There are three main markets in Kyoto, and they’re special for a very good reason. Kyoto is said to be the most traditional city in Japan, after being the imperial capital for more than 1,000 years. As such, it was the home to many craftsman in pottery, textile, lacquerware, and many other handicrafts.
What’s more, Kyoto also has famous art universities: Seika, Saga, and Kyoto University of Art and Design. So, as you can guess, there are many artists living in the city and surrounding areas. For that reason, one of the places these guys make a living nowadays is at markets – which I love so much. Let me introduce to you the three main monthly markets in Kyoto: Tezukuri-Ichi, Toji Flea Market, and Kitano Tenmangu Shrine’s Flea Market.
Tezukuri-Ichi Market is a cool handicrafts market held in a cool location – Chionji Temple, a step away from the Hyakuman-ben junction near Kyoto University’s main campus. The temple’s yard is pretty wide, and there are a many booths selling a variety of crafts: pottery, dolls, wood-carved items, jewelry, and more. There are also a few stands for baked goods as well as coffee stalls.
Overall this handicraft market is a great place to sense some authentic Japanese art (though some crafts seem kind of Western or Westernized). You can shop for some unique souvenirs and grab something small to eat and drink. If you feel like having a decent lunch at a restaurant, you can find what’s vegan around there in the Kyoto University Vegan Restaurants Guides number 1 and number 2.
The market is held on the 15th of every month, from early morning to around 14:00. If you get there too late, some of the stalls might be closed, so it’s best to go first thing in the morning.
Toji Flea Market
Just like the previous (and next) market, this one is also held on temple grounds. Although located in the Hachijo exit of Kyoto Station, this market makes the sleepy neighborhood around it so vivid for a day. Unlike in other markets in the world, nobody plays loud music here, and you get to enjoy the sound of the flute from the flute stall. If you listen carefully at the right time, you might also hear the Buddhist prayers from the northern hall.
Toji market is a monthly second-hand market. There are hundreds of stalls spread around, and in between them you might notice the Toji pagoda standing tall and impressive in the background.
There are many Japanese second-hand goods: sculptures, kimonos, ceramics, housewares, toys, Japanese art objects, working tools… I can go on forever. Let’s just say it’s very varied. Not all the stalls are second-hand though. There are first-hand goods, local artists, food, drinks (I had an incredibly delicious amazake!), and even plants. Depending on your speed, it might take you one or two hours to see it all.
Many people (especially locals) come to this market, though it’s not too crowded. There are many strange looking items, so you can try your luck and ask the stall-owner what it is. For example, I found some board game that I had never seen before. It wasn’t go (a Chinese traditional board game which is common in Japan), but some other Chinese board game. If anyone knows, you’re more than welcome to explain in the comments!
If you’re looking for an authentic souvenir for someone/yourself or are hunting for traditional Japanese decoration items, crafts, art, or just a unique experience in Kyoto, this place is just for you.
Open from 8:00-16:00 (but many stalls close by 14:00, so better get there early),every month on the 21st.
Kitano Tenmangu Shrine’s Flea Market
Most definitely the best and largest of markets in Kyoto. It has hundreds of stands, starting from a food section (which alone contains about 50 booths) and continuing with stands for local artists, plants, and, of course, A LOT of second-hand goods. This is the biggest market out of the three.
It’s actually easier to mention what you can’t find there, since this market really has everything you can think of: Japanese clothing (kimonos and yukatas), Hina dolls, accessories, decorations, coins, toys, houseware, working tools, Buddhist objects, fabrics, lamps and many other peculiar objects. The most bizarre item was a helicopter’s rotor blade (full size). Also, an interesting historical object I saw was a vintage kakigori (shaved ice) machine.
When it’s hot, you can chill with kakigori (made by a modern machine). In winter you can enjoy yakiimo (roasted sweet potato). If you feel like eating something sweet there’s also a warabi mochi stand every now and then. Strolling in this market can take up to 3 hours if you want to see all the booths.
Besides the market, you can also visit Kitano Tenmangu temple itself. It’s not among the most touristic places in Kyoto, and so it provides a somewhat unique experience. It is famous for its plum blossoms in late February and early March.
If you feel like a market-strolling day, this market is highly recommended. You can also drop by on your way to the Golden Pavilion if you have the time.
Like the previous two markets, this market is also held monthly on the 25th of every month. It’s getting quite crowded so better get there early, though you can enjoy the stands until around 15:00.
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