08 Apr2011

I was at the FTI Taguig market last Saturday and noticed a stall with second hand ceramics apparently sourced in Japan from hand-me-downs, thrift shop purchases or frankly someone else’s discarded household items (garbage) that had been packed and shipped here to be resold. I figured these items must have arrived well before any radiation issues would have the slightest of impact, so I decided to look through the offerings. I have seen this vendor several times before, but never stopped to take a closer look. I ended up buying 16 ceramic plates, bowls and cups, all for less than PHP1,000 ($22) in total. I felt like I had hit a minor jackpot!

I have started to collect modestly priced ceramics for the primary reason that they are used as “props” on this blog. The plates and cups add interest to the photos, and once you have a critical mass of pieces, you can mix and match for interesting juxtapositions and texture. But I am loathe to spend too much money on what is a one-off piece, and will, for the most part, simply be used for photographs. The PHP50-100 range per piece keeps me happiest. And I seem to have an affinity for the various colors, shapes and glazes of Japanese ceramics. My collection is slowly growing, and at some point, I will have enough to throw a dinner party with dozens and dozens of mismatched ceramics on the table, hopefully contributing to a visual feast, besides the food served that evening…

The jumble of goods on offer meant you had commercial ceramics along with more artisanal pieces… I simply picked pieces based on whether they appealed to me or not. Colors, shapes and texture were the primary considerations and I ended up with several interesting pieces.

Bargain heavily at this shop, as prices tend to be cut by 30-50% with haggling, and particularly if you are buying several pieces. I managed to get plates that were quite stunning for less than the cost of a plastic plate at Shoemart!

One of my favorite finds is the off-white free-form plate on the right in the photo above.

Here, a selection of previous purchases, from more “chi-chi” sources such as the Art in the Park series where potters from amateur to famous status sell their pieces for PHP500-2,000, with a portion of the proceeds funding charitable causes. These plates and bowls cost between PHP600-1,500 each, and all are “seconds”, and while possessing interesting shapes and hues, aren’t that much more appealing than some of the 16 pieces I purchased at the market up top. So keep an eye out for useful and attractive second hand things… you might just surprise yourself with a purchase or two. My other favorite ukay-ukay destinations are the Book Sale shops in malls with old magazines and books — I can buy several dozen food magazines per month! :)



  1. izang says:

    I like them all.

    Apr 8, 2011 | 5:51 pm


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  3. tina says:

    winner :)

    Apr 8, 2011 | 7:02 pm

  4. Footloose says:

    When houses in Japan were mostly made of wood and paper that got caught in periodic conflagrations that were usually caused by earthquakes, the ones with possessions kept them in a separate more fire resistant warehouses called kura. That’s how they could keep endless varieties of ceramics, silk items and art objects suitable for each season. Noticing the unusual shapes and one-of-a-kind aspect of the vessels you have been using, I thought you must have a kura kept somewhere just to keep them secure and organized. Japanese pieces are still okay, I guess, just make it sure they don’t glow in the dark.

    Apr 8, 2011 | 7:11 pm

  5. T says:

    i like the wabi-sabi feel of your collection, MM. i myself like the perfect imperfect look of certain japanese ceramics. i totally know what you mean about the pricier versions at art in the park. i have once succumbed and bought a famous potter’s work but find that i enjoy orphaned pieces found in thrift shops much more. the discovery is the thing, i think.

    Apr 8, 2011 | 7:24 pm

  6. atbnorge says:

    Awww, I like the red bowl. I also started my collection from scratch buying from ukay-ukays here. It’s quite addictive; collecting ceramics, not the ukay-ukay :))) One cannot stop with just one piece.

    Apr 8, 2011 | 7:29 pm

  7. LaGallinitaRoja says:

    Hi MM,
    That freeform plate was the first thing my eyes locked on in the tableau. It is simply stunning! You sure have a knack for discovering such beautiful things. Thank you very much for sharing.

    Locally, Ugu Bigyan’s creations have been a source of joy (especially when bought during his annual sale). He is so talented!

    Kudos on your very well-written, informative and entertaining blog.
    (Long-time lurker, first-time poster here po. – LGR)

    Apr 8, 2011 | 7:42 pm

  8. Connie C says:

    Wow MM! You surely hit the jackpot and I’d be one to pretend not to know you if I were around to wrestle some of those pieces away from you. Must be the same lady who used to be at the Lung Center market I got similar pieces from.

    In Japan, people would just leave unwanted belongings, TV’s, small appliances, even cars by the road side and they are free for the taking. Best way to recycle; one’s discards, someone else’s finds. My SIL driver got his car this way and complete with registration papers.

    And Footloose, like bettyQ, you are such a fountain of “delightful” information and am still intrigued with you elephant memory!

    Apr 8, 2011 | 8:07 pm

  9. Footloose says:

    Elephant memory, turtle recall, Connie C.

    Apr 8, 2011 | 8:49 pm

  10. ros says:

    Nice find! And I think you’ve even managed to score a “suribachi” (grinding-bowl); the blue one at the middle of 3rd image.

    p.s.: Radiation aside, always test new ceramics for Lead(Pb). :)

    Apr 8, 2011 | 9:19 pm

  11. nina says:

    i would imagine these ceramics used in a dinner party at your cebu office garden, all rustic and natural.

    Apr 8, 2011 | 9:22 pm

  12. Robin says:

    was in Japan in 98, saw bicycles, VCRs, magazines along side their “garbage”. Amazing.

    Apr 8, 2011 | 9:25 pm

  13. Tracy says:

    Great bargains!

    I remember eating at a hotel Japanese restaurant and they had the same sort of china: very Japanese but from the minority ethnic groups. And on the tables, there were those little cards that instead of promoting some special that the hotel was offering, had some information about the pottery. Pretty cool, I think.

    Apr 8, 2011 | 10:53 pm

  14. yvonne says:

    Nice collections! I am one of those being addicted of collecting japanese and korean wares and i even post all my collections at my facebook account Yvonne Cavales.

    Apr 8, 2011 | 11:05 pm

  15. Scramoodles says:

    Just to share with you some pottery finds, there’s a per kilo pottery/ ceramics sale at half moon cafe in Antipolo. Also, there was one at the Lung Center Market, although I haven’t been to centris again. They sell assorted pottery, even suribachi. And thr real steal i bought was an ink stone set for less than a hundred. I practice my kanji with it :)

    Apr 8, 2011 | 11:22 pm

  16. Antonette says:

    Hi, MM! I was thrilled to see this post. I’ve been based here in Japan for almost 7 years now and I’ve collected a pretty good number of beatiful Japanese pottery and porcelain wares. And here’s the exciting part… I got them at “recycle shops” here for such measly amounts. Really, it was almost shocking. There was a time when I would go to flea markets but it can be a hassle sometimes. When I discovered the “recycle shops”, I never looked back. And not all of the stuff at “recycle shops” are 2nd-hand. Many of them are actually new or unused – unwanted gifts at weddings, etc or sourced out from stores that have closed shop. And it’s not unusual to see brands like Le Creuset, Noritake, Narumi, etc. I’ve stopped buying (for now) because my family is growing and apartments here are not really roomy. Believe me, it’s not an easy thing to do (not buying) because the selection is just maddeningly amazing.

    Apr 8, 2011 | 11:47 pm

  17. cris says:

    the japanese groceries in cartimar also sell a lot of these types of ceramics at very cheap prices. though the cheapest i saw was a makeshift stall somewhere in between the petshops of cartimar, there was this japanese lady selling plates and cups at low low prices :)

    Apr 9, 2011 | 12:03 am

  18. Antonette says:

    For those who want brand new authentic Japanese pottery/lacquer ware but isn’t crazy about spending a fortune, do come during the summer sale (July-August) and winter sale (Dec – Jan). Even the big stores like Sogo, Tobu sell at very friendly prices.
    And, while on the subject of food-related stuff, I’d like to recommend visiting Kappabashi or Kitchen Town in Tokyo.It’s between Ueno and Asakusa. It’s a wonderland for cooks, collectors, food hobbyists. You can find anything and everything you would need in the kitchen and restaurant .

    Apr 9, 2011 | 12:04 am

  19. marilen says:

    Love these serendipity moments.

    Apr 9, 2011 | 12:17 am

  20. monique ignacio says:

    Less than Php 1,000.00??? Are you kidding me????? That’s amazing! I have been making pottery for a number of years now – including making my own clay and glazes. I can tell you that what you paid for all of that pottery is not even close to the cost of producing it. The one you used for the cashews looks like an anagama fired ceramic (wood fire/ash glaze) which is quite costly to produce because it utilizes wood to fire and takes forever in the kiln. Sometimes up to 24 hours. Imagine baking something for 24 hours! That’s a lot of time and wood to make a bowl. That’s why they are expensive. Red glaze is quite difficult to produce and is also quite costly. So if all of that pottery cost less than Php 1k, that’s a steal. Wow!

    Apr 9, 2011 | 12:44 am

  21. jo says:

    i remembered myself staying up late at the gomi house just me, my bicycle & of course plastic bags… i had tv, tables, heater, ceramics, earthwares, magz, toys & gold jewelry, some friends even have futons (comforters), blankets & pillows! oh boy, & my dormitory was all furnished… terribly missed my life in kobe=)

    Apr 9, 2011 | 1:09 am

  22. sunflowii says:

    Hi Antonette!
    Japan is my favorite country. Would you mind sharing the names and locations of these recycle shops? I’ve been to Kappabashi. It’s amazing!

    Apr 9, 2011 | 1:21 am

  23. uniok says:

    mm, it looks like the black one was a Tagine cover??…
    @ Holiday Inn Al khobar, they have Moroccan Festival of Authentic Foods and handicrafts especially colorful ceramics…from april 6-16, 2011…:)

    Apr 9, 2011 | 1:48 am

  24. kim says:

    i like hyaku-en shops too … brand new stuffs for just a $1 !!!

    Apr 9, 2011 | 1:48 am

  25. Marketman says:

    uniok, the “black one” is actually a deep grey-purple and its a vase. Quite nice. monique, I know. :) Several of these pieces were done by craftsmen and/or trained potters, they are signed. Some are commercial and have stamps of the factory, but others, like the one you mentioned are quite artisanal, and yes, that plate alone is worth PHP1,000. My cousin is a potter and even with a friendly discount, her stuff is more than this… :) Antonette, thanks for that. Just recently returned from the cooking/restaurant street in HK and it was amazing… I can only imagine what the Japanese equivalent is like! cris, thanks for that tip, might have to check Cartimar out… Scramoodles, Lanelle of Half Moon is a relative, so we have quite a few of her pieces too. :) ros, I was guessing the “suribachi” was for grinding horseradish, is that right? Or ginger? LaGallinitaRoja, thanks for de-lurking. :) T, yes, the thrill of the find is definitely it. I went from one plate that caught my eye, to a few pieces, then a dozen then 16 to come close to PHP1,000, the limit I set internally for myself that morning. :) Footloose, you are simply amazing. How you know and recall some of the tidbits you share on this blog are flabbergasting… have to start planning a kura somewhere to store the Baccarat, etc… :) You will be amused to know that Sister has such a thing in the middle of Manhattan. She keeps tabletop stuff at an off-site storage location, insured and fire-resistant, your modern-day big-city kura. :)

    Apr 9, 2011 | 6:02 am

  26. linda says:

    I love everything Japanese! Love that off-white free form plate,too!

    Apr 9, 2011 | 7:12 am

  27. DJ says:

    i’m in love with them! you really had an eye for the good finds!

    Apr 9, 2011 | 8:38 am

  28. cumin says:

    These are gorgeous. I love the red bowl and the white bowl and the vase and… Some Japanese surplus shops in Manila also have blue and whites, perfect for gifts, and very cheap.

    Apr 9, 2011 | 9:53 am

  29. millet says:

    hahaha..you’ve caught the ukay-ukay bug! most japanese like changing their dinnerware according to the seasons or in honor of special events like the new year, autumn festival, etc., and their homes have limited storage space so many of the items in the ukay-ukay have been used once, if at all.

    years ago just before i got married, davao city was flooded with all sorts of ukay goods from japan (i guess the boats that came to get bananas here arrived with all the hand-me-downs in their holds). i was able to buy whole sets of beautiful ceramic dinnerware, as well as one of a kind stuff – vases, platters, tea sets, tiny pitchers, for soysauce, chopstick rests and ikebana vases – all for a steal!

    Apr 9, 2011 | 10:55 am

  30. millet says:

    footloose, now that i’ve read your comment, a kura probably what i need. aside from my ukay finds, i have some really good japanese porcelain and ceramic ware that were given as gifts. i was in japan a few months before my wedding, and as soon as my friends learned about my forthcoming wedding, they plied me with boxes and boxes of the finest japanese porcelain, all boxed and gift wrapped.. i had to put fit everything in two huge shopping bags. and handcarry them on the flight back, one huge bag on each arm.

    the check-in people would not allow me to handcarry either bag because both exceeded the allowed dimensions. i had to beg and plead and was very near tears since my flight was already boarding. i had to rip open the boxes and show them the contents, and finally, they understood when i said “wedding”, and pointed to myself. right away there was a round of bows and smiles, and the ground purses took both bags from me and escorted me to the plane, straight to my seat! (which was a very good thing because my arms were ready to pry loose from their sockets!) so there….i need a kura!

    ros, how do you check for lead content?

    Apr 9, 2011 | 11:08 am

  31. millet says:

    love all your finds, MM! can’t wait to see how you’ll use them in your posts!

    Apr 9, 2011 | 11:27 am

  32. Clarissa says:

    i’ve always wondered when i’ll start buying plates for my blog. Not everything looks good in glass or our regular plates :P but first, i’m thinking of going for a set of all white one :)

    Apr 9, 2011 | 11:28 am

  33. kikas_head says:

    Re: leaving unwanted items outside, we used to do it in San Francisco where there is a general rule anything outside on the curb is for taking. In college, this is how many of us furnished our places. We do it here also, and despite living in a village, the items are always taken almost instantly (although they are usually admittedly smaller items, i.e., shoes in good condition, appliances that have broken that we cannot/will not fix such as VCR’s).

    Apr 9, 2011 | 1:16 pm

  34. ka_fredo says:

    Nice loot!
    I usually sort out my hand me downs and old but still useable stuff and pass them on to the Garbage collectors. I give out a couple of good but tight shoes and clothes almost yearly.

    Apr 9, 2011 | 2:51 pm

  35. mariz says:

    MM, I enjoy reading your blogs, first time to comment. If ever you come back to Cebu, take time out to visit this ukay-ukay shop in talamban. It is located on the left side of the road. going to Sacred Heart School for Boys. You won’t miss it. It has all things Japanese and more.
    More power.

    Apr 10, 2011 | 11:14 am

  36. ros says:

    Usually an “oroshigane” (made of metal or shark skin) is used to prepare wasabi or ginger for it produces a finer grate. A suribachi mainly functions as a mortar, couple with a wooden (to minimize wear on the ceramic grooves) pestle. And is mainly used to process starchy stuffs (soybeans, sesame seeds, rice-products, yams, etc.), like “natto” as seen on this video:


    … but hey if the grooves are still in top shape and of the right size, I see no prob using it to extract loads of ginger juice quickly, specially if you have tons of seafood to flavor. :)

    Apr 10, 2011 | 3:42 pm

  37. ami says:

    If you happen to go to Tsukiji Market in Tokyo, there is a small store selling ceramic plates and bowls of all shapes and sizes. It’s beside a small bridge going to the tuna auction building. I wasn’t sure how to bring home such delicate pieces but I couldn’t resist because they were very beautiful.

    Apr 10, 2011 | 4:31 pm

  38. giancarlo says:

    Wow, have to find this store. Thanks for the heads up.

    Apr 11, 2011 | 9:07 am

  39. Peach says:

    I’ve been to a Japan surplus store in Paranaque and it was chocful of dinnerware and ceramic stuff! I scored a vintage Nasco Lakeview teacup which cost me Php45! :) Oh MM, couldn’t help but smile when you mentioned “Shoemart” :-) Haven’t encountered that pre- SM Super Malls name for quite some time. It brought back memories of their branch in Cubao where we used to buy school shoes. Hahaha.

    Apr 11, 2011 | 10:25 am

  40. Marketman says:

    Peach, hahaha, I remember buying my school shoes there and watching to see if any of the salespeople ever got hit by the shoeboxes that were dropped from a hole in the ceiling from the stockrooms above! And yes, it is more Shoemart to me than SM. ros, thanks for that, I learn something every single day… mariz, thanks for that tip on the Talamban shop… will have to keep my eye out for it…

    Apr 11, 2011 | 3:04 pm

  41. Cherrie Pinpin says:

    Excellent find! Can I mug you for the red bowl, but I think several folk here are after it too. I was in Centris 2 weeks ago and found a lady selling ceramics from Japan, these looked like leftovers, house cleaning tossed stuff because some were obviously old or had been much loved and chipped. I managed to find 2 tiny 1-cup tea pots and a small bowl with a translucent teal glaze. Now to photograph them.

    Apr 11, 2011 | 8:14 pm

  42. mbw says:

    I also had chanced upon a small ukay-ukay of Japanese bowls in Calapan city in Oriental Mindoro! For P100, I was able to buy 3(!) nice glazed bowls! I was the only person there looking and looking and actually gushing hahaha! at the craftsmanship. :-)

    Apr 12, 2011 | 7:22 pm

  43. Flying Fish says:

    16 ceramic pieces for $22 is unreal! They look awesome grouped together.

    Apr 12, 2011 | 11:45 pm

  44. millet says:

    Peach and MM, re: Shoemart…in my family, only my sister calls SM by its full name to this day, and when she does, the kids go, “What?” .. come to think of it, aside from the boxes dropping from the hole in the ceiling, i miss the girl with the microphone calling out the shoe sizes, models and colors to the stockroom guys on the other side of the ceiling…43553 Brown 5 1/2, 52626 Tan 8, etc., etc. those women were walking inventories!

    Apr 14, 2011 | 1:24 pm

  45. patricia pastelero says:

    oh my! thanks for the tip. I’m always looking for new vessels for floral arrangements and additions to my little dessert plate collection :)

    May 12, 2011 | 2:16 pm

  46. Sergio says:

    You have such fine taste (pun intended) in ceramics! What a great idea to showcase these fine pieces other than their main use, thanks for sharing. And like the cliche goes, great treasures may be found just around the corner. Congrats!

    May 25, 2011 | 11:32 am

  47. esplie says:

    can you be my supplier of these things, please send me your address and contact number. thank you

    Mar 3, 2013 | 7:27 am


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