Posted by: thewhitesintokyo | August 17, 2008

One man’s trash…is Brad & Rachael’s treasure!

Do you remember those highly-publicized instances when people have found a discarded piece of valuable art or an original copy of the Declaration of Independence in an unlikely place? Well, ours isn’t quite as valuable, but we did have a find of our own yesterday.

While walking around a wealthy neighborhood downtown with our friends Triston and Justyna, we stumbled upon some beautiful Japanese art that someone had thrown away in their garbage. So, yes, we took someone’s garbage (affectionately referred to as “gomi” by Triston).

For a few hours in 100+ degree heat and a bit of rain, we carried these handmade wooden paddles with Japanese characters made from fabric around Tokyo. We knew absolutely nothing about what we had found, except that they might look nice in our apartments. Strangely enough, everywhere we went, people would look at us, point, crack jokes or even laugh out loud. In general terms, we haven’t seen behavior like this at all in Tokyo, so we could tell we had found something at least mildly entertaining.

When we stopped to buy our new kimonos for a massive festival we’d attend later in the evening, we set the boards down in the shop and one of the store workers told us that what we had found was actually quite valuable, possibly worth thousands of dollars!!

Apparently, these paddles, called “hagoita,” were originally used in a game called “hanetsuki,” but have now evolved into an art form of their own. Our paddle is nearly three feet tall, so this is definitely a decorative hagoita, rather than one used for the badminton-like game of hanetsuki.

Here are a few links, two of which are particularly hilarious…

Some photos of common hagoita:

Two girls playing hanetsuki:

And a superb hagoita nerd, pitching his hagoitas on Ebay:

From what we’ve found online, ours is quite large for a hagoita, and most likely worth between $200 and $1,000. Not bad for some discarded trash eh?



  1. Keep up the dumpster diving…you may just get rich! Actually, Rachael, you don’t need to find a real job, you can just go through dumpsters and find treasures! Ya, right..I can just see you doing that. Congrats on your find. It is beautiful, plus you have a great memory on finding it and your first few days in Japan. Love you both!

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