Pass the Baton: Third machiya townhouse ’recycle store’ opens, in Kyoto

 Pass the Baton’s third boutique in the historic Gion district of Kyoto
(Image credit: Baton, Gion, Kyoto)

With the opening of Pass the Baton’s third boutique in the historic Gion district of Kyoto, the eclectic second-hand shop has taken its fantasy world a step further from the two locations in Tokyo, by adding a small cafe-cum-bar to the fun and slightly provocative retail space. Collaborative products created with some of Kyoto’s most prominent craft companies – such as mall corsages made of Nishijin silk fabrics from Hosoo, or nicely patinaed copper tea canisters from Kaikado – have also been added to the retail mix.

Charismatic retail guru Masamichi Toyama (CEO of Smiles Co. Ltd, and the brainchild behind the Soup Stock Tokyo chain of healthy soup cafes and fashion brand Giraffe) opened the first Pass the Baton in 2009 in Tokyo’s Marunouchi as a way for celebrities and Tokyoites to resell fashion items and other prized possessions at a price higher than offered at most regular ’recycle shops’, as Japan’s charity and second-hand shops are commonly known. Most items even come with a small tag that notes the previous owner and the story behind the product, both to coax customers into buying the piece and to differentiate Pass the Baton from regular ’vintage’ stores.

As with the two Tokyo outlets, the interior of the Gion shop has been designed by WonderWall’s Masamichi Katayama, who has treated the small, listed machiya townhouse with a cornucopia of textures (including reclaimed wooden floors in the cafe area and shiny white tiles in the retail areas) and fittings (special made paper lanterns, and antique Japanese chest-of-drawers and shelves built into the walls) – all nicely contrasting with the house’s traditional fittings (paper sliding screens, tatami flooring and earthen walls) deemed too good to change.

From the outside, the shop looks like many of the pleasant restaurants and cafes lining the Shirakawa River, but stepping inside is like falling down a rabbit hole, into Toyama’s wonderland of carefully curated, recycled wares.

Latterns are hanged on the ceiling

Traditional lanterns sit alongside other recycled items, with the pretty Shirakawa River as a backdrop

(Image credit: Baton, Gion, Kyoto)

It is the shop for various things

The retail space features an eclectic mix of jewellery, vintage European clothing, handcrafted wooden utensils and other pieces

(Image credit: Baton, Gion, Kyoto)

Cloth bags is for sale

Modern materials such as mirrored glass and stainless steel complement the stark wood of the original machiya structure

(Image credit: Baton, Gion, Kyoto)

Customers seating area

The old townhouse has been aesthetically reimagined, to balance its new multifunctional remit as cafe, retail space and tea room

(Image credit: Baton, Gion, Kyoto)

Dresses are hanged on showcases

Pass the Baton lives up to its name by encouraging guests and customers to bring something of their own to leave in the shop

(Image credit: Baton, Gion, Kyoto)

Two birds on the lantern

Playful, thrifty pieces sit alongside minimalist tea canisters and chopstick holders

(Image credit: Baton, Gion, Kyoto)

Glass has been beautifully decorated

The townhouse features decorative murals painted over walls, floors and furniture alike, blurring the divide between the old and the new

(Image credit: Baton, Gion, Kyoto)

Wooden exterior views

The wooden exterior remains largely unchanged, showcasing the historical townhouse’s aesthetic

(Image credit: Baton, Gion, Kyoto)

Customers to be seated

The minimalist alcoves filled with vintage trinkets mirror Kyoto’s history of pairing tradition and innovation

(Image credit: Baton, Gion, Kyoto)

Different arrangement of interiors

The clean lines of the uncluttered seating areas nod towards traditional Japanese hospitality

(Image credit: Baton, Gion, Kyoto)

Lanterns on the ceiling

Japanese lanterns adorn the ceiling, adding to the traditional vibe – an approach dissimilar to other ’recycle stores’

(Image credit: Baton, Gion, Kyoto)


For more information, visit Pass the Baton


Pass the Baton Kyoto Gion
77-6, 103-2 Sueyoshicho


Originally from Denmark, Jens H. Jensen has been calling Japan his home for almost two decades. Since 2014 he has worked with Wallpaper* as the Japan Editor. His main interests are architecture, crafts and design. Besides writing and editing, he consults numerous business in Japan and beyond and designs and build retail, residential and moving (read: vans) interiors.