Ian Ropke writes,
There are two areas in Kyoto known for antiques: Teramachi and Shinmonzen. Both areas are perfect for window shopping and, naturally, shopping.
Antiques shop on Teramachi
Teramachi, 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 & 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.
Shinmonzen, running west for about 500 meters from Higashioji 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 Shinmonzen 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.
Shinmonzen Doori - 新門前通
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.
Kamiji Kakimoto (established 1845) just south of Ippodo on Teramachi sells washi paper.
Useful Antique Shopping Language
antique – kottouhin
What is this for? – Kore wa nanini tsukauno desuka?
How much is it? – Kore wa ikura desuka?
(It is) __________ yen. – (Kore wa) __________ en desu
Yagi's art shop on Shinmonzen (detail)
Can you make it cheaper? – Motto yasuku narimasen ka?
How about _______ yen? – ______ en deha dodesuka?
How old is it? – Kore ha odregurai furui mono desuka?
I’m just looking. – Chotto miteru dake desu
Can I touch it? – Sawatte mo ii desuka?
Do you have anything similar to this? – Kore to onaji mono ha mou hitotsu arimasu ka?
How old is this? – Kore wa dore gurai furui desuka?
Yagi's art shop on Shinmonzen
Edo jidai (1603 – 1867)
Meiji jidai (1868 – 1911)
Taisho jidai (1912 – 1927)
What is this made of? – Kono sozai ha nan desuka
Wood: ki; Cedar: sugi; Cypress: hinoki; Cherry: sakura; Bamboo: take.
Metal: kinzoku; Silver: gin; Copper: do; Brass: shinchu; Iron: tetsu.
Cotton: men; Silk: kinu; Linen: asa.
Is it fragile? – Kore wa koware yasui desuka?
Can send it to me in my home country? – Gaikoku ni okuru koto dekimasuka?
Full text by Ian Ropke. Photographs by Michael Lambe. Ian Ropke is the author of the Historical Dictionary of Osaka and Kyoto, assistant editor of Kyoto Visitors Guide, and director of Your Japan Private Tours. You can read his previous articles for Deep Kyoto here.