There are two areas in Kyoto known for antiques: Teramachi and Shinmonzen.
South of Marutamachi, north of Oike but mostly north of Nijo, is Kyoto’s newest antique center. It is more casual, and often quite a bit cheaper when it comes to antiques pure and simple (provenance and expert value aside). It also has a wide range of other interesting shops (highly recommended for high quality Asian handicrafts and art and tea ceremony accessories, and getting into the minutely graduated worlds of tea at Ippodo and washi paper in the shop just to the south of Ippodo). The smartest way to do this route is to either crisscross or go down one side of Teramachi and then up the other.
Typical of the new breed of shop is Nagata, located on the corner of Teramachi and Ebisu. Satoshi Nagata obtains all of his wares directly from old family kura (storehouses) instead of at auctions, which no doubt accounts for his reasonable prices and the somewhat serendipitous nature of his stock. The ceramic dishes here are especially worth a look. Occasionally the shop also has small chests, wooden hibachi, bamboo baskets, and other Meiji/Taisho items. Nagata-san’s wife speaks English, and payment can be made in dollars.
Just south of Nagata is the recently remodeled shop of Shigeo Tazuke. The soft-spoken young owner of this elegant shop admits to a fondness for Momoyama-Period pottery, but a look at his wares makes clear that Tazuke is attracted to anything of value and beauty, regardless of whether it will fetch 3,000 yen or 3 million yen. The selection here is slim, but choice.
On the other side of the street is Teramachi Kurabu another new addition to the street. Once a mahjong parlor, the old structure has been restored by Teramachi Kurabu’s owners and makes an impressive setting for antiques. Most of the shop’s items fall into the “everyday life” category and come mainly from the Meiji and Taisho Eras.
Kyoto Antiques Center
Many shops in both areas specialize (for example Chinese/Japanese/Korean antiques, paintings, lacquer ware, ceramics, bronze, Japanese furniture, wood-block prints, wood carving, scrolls, Buddhist paintings and sculptures, pearls, glassware, tea ceremony utensils, kimonos, etc.), while others offer a crazy selection. Prices are often not marked, and bargaining is expected. Experience the exotic world of Kyoto antiques, and take something special home from Asia’s streets of treasure. Most shops on both streets are open every day 10:00-18:00 (some are closed on Mondays). English is understood and spoken well in many shops.
Two of Teramachi’s older residents include Sakai, south of Marutamachi on the west side of the street, and Daikichi, located just south of Nijo-dori also on the west side. Sakai specializes in tea ceremony objects, but the shop has other items as well, all of which reflect owner Sakai-san’s excellent taste. Daikichi was a restaurant until owner Sugimoto Tatsuo tired of the hassles of that business. It now offers its patrons a tasty selection of coffee, cake and old ceramics.
Lovers of old lacquerware are in luck, for Kyoto boasts one of the few shops specializing in that item. Located on the south side of Marutamachi a block and a half west of Teramachi, Uruwashi-ya (075) 212-0043 began life in Nara and then took up residence in Kyoto. Presided over by Akemi Horiuchi, Uruwashi-ya offers a lustrous selection of late-Edo, Meiji and Taisho lacquerware.
One of Kyoto’s best antique shops is neither in Furumonzen-Shinmonzen nor on Teramachi. Hirooka Antiques (075) 721-4438 is located in Kyoto’s north, just off Kitayama-dori, a boutique-lined street better known for “ladies who lunch” than antique hunters. Still, the shop, owned by Soji Hirooka, is a good example of the new generation of Kyoto antique stores.
Hirooka started out selling to the dealers of Furumonzen-Shinmonzen and knows the business inside out. His merchandise, including tansu, Imari, and bamboo baskets reflects a skilled eye. Hirooka credits Kyoto’s long-term foreign residents with helping to develop it; he says that they, rather than the tourists who shop at Shinmonzen, were the ones who really taught the Japanese the beauty of ordinary Japanese antiques.
Hirooka’s selection of Imari is impressive, and his tansu are only rivaled by those at Kawasaki Bijutsu. He does not discount. His prices reflect an item’s true value, he says, and he will happily explain how he arrived at that price. From the Kitayama subway station, take Exit 1 and walk two minutes east. At the first street on the north side of Kitayama, turn left and you’ll see the shop on your right about 15 meters up.
Running west for about 500 meters from Higashi-oji just north of the Gion district, is the old center of Kyoto’s antique industry. This is where the Americans got some of Japan’s finest treasures for next to nothing and many many did. In the Russian war, POWs were allowed to go and shop on Shin Monzen as the barracks for POWs in the Kansai region was nearby in Kyoto). The shops here are less suited for window shopping, but interesting in every other way.
Among the many reputable names in the area, Kawasaki Bijutsu (formerly Kyoto Screen), at the east end of Shinmonzen stands out for its exquisite collection of byobu (screens) and tansu (chests).
At Shinmonzen’s west end, is another shop where, although you’ll find no bargains, you can rest assured that everything is of excellent quality. The shop is famous for Imari blue-and-white porcelain. If you’re thinking of purchasing a piece for display, this would be the place to look.
Also on Shinmonzen, just east of Hanami-koji, is Nakajima (075) 561-7771, with an eclectic assemblage of items that reflect owner Gentaro Nakajima’s shrewd eye.
A newcomer to the district is Yakata on Nawate-dori, just north of Shinmonzen, which recently moved here from Teramachi-dori. Yakata’s goods, which mainly come directly from old family storehouses, run from late Edo to Taisho.
Situated at Furumonzen Street in the Motomachi neighborhood of Higashiyama-ku district, Kadendo offers a wide variety of items, including Imari pottery dating from the Edo and Meiji periods, Buddhist sculptures, old writings and paintings, hanging scrolls, tea sets, monument inscriptions. The store’s motto is “Old and pleasing artwork”.
On the south side of Furumonzen, east of Nawate-dori, is Kadendo Most of owner Kenji Nakayama’s intriguing stock of antiques was assembled during his days as a collector. When he spotted a “For Sale” sign on the building that now houses his shop, the Osaka native gave up his company job, relocated to Kyoto, and took up the life of a dealer.
Address: 382-8 Motomachi, Furumonzen-dori Yamatooji Higashi-iru, Higashiyama-ku, Kyoto 605-0089
Hours: Friday to Tuesday 11 – 7
Robert Mangold Gallery
A superb gallery for serious collectors and passionate amateurs. The offerings span the eras and genres of Japanese art.
If you are in the mood for antiques and ancient art, you should come to this place and step right back into the past as they carry items that date back as far as 300 years ago. Be amazed by the beautiful lacquerware and ceramics and if you plan to buy them, do remember that you can’t use them with your microwave ovens! The items here are simply breathtaking. Even if you can’t afford antiques, you should just stop by here for the experience.
Robert Yellin Gallery
A must-visit gallery for fans of Japanese ceramics.
Pulse Plaza Antique Grand Fair
Held several times a year at the Pulse Plaza event hall in Takeda, which is a few stops south of Kyoto Station on the Karasuma subway line, this vast art and antiques fair is a step above the other monthly markets. A lot of serious international buyers and collectors come here to purchase high-end pieces, but there’s also a lot of reasonably priced stuff on sale as well. Check our events pages for listings of upcoming Pulse Plaza Antique Grand Fairs.