“Wabi Sabi is a kind of atmosphere in the air. It’s philosophical.”
Some market stalls are subtle. Yosuke’s stall is perhaps the subtlest of them all. On first glance you’ll see nice denim items – modern Japanese reproductions of American jackets in Wabash or denim. Then suddenly, an aged, ragged item catches your eye, an item which is impossibly resonant. There’s a large, long bag in a cotton duck, which looks like a piece of ancient American workwear – which turns out to be designed for making Sake. A military coat in a similar, coarse cotton weave is a variant of the traditional, thick work jacket, designed for firemen. This is history, subtle, resonant and, from the European perspective, strange. How lucky we are to have people like Yosuke to explain it to us.
Tell me about this object you’re holding, which makes me feel all warm and fuzzy.
This is a sort of kimono, particularly it’s called Sashiko. Which was worn by farmers, from a long time ago, actually 140 to 150 years old. It’s from, I think, the North of Japan. My colleague is collecting this stuff from antique markets and dealers in Japan.
And this is natural, plant indigo. And would you call this the Edo Ai period?
It is natural indigo. And that time in Japan, there are still samurai and of course Ninjas, even.
When did you move to London? And how do the markets here compare to Japan?
If comparing to Japan, the number of the lovely local markets, I mean not only antique market, is absolutely larger and it has roots into people’s life and culture of city or town in the UK. From the beginning of my life in here, market is always full of wired stuff I’d rarely seen. So it was really tough to hold myself back from jumping at them. I really like the scenery and atmosphere of London market, that people are wandering around with various faces, looking forward to discovering stuff. I’m really enjoying to stand in my stall every week. I appreciate organizer Mike.
How did you come to run a stall in Spitalfields?
I’ve been taking over this stall from my friend, Yuji, who had run A stall here for three years and he had took over this stall from his boss who was selling these sort of stuff in here. So actually I am in the third generation. Yuji’s coming back maybe next February so I hope that we can keep suppying interesting garments to our customers.
How did you get into antique fabrics and vintage clothing?
I’ve been collecting vintage clothes since when I was 15, it was the second vintage boom in Japan. Since then, I have loved stuff and garments which we can imagine something interesting story behind them.
We have lots of vintage clothing stores though, mostly they are selling the stuff has only particular style, specially American vintage has been still popular in Japan for ages. I thought it would be interesting,if I could create more chaotic space like a miniature of this world then I came here.
So you have a shop in Japan as well?
Yes. I’m planning to open my shop in my hometown.
When did you start dealing in Japanese, as opposed to American, clothing?
I still love both. I think in this three years this sort of stuff is getting popular especially in Europe, so maybe three years ago.
How do you find your stock?
In the antique markets of Japan. There are many local ones. Lots of markets. It’s difficult to say, each area has its character, it depends what your favourite is.
Tell me about these black coats, in a basket weave cotton, what are they?
They are firemen’s coats, very thick cotton. Of course it’s a very old one, I think 1960s. Again it’s called a Sashiko, and the reason it’s very thick is that when they go to a fire, they make it wet, to protect from the fire.
And tell me about this item, it’s in cotton duck or canvas.
This is dyed with persimmon. It’s called a Sakabukuro – Sake bag – when people made Sake they put the rice into here. And the liquid comes out of the bottom. I think it’s from before the war, this custom has been lost already and people’s using machine. I reckon maybe from 1920~40s.
This indigo Sashiko, with all the wear and repairs, embodies for me the notion of Wabi Sabi, it’s so beautifully aged. Is that why you like it? And how would you explain Wabi Sabi?
Haha, yes it does. If I explain about Wabi Sabi in my words, that is one of expression of beauty and a kind of atmosphere in the air around the object or space. It connects to Zen mind or Ku. It’s very philosophical and I need more practice to express or embody it.