Visiting Kyoto, Japan recently I was in search of hidden gems off the beaten path. I’m drawn to local markets to see interesting things from other cultures and help support local artisans. There is no better souvenir to bring home than something handmade or an antique treasure from another country. I thought flea markets in ancient Kyoto would be a fantastic treat because their culture is so different from mine and they have a long, long history in the arts… after all, Kyoto has existed since at least the 6th Century and was the capital of Japan for more than one thousand years. What a great idea this was!
|The above porcelain pendants were cut from pieces of ancient Japanese tableware.|
|Small denim and wool purses were handmade with decorative designs and leather straps.|
People watching at the market is a fantastic experience all by itself — I was wide eyed and giggling as I squeezed through the crowd at the Chion-ji Market wondering what I just walked into. The handmade creations include pottery, clothing and accessories, jewelry, decorations and sweets. Good luck charms and owl imagery are very popular in Japan and there was no shortage at this market!
|Handmade pottery with organic glazes is a specialty of many artisans of Kyoto.|
A quick primer for shopping at Japanese flea markets: Admission is free and markets are typically located at temples and shrines. Bargain hunting and negotiating is normal, you can even find used silk kimono for 500-1000¥ (or $5-$10). They are an incredibly creative community, very welcoming and friendly.
(click any market below for photos, hours, directions)
- 15th of each month: Chion-ji Hyakumanben: Kyoto’s biggest handicraft market; an absolutely amazing range of handmade things and great prices too. I didn’t see any antiques here, just handmade items.
- 21st of each month: To-ji Temple Flea Market (aka Kobo-san Market), the city’s largest and oldest flea market dates back nearly 700 years. They primarily sell antiques and vintage kimono. It is extremely popular so be sure to go early, especially if on a weekend or a national holiday.
- 25th of each month: Kitano-Kenman-gu Shrine Flea Market is one of Kyoto’s best flea markets, selling mostly clothing, kimono and edible treats.
- First Sunday of each month: Zuishinin-Komachi Tedukuri ichi is a handicraft market that is small yet bustling. This market also offers a chance to compare coffees and sweets. In spring the plum tree gardens on these grounds are in full bloom.
- Second Saturday of each month: Heian-raku-ichi market features handmade crafts, coffees and plants for sale.
- Mori no Tedukuri market is located in the woods of the beautiful and covered forest ‘Tadasu no Mori’. They offer food, handicrafts and live music. This market is held two or three times a year and lasts for two days.
- First Saturday of each month (except in January and May): Umekoji Park Tedukuri-ichi market sells handicrafts, breads and sweets.
- Fourth Sunday of each month: Kamigamo Tezukuri-ichi handicraft market has great crafts, foods and vegetables and is located next to a stream where kids can play and have fun.
- Mononoke ichi market is an unusual market which features original artwork and crafts relating to monsters or “Youkai”. They also have various sakes and ciders which you can try. Schedule is irregular so check their site for details.