Kyoto Markets – Ultimate guide to the Best 2 not to be missed

The Unmissable flea markets in Kyoto

Kyoto Markets

Kyoto Markets are a nice addition to an itinerary of temples, shrines and gardens which should not be missed. There are, typically undated information on the best flea markets in Japan, so, here, I have just listed two which are Kyoto’s MUST GO! Must SEE! and A Must BUY! experience. These are Kobo-san flea market at Toji Temple and Tenjin-san Market at Kitano Tenmangu Shrine.

An authentic experience of Kyoto Markets.
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1 | Kobo-san flea market at Toji Temple, Kyoto Markets

You will find one of the popular Kyoto Markets on 21st of each month. This popular one is called Kobo-san flea market which is at one of Kyoto’s most historic of temples, the To-ji Temple (East Temple). Toji Temple is also a designated UNESCO World Heritage site. It is a five-storey pagoda, 57 metres high (187 feet), which was founded in 796 but due to lightning strike, was rebuilt in the Edo period by Tokugawa Iemitsu (1600).

Kobo-san, one of two Kyoto Markets
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Kobo-san, one of two Unmissable Kyoto Markets

The market is called ‘Kobo-san’ to honour the Buddhist priest, Kukai, who brought Shingon Buddhism to Japan and founded the temple in 796. After his death on 21st March 835, he was honoured with “Kobo-Daishi” title.

1.1 | A bustling Kyoto Market from dawn to dusk

On this one-day each month, the Temple itself becomes a secondary stage. The grounds of the Temple, turns into an enormous and liveliest market area, bustling with tourists and locals in search of antiques and good bargains. There is an incredible variety here and you can find pretty much anything that you might be looking for. The market opens at sunrise and as the sun begins to set, you will note the stalls start to pack-up and prices fall to a dramatic low!

1.2 | Kimonos are a bargain at Kobo-san Market, Kyoto

There are over 1000 stalls where you can find beautiful vintage and cultural products such as second-hand kimonos, shoes, hats, hand-fans, ceramics, chopsticks, books and prints. I bought a few kimonos for 500 Yen each, not just for use but to use the fabric for other creative ideas such as handbags or purses. These kimonos are exquisite vintage fabric and can be used to create modern garments. Modern garments with an exquisite vintage fabric would be lovely, I think. Would you agree?

These kimonos were of top quality fabric and was well worth the money! There were some for even 300 Yen! Just keep looking and you will find the stall 😊.

This is also one of the very few markets where you can negotiate and bargain over the products.

Beautiful handmade second-hand silk kimonos at a bargain at the Kobo-san market
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Kyoto Markets: Beautiful handmade second-hand silk kimonos at a bargain at the Kobo-san market
A bustling Kobo-san Market that offer a great choice in antiques, vintage garments and street food.
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A bustling Kobo-san Market that offer a great choice in antiques, vintage garments and street food.
One of Kyoto Markets is Kobo-san flea market at Toji Temple.
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One of Kyoto Markets is Kobo-san flea market at Toji Temple., a bustling market from dawn to dusk.
Explore the grounds of Kobo-san Market while shopping and visit the Toji Temple.
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Kyoto Markets: Explore the grounds of Kobo-san Market while shopping and visit the Toji Temple.

1.3 | Street food at Kobo-san Market, Kyoto Markets

The Kobo-san flea market is not just about bargain-hunting. It is also a great opportunity to experience the variety of Japanese street food on offer here, from yakitori (grilled meat on skewers), takoyaki or the Hiroshima style okonomiyaki.

Okonomiyaki

If you are feel like having something substantial, you could try the okonomiyaki. It is a Japanese-style savoury pancake, topped with layers of cabbage, meat, noodles and a choice of octopus or fish, with lots of okonomiyaki sauce (a combination of ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, oyster sauce, sugar or honey).

You can view the post on Hiroshima style Okonomiyaki on a previous blog I wrote:

Hiroshima’s Soul Food – Okonomiyaki and Oysters

Takoyaki

Takoyaki is a popular Japanese snack. It is ball-shaped, made of wheat flour batter and cooked in special moulded pan.

These dough balls are filled with pieces of octopus, pickled ginger and onions but you can hardly taste the ginger or the onions. It is topped with takoyaki sauce (similar to Worcestershire sauce) and Japanese mayonnaise, sprinkled with aonori or green laver (an edible green seaweed) and sometimes, shavings of dried bonito.

I must admit that takoyaki is not one of my favourite of Japanese food. People differ in taste, therefore I suggest that you try it at least once!

Takoyaki mould
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The wheat batter is poured into one of these takoyaki mouls and then the octopus or fish is added into it.

1.4 | Travel tips and Useful information on Kobo-san Market, Kyoto Markets

Give yourself plenty of time to explore.

Give yourself plenty of time to explore. You can easily get lost here, amongst the huge crowd. The enormous market area is like a maze and on occasions navigating around the stalls and re-tracing your steps may be a little challenging. So, give yourself plenty of time to get lost here and experience the authentic market atmosphere.

Mornings are best for choices

Mornings are best if you want choices and are looking for specific items such as antiques or silk kimonos. If you are looking for a bargain, after 3 pm would be best as the sellers will reduce the prices to get rid of their stock. I visited the market at about 10:00 and it was already beginning to pick-up the crowd but was still pleasant. However, by midday, it was really crowded and queues were building up around the food stalls.

Tip: If you are looking for a bargain, try after 3 pm where sellers reduce their prices to at least half so they can reduce their stock.

1.5 | Getting to Kobo-san Market

Kobo-san Market is within the grounds of Toji Temple. Toji Temple is situated in Minami-ku, There are couple of ways to get here.

i) Kobo-san Market is easily accessible via the modern Kyoto Station, a 15-minute walk southwest through the Omiya and Kujo Street intersection. Be warned, this walk is not really that interesting as there is not much to see except busy streets amidst heavy traffic. 15-minutes is quite a long walk, if you think about it.

If you don’t fancy the walk, the nearest station, which I used, is the Toji Station.

Toji Station is on the Kintetsu Kyoto Line. It takes about 5-minutes to reach Toji Temple/Kobo-san Market. You can see the pagoda from the street outside the Toji Station.

1.6 | Access

Entry to the market and the grounds are free but there is a small charge if you are planning on visiting the pagoda and the surrounding buildings.

1.7 | Conclusion on Kobo-san Market, Kyoto Market

Despite the crowd, Kobo-san Market is a place for antiques, trinkets and good value kimonos. There are other selections of traditional garments and hand woven pieces of material which you can purchase too. In addition, there are a great selection of street food for you to taste. For an authentic Japanese traditional market, I would recommend that you visit the Kobo-san market.

My second of  the two Kyoto Markets which you should not miss is the Tenjin-san Market at the Kitano Tenmangu-Shrine.

2. Tenjin-san Market at Kitano Tenmangu Shrine, Kyoto Markets

The Tenjin-san market at the Kitano Tenmangu-shrine is held on 25th of each month. There are well over 1000 stalls, in and around the shrine. There are rare ornaments, silk kimonos and yukatas for a bargain, plants, pottery and antiques.

There is a huge selection of street food stalls for every taste-bud! The aroma of the yakisoba just draws you…which is mouth-wateringly delicious, cooked right in front of you.

The market is open from the break of dawn till late, 9 pm, but has early closing hours in the winter.

Kitano Tenmangu Shrine, Kyoto_7
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The Tenjin-san Market on 25th of each month.

2.1 | Kitano Tenmangu Shrine, Kyoto

The Kitano Tenmangu Shrine was built in 947 AD in honour of Sugawara no Michizane, who was unfairly exiled by the political rivals of his time. He was a scholar and a politician during 794 AD to 1185 AD which represents the middle Heian period.

Sugawara no Michizane

Sugawara no Michizane was incredibly talented. He read poems at the age of 5 and wrote Chinese poems at the age of 11. Shrines were built to appease him, and he became known as the “god of academics.” He led the popular “Tenjin faith” throughout Japan. The Kitano Tenmangu is the main shrine and the origin of the faith, and there are 12,000 shrines that are dedicated to Sugawara no Michizane.

The Kitano Tenmangu shrine is popular amongst students during exam time and during school trips.

2.2 | Tenjin-San Market, Kyoto Markets

What makes this flea market unique and will be well-worth your visit is the mixture of stalls within the traditional shrine setting. The grounds are large and there are many buildings such as the main shrine which is situated behind the worship hall (this is where the deity is enshrined). The worship hall is connected by the Ishi-no-Ma-Hall which one can visit.

In addition, there are the Sanko-mon Gate and the Ro-mon Gate. So, when you get tired of the bustling crowd and need some space and quiet, you can just wander off to the calmness of the shrine and the gardens, or to enjoy your meal.

Kitano Tenmangu Shrine, Kyoto
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Kyoto Markets: Kitano Tenmangu Shrine is home to beautiful buildings that has architecture going back centuries. It is decorated with hanging lanterns of various colours that just grabs your attention every now and again as you walk through the grounds.
Wander around the grounds of Kitano Tenmangu Shrine while shopping.
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Kyoto Markets: Wander around the grounds of Kitano Tenmangu Shrine while shopping
Kyoto Markets: Tenjin-san Market at Kitano Tenmangu Shrine is a popular destination for students.
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Kyoto Markets: Tenjin-san Market at Kitano Tenmangu Shrine is a popular destination for students.
Kyoto Markets: Kitano Tenmangu Shrine - Students studying the Shinto faith are preparing for some activities.
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Kyoto Markets: Kitano Tenmangu Shrine – Students studying the Shinto faith are preparing for some activities.
Kyoto Markets: Tenjin-san market at Kitano Tenmangu Shrine
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Tenjin-san market at Kitano Tenmangu Shrine sits within a large beautifully landscaped gardens. It is peaceful, quiet – an area of total zen from the bustling crowds just a few hundred feet away.

2.3 | Travel tips and Useful information on Tenjin-san Market, Kyoto Markets

Getting to The Tenjin-san Market at Kitano Tenmangu Shrine

The Tenjin-san Market at Kitano Tenmangu shrine can be accessed directly by Kyoto City Bus numbers 50 and 101 from Kyoto Station. It is about 30 minutes ride and costs 230 Yen.

There is a quicker route – take the Karasuma Subway Line to Imadegawa Station and then take the bus number 102 or 203.

In either case, get off at the Kitano Tenmangumae bus-stop.

Admission is Free.

2.4 | My Conclusion on Tenjin-san Market, Kyoto Markets

Tenjin-san Market is a popular market visited by both tourists and local, especially by students as they pray for wisdom and academic success in observing the Tenjin faith.

I was pleasantly surprised when I visited here. The architectural design was exceptional and the many lanterns just caught my attention. In addition, I watched a show performed by the students of the Shinto faith who sang and danced depicting an ancient story. Unfortunately, I did not understand the story and photography was not allowed. I enjoyed it and it was Free.

If you are considering a visit to a market with a difference, then visit Tenjin-san market, where you will not only what the market offers but also architectural delight and a closer look at Shinto practices.

3 | Ways to experience the cultural city of Kyoto.

If you are looking for some ideas on places to visit, Get Your Guide has some excellent value for money tours. Please click on the link below and have a browse. These ideas can help you plan your next visit to Japan.

You may also like to visit other attractions in Kyoto – here are some suggestions for you:

4 | Are you ready to book your trip?

Here is yout one link to a 6-step guide to an awesome vacation.


Is this post valuable to you in planning your visits to Kyoto markets? If so, please let me know in comments below or via Contact Form, I would love to hear from you.

Happy adventures!

Georgina

February 2020, Update.

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Ultimate guide to the best two flea markets in Kyoto, Japan
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Two Kyoto Markets not to be missed
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An authentic experience of Kyoto Markets.
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15 Responses

  1. Georgina
    |

    I am so glad you enjoyed my post on Kyoto Markets! With so much to see in Kyoto, the markets can be overlooked. However. they are a great place for picking up some good quality kimonos for a bargain. Look forward to hearing of your future experiences at the flea markets in Japan.

  2. Jan
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    I have been to Kyoto but not to any of the markets there. Flea markets sound like a great idea. Those colorful kimonos look so tempting! Thank you for this informative blog post. 🙂

  3. Georgina
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    If you love shopping then the flea markets in Kyoto and throughout Japan are the places to go. You will get a kimono at a bargain!

  4. Shaz On The Move
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    This is a bucket list experience, I love shopping and sure will enjoy these markets

  5. Georgina
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    If you love flea markets, you will absolutely love Kyoto. There are so many more, each unique to a temple and its traditions that go way back hundreds of years. The kimonos are beautifully stitched and, yes it’s a shame to cut them up – I haven’t…yet 🙂

  6. Georgina
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    Thank you so much for clicking through to the 6-step guide to an awesome and pinning it for later. I appreciate it very much. So happy you found the tip useful. Sincerely hope and I am sure you will return to Japan to experience the flea markets again.

  7. Georgina
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    You will absolutely love the vintage markets here. There are so many more to visit in Kyoto alone that will have you occupied for several days! Whenever you do visit, I wish you to have a fabulous time.

  8. Annalisa
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    Wowow this post about the vintage markets in Japan made me so want to go there immediately!!! Thank you so much fod sharing these tips, vintage shopping and street food is one of my favorite travel combo!!!

  9. Can not wait to experience this again someday. Love the tip within the tips ‘late afternoon bargaining is a good one! Clicked through to your 6-step guide to an awesome vacation and Pinned for later.

  10. Jay Artale
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    How fabulous… that’s my kind of ideal day, wandering around flea markets looking for a bargain and then trying some street food. I don’t know why, but I just didn’t imagine Japan having any flea markets. I wonder why I thought that! You’re right about hunting down a kimono for the fabric, seems a shame to cut them up, but a great opportunity to recycle the material to make something else with it.

  11. Sarah
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    Didn’t come across these flea markets when I visited Kyoto but it was a long time ago. I could really do with a new kimono! Keeping this post as will be in Japan again later this year!

  12. nickymacke
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    I would love to visit Kyoto and when I do, I’ll be heading straight for these markets. I can’t believe you bought kimono’s for such a great price! My problem would have been narrowing down my choice…just looking at your photos is making my heart dance, they’re so pretty. Thank you for sharing your insights.

  13. […] Kyoto Markets – Ultimate guide to the Best 2 not to be missed […]

  14. Georgina
    |

    Another magical journey indeed! Thank you so very much for your thoughtful comments. Much appreciated.

  15. ANOTHER MAGICAL JOURNEY, CHINA

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