Boroichi bargains provide cheer amid Japan's economic gloom

Thu Dec 18, 2014 2:52am EST
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By Thomas Wilson

TOKYO (Reuters) - "Irasshai, irasshai, irasshai!"

The traditional welcome of merchants rings out around Tokyo's Boroichi flea market, one of Japan's oldest.

About 200,000 people flock to the market, which is only open for four mid-winter days a year - two in December and two in January - to buy, browse, or just soak up the atmosphere.

"The economy's in a bad state, but Boroichi's special," said Takashi Tsukahara, huddling in a heavy jacket as he touts a motley selection of watches and battered cigarette cases.

"People get themselves something good to feel better."

In the 16th century, Boroichi was a place for farmers to buy and sell rags, known as boro, for mending clothes and weaving sandals.

Now in its 436th year, the original spirit lingers, with about 700 stands hawking fabric, used clothes and piles of rags. Others sell kitchen tools, pottery, seaweed and spices.

Haggling is rare in Japan but bargain sales are common at Boroichi. Vintage kimonos in vermillion red and prints of cranes go for as little as 1000 yen ($9), often picked up by artisans who've spotted a modern use for the garments - as iPhone cases.   Continued...

Yoshiyuki Matsuura, a regular customer, visits a friend's indoor secondhand clothes store at Boroichi flea market in Tokyo December 16, 2014. REUTERS/Thomas Peter