I spent the morning at an antiques shop on the outskirts of Iga-Ueno. The guy specializes in Imari and Iga ceramics. He is very helpful in my studying since not only is he a wealth of information about antiques he also knows a lot of people in the business and has a lot of advice. He invited me to attend an auction in Nagoya on the 5th. of every month. Now, it sounds like a simple thing to be invited to attend an auction but it was everything but simple. He had to call 3 people and ask if it was OK if I came as a a dealer. I was presented as someone who isn’t fluent in Japanese. Now, I know I am not on par with native speakers but I rarely have trouble with standard Japanese. Therein lies the problem. Almost nothing is standard Japanese in the circles I often find myself in. There are so many idioms and gestures that I probably do come across as a beginner. During our long talk this morning he, Mr. Ochi, held up his thumb on several occasions to explain how different dealers had gotten their money and also to explain how it disappeared. The extended thumb, similar to a hitching gesture, seemed to explain many aspects of different antiques dealers, how they do so well, how they stumble so hard. I finally figured out it means ‘man’. As in, erect part. If they divorced, the money went with the wife. One other gesture that played big is a crooked index finger, used to talk about the biggest worry that is faced in letting in an unknown person. It signifies a thief. I guess I am a beginner in Japanese.
In this Nagoya auction there is another foreigner named Jay. I asked what kind of person he is. Here is a close quote. ‘He has blond hair, wears saggy pants and is fat’. The saggy pants and fat details were separated by several other sentences and so I initially thought he was some kind of surfer dude that liked hip hop fashion. I am interested in meeting him. I guess he is making bundles off what he is able to pick up there.
We spent a lot of time this morning talking about the people side of antiques dealing. Mr. Ochi has been a dealer for about 40 years in the Iga-Ueno area. One of his first lessons was around some Shoki Imari choko he bought. The person he bought the chokos from had so many that they fell out of the cabinet and several of them broke. Shoki Imari chokos decorated with konnyaku inban are very rare、see here for one priced at about 95,000 yen, and expensive these days. He bought about 100 of them at once. Back to his shop and out of the blue dealers started to come to him, make small talk and then ask if he had any chokos. Mr. Ochi, new to the trade, hungry and needing to make some money, sold them for 5 for 15,000 yen. The next day, a different dealer came, same scene. The chokos were worth about 500,000 yen for 5.