops listed on the map on the South side, but many were closed, perhaps permanently. None stood out this visit but perhaps they merit a second chance.
Nishi-Ogikubo is very easy to get to and quite close to central Tokyo. It is only 16 minutes from Shinjuku and 18 minutes from Yoyogi on the Sobu Chuo line. Taking the Toei Oedo line from Azabu Juban and changing at Yoyogi took a total of 32 minutes. I’d love to hear from anyone who goes, especially if you discover a gem I haven’t mentioned. Happy hunting!