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Tea Leaves

Japan's flea markets offer more treasure than trash

Unassuming secondhand stalls are ready for their breakthrough moment

In one shop’s hodgepodge display of merchandise that spills onto the sidewalk, a plush creature lounges among dishes and old-movie DVDs. (Photo by Edward M. Gomez)

Somewhere between the housekeeping ethos of Miss Havisham, a reclusive character in Charles Dickens' Victorian novel "Great Expectations" who lived among clutter in a crumbling mansion, and that of today's superstar home organizer Marie Kondo, who advises keeping only those possessions that "spark joy," lies another approach to homemaking and owning things.

With an emphasis on mending clothes and repairing broken toys instead of throwing them away, and on recycling and buying only what a household really needs, this other outlook is not new. Now, though, in the face of planetwide pollution and consumerism's harm, it has never felt more timely -- or more virtuous.

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