Chionji Flea Market

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$25 Hina Set

I am not a big shopper, but when the occasion presents itself to check out unusual markets, I’m always willing to go. In Kyoto, those occasions are invariably flea markets: bazaars that travel the city throughout the month. Four years ago, I was able to find a five-tiered hina doll set at a flea market in Kitano Tenman-gu during their plum blossom festival, and I’ve been hooked ever since.

Today, NJ and I made the journey to Chionji, a small temple near Kyoto University, for their monthly flea market. Every flea market in Kyoto has their own specialty, and Chionji’s is handicrafts. Due to our work schedule, we usually can’t make the event, but this week the market finally fell on a Sunday. It meant we could go, but we would need to go early, as everyone else can go, too.

We left our house around 8:30am and arrived not long after. Bread stalls at the side entrance already had lines around the corner. But that was okay: we weren’t hungry yet, and we wanted to walk a bit before buying anything.

An immensely hard task.

At every turn, tables sporting felted, leather, or beaded wares caught our eye, as well as a couple of wood-workers specializing in Edo period toys and painted, wooden discs. I personally have a serious weakness for earrings that are unique, and walking around Chionji felt like browsing Etsy, except with cash in my pocket and the ability to touch everything. 

All images hosted on Flickr.

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I lasted about fifteen minutes before I bought my first pair of earrings….

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NJ found an acrylic painter who used a single brush and a magnifying glass for her art. Even though NJ never wears broaches (of which there were quite literally thousands across the market for sale), she felt she needed to support the artist, and bought a small picture frame.

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While there weren’t many of the “festival food” stands that are so familiar to these sorts of events, the bakery stands were quite good. I also had my first real donut in about six years. It was everything I remember them being.

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There were a bunch of really fun stalls full of quirky or fun things. Some were very reasonably priced (the melted marble dishes below were only about $20USD), and some were outrageously overpriced (iPhone cases at $40USD, or what amounted to Shrinky Dinks™ earrings, for $30USD).

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It was interesting to see what the most abundant crafts were. By far, fake flower arrangements, broaches, felted goods, and pickles were the most common stalls. In a way, I think their abundance shows a lot about the character of Kyoto. While Japan is most well known for its kawaii culture, I think the “cute” of this city is softer, more refined and in paler, more earthy colors. Contrasted with the bold neons of Harajuku or Akihabara, Kyoto is understated and sweet.

I had a couple of favorite stalls, though I forgot to snap pictures of both. One was a seamstress who had made bunches of purses, bags, and wallets out of old jeans. But she also embroidered miniature jeans on the pockets and fronts. NJ commented on how meta the work felt. It was really fun, but I just couldn’t justify the purchase. I’ll never spend more than $60 on a bag, and those were $200. The other stall was a carver who made wooden, local birds. He told us that it takes him about five hours to make one, before painting, and he must paint three coats to get the feeling right. He also discounted our final sales price (yes!) without us even asking because his “eyes were too bad to see the price. 😉 .”

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Our biggest splurge of the day was on local honey. We bought five jars of it! But honey never stays long in our house, and I love the different flavored honeys that you can only get at farmers markets. The flavors, from top left, are: orange blossom, acacia, and three different types of mixed wildflowers (all distinct!)

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Naturally, I also got a lot of earrings…. I couldn’t help myself. I am particularly tickled by the very steampunky triangles and lightbulb earrings. It’s a new avenue of style for me, and I can tell they’re going to be fun to wear. 🙂

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And finally, here’s the rest of our loot. Pika was quite amused by his felt likeness…

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Do you visit flea markets or farmers markets in your country? What’s the best deal you’ve ever found?

16 thoughts on “Chionji Flea Market

  1. noelleg44 says:

    What fun! And love to shop for earrings – loved the light bulb ones. I do enjoy flea markets but haven’t gone to one for a long time, unless by accident at the State Fairground, in conjunction with something else. The craftiness is amazing and your purchases are so interesting! Thanks for taking us on a tour!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Alex Hurst says:

      They had so much wonderful pottery that I wanted to buy. Unfortunately, when we move, I’m worried they’ll break in transit. 😦

      Like

  2. strangepegs says:

    My mom used to drag me to flea markets all the time when I was a kid, but they were mostly full of junk. If I could find a stall that had a bunch of beat up, old comics, I would be okay.
    That that you just went to more resembles what we are now calling “crafts fairs,” at least that’s what they’re being called in this area. We pick things up occasionally, but the items are usually way overpriced.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Alex Hurst says:

      That would be more the case, yes. The flea markets in Kyoto, in the traditional sense, sell things that are already used. This one was more of a craft fair — everything was new, and more expensive than the place I got the “antique/used” dolls.

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  3. peakperspective says:

    What a treasure! Not only is it a treat to have a day off, but to have a day off when the market is here and you’ve got a few coins to spare is a total bonus.
    So many of the crafts were wonderfully intricate–such deft skills to manage that kind of art.
    And for some wonky reason, I’m always taken aback when I read the words bread and Japan in one sentence. Obviously the bakery stall is pure evidence of yet more delicious discoveries.
    I adore craft fairs, art fairs, food fairs–doesn’t matter. I will go and will indulge my sense of curiosity. And usually arrive back home with the curiosities in a plastic bag. 😛

    Liked by 1 person

    • Alex Hurst says:

      I love them, but they always happen around here when we’re working. It was quite serendipitous that this time it landed on a Sunday. 🙂 I want to go to more of them… as many as possible! They’re so fun.

      Like

    • Alex Hurst says:

      We definitely would have spent more time there if we could have as well. But the clouds were getting darker, and it was quite literally shoulder to face everywhere you turned by noon. 😛

      Like

    • Alex Hurst says:

      I stood at the stall thinking about them for like 10 minutes. Then decided I would never see something like them again, and snatched them up, haha.

      Like

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