Treasure Hunting at Flea Markets in Kyoto!

Antiques, ceramics, second-hand kimonos, handicrafts, bonsai (盆栽), and other Japanese things. Are you interested in these kinds of items? Or, are you looking for a kind of unique souvenir from Japan to gift to someone—or maybe for yourself? There is no better place for it!

If these markets I introduced here coincide with your stay in Kyoto, they are worth a visit!! You can find treasures or bargains! 

 1. Kobo-ichi (弘法市)

Kobo-ichi

First and foremost, I’ll share this flea market called Kobo-ichi. It’s held in Toji temple (東寺) on the 21st of every month, commemorating the death of Kukai (空海 = Kobo Daishi 弘法大師) on March 21 in 835. We affectionately call the market Kobo-san. Its scale is the largest in Kyoto, and about as many as 1200 vendors are set up in and around the precinct of Toji temple. 

Kobo-san is brimming with a wide variety of stalls!

  • Date: every month on 21 (rain or shine)
  • Time: 6am – 4pm (from dawn to dusk)
  • Scale: 1200-1300 stalls 
  • Place: Toji temple 

〜 Enjoy bargaining 〜

Unfortunately, it was raining the other day when I visited Kobo-san. The number of people and stalls seemed smaller than usual due to the rain.  

Since I like transforming old kimonos into new dresses, I always go kimono-stall hopping to hunt for my favorites at flea markets. 

When I was rummaging through a pile of 500-yen kimonos, the shopkeeper told me she was about to pack up as the rain was not going to let up, so I could have each for 300 yen. Not bad, even for a rainy day!

If you are a good bargainer, don’t be afraid to negotiate the prices. Even if you don’t speak Japanese, you can communicate with the shopkeepers through body language. Quite likely, they will respond to you in English! Rest assured, they will not try to rip you off. Discounting is another fun part of shopping at flea markets, right? Even if you decide against buying any items, they won’t lose their temper. 

One note of caution! Most stalls only accept cash. A very limited number of stalls accept cashless payment services (like PayPay, auPay, or others), including credit cards. 

2. Garakuta-ichi (ガラクタ市)

Garakuta-ichi

Toji temple holds another festival called Garakuta-ichi on the first Sunday of every month.

“Garakuta” means “junk” in English. However, this market is not a junk market. There are about 350 stalls open, a quarter of Kobo market, but it’s an antique market so serious that antique dealers or connoisseurs come to buy. For antique lovers, this market looks like heaven! 

They are for sale 😮 !!

Sure, we see some mysterious things we don’t figure out how to use or stuff that we wonder who would pick up for sale at this market. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, isn’t it?

Anyway, Garakuta-ichi is fun just to look around!

  • Date: the first Sunday of every month (rain or shine)
  • Time: 6am-4pm
  • Scale: 350 stalls 
  • Place: Toji temple 

There’s no doubt that Toji temple, which is home to that five-story pagoda symbolizing Kyoto, is a must-visit site whether the market is there or not. 

Map of Toji

3. Tenjin-ichi (天神市)

Tenjin-ichi

Tenjin-ichi is held every 25th in Kitano-tenmangu (北野天満宮) shrine to commemorate the birthday (June 25) and the death (February 25) of Michizane Sugawara(菅原道真), who is enshrined here. 

Tenjin-ichi, popularly known as Tenjin-san, has about 1000 stands along the entrance and the ground of the temple, and is one of the two biggest flea markets in Kyoto, along with Kobo-san. There’s also a huge selection of street food vendors selling takoyaki, okonomiyaki, cotton candy, candy apples, yakitori, karaage, etc., which are standard at fairs. 

You can also enjoy a festive atmosphere here!

There is Kamishichiken (上七軒), which is one of the five geisha districts in Kyoto, located just east of Kitano Tenmangu shrine. If you have a little more time, please make sure to stop by Senbon Shaka-do (千本釈迦堂) nearby, whose main hall is the oldest structure in Kyoto that has remained as it was originally built for 800 years. 

4. Chion-ji Handicraft Market (知恩寺手づくり市)

Chion-ji Handicraft Market

 Chion-ji (知恩寺) temple hosts a fabulous handicraft market on the 15th of every month. This temple is often called Hyakumanben-san (百万遍さん) after its location name so as not to be mistaken with the very similarly named Chion-in (知恩院) temple, located near Yasaka shrine (八坂神社). 

Since selling anything other than handmade items is prohibited, all of the stuff sold at this market is handmade. You will see a wide variety of handmade crafts, including pottery, accessories, bags, organic soap, honey, upcycled goods, and more! They are all creative, elaborate, and very Japanese. Furthermore, they are not the products of hobbyists but artisans, craftspeople, or entrepreneurs. As the stall owners all sell their own products, don’t hesitate to ask them anything about their items. 

The range of products is very diverse!

  • Date: every month on 15 (rain or shine)
  • Time: 8am-4pm
  • Scale: 400 stalls 
  • Place: Chion-ji temple 

5. Umekoji park Handicraft Market (梅小路公園手作り市)

Umekoji Park Handicraft Market

This market takes place on the first Saturday of every month (except January and May) in Umekoji-Koen Park (梅小路公園), located west of Kyoto station. 

The stores in this handicraft market seem almost the same as those at Chion-ji Market since those organizers are the same. 

This is held in a spacious park, and some popular bakeries in Kyoto and vendors serving freshly brewed coffee are also open here. In between browsing around the stalls, how about taking a short break with them in the park? 

There are also Kyoto Aquarium and Kyoto Railway Museum nearby, where kids can have fun. 

Umekoji Park

  • Date: the first Saturday of every month (rain or shine)
  • Time: 9am-4pm 
  • Scale: 350 stalls 
  • Place: Umekoji-Koen Park

~ Other Markets ~

Besides those listed above, about 25 flea markets, including smaller ones, are held in Kyoto city. That means that such fairs are open almost every day somewhere, mainly at temples or shrines, in Kyoto.

I’ll share some other markets below!

6. Kamigamo Handicraft Market (上賀茂手づくり市)

Kamigamo Handicraft Market

  • Date: the fourth Sunday of every month (rain or shine)
  • Time: 9am-4pm
  • Scale: 250 stalls 
  • Place: Kamigamo Shrine

7. Heian-raku ichi ( 平安楽市)

Heian-raku ichi

  • Date: the second Saturday of every month (rain or shine)
  • Time: 10am-4pm
  • Scale: 250 stalls 
  • Place: Okazaki-koen Park in front of Heian Shrine

8. Toyokuni Shrine Flea Market (豊国神社 蚤の市)

Toyokuni Shrine Flea Market

  • Date: every month on 8, 18, 28 (close on rainy days)
  • Time 10am-3pm
  • Scale: 30-50 stalls 
  • Place: Toyokuni Shrine

9. Inaba-yakushi temple Handicraft Market (因幡薬師 手づくり市) 

Inaba-yakushi temple Handicraft Market

  • Date: every month on 8 (rain or shine)
  • Time: 9am-3pm
  • Scale: 50 stalls
  • Place: Inaba-do(Byodo-ji)

~ Map ~

Locations of flea markets I introduced here!

There are also other flea markets, used book fairs, or pottery fairs that are held monthly, several times a year, or on an irregular basis, not only in Kyoto but in all corners of Japan as well. 

Visiting flea markets is a great way to interact with locals, and you may come across a memorable treasure that makes your trip special!!

6 Comments on “Treasure Hunting at Flea Markets in Kyoto!”

  1. I’ve never known there are so many flea markets in Kyoto.
    I’ll visit them in autumn.
    Especially I was impressed by your pictures, very easy to get those information and to visit there.

    1. Hi Masayo san! Thank you for your comment! Flea markets held at temples and shrines may also be part of Kyoto’s traditional culture. Let’s visit them together!

  2. As always a lot of useful and well written info from Rieko Azuma!!!
    Hope travelers could be able to explore more beautiful and historical Kyoto!
    Thank you Rieko.

    1. Hi Tatyana! Thank you for reading my blog!
      I hope my articles help tourists from abroad explore Kyoto more easily and wisely. I’d love to walk around Kyoto with you and your husband again ‼︎

  3. Hello from Hawaii, Reiko.

    We are planning to be in Kyoto from 21-29 November 2022 for momiji-gari, amongst others.

    In the past during late November, Kamigamo Jinja had a flea market that was terrific. Are you aware if they are having their temple flea market/ temple fair this November?

    I probably think some temples have not announced their flea market yet on account of COVID-19 restrictions.

    Arigato Gozaimasu for your information , maps and details of the flea markets in Kyoto, Reiko. Your English is also sugoi!

    1. Hello Kerry,
      Thank you for reading my blog and leaving your comment!

      Most events are now back to their pre-COVID-19 state in Japan, except for wearing masks. So all of the flea markets I introduced are supposed to be held!

      Late November is the best time for momiji -gari!Have a lot of fun in Kyoto!

      If you have any questions, just ask!

      Thank you,
      Rieko

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