|Courtesy of Old Japan|
Yesterday one of my friends told me that Old Japan in South End would be closing soon. I called today and confirmed this with Amie Belobrow who co-owns the shop with her husband Shinroku Ohashi. I believe that Old Japan is one of only two exclusively Japanese gift shops in the Boston area and they are the only one with a focus on vintage and antique goods. (The other shop, Tokai in Porter Square, sells mostly modern goods.) Amie-san said that they are being forced to close because their building has been sold and the new landlord wants double their current rent which they cannot afford. She said all of the other tenants have left.
Old Japan has been in business at their current location since 2009. Prior to that they had shops first in New York City from 1990 to 2006 and then for a few years in the Berkshires in Lenox, Massachusetts. They were forced to leave NYC due to gentrification and rising rents, so it's sad to see them forced out of the South End for the same reason. We've had a number of other Japanese-owned businesses close in recent years, including Old Japan's former neighbor, Yakitori Zai.
They will definitely be open through Christmas and plan to have some sales in December on some of their larger antiques. Beginning in January everything in the store will be highly discounted. They will need to be out of the space by January 30th.
Amie-san said they will continue their small online shop though it offers only a fraction of the goods they have in the store. People have asked if they would reopen in a new location but she said that the reality is that they cannot afford the rent anywhere given their small margins. On their website she writes that the shop has been "a labor of love for both of us since then, and we can’t imagine doing anything else!"
You can visit Old Japan at 24 Union Park Street, Boston, MA 02118. Please note that they don't have regular hours so you should call ahead to find out when they will be open. I wish Amie-san and Roku-san the best as they plan their future.