Every month on the 21st of the month, the largest flea market in Kyoto is held at Toji Temple in Kyoto. Toji Temple is located about 1km west of the south exit of Kyoto station. There are English signs directing the throngs of tourists, which makes it very easy to find. It also has a rather tall pagoda, so it’s a nice place to visit. But on the 21st, it is truly a sight to see!
Literally thousands of stalls selling everything from hand-made crafts to antique swords to pickled local produce. Everything you could ever want and more. Things you never knew about. Japanese traditional items, antiques, cultural symbols. People in every stall are either explaining somethingto a customer, or yelling to those passing by about their wares.
To get the true Toji Market experience, go early and plan to spend the whole day there. Although there is some organization tothe market, there is no best route through it. No guarantee that you will see every area or every stall. So go and wander, and when you see something you want, buy it, because you may not be able to find it again later, or someone else may buy it. Last time I went, I was looking at a tripod for my camera. I asked the vendor how much and he told me it was 1000 yen. While I was thinking about it and looking at what else he had for sale, someone else came and scooped right out from under me!
If you are looking for food, Toji Market has plenty of it! Every type of traditional and local food is for sale. Takoyaki, okonomiyaki, of course piles of pickles, as well as local sweets and local produce. Cakes and cookies and delicious delicacies abound. I recommend buying lunch as you walk and eating on your feet, but don’t go too far from where you buy your lunch, as you’ll want to dump the packaging in the bin in front of that stall, or else you may have to carry it for a while before you find another garbage!
So if you have the pleasure of being in Kyoto on the 21st of ANY month, I highly recommend checking out Toji Market. It’s a full day of sightseeing, cuisine, Japanese culture and tradition, all in one market. Did I mention it’s also the oldest market in Japan, going back 400 years?