Some antique stores always have primo stock while others are of the hit-or-miss variety. Yamamoto Syoten, a neighborhood antiques shop in Yoyogi-Uehara is the latter. A few visits will yield nothing of interest, and then “kapow!” and you want to buy the whole place. I had been hearing about it from local friends for years, but not actually visited until these past weeks, when I went with friends who are leaving Japan this year and want to stock up on memories. The key to visiting such a shop is a discriminating eye to help you sort through the mixture of vintage, truly antique, not actually old and just plain junk. Japan is not the only country that abounds with shops like these – they can be found all over the world -and they make for some of the most fun shopping around.
One thing found in abundance at Yamamoto Syoten is tansu (Japanese chests). Stacked 3 high in some places in the shop and arranged in tight rows, it is difficult to get a good look at them. I was happy there were no aftershocks while we were in there because I worried they would topple over on us. In addition to large mizuya tansu (kitchen cupboards) and iron strap isho tansu (clothing chests), they also have a large selection of smaller decorative burlwood tansu from the 1930-1940s era. Prices are reasonable and condition is good, although perhaps not excellent. In addition they had lots of vintage lighting, wonderful bevel-edged framed mirrors, piles of porcelain hibachi and many other bits and bobs. The tight quarters made photos difficult, but you can get the flavor of the place from these.
Perhaps the best way to show you what can be found is to highlight my friend’s purchases. She came through and plucked the best pieces and that is the way it always works with stores like this. It will take a while for them to recharge, at least on items like the ones below, but remember, every customer has their own eye, so you may see your own jewels there.
Neither of the light fixtures show to advantage sitting around back in her house. The wooden one on the table cast a soft glow when lit, with patterns coming through the fretwork. The larger iron and glass chandelier will be perfect hanging in her breakfast nook back in Atlanta. And the ceramic geisha pillow (used to preserve elaborate coiffures) is a great conversation piece.
My friend also purchased a big mizuya tansu with some nice details, a rustic ladder on which she is planning to display her vintage quilt collection from India and two huge blue-green glass bottles like mine that she will have turned into lamps when she gets home. And of course there is the requisite glass fishing float too. Sometimes I wonder if I have accomplished anything with this blog other than to turn all of the Tokyo expat community fishing float crazy!
She bought two huge senbei (rice cracker) canisters as well which I forgot to photograph, but they looked much like the big rounded ones in this photo. And don’t forget, I got my fabulous and funky green lamp shade there too!