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On the mend

Is your favorite furniture looking a little worse for wear? Tama Miyake shows you who can help.

It happens all the time: That chest Aunt Mabel said you had to have suffers a crack down the center, the movers take a bite out of your favorite dining table, or the cat decides the sofa makes for

a great scratching post. In a city that changes fashions faster than the government can reshuffle its Cabinet, you'd be forgiven for tossing those old and broken wares onto the street in favor of something new.

Indeed, Japan is famous for its fickleness. "As you know, Japanese society is very materialistic. You see TVs, chests, and so on dumped on street corners," says Takahiro Kobayashi, a Tokyo office worker whose family collects antiques and custom-made furniture.Ê"People are not willing to spend money on repairs, which are usually expensive, like many other things in Japan.ÊThey'd rather get a new replacement for a fraction more, or even less in some cases, than the cost of repairs."

Such long-held beliefs, combined with Tokyo's cramped living spaces, have limited the market for the antique furniture and heirlooms so loved in the West. But amid the bargain hunters are a number of consumers, both Japanese and foreign, who would rather spend the extra money to salvage furniture with sentimental value. There are also those who prefer to purchase high-quality, handcrafted antiques and restore them as necessary.

"The furniture itself was not that expensive, but we brought them back from Spain and wanted to have them repaired," says Eliza Kumamoto, whose family paid more than ¥60,000 to have a set of wooden dining chairs reupholstered. "My mother thinks that many Japanese think that it is cheaper to get new ones.ÊBut nowadays, more people like to buy good furniture and keep it for a long time."

Aiding this trend are a number of furniture restoration companies that specialize in the care and maintenance of antiques in addition to providing basic repair services. Keiji Yamazaki, owner of Restore Repair Service in Shinjuku, has built his eight-year-old business on serving this slice of the furniture market. Unlike most furniture repair services, which operate in conjunction with a retailer or custom manufacturer, Restore focuses solely on maintenance and restoration. "We can restore any kind of furniture, from any age, even modern," says Yamazaki.

Whether you're looking for a simple repair job or an extensive restoration, Yamazaki says there are several factors to consider before hiring a furniture doctor. Among the most important are the cost, both financial and time-wise, the materials involved and the craftsmanship required. While most quotes are provided free of charge, some companies require the furniture be brought to them. If the piece is too large to transport, you will need to consult with a company that will come directly to you and conduct repairs at your home.
Antiques also need to be handled with utmost care, seeing as any changes can adversely impact the value of the piece. Consistency with the original materials, tools and craftsmanship are essential to maintaining any antique's usefulness and value for generations to come.

In the end, the decision to repair, restore or recycle is purely personal. But there are many workshops and studios throughout the city that can help you make the right choice. The following are just a few local companies specializing in everything from refinishing woodwork to reupholstering recliners.


With 20 skilled craftsmen trained in woodworking, painting, polishing and more, Restore specializes in restoring and maintaining antiques. It can also repair all types of furniture, either in the studio or at clients' homes. Restore uses only original tools, fittings and materials, many of which are imported from Europe. English service available. Quotations are free.
6-25-11 Nishishinjuku, Shinjuku-ku. Tel: 03-3344-0021.

The Globe
Part of an extensive interiors shop/café, The Globe's workshop offers repair services and produces custom-made furniture. While specializing in English antiques, The Globe also considers unique pieces on a case-by-case basis. Quotations are free when you bring the furniture to the store.
2-7-8 Ikejiri, Setagaya-ku. Tel: 03-5430-3550.

Daniel's "furniture hospital" operates on the philosophy that the longer you use furniture, the better it becomes. With specialists in furniture construction, restructuring and embellishing, Daniel uses the most up-to-date maintenance and repair techniques. The company also makes handmade furniture. Quotations are free when you bring the furniture to the store. English service available.
3-126 Motomachi, Naka-ku, Yokohama-shi. Tel: 0120-497-660.

Nishiyaki Kougei
Painting and woodworking specialists Nishiyaki Kougei refinish cabinets, restore damaged antiques and apply protective coatings to unfinished or damaged antiques. They can also strip existing paint and apply different colors or finishes, based on samples or special requests. Call the number below for quotation information.
2-5-4 Miyoshi, Koto-ku. Tel: 03-3641-0638.

Photo Courtesy of estore

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Shibuya’s Zenmall (29-4 Udagawacho, Shibuya-ku; 03-3770-1641), known for offering large clothing for men, is holding a two-day Early Bird Pre-Summer Sale. The sale will take place on the mornings of April 12 (Sat) and 13 (Sun) for three hours (9am-noon) each day. During these times, nearly everything will be marked 20-80 percent off. Some of the bargains include suits with a spare pair of pants for \9,800 (sizes 3-8L), and summer casual jackets for \8,000 (3-6L). Imported designer suits by makers like Calvin Klein and Boss are also marked down to \39,000 and \59,000, respectively. Those who spend over \10,000 can take part in the Cash Grabbing Contest, where shoppers can dig into a box full of cash. Spend over \30,000 for two chances to grab, and \50,000 for three. Don't miss this rare opportunity, as it could be one of the few chances for those looking to buy large sizes in Japan, especially at affordable prices.

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521: Child's play
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517: Personal Effects
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513: Seeing the light
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505: Lights of fancy
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501: Natural causes
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485: Monochrome marvels
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481: Cut and paste
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477: Moss cause
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469: Ikebana for idiots
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445: Design on Tokyo
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439: Setting pretty
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435: Tropical haven
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431: Wed white and blue
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427: Have a ball
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423: Collection point
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395: Interiors
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367: Wealthy workplaces
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