Shrine Sale Find

Shrine Sales have been one of the hidden surprises to life in Tokyo.

Held on the grounds of Shinto shrines, they are part antique sales and part flea markets.  With a cohort of girlfriends, I’ve attended one or two a month for over a year now, often under the tutelage, of our friend Jacqueline, better known as Tokyo Jinja, considered the expert on such matters.


It’s fun to pour through the huge variety of old and sometimes “newish,” looking for treasures.  I’ve found some lovely things including vintage abaci for my husband’s study, beautiful blue and white porcelain geisha pillows and some very sweet cast iron rests for my sumi-e paintbrushes.  I try not to go looking for something specific because I never know what will be for sale that day or what will catch my eye.

Kimonos, obis and obijime are always plentiful ~


Kokeshi dolls from very wee to rather large ~


There’s always blue and white porcelain and after careful searching I’ve even found some lovely green to better coordinate with my decor {do you spy a bit?} ~


Kashigata molds are often stacked in boxes ready to be looked through ~


Some trips are clearly more fruitful than others and I’m often willing to come home with nothing or just a small kokeshi doll to add to my collection.

I have, however, been somewhat on the lookout for something serious.

I’ve told my husband I want to return to America with a tansu.  And so I’ve been looking.  At shrine sales and in antique stores around Tokyo.  But here’s my challenge: I’ve sold my house back in Connecticut so I’m not sure exactly where this “dream piece” should go.  And I have a storage unit filled with pieces I’ve collected over the years that I love and will keep and this new {old} piece of furniture needs to compliment those as well.  So I have some specific requirements in that I don’t want a step tansu, I want something on the smaller side, and I want minimal hardware.

And at this week’s trip to the Kawagoe Shrine Sale, about 25 miles north of Tokyo I finally hit the jackpot.  Less than ten minutes after I arrived, I rounded the bend and spied this beauty!

tansuBe still, my beating heart!

It was exactly what I wanted.  In every possible way, and a quick look at the price tag revealed a rock bottom price that was too good to be true.  I slid open the drawers, checked the hardware and quickly called Jacqueline over to confirm the loveliness of my find.

And a deal was made.

I gave cash to a woman whose language I barely spoke.  Scribbled my address and phone number on a piece of scrap paper, paid an extra $25 for delivery and took a photocopied piece of paper covered in Japanese writing purported to be a business card that could have said “See ya sucker” for all I knew.

And of course, because this is Japan, my doorbell rang promptly this afternoon as promised and I am now doing the happy dance around the apartment enjoying my tansu!


A peek inside at the pretty drawers and storage.  You can see some of the obis I have that I use as runners on my table.  Folded in half they are the perfect size for my rental table, and are still intact to use on my longer dining room table in storage some day!


Here are all my little guys and gals I’ve been collecting.


This was totally worth skipping my art class to do.

Until I opened the American Club magazine the next morning and saw the loveliest article on my adorably incredible sumi-e senseis and a big photograph of them helping me paint.  And serious guilt set in.

I thought shopping was supposed to be therapy, not something that makes me need it!

This entry was posted in Decorating, Ordinary Days I Love, Organizing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Shrine Sale Find

  1. Tokyo Jinja says:

    The bargain of the century! I am so happy you found your perfect piece, but I think you might have needed to tell the near-debacle story too…Going to miss going to shrine sales with you!
    🙂 Jacqueline

  2. Teresa says:

    I still enjoy my tansu that I picked up in 1999 at a Shrine sale! You will find a place for it in any home you move to later. Teresa

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