Tenjin-san Flea Market
The world over we've been drawn to markets --- farmers' markets, antiques, fish, silks, spices, or flowers. We enjoy walking through row after row of stalls, admiring local goods sold out in the open with little to dress them up. Sometimes, like with fruits in India, they're stacked up with the utmost care, picked and cleaned and presented like the rare beauties they are. In others --- like every antique market in the world --- the items are piled wherever they fit, which makes the search for a choice item feel even more like a treasure hunt. But regardless of where you are in the world, and how foreign you feel, a market can help you find the local rhythm of a place.
In Peru we enjoyed walking through the markets selling woolen textiles, admiring hand-spun yarn and natural dyes. In the Amazon we got up early to catch glimpses of things sold on the black market --- turtles, cats, caiman, and rare birds. In Brazil we braved the fish markets where broad, bare-chested men with big biceps brandished large blades and gutted river fish with surprising speed and skill. We managed to get a small glimpse of the markets of Bangkok with their fresh fish and vegetables and many funky, fermented things before the floods submerged them in several feet of water. In northern India all you had to do was follow the cardamon scent in the air to find your way to whole alleys filled with brightly colored spices, milk sweets and raw jaggery. Unfortunately, in Beijing, we stumbled upon a street filled with bugs and small sea creatures skewered on sticks, and hurriedly made our exit. In the southern Indian city of Chennai it was woven baskets overflowing with flowers, whose contents changed hands many times before being given as offerings in the city's many temples. Traveling through China we always, always stopped for a market. Sometimes this was the only thing to do when the one road through town was blocked from both ends with people bustling about. The women would dress in their finest clothing, then travel by foot many miles to sell their wild-foraged mountain foods. On the Tibetan high plains we searched for yak butter and tsampa, essentials for surviving up so high. The whole of Hong Kong sometimes felt like a market. We walked the streets every opportunity we could find, poking our head into places that sold everything from steel pipes to dried deer tendon. We waited until evening before venturing out to Taipei's many night markets, trying our hand at the local games and finding our way into the eating halls, which were filled with many morsels we couldn't even identify!
The attention to quality and detail in Japan is like nowhere else. We've especially relished Kyoto's monthly markets (also see Toji Temple December Market). We spent a good five hours on Christmas day walking through the Tenjin-san Flea Market at Kitano Tenman-gu, enjoying the sunshine, tasting just about every snack we could find, browsing through handcrafts and antiques, and getting lost in the crowd. Only when the sun dipped behind the buildings and the sellers began to box up their wares did we finally make our way back home. Have a look...