Masaki Yoshida wants to sell you something. He’s pushy in a good way. Come in come in, he says, holding open the door to Koga, his tiny curio store. It’s cold out there. Then he leaves you alone to look around. There’s not much you can do apart from stand here. Swing your arms and you would knock everything down.
He and his wife Yumiko took over the shop and all its stock last February. It has been run for 50 years by friends and family. The exterior is built like an old kura, a private storehouse. Masaki previously worked in interiors, then antique swords. He asks if you’re interested in a porcelain sake cup. Or perhaps a carved Hokkaido bear. (They don’t make them in Hokkaido anymore, he says. The last people to buy one from him came from Hokkaido!)
There are some elegant things, and some junk. There’s certainly a lot to see. Miniature cameras. A souvenir from Cairns. Postwar monster collector-cards. An original edition Hiroshige print, slightly marked, of the Atake bridge in the rain.
Hanging above the telephone is a watercolour painting of a tea-ceremony room. It looks too amateurish to be for sale, and has no price tag. The old frame is in good shape. You wonder if Masaki painted the picture. Oh, that’s by the original store owner, he says. If you like it, I’ll sell it cheap. It’s pretty bad, isn’t it. But maybe good-bad, uma-heta.
He struggles to remove it from the wall.
No, you say. If you sell it, you might be sad, as it has been here for so long.
No, he says, you can’t get attached to things in this business. My attachment is to the customer’s joy! Name your price.
You say, OK, two-thousand. He says, Done. Then he says, You wouldn’t consider three-thousand, would you? You say, how about two-and-a-half. He and Yumiko burst into laughter. She claps. Oh that’s smart! she says. It’s like a scene from a manga!
You’re not sure now, if you should have bargained. You hope you don’t seem greedy. Though it’s fair to say he started it. He says, Very good! Hahaha! Yumiko begins wrapping.
Before doing so she takes off the backing. There’s another picture in there. A window view of a garden. The crayon is pretty heavy. It’s hard to think this is one of those junk-store jackpots.
You ask if you can write about the shop. Of course, says Masaki. Please praise us! He gives you the painting. You know, I do feel a bit sad, he says, with a wink.
Koga is at Asakusa Yanagi-koji, tel 03-3841-2269. Open 1200–1600. Closing day not set.
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