Flea Market Thrills

As a born and bred New Englander, I come easily to the flea market bug.  The thrill of the hunt, the opportunity to learn a little history, and the satisfaction of a good deal, all join forces to raise my adrenalin and put me in high spirits.  There’s also some pleasure of imagining that there just might be a treasure  waiting for me to uncover at the next booth.  It’s what keeps me going usually far longer than common sense would dictate.

I  love a good flea market.  Kyoto scores highly in fulfilling that desire; there are at least two monthly shrine markets that always hit the mark.  Also, since the markets seem a bit exotic to the Western eye, it’s intriguing.  There are food vendors, plants, some temples or shrines to explore, lots of vintage textiles, some ceramics, some collectibles, some shmatas(look it up), some crafts, etc. etc.

Sunday was Tenjin San, always on the 25th of the month. It was oppressively hot, and with my somewhat impatient, but not yet balky, husband joining me, we moved through the aisles pretty quickly.  No spectacular finds, but still lots of goodies  to check out along the way.  There was even a performing monkey, which I found archaic and unpleasant, yet fascinating despite my disapproval.

Some of the hundreds, thousands? of vintage textiles for sale are staggering in their beauty.  Most are quite ordinary, if you can ever call a kimono ordinary, but when you hit a standout because of pattern and color, it’s like running into a sublime Monet or dazzling Kandinsky. Ok, I’m exaggerating just a bit, but you get my drift!  My mind always spins for a few minutes when I hit a patch of vintage kimono, but then I calm myself down and admire them for the moment, knowing  if I brought one home, I wouldn’t know what to do with it and would never have the heart to cut it up.  Rather than a source of pleasure, it could easily become an object triggering guilt that I’d put away on a high shelf.

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kimono pattern

IMG_4945A kid in a candy store.  All at just her height.

Boy lost in thought.

More textiles.

KImono sold by the bag full!
Pokemon’s friend
Autumn leaves and grape vine for autumn kimono

So, if you’re hanging out in Kyoto on the 21st or 25th of the month without much to do, get thee to a flea market for a day of discovery, and just plain fun.

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silk kimono sleeve

See You Later

It can be heaven for some or bordering on hell for others.  I learned how to shop at my mother’s knee. I know what I like and easily make decisions about items, their value and appropriateness for me.  No internal struggles.  “When in doubt, count it out,”I learned from Mom as well!  It’s never led me wrong.

By the way, please touch the towels. The colors are never better, the weave never softer, anywhere!

You can always fill the need to restore vitality in the restaurants in department stores

Shopping is seemingly ingrained in the Japanese pursuit of leisure.  You see young couples, teens , new mothers, and befuddled tourists all enjoying the pursuit. Each depato houses several restaurants so in case hunger strikes, that can be  easily satisfied without leaving the building.

show stoppers!

My pulse rate quickens when I walk into a sophisticated Japanese depato (department store). Welcome to fantasy land for anyone who likes to shop. This world exists to coddle, support and take away barriers that might make it difficult to separate you from your money.  The best in the business create displays guaranteed to make you stop, gaze and consider.

 

Salespeople here have learned how to hover discretely; there to help when needed, but almost never intrusive.  That’s a skill not see in the West too often.

I can be expected to make a pilgrimage to a favorite depato soon after arriving in Japan.  It just comes with the territory.  I must see what the treasures of the day await in the Exhibition Hall.  Often,  I discover a wonderful ceramic artist. I seek out special displays of Japanese made objects, often finding the artisans themselves at work in the store.

charming and clever window display.

Here, form=function and materials shine. Seasonal displays are always varied,fun and engaging. I must browse through the basement food floor, hungry or not, just to gaze at the art of the possible. Presentation of food is always taken to a new level of beautiful (if unnecessary) packaging and gastronomic allure.

Time and cares have a way of disappearing on these outings.  It’s escapism at its finest for those of us who appreciate such things.  For American spouses, not so much.

Depato shopping for me is usually best for me as a solitary pursuit, prefaced by an airy and indeterminate “See you later!”

Thirteen Reasons I’ll be Returning

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05/08/2013

A Day in My Life in Kyoto

Truth be told, I was not feeling well last week. Since I’m prone to upper respiratory infections,  I travel with a stash of medicine to help insure I recover more quickly when illness strikes.  I saw a local doctor who added to my pharmacological intake, and confirmed that my lungs were clear, although I had a cough bad enough to rouse the dead.  That said, my energy was drained.  I  tired quickly so most days were spent close to my bed so I could lay down as necessary.  The good news is, I’m about 85% better today. Although I was a bit apprehensive I decided it was Time to leave the nest and head out for a while. If I ran out of steam, I could taxi home.

We’ve had a splendid run of great weather.  Some of the cherry blossoms have already peaked but the season is still in full swing with later blooming varieties taking the stage.  There are too many tourists in town, still searching for blossoms, so I decided to stick to the streets and find my visual satisfaction elsewhere.

First stop was the new Issey Miyake flagship store that opened around the corner from our apartment.  Miyake meticulously  restored an old machiya (townhouse)and kura(storage house) as the perfect elegant background for his goods.

His clothing is not wearable in my opinion, but his innovative use of textiles has been revolutionary. His bold graphic raincoats designed in collaboration with a graphic artist in the kura are an art installation and that’s enough reason to visit..

In order not to exhaust myself,  I easily decided it was time for a matcha latté at a small café overlooking a Japanese garden.

Restored, my feet knew the way to one of my favorite stationery stores in the Teramachi arcade. Kyukyodo. For Y100 each, I selected a handful of postcards that captured the spirit of spring in Japan. Stuck up on my office wall with washi tape, they’ll be an easy throw back to time spent here.  IMG_0306

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I had one more must -see-again visit to make before I returned home and that was to Gallery Kei. I met Kei Kawasaki several years ago while on a tour.  She owns a small exquisitely curated gallery on Teramachi dori.  She specializes in Japanese textiles woven before cotton was available in Japan.  Old farmer’s jackets, fragments of old kimono, boro, mostly all indigo. A solitary peach tree was in full blossom in front of her gallery.

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Entering her realm is practically a spiritual experience.  My eye was drawn to a fragment of textile laying on top of a basket of fragments. The pattern is layered and quite unusual, Kei-san confirmed.  I wonder what the woman  who made this would think if she knew it was about to find a home thousands of miles away?IMG_0309 (1)

 

 

I’m here to Celebrate Spring

Is this what getting old is going to be about?  I had an all day/almost all night coughing jag yesterday that wore me and my poor husband out.  You’re going to have to do something about that, he told me grumpily.  No dah, I replied with irritation.

I stopped taking a prescribed cortisone inhaler today which I decided was triggering the coughing fits, so today I am coughing less.  But before I became too frisky, the pain from my hip bursitis turned back on this afternoon as I was starting out for a walk in my Kyoto neighborhood.  Needless to say, my stroll was curtailed.

Time to get out the advil before my walk and stop talking about my complaints.  What smarty pants said to me “You can’t afford a negative thought”?  I had a few too many these the last two days. I’m here to celebrate spring and beauty in the city that has made an art out of it!

This afternoon we rolled smoothly into Kyoto on the bullet train after spending two nights in Tokyo.  I am always struck by the contrast between the new capital and the ancient one of Kyoto. There’s the obvious difference of size, but more than that, it’s about scale.  Tokyo is reaching for the sky these days, covered with new high rises being built just about everywhere you look. In Kyoto, (almost) the entire environment seems integrated and grounded.

Earthquake concerns are somhow overcome by state of the art engineering.   The huge buildings are impersonal, mostly office space, sometimes housing hotels as well, but with no distinctiveness that I could identify or admire.  Tokyo can be slick, cutting edge and fun, but after a few days I am generally relieved to pull out of it and head south to Kyoto.  The big city doesn’t feed my spirit except for it’s preoccupation with good design.  Flash is fun and youthful but grows easily tiresome.

Ginza scene
A beautiful but likely useless article for travel.

I know Kyoto  quite well now, so there’s no element of surprise when I arrive here as there used to be.  Rather, it’s a sense of comfort I feel upon entering. The small pots of seasonal flowers placed carefully at the doorways remind me that time is taken to appreciate nature here.  Once again, I am sure that scale plays a large role.  The city is mostly built of two story buildings with a few buildings, like errant toddlers, escaping those boundaries, but not very many and not by dozens of stories.

There’s  a strong sense of place here with temples and shrines appearing around every corner. Their significance plays a constant role in the events of the city.  They are power centers, no doubt, reminding me immediately that I’m no longer in the USA.  Japanese are said not to be religious but when you enter a shrine it’s easy to see that the ancient gods are respected and play a role in their contemporary life.

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The Japanese  people have a strong sense of purpose.  There’s not a lot of lolling about or screwing around. They all seem devoted to their jobs and determined to do the best they can in them. They walk quickly.  They listen intently when you speak to them. They are considerate and kind.  They do seem to embody a kinder, gentler strain of humanity, at least in this time and place!  It’s a welcome change from the nastiness rampant on the home front.

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As always, our dear Japanese friend has prepared seasonal welcome flowers to greet us when we open the door of our apartment. It’s these moments that mean the most to me and speak stronger than any words.