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By Stuart Braun

Photos Stuart Braun

If it's used it's in. Stuart Braun hunts down Tokyo's pre-loved furniture bargains.

Up until recently, everything in Tokyo was new—if it wasn't, it was gomi. But there's been a sea of change. Old is in. Young Tokyoites are leading a revival of interest in furniture, clothes, accessories and curios from the past. If it's retro, vintage, antique or classic, somehow it's "now"—and the kids can't get enough. Leading the buzz in old is retro furniture and housewares. With style remaining a staple commodity in Tokyo, aspiring interior designers can, with a few bargain classics from the '60s and '70s, give their apartments a Wallpaper* finish at a fraction of the cost of a spanking new Herman Miller settee. From Daikanyama to Koenji, used and antique furniture stores, once an anomaly in Tokyo, are doing a booming trade. Here's a selection of Tokyo's best second-hand furniture and houseware shops that give you a blast from the past.


Demode Q retro heaven

Demode Q

Emerging from the used clothing store of the same name, Demode Q, in two short years, is the guiding light of Tokyo's retro furniture frenzy. Occupying, in Tokyo terms, a relatively large space on the edge of Shibuya, Demode Q is both pop culture museum and furniture store, hosting a cornucopia of vinyl chairs, '60s couches, analog synthesizers, funky lamps and, of course, the space-age Discoverer TV (only for lease). Manager Susuma Matsuzawa is an audiophile who has filled Demode Q with a selection of vintage electronic instruments that complement an electro time warp of plastic fantastic turntables, radios, TVs and blenders. These are jammed between green deco lounge chairs (JY32,000 the pair), a classic barbers chair (JY40 000), a slew of hanging '70's plastic light shades, revolving globes (JY6000), funky spiral patterned carpets, and the piece de resistance, a Herman Miller designed executive chair (JY120,000). Matsuzawa, who regularly tracks down gear from flea markets and Kobutsucho (antique town), constantly changes his fast-selling range so regular visits are recommended.   

20-4 Shinsencho, Shibuya-ku. Tel: 03-3 463-3225. 

Tokyo's hidden antique gem, Akutaya (roughly translated as junk) is a treasure-trove of Japanalia, a labor-of-antique-love created two years ago by 23-year-old university drop-out, Kentaro Miyauchi. Within the walls of this wooden shack, situated ten minutes walk from Koenji station, are myriad antiques and collectibles from of the Meiji period and beyond. Procured largely from old houses facing demolition, Miyauchi buys cheap and sells cheap—try a 150-year-old solid wood dresser for JY10,000. Perusing this rustic retro retreat—Tom Waits' Bone Machine album is appropriately on constant rotation—is enough to inspire a quick, and very affordable, renovation of your apartment. Late Meiji period antique dining chairs (JY5000), classic glass lamps (JY1500), antique clocks, colorful crockery, felt hats, kitsch plastic ramen and tempura displays (JY1000), and if iconography's your thing, an oversized vintage "Cupy" doll complete with sailors hat and geta clogs (JY6000), are just a taste of this pre-loved labyrinth.   

1-3-14 Koenji  Open: 5pm-12am daily. 

Yang C

The doorstep to the rest of Asia, Tokyo is the place to pick-up classic Chinese, Tibetan or Vietnamese furniture at prices well below fadish Asia-tique stores in New York or London. Yang C Asian Arts in Kamiyacho, owned by Francesca Amery, who personally picks up the goods on regular outings across the nether reaches of China and Tibet, stocks what she calls "unique" though "utilitarian" antique, and some reproduction, chairs, trunks, dressers, letter boxes, wedding cabinets, lamps, ancestral portraits and statuettes. Procured from exotic locations across the Orient, and including collectibles up to 600 years old, Yang C aims to give people access to affordable, and usable, Asian furniture. Set in a dinky back lane, as opposed to a high-rent neon department store, the prices remain very competitive, range from around JY300,000 for a stunning 18th-century lacquer painted Tibetan trunk, down to JY40,000 for a 120-year-old Chinese leather letterbox. Reproduced Chinese lattice screen lamps have an authentic hue (JY30,000) and if nothing else takes your fancy Francesca will track down custom orders on her next trip to Asia.

Chateau Azabu Bldg. 102 1-1-8 Azabu-dai, Minato-ku. Tel: 03-3560-6943. Open 10am-6pm Mon, Wed and Fri. 

Calling all aesthetes: stylin' seconds at scelta

One of Tokyo's coolest lounge lairs, Scelta is a temple to chic design from the '60s and '70s. It's not cheap (designer eyewear classics for between JY6000-JY12,000), but this is the cream of retro, with a fine, and rotating, selection of rare furniture, clothes and accessories on hand. Upstairs, the Scelta CafEis regaled in retro finery and, over a quick coffee, gives a few clues as to how your apartment should look.

14-10 Daikanyama, Shibuya-ku. Tel: 03-3770-7410. 

Akutaya's antique treasure-trove

d.b.r used furniture
Another hidden second-hand furniture oasis, d.b.r specializes in an impressive selection of functional, though up-scale, chairs and couches. If you're in the market for a Le Corbusier Easy Chair or a spacey designer '70s couch, in addition to a number of more prosaic used bookshelves and cabinets, d.b.r offers a good mix of style and affordability.   

3-1-5 Hiroo, Shibuya-ku. Tel: 03-3406-1360. Open 11am-8pm daily.