Monday, August 24, 2015

In Search of an Antique Gallery

Four years ago we stumbled across an interesting antique shop in Kyoto by chance. The storefront looked unassuming from outside, with a few ceramic items on display from the window, but once we stepped inside, it's like we found a land of treasure, with a fine collection of vintage kitchenware and drinkware all in excellent condition and reasonably priced.

I remembered looking at a few items - including a pewter sake bottle - that I really wanted to take home with, but for reasons still unknown to me to this date, we decided to leave without getting anything, probably because it's a rainy evening or that we were in a rush for our dinner reservation or we didn't want to carry too much stuff for the night tour at the temples afterwards. We figured we could always come back to this on the next day - of course, one thing led to another we never managed to return to the shop, and in fact, I didn't even remember what the shop name is or its address.

I am sure there are more than a bunch of similar shops around Kyoto, but this is the one that stuck in my mind since. Every now and then I would mention how nice it would be to have some of the items we saw on our dining table, lamenting at the missing opportunity. A few times I even tried using Google Map going through streets and alleys in Kyoto trying to locate the store, but with no success.

Anyway, a couple months ago at a local bookstore, I went across a book about antique stores in Kyoto, and one of the featured stores looked familiar. "Could that be the one?" I thought. Well, I have decided to find out when I returned to Kyoto in late July, almost making it my sole mission for the journey. And I quickly realized that's the place I have been thinking about as I stopped at the entrance - so glad I have found it at long last.

The shop - called Osugi Shoten (尾杉商店) - named after the owner now in its 2nd generation, is located between Sanjo and Shijo neighborhood, not far away from Nishiki Market in Kyoto, just round the corner from the famous sukiyaki restaurant Mishima-tei. The shop wasn't particularly big and entrance could be easily overlooked - at the front near the door was the collection of drinkware and glassware on the shelves, while ceramics were displayed further inside the shop and at the back were the more delicate and treasured items. Most of the items were vintage goods from restaurants and common household, so they were very approachable and great for everyday use.

Some of the broken ones were placed in a separate section and offered at a discounted price after being carefully restored. Wabi-sabi () represents the Japanese philosophy partly based on the appreciation of transience and imperfections, so instead of trying to hide the broken bits or the sign of aging for those goods, they tried to beautify it, making it become part of the restored piece. Cracks are filled and brushed with a golden paint; the chipped bits were carefully smoothed with sandpaper to make the piece usable again. Even looking at those were such a pleasure and I admire those time-consuming efforts - sometimes even for just a small, seemingly insignificant ceramic cup.

Owner Yoshinori Osugi was super friendly and patient, explaining everything in details as I roam inside his shop, trying to figure out what to bring home - no, I wasn't allowing the terrible mistake of leaving this place empty-handed this time. I have always wanted a pewter sake bottle so I picked one - Osugi-san told me it was from the Mid-Meiji period with beautiful pine tree pattern on the bottle, and then I had my eye set in a lidded rice bowl, a classic Imari-style porcelain with hand-painted blue pattern on white porcelain. I was told that was over 250 years old and it was kept in such good condition that I would have no problem using it for serving at home.

Well I am no expert in antiques nor ceramics, but this is definitely my favorite shop in all of Kyoto. Of course, I still regret not taking more stuff home - but I am happy that now I knew where it is and can always come back to it next time I am in town! 


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