Thursday, April 3, 2008

Flea Market

Years ago my Grandpa Henry loved to visit the flea market. He would spend his Saturday mornings combing the various stalls looking for junk. He did this because as we all know; one man’s junk is another man’s treasure. I was always impressed with his dedication, and I loved to see the latest treasures, but I really never saw the draw of the flea market. Now, however, I am hooked.

A couple Fridays ago we went to the largest flea market in Kyoto. Inside, outside and all around Toji Temple were booths selling anything and everything one could always want but never need. We were there to see what bargains we could find.

We each had our own little mental shopping list of things that we were on the lookout for. Jenny was hunting for a beautiful obi belt to go with her kimono. I was attempting to find a kimono that would fit my tall frame and consist of an interesting pattern. Logan as always was on the look out for toys and candy. We were hoping that we might be able to find interesting and affordable items that would facilitate positive memories of our time in Japan.

We hoped that if we made it to the market early enough in the morning we would escape the crowds and manage to see the best items before they sold. Apparently the crowd had the same idea. We were a bit later than we had expected to be, but it was only just turning to late morning. The sidewalk leading to the temple was filled with tables and booths all selling various wares. There were many of the usual food vendors that were selling the usual festival foods. There were some new foods this time too. We found a booth selling udon noodles and another selling bowls of ramen soup. There were many foods that I could not identify. People were selling spices, seaweeds, dried fish, and all sorts of interesting ingredients.

We continued along the sidewalk and eventually entered the grounds of the temple itself. The area inside the temple was filled with people. There were customers and vendors everywhere the eye could see. This was obviously the place to be. We took our time strolling around looking at all the things that were laid out for consuming. Many of the booths were selling things that bordered on antiques. There were antique pottery, antique cooking ware, antique kimonos, antique scrolls, and even a few antique swords. This was the place to be if you were looking for a bit of historic Japan.

After stopping to eat a small lunch of onigiri that we bought before we left Omi- hachiman we set off to look in earnest for our treasures. Wandering through the densely packed market was difficult at best. It actually became very hard to find our way through the lanes of traffic and looking at things buried in the piles was nearly impossible. We did manage to find some fun things that we were looking for. The sad thing in making the purchases we were unable to do something that is quite common at open-air markets around the world.

As much as we wanted to we could not haggle over the price of objects. Haggling is just not something that is done in Japan. It can be attempted but it is done at your own risk. Often if you try and offer a lower price to the seller they will take it as an affront and refuse to deal with you. Some will, but most have set their prices low and wont haggle. Not that we would have much luck attempting it with our limited knowledge of Japanese. Even without haggling we managed to get Jenny a nice obi that she was pleased with, and I found a kimono that struck me as quite handsome. Logan would have to wait to find a toy, but he was able to eat some candy. It just happened to be the kind that we brought from home.

We wandered the maze of a flea market for most of the morning and early afternoon. We had intended on visiting a different temple in Kyoto later in the afternoon, but our flea market adventure stretched so long we were not able to bus across town before it closed. San-Ju-San Temple would have to wait for another day. We did take sometime to check out some of the temple area at Toji though. There was a beautiful little pond that stretched before a towering pagoda where we sat and watched the fish and turtles swim.

We walked around some more after we took our little break. It was amazing to see so many beautiful things packed into such a small area. There were lots of handmade crafts that were stunning to behold. So much care and attention to detail for hand made items. Whether it was pottery or clothing all were crafted with care. Treasures to some, junk to others. It was amazing to behold and here we were in the middle of it all. All of it junk and being in the midst of it is our treasure.

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