One of my favorite pastimes and one missing from my current ExPat lifestyle is “junkin’,” a term used for dotingly, carefully, and surrepticiously clawing through piles of used items while being careful not to arouse the attention of other junkers lest you draw attention to a particularly good cache of tossed treasures or trash, thereby causing a potential throw down in what is certainly an establishment on the brink of foreclosure. For a hilarious, knee slapping description of this phenomenon embraced by hobbyists and tree huggers alike not to be detailed in this post, please refer to the instruction manual and rule guide written by Dana of Zona Pellucida whereupon she describes certain codes of behavior and details of this form of recycling in “Thrift Score Wednesdays” (Read Here) which I will include here as a reference. Then, one of the Seven Lucky Gods of Japan – probably Daikoku the god of wealth and retail shops- was somehow alerted to my withdrawal symptoms and threw some luck my way through one of my other most favorite blogging divas, Tokyo Jinja.
By apprising me to a source for junkin’ in Japan-The Shrine Sale-A flea market/Antique sale on the grounds of a shrine, the trendsetter for Asian influence in the home set me on a new course for filling our house with Nihon-jin kitsch. As soon as I read her post, I emailed myself the schedule, Andretti-san downloaded the information, plugged in the GPS and we hit the road “with our hair on fire”. Junkin’ terminology for “Fully anticipating a successful day of shopping ahead.”
After weeks of pristine, crisp winter weather, the skies had their fill and disgorged buckets directly on me and Andretti-san. But the Shrine sale was on. Perfect- the rain would wash away my competition- no hagglers with which to compete for the precious booty laid at the foot of the buddha. My costume was chosen carefully. Gloves to hide jewelry highlighting any telltale signs of misconceived wealth and affluence, cross body bag freeing the hands for close examination of items, camera placed in pocket, holster style for quick draw, and money hidden in various pockets and purse locations so vendors would be unable to assess my financial worthiness when I claimed items “Tokai des ne”- so expensive. I just had to focus my eyes on those of the vendor for an inscrutible poker face as looking away is the best predictor of a liar, and prevent my nose from growing as I morphed in to haggling mode.
I was thrilled to see the van unloading the lavish load of treasure when Andretti-san and I roared up the Tori gate:
Having forced Andretti-san to practice negotiation tactics in Japanese for the hour ride to Kawagoe, I declined his offer for translation and he sped off, tires screaming in the direction of the Eel House for lunch without even a backward glance. He didn’t understand my excitement.
Andretti-san- “Ouisan-san- why do you like old things? Japanese people like new things. You can find all this stuff in the dump. One time I found a two-year old Apple computer at the dump and I sold it for 500,000 yen. ($500 US) Do you want me to take you to the dump?”
Since Spouse thinks our dwelling should not contain items picked from the neighbors’ garbage (embarrassing when they come to visit) and I’m hesitant pick side by side with rats, I politely declined even though I expect to pay at least a 10% surcharge on all bought garbage.
It looked like the vendors were tardy given the weather so I bought a bowl of curry udon while I waited.
Udon’s not my favorite- the big, fat noodles dilute the taste of the broth and eating it makes me take on its appearance- big and fat. Just my opinion.
I finished, rechecked my costume, and proceeded in to the Shrine. In this case, Narita-san Betsu-In Temple in Kawagoe. One of the finest examples of its ilk. I hoped I could still babble in Japanese- I was beside myself with excitement.
Ahh! Not a person in sight- this hallowed ground was mine for the taking.
My victims, I mean, trade associates were packing up! This would put me at a disadvantage. I said a quick prayer to:
Seeing this, I quickly snapped it up in case Andretti-san and I had a flat tire on the way home:
I now began flying through the Shrine looking for any prizes not yet back in newspaper. I couldn’t dig through the rack of antique kimonos as the man on the right was stashing hand fulls in his van faster than I could push hangers.
The only die hards were selling “Hello Kiddy” inflatable dolls. Too big for the car.
Some interesting things here and there like these Kokeshi dolls- they aren’t supposed to have arms or legs.
A few Japanese Plums tried to peep through the gloom to let us know Spring is on the way and Cherry Blossoms will be next:
So as all good junkers know, some days are good, some days are bad. The good news is, I’m armed and dangerous for the spring days ahead where treasures lay in wait of a new home. And I’ll just be that much more prepared….
Yes, yes, yes– wait NO NO NOOOO!!! It was all so close! Everything. So. Tantalizing! Until next time, I suppose… Shrine sales look and sound amazing.
The cross-the-body bag is an excellent idea. I usually end up wearing one when thrifting by default, but this note should be added to the “Dress the Part” Commandment posthaste.
And your comments about udon had me laughing out loud. I feel the same way.
I’m so glad that I measured up to your standards!
It was so close. The image of your purple boots kept wafting past my eyes as I dreamed of the unopened treasure beyond.
Not to fear! I’ve not lost hope! I will STRIKE again!
I looooove thrift shopping. Can’t wait to hear your Spring stories about junkin’! 😉
I’m looking forward to showing off all my finds!!!
I’m a big fan of thrift stores, garage sales, flea markets–and have missed them here in Haiti. Thanks for this fun post and for never failing to make me laugh.
Hugs from Haiti,
Yes- I guess everyone is wearing all that stuff down there and no one is giving anything away…. Humm- I guess I just rained on the parade. Anyhoo- I’m glad I’m keeping someone other than myself entertained!Luv-
Dana is the Supreme Thrifting Coach to the Stars I hear 🙂
Keep that “hair on fire” enthusiasm and you are sure to find some treasures on your next trip!
Tori- I must tell you, I’m thrilled and feel more excited than if I had gotten an award. Dana, the Supreme Thrifting Coach to the Stars read my blog and is actually adding one of my costume ideas to her commandment list. I’m speechless- and might cry- and put on a Cotillion dress in celebration.
A Shrine Sale? Sounds like now you’ve found your reason for being in Japan! 🙂 I wonder how many Westerners go to these?
By the way, a comment I left on “The Melter” post seems to be lost. Could you take a look in your spam folder to see if it ended up there? Or maybe it was an intentional deletion . . . ? 😉
I think a fair amount of Westerners go- although NO ONE of any brand was there when I went. That’s why I sucked at marketing. My thinking applies only to me. I would never not publish your comments- I’ll go look- something must have happened to it.
That sounds fun and exciting. As someone who had to live with the leftovers taken from piles left by the side of the road (all in mint condition of course) I think your adventure sounds exciting. The Udon looks lishi. I agree, I prefer fresh ramen or soba . . . but since I’m in the middle of nowhere USA and the potential for me getting any good Japanese food is nil–I’m so jealous! Happy hunting.
By the way, sometimes the department stores do sales of “used” kimonos (used meaning worn once and then passed on). I was able to get a beautiful wedding kimono (for decorative purposes) for about $100.
Nice score! A friend of mine has a beautiful wedding kimono on display at her house. Thanks for the tip!
Ok Dolly, If you recall from this post about the “Rainy Day Special at Kawagoe” (http://tokyojinja.com/2010/10/31/buoys-bottles-and-bargains-the-rainy-day-special-at-kawagoe/) it was only drizzling!!! I was cosy and warm, watching the Oscars pre-show this Monday instead! But lots of good stuff coming up – Heiwajima this Friday-Sunday – and I really recommend Tomioka Hachiman on Sunday morning too!
And remember, this is Japan….not China, so be gentle with your victims…
AHh- the genie is out of the bottle!! Yea- well- I didn’t have the luck of the Irish with me what can I say. I was invited to an Oscar party however, Oscar brings out the most evil Ouiser, canned, read presentations followed by attention hogging thespians makes me drone on with back stabbing attacks on everyone and the mother they dragged along which ruins it for the watchers who like to comment on the gowns, the boyfriends, the drama- bla bla bla- see- I ruined it for you now? So, in order to keep the few friends I have here, I politely declined claiming urgent Kawogoe business. And I still have a few friends.
I love your post and the others you referenced! Classic! I think my neighbors think I am a complete garbage lady freak, I always slow down to spy what is on the curb. One of my best repurposing jobs was taking someone’s small built in cabinet that they trashed, dragging it across the street into my back yard, then placing it on its side and using it for a dog house. Heidi was so pleased! Of course, my favorite garbage to go thru is yours. That is why I hate it is so unavailable to me now (never mind the UHaul truck I drove off in before you left for Japan- were the tears for me, the Hurricaine, or all your stuff I made off with???? Ha-Ha. Note to readers- The Ouiser Never Cries).
Miss you! Can’t wait to “Clean Out Your Closet” when I get there- I am sure by then you will need to make room for more- Space is at a premium there!!
I’m sure Dr B’Hein loves the “repurposed” dog house. That is hilarious- and innovative. Do you have it next to the car on blocks that the kids use as the make believe Malibu Barbi dune buggy? When you leave, I’d like you to wear a helmet cam in your ever present scarf to document your explanations to customs of the newly found loot in your bags….
Okay, you’re right. Now the dog has outgrown it and it is rotting on a rarely used back porch. I didn’t think it thru that far.
I think customs will know all my items are used by the “ring around the collar”
As for the helmet cam, the only thing it will see will be the back of a bathroom stall door, as no doubt I will have horrendous diarrhea from all the spicy noodles you are going to make me eat. Do they sell “Depends” there? That makes me think of something. Will have to tell you under separate email!!
Oh Lord- are you still upset about being blocked momentarily from making comments? If you’d send me that scrubber I wouldn’t have ring around the collar- just saying. You’re holding my stuff hostage….
Great post, I considered going along to Kawagoe last Monday, but saw the weather forecast, too bad that it’s only once a month! If you haven’t, you should try Oedo Antique Market this Sunday, there are some great finds. Tokyo Jinja has me hooked now, although I haven’t strayed too far, well at least not yet! I think that “antiquing, junking” whatever you call it, is a fantastic past time for us Tokyo folks and look at the great stuff that we get to decorate our homes! (although I think my husband thinks it’s junk and has already warned me not to bring any more home).
I’ve heard of that one and am dying to go- weekends are hard for me as I’m chained to the domestic duties during those high shrine shopping times!!! However, as the wise Jinja proved in her post, – there’s plenty of stuff for the whole family right! Great to hear from you!
I know what you mean, family time at the weekend, but why not safely ensconce the said family somewhere warm and cosy where they can enjoy some “daddy time” for treats and meet up afterwards, that way you are all winners. Saying that, my 15 year old daughter was “dragged” along to Oedo Market a couple of weeks ago and I think that she secretly enjoyed it, although of course would never admit to it, might try her again this weekend while daddy has a treat all for himself close by and then meet up for lunch, see it works, try it! For me Oedo is a must, but this weekend it is smaller (although it is large around 150 stall holders) than the third Sunday of the month when it is mammoth (around 250 stall holders), be warned, you will not leave empty handed!!!!! Whatever you do, have a great weekend and keep out of trouble, you’ll be giving us expats a bad bad name!
Great tip!!! Thanks for commenting with that advice… Yea… There’s a reason my gravatar hides my face…. Happy huntin’ and junkin’!!!
@ amblerangel and Angela, it is so funny to be talked about on someone else’s blog!!!