Toji Temple (東寺) is a 15 minute walk from Kyoto Station. On the approach to the temple slowly but surely vendors start appearing on the sidewalk and you know you are on the right way.
The activity explodes the moment you step through one of the temple’s gates. Some 1200 vendors sell everything from 500 year old Korean pottery and Imperial Army uniforms, to frozen cucumber snacks and Lotus Flowers.
In between you find a fascinating selection of kimono, yukata, underwear, modern arts and crafts, Showa era magazines and just about anything you can, and cannot, imagine.
The temple was founded 12 centuries ago, and is almost as old as the old capital itself. For quite a while it was run by Kobo Daishi, also known as Kukai, founder of the Shingon school of Buddhism and undoubtedly one of Japan’s most celebrated Buddhist scholars.
The temple’s principal image is Yakushi Nyorai, the Medicine Buddha. On the 21st of the month, no less than 300,000 pilgrims come here to pray for good health. Long lines of people covering themselves with smoke of incense before praying in front of an endless series of age old paintings.
Such huge crowds naturally attract people with things to sell, and for many hundreds of years this sacred day has become market day. The most interesting of these markets take place in December and January, the last and first ones of the year.
There is also a smaller market at Toji that takes place on the first Sunday of each month.
Toji’s beautiful architecture, its pagoda surrounded by a traditional Japanese garden, and its moat filled with Lotus Flowers, turtles and carps, adds a fairytale atmosphere to the market.
You can escape the crowds for a leisurely stroll in the garden, or a short break watching the flowers and the turtles. You are also bound to run into a procession of Buddhist priests clad in ochre robes, or observe a priest performing prayers at one of the many sub temples, just steps away from the never ending bustle of the market.
Even Lotus Flowers are for sale
Boro textiles, traditionally worn by peasants
A Buddhist service, just a few steps away from the bustling crowds
Cheaply priced obi
You can find just about anything
Boy and girl Kewpie dolls
Flag at stall selling crushed ice
Mountains of kimono and yukata to choose from
Buddhist image on the bottom of a bowl
16th century pottery from North Korea
Box full of figures
Priests on parade
Toji’s famed five storied pagoda
Purification by smoke
An enormous variety of food items are on offer
When: 21st of the month (smaller market on first Sunday)
Where: Toji Temple, Kyoto