Thursday, 21 April 2011

Rendezvous under the Pagoda

Toji is one of the most important temples in Kyoto, and once a month it holds a massive outdoor flea market in the grounds of the temple. You can literally find just about anything here from old samurai armour to big granny knickers, and everything in between. We`d arranged to meet my kimono teacher, Emiko, and her sister Naomi, who`d come on the Shinkansen from northwest Tokyo to see us.
Isn`t it a gorgeous place? The sun shone all day and we had a wonderful time wandering round the market, which was quite busy but still nowhere near as thronged with tourists as usual. This was handy, as we had suitcases and six people to maneuvre.

The market was full of interesting stalls, including many handmade items such as these amazing balancing dragonfly ornaments. Even when the man put the dragonfly on Daughter`s finger upside down, it sprung back the right way again and balanced, somehow.
There were plenty of stalls selling second-hand kimono, which were tempting, but in the quantity I sell them, it`s easier having them sent from a dealer in Japan than buying them in Japan myself. I did treat myself to some bags of kimono fabric scraps though, for making kanzashi brooches which I sell through galleries. I also couldn`t resist an antique temari ball, which will act as inspiration for students when I teach my classes.

There was plenty of food to choose from too, and Daughter had a delicious, chocolate-filled cake.
After all that hard shopping, we spent a few moments relaxing on the bridge and enjoying the wildlife. We saw turtles basking in the sun and koi carp of all colours and sizes.
A heron stood poised over the water (as I was poised over the camera!), but didn`t catch anything.
On the way back to the house, we saw a wonderful contrast of the traditional and the modern - a Shinto shrine in front of a concrete apartment block.
Back at the house, I made some edamame (soybeans) as a snack, we exchanged gifts (as is customary) and Emiko made some of her fabulous creations from obi belts. The obi is a 4 metre long strip of thick, woven silk which is tied round the kimono. Emiko is a professional kimono dresser and she specialises in creating decorative ways of tying the obi. These examples are for decoration around the home. All she used were a few elastic bands and a lot of skill!!! Aren`t they incredible?!
Not to be outdone, Daughter taught Emiko and Naomi how to do kumihimo braiding (which is how the blue and red cords on the obi ties were made). We`d seen a marudai (braiding stand) at the market and Emiko said she`d never tried it. I`ve got a marudai at home and I happened to have brought 2 portable braiding discs to Japan (for some work I have to do while I`m here...), so it seemed fortuitous that they should have a go.
As you can see, Emiko is wearing kimono. She wears it every day, just like we wear a top with jeans. Usually, we stay at her house for a few days and she lets me rummage her collection...she has about 1,000 kimono with all the accessories, shoes and everything else, all in a dedicated room which she uses for teaching. In fact, that room is one of my favourite places!

By now we were all hungry so we walked to the nearby Kaiten Zushi (sushi-go-round) and filled our faces. While we waited for a table, Naomi and Emiko (who`d hidden the disc down her kimono sleeve) got their braiding out and carried on until they`d each made a beautiful braid.

The food was wonderful, and cheap at only 100 yen per plate. There was even a slot in the table where you could drop used plates down, and every 5 plates gave you a game on a computer screen. If you won the game (out of 40 plates we won 1 game), a plastic ball with a gift inside came down a chute. Daughter got a manga character magnet, and was very happy.

Great food, great company and great plans made with Emiko (of which more later...). A fantastic day.


  1. I used to love going to Toji and mooch around the market!

  2. Please bring in the antique Temari Ball when you come to do your workshop at WI House in Spennymoor. I would love to see it!