Market Fun

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! Continue reading “Market Fun”

Observing Beauty in a New Museum

 

The gray clouds thickened yesterday, giving some credence to the possibility that a monster typhoon was scheduled to hit Japan in the near future. As far as we could tell, no one in Kyoto, with the exception of ourselves, seemed overly concerned.  We vacillated between thinking we should get supplies and hunker down, to feeling like we were over reacting to the situation.  After hard boiling some eggs, and getting some bottled water, we grew restless.  I suggested we take a break from the uncertain storm watch and visit a new museum that had opened in Kyoto on Oct. 1.  It was a good decision.

The museum was unknown to our first cab driver.  He said no to our request because he couldn’t easily figure out its location.  Undeterred, we got into another cab.  We found the building  on the river bank in Arashiyama, a naturally beautiful area of Kyoto where aristocrats and nobility used as a retreat.  Now it is often overrun with tourists, but still beautiful.  The museum was an uncrowded  delight.

Continue reading “Observing Beauty in a New Museum”

When Traveling, Go With the Flow

You can set out with the best of intentions, while in Japan, thinking you know what you’re about to do.  Many times it works out that way, but often, things don’t go exactly the way you expected them.  I’ve learned to roll with the misunderstandings, because if you don’t it’s your loss.  There’s almost always something that redeems a plan gone wrong.

Waiting!

Kyoto celebrates its traditions.  The temples and shrines (over 2000 of them)have hundreds of special events throughout the year, some major, not-to-be-missed and others not so important or not so interesting to a foreigner. I usually attend one or two of the more interesting events while here.

Side view of Kitano shrine

Yesterday I read about the Zuiki Festival (matsuri) happening at and around the Kitano Tenmangu Shrine.  It has been happening for over 1000 years to give gratitude for a successful harvest.  It goes on for several days.  When reading the schedule, I did not realize that most times given were approximate!  Not a minor detail when making plans. As you might expect, we got off to the festival just behind the beat.  It took us most of the afternoon to catch up.

It was a case of learning that we’d just missed the parade and it had moved on to other neighborhoods and shrines.  So began the chase. My husband Danny, was determined to catch up and intersect the celebrants who walk through local neighborhoods. We taxied to another shrine only to be told it had all ended there a little while earlier.  We were told to head to the railway station, but never found the station. Between our limited Japanese and others’ limited English I am sure something might have gotten lost in translation. Or, in the case of many when giving directions, they don’t know what they’re talking about, but don’t want to look uninformed!

Kitano shrine guardian dogs

Deciding that we should head back to our first stop at Kitano shrine, we taxied some more only to find we were hours too early for the procession to return.  Our thirsty eyes landed on an air conditioned Portuguese bakery/coffee shop and eagerly went in for cakee set time.  Iced tea and Portuguese pastry  cooled us down., Slightly restored,  my husband found someone who gave him new directions to find the parade. I suggested we walk through the shrine garden, small but attractive.  We passed many people who were waiting as we were, but no one was able to tell us when the procession might pass by.

The Main Float! vegetarian.
For good luck, the dragon will bite your finger.

We did intersect with one beautiful float decorated for the fall harvest, pulled by many tired young men who had to rally themselves to pull it up a small incline.  We then sat down in a little square, joining a few dozen locals who were waiting too. Suddenly Dan spotted signs of actiivity and I was motioned to join him across the intersection.  At last!

Sleepwalking?

It was a tired, and a bit bedraggled group we found, but interesting nevertheless.  Those on horseback were as erect as ever, those walking were wearing out.  The young children , attired in resplendent period costumes, were charming.  They still had a long ways to go.  I guess you have to build up the endurance necessary for these parades, not only to participate in them, but to find them as well!

Adventurers? Who’s Deciding?

We woke up yesterday to a sunny day, low humidity, and no plans for the day.  I probably have as many books about Japanese/Kyoto travel as any self respecting hotel concierge.  It took little time for my husband and me to settle on a destination that was doable for a day. We chose the ancient Enryakuji temple, at the summit of Mt. Hiei.

Our Japanese friends consider us adventurous, or so they tell us.  I think compared to the average tourist, we head out on our own, without a lot of drama. Last year, when we rented a car for a road trip, they all just thought we were nuts. Continue reading “Adventurers? Who’s Deciding?”

Aging Gracefully Off the Beaten Path

Since I learned to drive, I’ve always had the urge to explore places off the beaten path.  I love to follow an unknown road deep into the countryside.  The same impulse still resides in me today.  Yesterday, it took me and my husband on a wonderful detour just on the city’s edge.

Following a recommendation in the Kyoto Visitor’s Guide, we set out for the Oharano Shrine which is known to have maple trees that explode with fiery color in the fall.  Unfortunately, we were about a week too early to see the color as described, so we moved through the shrine rather quickly.  Pausing for tea in a small café, the owner knew a little English, just as I know a little Japanese.  We both enjoyed ourselves patching a conversation together that each mostly understood, or pretended to, if we didn’t.  The fruit hanging in the background is kaki (persimmons) going through the traditional process of drying, out-of-doors in the shade of eaves.

My instincts told me there was more to see beyond the shrine.  We followed a steep pathway, towards a promised temple we knew nothing about.

It was a haul for me, but after a quarter mile of huffing and puffing, we arrived at the ancient temple, Shojiji.  Danny led the way.

There were only one or two other visitors on the grounds.  I felt like I was in a fairy tale setting.  The beauty of the stones, buildings and grounds  were enriched by the eager plant life, which had taken over in places , encouraged by meandering streams.  Certain areas were almost hidden by the lush gloom, adding to the solemnity and mystery.

The history of Shoji-ji temple predates that of Kyoto itself. Founded in the year 686, it is known for its feeling of remoteness, as well as the hundreds of cherry and maple trees in the gardens, which are a photographer’s delight in both spring and autumn.  Bonson Lam, Japan travel

Shojiji wears her age well and proudly.  There are no attempts to hide her age.   Nature is allowed to encroach but hasn’t taken over.  The temple’s worn features are dignified and strong.  She played an important role in early Kyoto history that is still respected.  Yesterday, I became a fan.