Hunting for Treasures at the Heiwajima Antique Fair

Five times a year, 280 antique dealers from all over the country gather at the Ryutsu Center in Tokyo for the Heiwajima Antique Fair. From Friday to Sunday the second floor of the Ryutsu Center is packed with treasures from the past. If you like antiques, you can’t miss this event. If you can’t be bothered with antiques but are curious about Japanese culture, this is going to be a compelling event for you too. You will learn a lot just by strolling among the stands, and what’s more, you might find something really special. Admission is free as well, and that’s always a good start.

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If you have been frustrated by some of the flea markets around town where most items on sale are “new junk”, this fair is somewhat different. Even though to some extent you can find items you would normally find at a traditional flea market such as old toys, books or coins for instance, prices are usually higher and most dealers sell collectibles of antique value, with matching prices. Having said that, I never came home empty handed, even on a tight budget. The place is a treasure grove. You will easily spend one hour among the ceramics, furniture, jewelry, accessories, kimonos and textiles, art prints, toys, books, glassware, silverware, woodwork, statues, clocks, watches, porcelain, glasses… samurai armors.

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Most dealers don’t speak English (some do, though) but will make an effort at communicating with you if you don’t speak Japanese. Throughout your visit you will hear announcements broadcasted in English, welcoming you to the fair and reminding you that the negotiations have to be made through the dealers only. You may indeed negotiate the price of an item and try to catch a bargain if you feel that it should be lower. On the whole dealers will play fair and won’t overcharge you or take advantage of the fact that you are a gaijin. But haggling can be part of the game and might even spice up the fun.

How much is this? : Kore o, ikura des’ ka?

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If you’d like to take pictures of a stand, make sure to ask the owner if it is fine with them. Some people might feel uncomfortable having their items on sale photographed. I got a couple of “no, maybe rather not, sorry”, and that’s fine, it’s always better to ask beforehand.

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Antique, antique, antique, antique…. spot the odd one out. Yes, it’s a tea pet bottle wrapped in a cozy Rilakkuma pouch. This small contemporary detail suddenly pulled me back to reality. Walking around the fair is a little bit like floating on a dream cloud over a world where everything is beautiful, and this is indeed priceless.

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My catch at the fair last weekend (in the pictures above):

  • Two beautiful ceramic soliflore vases – 1200 yen
  • Two watch movement parts – 400 yen
  • Two gorgeous old spinning top shaped ceramic beads – 1000 yen
  • Five coaster shaped vintage cartoon illustrations. Maybe kids used to exchange those as anime cards in the past? – 500 yen
  • Five pieces of ancient bronze knife money, a commodity money used mostly in China. Those are supposed to be really ancient, so I’m not sure if they are authentic, but I love the look of them – 500 yen

Those goodies will be used for various art projects and can also make very original and unique presents from Japan. I hope this peek into the past inspired you and that you will find your own beautiful treasure at the next Heiwajima Antique Fair!

Access: The Tokyo Monorail Line to Ryutsu Center Station

Event’s official website (in English)

Next Antique Fair: May 3, 4, 5 this year (exceptionally held on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday during the Golden Week holiday).

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