By Mandy Bartok
Kitano Tenman-gu is one of the important shrines located in the northwestern part of Kyoto city, dedicated to Sugawara Michizane. It is famous amongst the students, as it is associated to the kami (Shinto god) of education, so it is always crowded during the exam times and school trips. One of the other reasons that make this shrine one of the well-visited places is the traditional flea market on the 25th of every month.
Reaching the flea market is very easy; there are city buses running frequently from Kyoto station to the Kitano Tenman-gu-mae bus stop, which would cost you around ¥230 and will take around 30 minutes. Even if you take any subway lines, you would find a direct bus from outside the station to the shrine. The bus fare remains the same no matter what your destination is. There is not much parking space around for bicycles or cars in particular, so be prepared to face crowded streets with a little traffic or just simply use the public transport.
The flea market is held on the shrine grounds and in surrounding streets, where you can find hundreds of vendors selling traditional goods, plants, antiques, kimono fabrics, jewelry, ceramic, tools and toys. The prices of goods are actually lower than the ones in the shops downtown, and you might find some real treasures at reasonable prices. There are also numerous food stalls selling festival style traditional food like takoyaki (octopus balls) and Japanese sweets at a very low price.
The flea market is held only once in a month, so it is advisable to go early during the day as most of the stuff will be sold out by the late afternoon or evening. The prices are generally negotiable, but it can be a little difficult to bargain if you don't speak Japanese. However, nothing is impossible, especially for women.
So if you are a collector of traditional goods, a tourist with many souvenirs or gifts to buy, or a foodie who is on a mission to explore the traditional Japanese delicacies, then Kitano Tenman-gu flea market is definitely a great place to go and to enrich the Japanese cultural experience.
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