The Church Bazaar


Every church in Tokyo has a bazaar. In October, I was invited to attend three in one weekend. I had plans already for that weekend, so I couldn’t attend any of the three, but I didn’t think I was missing anything new.

Act 1: The beginning of November

Preparations were on for the Big Day (Nov. 19). I agreed to help set up on the Saturday before, since I wasn’t able to make anything for the bazaar. Too late, I found out there was also a collection area set aside for rice. The women of the congregation would be making lunch the day of the bazaar, and they asked for people to bring in donations. Oops, that announcement had too much new Japanese in it.

Act 2: Saturday: The Day Before

I walked into a completely transformed fellowship area. The tables were piled high with stuff. Stuff. There was a table for dishes and kitchenware. An area for shoes, purses, knicknacks, jewelry. My job was to put prices on shoes: 100 ~ 300 yen (about 75 cents ~ $2.50). It took me a moment to realize the shoes were lined up under a pew. Hmmm … that isn’t usually in the fellowship area … oh … I looked past the shoes into the sanctuary, which seemed to be missing half the pews. The clothes were in the back of the sanctuary, on the pulpit side, and the baked goods table was set up on the lectern side. The pews were pushed close to the front, and still ready to be used on Sunday morning for church. This bazaar was turning out to be nothing like I expected.

Act 3: The Big Day

Sunday: bazaar time. I must admit worship was a bit crowded on Sunday morning. Not because we had so many extra people, but because we were all crowded into half as many pews (not such a hardship considering usually 2-3 people share one pew on any other Sunday!). After worship, I was assigned to the hot drinks/soup table. It was cold and rainy outside, so we expected a crowd. The table was set up under the big windows facing the front door of the building. About 20 minutes before we opened, I looked out the window and saw a line. Yes, a line. Of people. Waiting to get in. I grabbed the only other American in the place and bombarded her with stunned silence. She’s lived in Japan for about 20 years, so she laughed at me. Church bazaars are about the only place to find second-hand goods, she explained. You might see a resale clothing store in Tokyo, but not very often. And prices in Tokyo are very expensive. Church bazaars are the way to go when looking for bargains. Wow. Who knew?


In Tokyo, a bazaar is a rummage sale with a side dish of rice. I was able to buy my fair share of things at the bazaar: a few new dishes and a video in Japanese and English for my students. I even managed to buy some cookies (it was the very last pack!). The baked goods didn’t surprise me. They sold out within the first hour, or possible even less. I understand how exciting this time is … I am already looking forward to next year’s bazaar season!