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I have been a fan of flea markets since adulthood provided me with an income and desire to check them out.  I learned my way around them in New England, where their presence is a regular weekend activity in rural Mass.  The Mother of all Flea Markets is the Brimfield, Mass. extravaganza that can really test your “eye” and your endurance.  I regret it’s now too far away from home base for me to participate.

Flea Market Strategy

I don’t look for museum pieces, which I’d probably only recognize by the price tag, but often for quirky, playful or historic items that I’ll enjoy looking at or using.  I’ve always liked old textiles as long as they’re in decent un-smelly condition. Same goes for paper ephemera.  I start to sneeze /wheeze when close to anything that has mold spores.

Japan has its fair share of good markets.  There are two in Kyoto each month on the 21st and the 25th. Each is on the grounds of a temple or shrine, which always improves the experience. I try to make sure I’ll make at least one of the markets each time I visit Kyoto. They’re large, but not overwhelming.  There’s some junk, but the quality of the merchandise is decent and in many cases high.  My transactions with the dealers are limited to paying them and saying thank you.  Always thank you!

Yesterday was the Toji Temple Market. People watching at the market is fun here.  There’s a mix of lost looking tourists, savvy collectors, bored children, and looky -loos like me.  There’s always a head turning “freak” or two, exotically done up from head to toe including make up and hair , looking as if this occasion is the highlight of their year.


Yesterday threatened rain in the early afternoon, so I got a relatively early start.  All I can ask for in a market is laid out before me at the Toji Market.  Beautiful and seemingly rare  plants are in one section, alluring piles of old kimono in another, mounds of obis, some vintage indigo  textiles (usually futon covers)are displayed close by.  All of these are very reasonably priced.The majority of kimono are about$10.each! I am always intoxicated by their patterns and color combinations.

Japanese fast food cooked on the spot is always available and always tasty. If I need to break, I duck into one of the temple buildings for a respite.

the ever delicious octopus balls

Last year I came to this market with a Japanese friend of mine.  I decided that I would buy a haori (jacket worn over a kimono).  They’re as beautiful as many kimono.  When I told my friend, he looked shocked and shook his head at me.  “Too Japanese!” I was told in no uncertain terms. I got the message!

Toji Temple grounds

just the beginning of fall color.

After about 3 hours, I’d had enough.  Just as I was leaving, a plastic replica of a vanilla soft serve cone caught my eye.  It made my day and now sits slyly on my kitchen counter.It doesn’t drip.

Dianne Vapnek

In an attempt to slow life's quickening pace, I'm writing to share my personal perspective on the aging process, its dilemmas, the humorous self-deception, the insights and the adventure of it all. I spent the bulk of my time in beautiful Santa Barbara, CA, but manage to get to NYC a few times times a year. I've been a dancer/dance teacher and dance supporter almost all my life. For the past20years, I help create and produce a month-long creative residency in Santa Barbara for contemporary American choreographers and their dancers. It's been incredibly gratifying. This year, I decided it's time to retire! Big change. I also now spend several weeks a year in Kyoto Japan, residing for several weeks in the spring and the fall. I've been magnetically attracted to Japan for many years. Now I live out a dream to live there part-time.

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