On the 21st of every month there is a ‘flea market’ held on the grounds of the Toji temple in Koyto. Last night talking over our game plan for today we thought we might drop in. It took a train ride and a bit of a walk. When we turn into the temple entrance and walk over the steps it looks like a nice market with quite a few people in attendance. We decided to split up. So Debbie and I wandered one way and R & L another. Our plan was to to meet in 45 minutes. At the appointed time as we converged, in unison Debbie and L said ‘I need more time”.
This is by far the best flea market we have ever encountered anywhere in the world. The crowd is intense. There are so many people, moving forward is impossible at times. Those in attendance are not just tourists, most are local people shopping or just out for a day of fun. Items for sale at other markets throughout the world are themed to the country where the market is but made in China. This is almost always the case. Not so here. There are booths selling second hand goods, some of which may even be of value. A good number of booths are selling high quality Japanese handcrafts, so some shopping is inevitable. And of course there are quite a few booths hawking street food so when noon arrives, lunch is in order. We end up spending the entire morning mooching around the market and have a great time.
Debbie stopped at one of the stalls and was perusing the merchandise. We were talking to each other about the goods on display. The lady selling just sat and watched us and the goings on around. Debbie wanted to know where the things were made and assuming the lady only spoke Japanese used simple words to communicate. To our complete surprise her response was in perfect English. It turns out she makes all of the things on the table. She buys the linen but colours and dyes it. Then constructs what is was meant to be. We had a great talk and end up buying place mats for our dining room table.
I will never stop being amazed at people when they go out of their way to help strangers. Having finished a bottle of coke between the end of the train ride and the entrance to the temple grounds I was in need of a WC. I thought it would be easy to find a toilet as all temple grounds have them. But, the area is huge and it is super crowded. So, I stopped at a booth and asked if there was a toilet near. The fellow immediately grabbed his handbag, jumped from behind the counter, left his wife in attendance and walked his way through the crowd with Debbie and me in tow leading us to the washroom. It was a long way and he did not have to do that. He won us over with his kindness. We found our way back to his stall and purchased one of the hand made cards he had for sale. One for humanity!
I know that almost every person in Japan has a cell phone. Yet no one is walking along the street, head down with their nose to a 4cm X 10cm screen. The attendant at the luxury capsule hotel we stayed at in Tottori enlightened us as to why. It is illegal to do so. For the most part the Japanese are law abiding folks. Don’t know if it saves lives but people seem to be more engaged with their surroundings and it does make for much easier movement along the public walkways.
My first impressions of Kyoto are quite positive. As far as the built environment goes I already like it better than Toyko . I mentioned Tokyo is boring and I stand by that. Kyoto has some interesting buildings, old and new standing side by side and variation in style. Although the people we met in Tokyo were wonderful, the over all vibe is quite cold. Understandable as the population is 9 million and change. Kyotoians (my word) seem a little more openly friendly but then it is a much smaller city.
I don’t really mind tourists, after all I am one, but when big in numbers they can be annoying. Kyoto has them in spades. It is one of THE places to visit in Japan and most travelers heed the call. There are places to avoid the hoards and we manage to weave our way on and off the tourist trail. The break from the crowded madness of the popular sites is appreciated and needed.
In my pre-trip reading one of the articles mentioned Kyoto was a walking city but the distances are big. So far we have found that to be true. We have a city map and a reasonable plan for the day but the places on our route are a long way apart. Walking takes quite a bit of time. The train/metro system is not very good and is costly. Even a two stop ride cost 220 Yen ($2.75 CAD). The coverage is poor and when calculating the walks to and from the stations it makes just as much sense to walk. So walk we do and come back to the hotel bagged. Tomorrow we plan our first bus trip, we’ll see how that works.
Kyoto is a city famous for its temples and shrines and tomorrow we have a few more on tap. I am just about templed out so they may be the last ones we visit. There are a few more things that don’t involve religious monuments we want to take in so Wednesday’s tour will involve those.