It is quite the contrast. My husband and I clamor for the antiques of Japan’s yesteryear that the Japanese consider “grandma’s old junk,” as one Japanese acquaintance put it when I purchased a lovely old jewelry box and mirror from the Community House and Information Center‘s (CHIC) resale store on Rokko Island in Kobe.
My husband and I can’t stand the dreaded and boring “new American” things many Japanese desire, sacrificing their rich heritage of mindful craftsmanship for a bunch of globalized junk, IMHO. I find Japanese antiques stunning.
And as Alex Kerr reminds in his book, Lost Japan, a lot of these things are valuable, or will be valuable, again as Westerners rediscover their beauty.
My friend Martha, who has been the buyer for CHIC for some time now, let me in on the secret where she gets many of the amazing old mirrors, ceramics and stunning furniture of Japan’s yesteryear for CHIC that we have snatched up there (and I hope you support its worthy cause too). Antique Fuji in Nishinomiya. Nestled between Ashiya and Amagasaki in Hyogo Prefecture of the Kansai Region, Nishiomiya is an easy Hanshin super rapid express ride from Osaka’s Nishi-Umeda Station area, and Antique Fuji only a few blocks walk away from the station.
I grew up in a hoarder household, so stepping into Toko Fujita’s four-story paradise where he has been for 15 years felt like home. He was like a father to me, clutching to his heart certain items I took a fancy too and asked the price, as if hard to part with, but giving me a good price. Fuji-san put on some jazz music, and my husband and I inched our ways through the dusty tunnels of items stacked everywhere of everything imaginable: trays, chawans (tea cups), dishes, furniture, ceramics, sake vessels, odds and ends and more! Pure heaven!
The soft-spoken Fuji-san offers you tea while you peruse as well as hand wipes for the dust you will encounter as you skillfully maneuver through the layers of items. Kick off your shoes and don slippers to ascend the upper three more floors of treasures. There’s so much, and so many piles everywhere, that it’s actually a bit overwhelming, and we ended up going back a second time after our initiation, to look more deeply and find more treasures.
On our first round we found an array of architectural items, as my husband is designing a Japanese-style tiny house for the backyard of our R-2 home in Orlando, which will welcome AirBNB guests or friends. I love the Buddhist items, such as a temple bell and gongs. Tiny boxes of makie we collected, as well as many kimonos, shodo paraphernalia
The second visit I looked more deeply at the numerous stacks of bowls and plates, one of which had an image of Bodhidharma, and Fuji-san told us it was from the late Edo period. He always has a story to go with most items, some of which are not for sale but for show only. This time around we also found some more buddhist items. We could start our own sect just with the items we find here!
Fuji-san gives you a price when you ask, then you tally it up, and he adds the final total on an abacus. If you purchase enough, like we did, he will deliver, and he tends to throw a lot of things in for free. He was really surprised that I wanted to know how much for some old Japanese divider panels that I thought I would rework with collage, several with shodo on them. He gave me three sets for only 2000 Yen, which is about $20 U.S.
We plan on going back for some more! It’s just so much fun, and as much as we love temple sales, Fuji-san’s is the next best thing, maybe even better, as it’s all in one place, and he is such a delight to visit. Just like home!
Antique Fuji in Nishinomiya, Hyogo Prefecture, Japan
Fuji-san speaks English, and to arrange a visit to the shop, you need to call ahead and make an appointment.