April 13, 2004
by Miyako Hashimoto
Once a month, on the 21st, there is a big market in the grounds of Toji temple. There are more than 1000 stalls, with a vast number of people visiting this market each month. As it is held in the temple, many people might think that only the older generation would attend, but many young people tend to show up, too. Also, there are many visitors from other countries. A lot of visitors from foreign countries are really interested in kimono or chinaware, and in this market, you can buy these things at a relatively cheap price. There are numerous kimono stalls around the market, so it is possible to compare prices and get a bargain. In addition to the above, there are many other kinds of things for sale such as vegetables, fish, flowers, trees, shoes, dolls and so on. Due to the interest in flowers or trees, there is always a great variety on offer. As shopping can be hungry work, there is usually a mixed bag of fast food on offer to tempt the crowds of browsers. Favorites for Japanese and foreign visitors alike are takoyaki, fried chicken, okonomiyaki, and in winter, the seasonal specialty, oden. The aromas are wonderful, so I am sure you will want to try eating one of these culinary delights.
By far the biggest market held throughout the year is in December, when more than 200,000 people may attend, and it is called Shimai Kobou, which means the last market. Also, the one which is held in January is equally as large as the one in December, and is called Hatsu Kobou.
This market is held outdoors, but the weather doesn’t really cause too many problems as most of the stalls are covered. However, many stalls which sell kimono or chinaware may decide to shut up shop if it starts to rain.
This market generally runs from 5 a.m. to 4 p.m., but it is up to individual stallholders when to open or close. Most vendors start closing down their stalls when they have sold out, which means if you are really interested, you should go early. This way you can find many things, and you might not have to fight your way through the crowds.
This market can get really crowded, so I seriously recommend you wear casual clothes with sneakers or comfortable shoes to make moving around easier.
Usually, the streets around the temple are not that congested, but on the 21st, they are packed with eager market goers. A lot of people take the bus to get here, and this means they are generally jam packed. As this temple is pretty close to Kyoto Station, I really advise you to travel on foot from Kyoto Station. It only takes about 10 minutes or so, and is much more convenient.
I’m sure that you will enjoy discovering some very interesting Japanese things in this market and not get easily bored. The chance to find so many genuine and authentic souvenirs of Japan in one place is an opportunity not to be missed.
Toji temple is one of the most famous temples in Kyoto, so you should really take the time to visit it, and experience its size and splendor for yourself.