Kimono Hunting in Kyoto

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Kimono Hunting in Kyoto – Kyoto Antiques Fair

Kyoto Fair

Part of the reason I got into sewing was to one day turn kimonos into dresses.  And while I’m not really ready for that yet, I’ve always got my eye out for cheap second hand kimonos that I can refashion.

This week is the Kyoto Antiques Fair so I thought I’d share my experience of going last year; where it is, what is what like and what I bought, and more generally about buying antiques in Japan.

Buying antiques in Japan

I’m no expert at all.  I have no knowledge of ceramics, swords or scrolls, but I know what I like and I can generally tell the tourist rubbish from something really nice.  So if you’re looking to buy genuine authentic U-kiyo-e, find someone else but if you’d like to buy a lovely little piece of Japanese culture then maybe my experience would be helpful.   

Second-hand in Japan

For a country with so much history and culture, the Japanese really love the new!  New houses, New cars, New clothes, it’s all new all the time. Whereas in Europe we prefer a house with ‘character’, or an old heirloom table or vintage fashion, in Japan people tend to buy new.  There are many reasons for this; updated earthquake regulations, tiny apartments, consumer culture etc etc… but the upshot of this is this means there’s a huge glut of second hand stuff going cheap.  

Flea Markets


There are loads of flea markets in Kansai!  A good guide can be found here. My local market is the Shitennoji Temple  market near Tennoji in Osaka.  Held on the 21st of each month in the temple grounds there are well over 100 stalls, selling everything and anything….. But mostly tat!

Shitennouji Market

I’ve bought some things there but not much interested me – its certainly worth a visit if you’re in the area and a great experience.  But I’d think of this more as a cheap second hand-boot sale than a place to pick up anything valuable.

Also, basically no kimonos or fabric… so not great for sewers.

Tourist area antiques shops

I’ve been to several of these.  The are generally found on the main street of any tourist-popular town.  These can be magical places filled with treasures, or dusty half empty messes that leave you wondering how on earth they make money.  The staff can usually speak English, but things maybe overpriced.

Real Antique Shops

These are for the experts only.  Usually hidden down weird little side streets with unassuming signs – they are where the real treasures can be found.  These are the kind of places real antique dealers go to buy very expensive items.

I’ve only been in one once.  A sweet old man got chatting to me in a bar and he ended up taking me back to his shop and showing me around.   It was amazing! He even gave me a vase after we talked about flower arranging. Anyway – if you practice your Japanese fun stuff can happen!

The Kyoto Antiques Fair

So, I first visited this place last year and it was incredible!  There were well over 100 stalls and dealers packed into a huge hall and they had everything and anything.  It was hard to control myself!

Here are a few pictures of the place:


The one thing I would say about it – was it was rather tricky to get to.  It’s not in the centre of Kyoto. It was in a strange area I’d never been to before.   Also it was pretty far from the station – a good 30 minute walk, which in this heat is no fun!  There was a dedicated shuttle bus to and from the station – but it wasn’t well signed (and I read Japanese).   

What I bought

Scrolls!  I love calligraphy and have always wanted to buy a scroll.  Usually though, in all other antiques markets, they’re rolled up in their boxes.  So to see what they are you have to unpack and carefully unfurl them. Here though there was one massive stall full of scrolls on racks.  Like picking out posters at Uni, you could browse through all the pictures and the staff would box them up for you. Prices ranged from 1000 to 4000 yen depending on the quality.  These are the two I bought. Plum blossom in the moonlight, and cranes, 鶴。


Close up

Bento Boxes!

Not the plasticy ones made popular in the west, but the original wooden ones uses for special occasions.  I use mine for sewing supplies!

Bento Box

Circular Shelfy thing!

This does have a proper name, but I just cant remember it.  I’ve wanted one of these for ages!  Every time a travel around Japan I buy myself a little memento to remind myself of the trip and I needed somewhere to put them all.  My circular-shelfy-thing is perfect for this!  It’s like my shrine to all my fun times and amazing memories.  It’s one of my most treasured possessions.


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