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.

IMG_5001
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.

IMG_5004
silk kimono sleeve

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?”

Ceramic Pleasures

If you’ve visited my home, you know I have a “thing” for ceramics.  Particularly Japanese ceramics. If I can add some fresh foliage or flowers to the vessel, my aesthetic needs are completely satisfied. 

This powerful attraction began on my first trip to Japan in the 1980’s.  I was in an art gallery that displayed ceramics.  It was one of those aha! moments.  I saw for the first time the power of the earth’s clay in a master’s hand.  I was hooked, astounded, excited.  This was new territory for me.

I returned home certain that I too was meant to be a ceramacist.  How else to explain my strong reaction? I took it as a sign.  Follow your bliss, if you remember that!  I quickly enrolled in a ceramics class at a neighboring community college.  I just as quickly learned that centering a blob of clay on a wheel in a class taught by a disinterested and overworked teacher was not something I had the patience for, at least under those circumstances.  End of promising but short lived ceramics career fantasy, but not the end of the love affair. Continue reading “Ceramic Pleasures”

The Gamble

Let’s face it.  Much of travel can be a gamble.  Days that start out promising can quickly get a sour taste.  Finding a famous tourist attraction does not guarantee anything  more than it’s sure to be crowded. Online recommendations and even World Heritage Sites may or may not ring your own bells.

And so it goes.  I’ve learned to accept the fact that not every place visited will hit a home run.

Today we said goodbye to our house guest and decided to take a short train ride to a neighboring town that was, for a ten year period, the capital of Japan before it was moved to Kyoto. The town was recommended in a popular Kyoto periodical.

Continue reading “The Gamble”

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!”