Shrine Sale Stories…Treasures From My Trip To Tokyo

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.


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.


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.


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!


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.


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?


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
Shrine Sale Scorcher…Vintage Mirrors on an Extremely Hot Day
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

Tokyo Jinja on CNNgo Today

If you’ve been to an antiques market in Tokyo or one of the area’s many shrine sales in the past few years, it’s likely you’ve come across Jacqueline Wein — or Tokyo Jinja as she’s known to her dedicated band of online followers.

-Lisa Jardine on CNNgo

So today was a fun day! I was featured in an article about antiquing at the Kawagoe shrine sale on CNNgo. I’ve been getting positive feedback and lots of love all day! When I started this blog a year and a half ago, I never expected it to grow into the incredible place it has become – a crossroads of East and West – for design lovers around the world. I want to thank all my lovely readers and friends, and in particular the article’s author Lisa Jardine, who has her own blog – Wasabiwabi – where she chronicles her experiences here in Japan.

To read the article in full, click here. For more posts about shrine sales, click that topic under the categories list on the right. For information, dates and times of sales, click the Shrines Sale/Antique Show tab at the top of the blog. And as always, I am happy to answer questions and help you find the antique object of your dreams! I can be reached via email at jacquelinewein[at]yahoo.com.

Shrine Sale Stories…My French Moderne Bar Cart

Everyone has been loving bar carts for the last few years, so much so that it almost feels redundant to write about them. Posts at all the big blogs from Apartment Therapy to Design Sponge have featured them, there are pages and pages of them on Pinterest, and even The New York Times had jumped into the fray with an article about Eddie Ross and his flea market cart find. I had highlighted some bar carts made from English butler trolleys before, but I had been stashing away photos of the classic glass and brass kind, with an eye towards having one perhaps?

They look great with a lamp too, either in conjunction with a bar…

…or in this case as a side table. Small children in this house meant that the beautifully styled alcohol bottles needed to be moved to the adjacent secretary.

While always liking them, I had never needed one personally. In October, I chanced across a special one at my favorite place, the Kawagoe shrine sale. It might seem unusual in that it was clearly not a Japanese item or of local origin, but actually there are many great international pieces to be found, including a Lalique lamp that I missed purchasing by moments recently too.  My husband gave the drinks cart the thumbs down and for some unknown reason, I actually listened to him!?!  But I continued to moon over it a bit, trying to console myself that I didn’t need it. That changed after I made an amazing find of two 1970s Chizuko Yoshida butterfly prints. I hung them stacked vertically on the wall, just next to a slipper chair in my living room. All of a sudden I desperately needed something to tie the arrangement together and it occurred to me that the bar cart was just the thing. The only problem was I had left it at the market, breaking the golden rule of antiquing, and was sure it would not be there the next time I returned.

So here’s where the story kicks in. The following month I went back, but I didn’t see it at the dealer’s stall. I was so bummed. On a lark I approached anyway to ask him about it and at first he had no idea what I was talking about (you try translating “bar cart” into Japanese). When he realized what I was looking for, he had good news for me – he had not sold it – but he had not brought it to the market because it was too fine. He offered to bring it in December, but I would be away for the holidays. We exchanged email addresses and phone numbers with a promise to sort it out and off I went.

In the weeks that passed I wanted it more and more, although by that point I had only a dim recollection of what it looked like. Finally January arrived and back to the shrine I went. The dealer was busy as I arrived and I didn’t see it out at his stall so I proceeded to shop the market, only to be pulled up short by him hyperventilating into my telephone a little while later. It seemed he had another avid buyer and wanted to be sure I was taking it. I scurried on back, took one look at its elegant lines and was sold. It screamed French moderne to me, with its black glass shelves, gilded curved edge frame and old-fashioned wheels. I have since tried to research it, with no real luck, although I came up with a few 1940s pieces – fully attributed or signed – that have a similar feel, including these from Jean Royere and Jacques Adnet.

In general, only the French pieces seem to have black glass, but last night I noticed this vintage Italian cart in a One Kings Lane Tastemaker sale. Note the price tag! And those signed French pieces above sold for thousands at auction!

The dealer bought if from a Japanese family that had spent serious time abroad in Europe, particularly France, so I think I am on the right track. I need to crawl all over it and look for a mark or label, but in the meantime, I have quick styled it to show you in situ. Just loving this little baby!

Image credits: 1.Deborah Needleman in Lonny Fall 2009, photo credit: Patrick Cline, 2. Jennifer Boles in Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles March 2011, photo credit: David Christensen, 3. Jen Altman via Design Sponge, 4. Domino via Apartment Therapy, 5. Sills Huniford in Elle Decor November 2007, photo credit: Pieter Estersohn, 6. Ashlina Kaposta‘s in Adore Home Oct/Nov 2011, 7. R. Michaelson, 8. Lisa Jardine, 9. via Architonic, photo credit: Brain Franczyk, 10. via Orange on 1stdibs, 11. screenshot via One Kings Lane, 12. me.

En Masse…Iron Teapots, Vincente Wolf and the Art of Grouped Displays

Jet lag always knocks me for a loop. Not so much physically – as a mom I have gotten used to sleep deprivation – but emotionally. The point of transition from my one life to my other is always a bit rocky. And invariably I forget each time that the previous change caused me any anxiety, imagining it to have been seamless. As I creakily fold myself back into my Tokyo routine, my husband reminds me of how discomfited I was upon arrival in New Jersey at the beginning of the summer. I find it hard to believe, but know it to be true and can even read the proof here. And so I know this state of “in between” shall also pass. My blog seems to share this schizophrenic life with me as I tend to write about that which is around me. Luckily, the wonderful Kawagoe shrine sale, held on the grounds of the Narita-san Betsu-in temple on the 28th of each month, welcomed me back with open arms. Filled to the brim with goodies like always, I was particularly struck by the proliferation of antique and vintage iron teapots.

Kawagoe is well known for its great metalwork antiques, although the best dealer of them has been supplanted by new bathrooms, arguably a reasonable trade-off although I wish they had relocated him elsewhere in the market.  If anyone has seen him (the guy that was always in the front corner), please let me know!

The iron braziers and kettle stands are lovely in their own right.

You can always count on finding teapots at Kawagoe – this photo was taken last October and I could easily add more from other previous visits. Not sure who the red superhero guys are….

Whenever I see vintage Japanese teapots I think immediately of designer Vincente Wolf, one of the great masters of display, especially of weaving in Asian artifacts to his interiors. His love of travel permeates his work as does his photographer’s eye. In addition to 30+ years as a designer, he also has a showroom with an eponymous furniture line, antiques and decorative objects from around the world and a blog. He was the designer who showed me early on that a mass grouping of similar objects will always trump a scattered display. His are so successful because they activate his otherwise pure and spare rooms, creating unexpected focal points. The vignette below, from an apartment he designed featured in a 1995 Metropolitan Home, was a keeper in my inspiration files. As I left to live in Hong Kong less that two years later, it was highly influential to my own collecting habits.

In more recent designs, Wolf tends to mount individual objects on simple metal stands to great effect. For sale at the VW Home showroom, Wolf has ingeniously hung similar Chinese water vessels on stands.

Kawagoe yielded more items than just teapots that reminded me of Wolf’s designs. Also having great visual impact possibilities were these spool thread gears. Lying in the box they don’t look all that impressive, but mounted on stands or hung on a wall they would be stunning.

Wolf uses a pair of large gears hung on the wall in this room…

…and often uses other kinds of antique discs to make truly effective tableaux.

Another great accent are these roof tile caps found regularly at Kawagoe…

…and elsewhere.

They would look great displayed in a similar fashion to these finials.

Throughout his designs he uses all kinds of objects grouped together, from Buddhist stupas like these on the table…

…to Victorian door knockers shaped like hands elegantly arranged on a tray.

And while I have never seen Vincente Wolf use them in a display (although they certainly do look great en masse), there were also many small Japanese fishing floats for sale at Kawagoe this past weekend. Which of course brings me to my next order of business…

As for my previous identify this post, there were 4 correct answers! The item pictured is a kenzan used in the Japanese art of flower arranging called ikebana. In English we would call it a frog! Since I don’t know how to use that blogger give-away random selector, you will have to trust me as I do it the old-fashioned way and put the four names in a hat and choose one. (Rustling noise of paper) And the winner of a pair of small glass fishing floats is Julie Fukuda! Thanks everyone for your great guesses!

Having just taken a break from this post to skype with my best friend back in the States, I am reminded, by contrast, of how easy we modern-day expatriates actually have it. Instantaneous email, cheap telephone rates – through our computers we can shrink the world to the size of a pea. I think about the adventurers who left their homes through the centuries, not knowing if they would ever return or see family and friends again. For all of my whining above, I know that will never be an issue and that through my writing I am getting to share moments in my life and inspirations with those I love even when they may be far away.

Image credits: 1-4, 7, 10-11, 15-18. me, 5. Metropolitan Home November/December 1995, photo credit: Simon Watson, 6. via VW Home, 8-9, 12-13. via Vincente Wolf’s blog, 14. Metropolitan Home December 2007, photo credit: Vincente Wolf.

Tokyo Jinja

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