Japan Summer 2018 Trip

I headed back to Japan this summer for work but was also able to take some time off for myself. I flew into Narita airport on late Friday evening and saw some large Seiko advertising as I passed through the terminal. It was a rainy evening and I headed directly to the hotel and turned in for the night.

On the Saturday morning I headed across to Sunshine City in Ikebukuro to visit the FMWV (Free Market Watch Vintage) market. This is a meeting of local watch dealers and collectors that is held every couple of weeks in Tokyo, Hiroshima and Kobe. This is always an interesting meet up with a wide range of pieces offered for sale. At the meeting I saw a couple of examples of the Seiko 6159-7000 Hi-Beat diver, one with a count up and the other with a countdown bezel. These were both priced at ¥640,000 and while not cheap was in line with current market price. Another interesting piece shown was an Electric 300 model, this was the first electronic watch model from Daini Seikosha.

There was an example of the first automatic Seiko that was presented in the original box. This was the first time that I had seen this box and it is unique to this model.

While there were a number of interesting pieces for sale the only thing that I ended up purchasing was an original Seiko Chocolate Bar strap. This was a clean example and something I had been looking out for a while. The strap was originally provided on the JDM releases of the 6159-7000 and 6105-8110. Some more details on the strap can be found here - Second Seiko Dive Strap - Chocolate Bar.

After leaving the FMWV I visited the Hard Off and Mode Off stores in Kichijoji. There were a large selection watches on sale with a mix of domestic and imported models. These included a couple of interesting Orient models but unfortunately there were not any items that I decided to purchase.

I then headed to the Knot Watches Kichijoji Gallery Shop. This store sells Japanese made watches and a range of straps utilizing a range of traditional Japanese handicrafts.

While at the store I purchased a couple of different straps, one utilized Makita Shoten material that is a traditional Japanese umbrella component. The second strap was a blue braided Silk-Kumihimo strap from the Kyoto region. More detail about from the Knot store can be found in my separate write up here - Maker's Watch Knot Store - Tokyo

After the visit to the Knot watch store I travelled to Shibuya and visited Kusumoto and the Hard Off store but unfortunately there were no items that took my fancy at either location. I then dropped by the Housekihiroba store. The store has a massive selection of watches available with many Japanese models as well as international models. Again while there were quite a few nice models there was nothing that I decided to purchase.

On the Sunday morning I visited the flea market at the Ohi Racecourse. The weather was so hot that most vendors did not turn up so there were very few people at the market. After a short visit to the market I headed to the Ginza region and visited WAKO and the Seiko Premium Boutique. At the boutique I tried on the SBGW235 Grand Seiko with a manual winding 9S64 movement. This was a very nice model and I really liked the beads of rice inspired bracelet.

After visiting the Seiko Boutique I walked back one block to the Ginza Six building and visited the Citizen Flagship store. This store shows models from not just Citizen but also the other different Citizen owned brands such as Alpina, Bulova and Frederique Constant. I have done a write up of my visit in a separate post that can be seen here - Citizen Flagship Store - Tokyo

Before leaving Ginza I stopped by Lemon. This is a store that sells watches on consignment along with second hand cameras and lenses as well as some pens and model railway items. The store has a number of items that constantly change so you never really know what will turn up. I picked up a cream Pipin perpetual calendar diver model the SBCM011 (8F35-0030) from 1999 that appeared to be nearly NOS.

I next visited the cube stores at the Akihabara Electric Town. There are a large number of small glass cubes that are rented by individuals and these are then stocked with a wide range of different small products.

Many of the cubes contain watches and the contents of the cubes can contain a very wide range of items so are always worth checking out. In one of the cubes I noticed a Seiko NAA010 (7431-6070) Marine Jacket. This is a very unusual model from 1984 that was only produced for a short period of time. The watch is a relatively small dress model that can be worn on a single piece strap. The watch can be removed from the strap and then placed into a large plastic case that screws down over the dress watch. This provides at least 100m water resistance as indicated by the dual wave symbol inside the case. Other than providing increased water resistance the large external case does not provide any additional functionality like a rotating bezel. It is not surprising that this model was not produced for very long and is now rarely seen. It was this unusual design that appealed to me and was why I added this to my collection.

I then headed back to my hotel and travelled south to where I would be working for the majority of the week.

On the Friday morning I headed to the Seiko Museum in Sumida. I arrived a little earlier than my meeting so was heading to a local restaurant when I met with my friend from the museum as well as the new museum Director Hitoshi Murakami. Murakami-san was previously the President of Seiko Instruments Inc., has also headed up WAKO, he was the COO of Seiko Watch Corporation, Executive Director of Seiko Holdings Corporation and Director of Seiko Time Systems, Inc. We had a very nice lunch at a local steak restaurant and enjoyed discussing some of the history of Seiko. After lunch I headed back to the museum and did some research into the Neuchatel competition as well as diver straps and a range of other topics. I spent the remainder of the day at the museum but before leaving I donated the Seiko Chocolate Bar strap that I had picked up at the FMWV the week earlier to display on the 6159-7000 as well as a XBA660 bracelet for a King Seiko VANAC 5626-723A.

After leaving the museum I travelled back to Shinjuku and visited the Komehyo store. This store has a wide selection of second hand watches from general Seiko models to Grand Seiko and Credor as well as many international brands. There were a number of interesting pieces on offer but I did not find anything that I needed to add to my collection.

On Saturday I started out at the Tokyo flea market and then spent most of the day inside at various shopping centres to avoid the extreme heat that was around 40 degrees. Unfortunately it was just too hot and humid to be travelling around the city.

Sunday morning I headed back to the Tokyo flea market at Ohi Racecourse. Again the weather was extremely hot and there was a reduced number of sellers. There was nothing exciting that caught my eye at the market.

At the market I met up with fellow watch enthusiast and Tokyo local Bjorn. After checking out the market we then headed to the Tokyo International Forum where another flea market was being held. This market has a higher percentage of dedicated antique dealers but also contains a number of individual sellers. There was no specific items at the market that I ended up purchasing but it is always interesting to see what is on offer.

After the market at the forum we headed to the nearby JWTG (Japanese Watch Traders Guild) event. This is a collection of vintage watch resellers and there was a wide range of Japanese and European watches on sale. These events are held much less regularly compared to the FMWV events and there is some cross over between the vendors. A schedule for the events can be found at JWTG Watch Show Japan Watch Traders Guild

There were a lot of watches on offer as always and some very nice pieces offered for sale. Despite the number of pieces on offer I only purchased a slim gold plated 2220-0180 in nice condition for just a few dollars. The dial has a clean linen pattern and a simple two handed design. I also picked up a number of high quality leather straps that will be used on a range of watches.

After the JWTG I dropped by Lemon Ginza store to see if they had any new items but there were no new items of interest. During my trip back to my hotel I was at the front of the train and noted the driver utilizing a 7C21 pocket watch. It is nice to still see these pieces in daily operation.

On Monday I headed south to Nagoya to get out of Tokyo and the weather here was just as oppressive if not even a little worse. The country was being gripped in a heatwave at the time so there were no parts of the country that was escaping these conditions. Once in Nagoya I stopped by a vintage book reseller to see if they had any watch books. I was in luck and found that they had a number of vintage Citizen News issues from the mid to late 1960’s as well as some issues of an internal Citizen employee magazine that dated from the early to mid-1990’s. There was a Citizen X8 Cosmotron brochure as well as a Citizen dealer pocket guide from 1977 with technology details and information on the product line up. There was also a technology guide for Parawater, the Citizen waterproof technology, from around 1960 along with a couple of lineup charts with model pricing from the same period.

In addition to the Citizen publications I also picked up a few Seiko items. These included a brochure from around 1965 designed for foreign customers printed with English text and another smaller Japanese brochure from around the same time period. I also found a 1968 parts catalog for waterproof models that lists components like crystal and crown model numbers. There was also a brochure for the 38QTC and 38QTW models, along with an extensive 32 page sales brochure and a 15 page technology guide, all from the calibers introduction in June 1972. Finally I also picked up three issues of The Horological International Correspondence magazine with articles relating to Seiko and Citizen.

I also stopped by the Nagoya BookOff store where I have found a number of interesting pieces over the years. Unfortunately this time there was no unique piece so I left empty handed. I then walked a few blocks to the Komehyo store that is not too far away. This store has a mixture of both new and second hand items. As usual there was a number of nice second hand items for sale and I did not end up buying anything, but looking back on this I should have purchased the Credor GCBZ999 GMT that was on sale.

After leaving the Komehyo store I walked across the road to a small arcade that has a vintage watch store at the end. This store has an amazing number of items and a fantastic display of old watch point of sale promotional items. I did not purchase any items here either but I was tempted by a NOS Orient Calculator model.

The weather on Tuesday continued to be oppressively hot with an estimated top of 43 degrees for the day. This was just too hot to stay in the city and hunt for watches so I decided to head up into the mountains to try and stay a little cooler. I had previously travelled this train line when I was visiting the Seiko factory in Suwa so I knew that there were a number of small towns along the line in a nice river and mountain region. I boarded the train to Nagoya and decided to get off when I saw a quite area. I left the train at Nojiri and walked down to the Kiso River, at this point there was a trail up into the mountain along the Atera Valley. I hiked a few kilometres into the mountain travelling alongside the Atera River and stopped to have some lunch. The weather was still in the mid to high 30’s so I had a quick swim in the river while sporting my MM300.

The water was clean, crystal clear and quite cold. This made a refreshing break and it was nice to be able to see some beautiful countryside at the same time. If you are ever looking for a quick day trip outside of Nagoya then I can definitely recommend the Atera Valley or the nearby Kakizore Gorge if you want to see some beautiful countryside. I headed back to Nagoya in the late afternoon but it was still extremely hot even at night time.

On Wednesday the heat continued so I only spent a couple of hours checking out a BookOff Plus+ and a Second Street store that is also from a chain of second hand stores. Neither of these locations had any treasures to be found. The driver on the train I caught again was using a Seiko pocket watch for his reference watch on the dashboard.

On Thursday I travelled to a southern suburb of Nagoya to visit a BookOff Super Bazar at Inaei, it took about 15 minutes on the Aonami line. This is a relatively large BookOff Super Bazar and they had many watches offered for sale. One Item that caught my eye was the reissued model of the King Seiko with a 4S movement from the 2000 Historical Collection. I had only just recently purchased an example of this watch so I passed on this one.

I did pick up a few entry level models that were on sale. These were a NOS Alba LCD model (Y786-5010) that was only a few dollars, a Seiko talking watch (A860-4001) and a simple Seiko diver (5H25-6000).

After leaving the BookOff I caught the shinkansen back to Tokyo. When in Tokyo I stopped by the Maruzen Nihombashi bookstore. Here I picked up the latest issue (#13) of Low BEAT magazine that had an extensive article on military watches including a large section on Japanese models. I think that Low BEAT is one of the most interesting watch magazines available today as it contains detailed and well researched articles on a wide variety of topics instead of just the rehashed press releases and company advertisements found in many other publications.

The high temperatures continued on Friday so I headed back to the Seiko Museum. Here I spent the day viewing international product catalogs and old reference materials from the 1960’s and 70’s. It was an enjoyable way to spend a day out of the heat and as always nice to catch up with the staff there.

I headed to the Tokyo flea market at the Ohi Racecourse on Saturday morning to see what might turn up. There were numerous sellers with a range of watches but the only item I ended up purchasing was a Seiko 0842-8000 quartz model from 1975. This was in great condition with a nice textured dial, but unfortunately did not come with the original bracelet.

After leaving the flea market I headed across to Ikebukuro and visited the FMWV meeting. This meeting had been postponed till the middle of the day due to the excessive weather conditions. When I arrived the resellers were just beginning to arrive and they each brought various foods and drinks to share. They invited me to join them and I had a nice lunch and chatted with a number of the sellers. After lunch there was an auction of a few individual pieces as well as various watch bundles. These were a series of bags each containing around 20-30 watches from a common category. The bundles included groupings like early digital models, 70’s automatics, imported vintage models, modern quartz models etc. The only thing that took my fancy was an 89ST 1/10 second stopwatch, this sold for a reasonable price but as I already have an example in my collection I let this one pass.

After leaving the FMWV meeting I dropped by Mizutani in Ueno and checked out the watches on sale, unfortunately there was nothing that took my interest. That evening I caught up with fellow collector Bjorn and we spent a pleasant evening chatting about watches and looking at some examples from his extensive collection.

To change things up a little on Sunday morning I headed to a flea market that was being held outside the Tokyo Big Sight (Tokyo International Exhibition Center). This is a very distinctive building and where I have visited the Tokyo Motor Show in previous years. This flea market was quite small and there was nothing of interest to be found. I am not sure if the small turnout was due to the very hot weather or if it is always a small market.

After the market I headed across to Nakano Broadway and checked out the many cube and watch stores there. I saw many different watches and there were a good selection of models but nothing that I decided to purchase.

From Nakano I travelled the short distance back to Shinjuku where I was staying and visited the Yodobashi Camera dedicated watch store. Here I decided to get the recently released SBEP005 (S802-00A0) “digi-tuna”. This is a nice solar Prospex model that has a polymer shroud and light feel on the wrist.

While I was purchasing this watch I also spotted the SBGV247 Grand Seiko model that had recently been released to commemorate the 25th Anniversary of the 9F quartz movement. This watch has a nice new sporty feel with the supplied fabric strap and a rubber strap. The straps each have branded buckles and keepers and give the watch a relatively unique feel. The case has a nice zaratsu polished case with clean angles that is reminiscent of the Grand Seiko Hi-Beat diver model (obviously excluding the bezel) that were released around a year earlier. The 9F Anniversary model has a patterned dial that has the characters GS9F repeated horizontally across the face. One set of characters just to the left of the 5 o’clock markers states 9F25 to reference the Anniversary edition. Luckily with the very high temperature there were very few customers out shopping so the store offered me a great deal on this watch and I was able to add this to my collection.

I was provided a couple of gifts with my purchases, one was a Bluetooth Speaker with Astron branding and the other was a Prospex water bottle.

After leaving the Yodobashi store I went to the station and stopped by the Keio department store. I visited the Grand Seiko Master Shop where I picked up the latest GS9 magazine issue and viewed the newly released models before heading to the airport and travelling home.

This visit to Japan had the worst weather that I have experienced in the country with the weather in the mid 30’ to 40’s every day during my trip. During the trip Tokyo reached its highest ever temperature of 41 degrees within the city. Despite the oppressive weather I still had a great time and look forward to my next trip back to the country.

Note: Most of the locations that I have visited I have included in this Japan Watch Guide Map