Tokyo Re-Discovery

A Rag Fair Date Back to the Warring States Period

Jan 05 2016

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Get on the streetcar and search for treasure!

About 400 years ago in Japan, the sengoku daimyo (warlords at the Age of Civil Wars) adopted measures to vitalize the economy and introduced "rakuza" - a type of open/ free market. Today we are visiting "Setagaya Boroichi (a rag fair in Setagaya)" that has its origin in a rakuza started in 1578. It is now registered as an intangible folk culture asset of Tokyo, and recognised as one of the biggest events to signal the arrival of winter. The Boroichi takes place twice a year, on the 15th and 16th in January and December on the Boroichi Dori-Street around Setagaya Daikan Yashiki, the residence of the local magistrate: Oba family.

The nearest stations are Setagaya and Kamimachi on Tokyu Setagaya line, which is one of two surviving streetcar/ light-rail lines in Tokyo. Get on Tokyu Den-en Toshi line to Sangen Jyaya, the second stop from Shibuya, and change to the Setagaya line. We recommend getting off at Setagaya station, the fourth stop, and then walk along the Boroichi Dori-Street that leads to Kamimachi station.

You will see many stalls selling old kimono. The flea market originally offered farm tools and decorations for New Year's Holidays. As time went by, fabric scraps had gained popularity among farmers coming to the market - they needed the rags for repairing their work clothes and weaving sandals. "Boro-nuno" means fabric scraps/ rags in Japanese, and this is where the market, Boro-ichi, got its name from.

You are not interested in boro-nuno/ rags? Then walk through some 700 stalls in the market for precious antique items of east and west, traditional housewares (chopsticks, baskets etc.) and a variety of street food. A plant fair is also held in the neighbourhood.

You can also drop in at Setagaya Daikan Yashiki and take a look at the old, thatched-roofed house and the garden in peace, escaping from the bustling street. 

It's cold outside, but why not walk out the door and be a part of tens of thousands of treasure hunters at Setagaya Boro-ichi?


■Venue: Boroichi Dori-Street (in and around 1 chome, Setagaya, Segtagaya-ku, Tokyo)

■Access: 3 minutes' walk from Setagaya / Kamimachi stations on Tokyo Setagaya line

■Dates/ Time: 15th–16th January and December every year. 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.

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Miss Echo (Translator)

Born and grew up in downtown Tokyo, she is the true lover of Tokyo’s traditional & unique culture. She does researches as she finds something interesting on streets.

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