By Hannah Sy
Maiko Antiques in Kyoto was an entirely accidental find by me and my friend as we searched for an elusive tempura restaurant. We ended up staying for two hours and bailing on tempura altogether. This place contains the largest selection of strange, rare, old, and sometimes downright creepy objects I’ve ever seen in my life.
If I had to generalise (and I mean really, really generalise) I’d say Maiko focuses mainly on vintage Japanese toys. That classic Japanese retro-futurism is nowhere more apparent than here, in the myriad of tiny metal and plastic models of robots, dinosaurs, and robot dinosaurs. But Maiko Antiques is much more than an antique toy store. The shop seems small but honestly it could have been the size of an aircraft hangar and it still would have felt cramped; there is just that much on show. Dimly lit, every available surface is utilised to the point of overflow. Vintage cameras and unopened ink pots from before WWII are in rows all over the floor, and terrifying dolls of various sizes hang from the ceiling. Outside the shop is a pile of “traditional” Japanese pornography, stacks of old photographs, a rack of traditional clothes and a bargain bucket of sorts. Some vintage matchboxes caught my eye, and when I went inside to buy them I was blown away. Even after an hour in there, I was still seeing something new everywhere I looked. Things that stick in my memory include incredibly detailed miniature samurai armour, a boar’s jawbone complete with tusks, sinister gasmasks, and a tattooed human hand in a jar. Maiko has jewellery, posters, ornaments, and old Japanese collectibles of all kinds. Run by a friendly and surprisingly young man, Maiko Antiques has been around for almost a decade. As zany as you’d expect, the owner dresses in bright Hawaiian shirts with sunglasses (even at night) and cheerfully answers your questions about any item in broken but understandable English.
Maiko Antiques was truly a standout experience among many from my time in Japan. Even if you don’t like antiques, or don’t want to buy anything, I urge you to make the trip to Maiko Antiques simply for the visual experience alone.
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