In todays world of flashy gadgets and digital life-styles, there are real-world experiences which many of us crave for. Since childhood I personally have always liked to visit flea markets, where sifting through random offerings by the various sellers, communicating with them on random subjects and bargaining on the perceived value of the items, whether in Mumbai or in Tokyo, have always proved to be a deep and interesting experience.
It was a chance trip on a Sunday to the Tomioka Hachimangu Shrine near Monzen-Nakacho Station on the Tozai Tokyo Metro Line when I discovered that there was a flea market. This was in 2005, and I keep going to the venue a couple of times every year.
The flea market takes place on every 1st, 15th and 28th of every month. The shrine itself has a quite a historical significance, coming from the time when the annual summer festival here was regarded as one of the three great festivals of the Edo period. One of the great treasures of the shrine is its 4-ton ichi-no-miya mikoshi, the biggest mikoshi (portable shrine) in the Kanto region. It is said that the value of the mikoshi decorations of diamonds, rubies and saphires stands at about one billion yen. The shrine has weathered carpet bombing during the Second World War and was renovated in the post-war period.
The flea market attracts significant crowds and the products, similar to other flea markets, invoke a certain nostalgia. Tomioka Hachimangu Shrine has a long-established variety of goods for visitors who seek good and old items. I have collected many rare coins, postcards and stamps, and the decoration in the hallway of my apartment consists of many items I picked up at the market. Unfortunately I have not seen much English speaking sellers at the venue, but all sellers are usually very polite and helpful. Kindly note that the flea market takes place every month except January.
The area is in close proximity to Eitai Bashi and the Chuo-Ohashi Bridge which you can visit all in one trip, providing you don't pickup too many things at the flea market. Happy treasure hunting!