Wednesday, December 21, 2005


As a veteran scavenger I love fleamarkets, and today we visited one of the best fleamarkets in the world, the one held on the 21st of every month at Toji temple in southwest Kyoto, that stands beside what was once site of the famous Rashomon. (Another of the world's best fleamarkets is the one held on the 25th of each month at Kitano temple.)

I haven't been to Toji since we moved from Kyoto, and what a wonderful madhouse it still is. Since we had other errands to do in Kyoto, we went by car, which is not a good idea if you want to find parking within several kilometers of Toji at the same time as most of the population (when we lived in Kyoto, we went everywhere by bicycle).

We drove around for quite a while until we got smart and got in line at a nearby parking lot, then had 2 hours to wander among the stalls that were selling antiques and (make a list of every thing you can think of other than appliances and vehicles): among the many other things, full-grown trees, huge garden rocks and bonsai. Old saxophone? Hot dog? Used kimono? Coffee-coated almonds? Seven spice mix? Hair nets? Woodblock prints? Bronze dragons? Amber? Jade? Old coins? Massage? Palmistry? Edo toys? Tools?

The arrangement is now very different in nature from way I remember it back in the 80s-90s, when most of the sellers offered their goods on cloths on the ground. Now many more have fancy setups. And back then it was almost all Japanese antiques, both high and low, amidst sundry goods and cheap clothing, in addition to a lot of very appealing junk in which there were good scavenger "finds."

Foreign items were few. Now there are goods from all over Asia, cheap imitation Chinese antiques and the like. Still, if you're looking for some old oriental item you had no idea you loved so much, this is the place to go. So if you're coming to Kyoto, see if you can include the 21st and the 25th in your time frame: great experiences and a great education that you don't have to spend a yen to enjoy, unless you're all too human.


Alfred said...

Fully three-quarters of my apartment in San Francisco is furnished with Toji or Tenmanguu finds. How fun it was to live just down the street a bit from Toji for two years...

Robert Brady said...

I kept my hands in my backpockets and I STILL bought stuff.