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Kitano Tenman-gū (北野天満宮) hosts one of the largest Flea Markets in Kyoto every 25th of the month irregardless of the day of the week (I hear the one at Toji on the 21st is even larger but I had to save the joy of visiting that market till my next time in Japan).
When a friend found out I was going to be in Japan on the 25th but was going to be in Tokyo she had some advice. “Change your plans!”
How right she was!
For anyone who loves kimono and are looking for something – anything – you can’t go wrong at Tenman-gū. If all you want is a robe to wear around the house – and don’t take my word for it, I was told by several of the vendors there not to worry about the length of my sleeve, just enjoy wearing it around the house! – or if you want every piece that you need to build your kimono closet on a budget, you have come to the right place!
Almost every tent I stopped at (and there were many!) started at 1000 yen for their kimono and obi and some started at 500 yen! To translate that into American dollars $5-$10! Unbelievable! They also had obi age, obi jime, koshihimo, everything you could possibly imagine you needed for your kitsuke for only $1 if you were careful and looked around.
Now, if you are looking for a much better quality kimono you obviously are going to pay a higher price and you may or may not find it at Tenman-gū. There were some beautiful kimono in wonderful condition starting around $50. Which is still an amazing bargain and you might stumble upon a real treasure! I brought home 2 kimono, 2 juban and quite a few kitsuke items, even a kasane eri for $1 that still had it’s original $92 price tag on it!!
You will, of course, want to check over every inch of the items that you are looking at. These are, for 99% of items there, used, vintage or antique. I would say that stains are not so much of a problem for the pieces of your kitsuke that no one is going to see. But for the juban, you will want to make sure that the sleeves are clean and also any piece that might peek out from under the kimono. I purposefully bought a stunning blue kimono with butterflies on it that was stained just so I could see if I could remove them. But unless you are up for a cleaning adventure you are going to want to make sure that what you are buying is free from stains, smells and tears.
I don’t think it would be underestimating it to say give yourself several hours here, if not all day. After all there is more than just the kimono to see, one mustn’t forget the shrine itself and, if you are there in season, it’s plum blossom garden! Also, just when you think you have reached the end of the line of tents there is a corner to turn and even more to see! And while the market officially winds down around 5pm – you will find sellers doing business for as long as there are people to buy from them.