Every month on the 25th, the big flea market at Kitano Tenman-gu shrine takes place. As I wanted to look for something particular, and the weather was just perfect today, I went there in the morning.
Kitano Tenman-gu’s market is a typical flea market. From the first torii gate back to the shrine buildings there are food stalls, toys and games for kids, and also newly made handicraft. You can also buy fruits and veggies there, and one part is dedicated to flowers, plants, bushes – and bonsai. In the eastern part of the grounds, however, there is the “real” flea market, where people sell things second hand. You can buy anything from porcelain to brass ornaments, from pipes to watches, from swords to WW II memorabilia, from hand painted scrolls to jewellery.
And kimono. Hundreds, if not thousands of them. There is a huge variety for both women and men, starting from the most basic, unlined summer yukata to the very elaborately embroidered wedding kimono. Many of the stalls have a fixed price of 1000 YEN per piece, but some special kimono can be more expensive. Other stalls sell the necessary accessories, like sandals and socks, and it should be possible to buy a full summer outfit for less than 10.000 YEN. Of course, whether the fashion conscious Japanese can tell that you are wearing a possibly out of fashion kimono, I do not know…
Anyway, I went to the flea market to buy a soroban for my class. Most of the ones I saw however, were the old, pre WW II ones, with five ichi-dama at the bottom instead of the modern four. While they are beautiful, made of heavy wood and often in very good condition, I wanted to buy one I can actually use. And, wouldn’t you believe it – I got very lucky indeed as I spotted a current model with 27 rods for only 500 YEN – about one tenth of the price of a new one! It still bears the name of the previous owner, but that’s not a problem, as it has to be cleaned anyway… I am very happy about my purchase.
Kitano Tenman-gu’s flea market is probably the biggest one in Kyoto, but there are many others at shrines and temples throughout the city and throughout each month. The dates are fixed, rain or shine, and most are from early in the morning to late afternoon at 4 or 5 pm. Here is an incomplete list of the Kyoto flea markets I know:
1st: To-ji temple
8th: Toyokuni shrine
15th: Chion-ji temple
21st: To-ji temple
22st: Kamigamo shrine
25th: Kitano Tenman-gu