One day a month there is a treasure hunt near Toshogu shrine, next to Toshogu station. All kinds of treasures can be found here - a unique yukata that you cannot purchase anywhere else, the best souvenir possible for your family back home, a great piece of someone else’s history captured in an old photo album and many many more. This is Toshogu Kottoichi or Toshogu antique market.
Early Sunday morning at one of Sendai’s biggest Shinto Shrines, people are gathering around tents, some are simply looking on the variety of antique things, scattered around the seller, some ask questions or engage in a conversation. “How much is this statuette?” “Five thousand yen.” “I’m taking this one, too. How much for both?” “Hmmm... Normally it would go for nine thousands, but alright, let it be seven thousands for two.” Bargaining is totally acceptable here.
Old yukatas are all time favourites. Some fancy-looking woman can’t decide between two adorable yukatas. Her friend is searching for something in a box full of rags, most of them so old that it must have been cut from some 19th century clothes, or even earlier. Finally she finds some small piece of dotted cloth and shows it to her friend with that I-found-it-type of a smile any antique maniac would recognize at once.
My daughter is hypnotized by a box of old coins. She secretly puts her hand inside and gently caresses them, then chooses one with a hole in it and looks through it. She has found a little treasure for herself.
Her mother has just purchased another box of old photos - some young man named Takahashi graduated in 1896 and received a bunch of cabinet portraits from his fellow students. 24 cabinet portraits, almost all of them in perfect condition! And when I find my husband to show him my own treasure, he is carefully examining some old carpenters' tools - they are better made and sometimes even cheaper than the new ones.
This place is like a treasure island. It has some special atmosphere of getting in touch with the past and bringing back a souvenir, this is why it is almost impossible to return home without purchasing something, at least a tiny coin or an old postcard. We all have our own ideal treasures, right?
Toshogu antique market is open once in a month, on 4th Sunday. The next time is 25th September.
Most of the sellers don’t speak English, but they will try to help you anyway, so don’t worry!