Tokyo’s top destinations for vintage clothing and antiques

One of the highlights of my recent year spent in Tokyo was the chance to shop — and not just shop, but dive into exquisite selections of clothes, ceramics, paintings, antiques and more. There is a refinement, not just at the top end but across the board, to the merchandise shops offer and the way it is displayed: from glittering jackets hanging like religious icons to trays packed with silks in subtly shifting colours. 

Of course, it’s not all presented so artfully — there are also shops selling vintage Americana in Shimokitazawa where the racks are double-height, heavy with patched or fraying jeans. Stalls at the Oedo Antique Market offer everything from the rapturous to the deeply, deeply dubious. But the one thing I am certain of is that if you can imagine it, it will be for sale somewhere in Tokyo.

Ragtag

6 Chome-14-2 Jingumae, Shibuya, Tokyo 150-0001

Ragtag stocks an artful array of vintage clothing. . .
Ragtag stocks an artful array of vintage clothing. . . 
. . . and specialises in well-known Japanese designers
. . . and specialises in well-known Japanese designers

In too many places, “vintage clothing” means racks of generic workshirts, identikit dresses and ugly trousers, but Ragtag’s selection is much more artful. Specialising in Japan’s best designers — Issey Miyake, Yohji Yamamoto, Comme des Garçons and its manifold diffusion lines — across several outlets, it also stocks streetwear staples and cute rarities, such as the Porter pineapple-print purse I once bought. 

You will, of course, pay for the privilege — not as much as new, but Ragtag understands the value of its stock. On my last visit, I left with a massively oversized raincoat, inspired by a character in the film Sweet Smell of Success, for about $200. But even this I find pleasing: it shows the clothes are being taken seriously. (Open 11am–8pm. Website; Directions)

Meguro-dori

4 Chome-10-3 Meguro, Meguro, Tokyo 153-0063

Antique ceramics can be found on Meguro-dori © Alamy
Shops on the same street such as Acme focus on midcentury furniture © @acme_furniture

A long stretch of this street, running south-west from near Tokyo’s Parasitological Museum (yes, that’s what you think it is), is populated with antiques shops — plenty of midcentury modern furniture, electrical items, records and antique paraphernalia, but also one of my favourite ceramics places, Douguya Maru Kaku.

Both of its downstairs rooms are heaving with pottery, from hefty 19th-century stackable jubako food boxes to delicately painted dishes for soy sauce. Up some steep stairs are two smaller spaces with furniture and paintings. I never quite found the Meiji-era hand-painted vase I wanted here, but I certainly enjoyed the search. (Directions)

Oedo Antique Market

3 Chome-5-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda, Tokyo 100-0005

Oedo is reputedly Japan’s largest outdoor antiques market . . . 
. . . and its prices are surprisingly reasonable © Alamy (2)

Sited near the Ginza shopping district, this claims to be Japan’s largest outdoor antiques market, and I can believe it — dozens upon dozens of trestle tables laden with everything from chopstick rests and 20th-century illustrations to wooden sculptures and hefty

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Finding Bargains While Shopping for Antiques

Many have the misconception that antiques are very expensive than they can afford. Searching for antiques is a great way to spend the afternoon and you may be blown away with the amount of good discounts you find. The hardest thing is that people don't understand the real value of an object they are looking at in an antique shop.

It may have caught their attention due to its design or it brings back old memories. You cannot certainly know if the store owner increased the price or if you are getting a good deal. As you cannot visit another store and compare the price, you have to decide the maximum amount you are willing to pay. You may have to leave the store if the negotiations don't work in your favor.

It's a good practice to do a little research about the trustworthiness of an antique dealer before you start buying. You will discover that you will be able to get good deals on antiques once you get to know the owner of the shop. You can build a good relationship, if you are a frequent buyer. Bringing in other customers to the shop is another thing that will get noticed. Owner of the shop will want to do business with you, so that you keep generating more business for them.

It will be possible to negotiate the price if the antique shop is managed by the owner and not staff members. You won't be able to negotiate the prices as much as you think in antique malls even though you find a good selection. Little shops can offer you a brief history on the item you are interested in.

For many antique store owners, money talks, so carry a lot of money when you are shopping for antiques. If you do this, they don't have to deal with credit card transactions that cost them money. Many of the older antique stores are reluctant to take personal checks, especially if you are not from the city. Showing that you do not have money in an unnoticeable way is also helpful. For example, you can count it and then say will you take $ 100 because this is all I have with me today.

It is important to keep in mind that you will buy antiques in the condition they are in. Make sure you spend time examining everything before buying. You don't want to go home and find out what you thought was a good deal was actually rubbish. Many dealers take pride in offering quality products but you still have to examine. You're going to be dissatisfied if you think you can take an antique home in perfect condition for a very good price though.

If you are searching for antiques, take a look around online to get a good idea of ​​the selling price for them. Don't be afraid to ask the antique shop owner to decrease the price. If you say something like "would you take …

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