Kyoto Markets — Guide to the Best 2 not to miss

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Kyoto Markets – Ultimate Guide to the Best 2 Flea Markets in Kyoto

Updated: May 24, 2022

Kyoto, the ancient capital of Japan is a city that embodies the real essence of Japanese heritage. From temples, shrines and zen parks to an extensive range of stalls and stores that represent contemporary opulence and elegance which cater to materialistic desires. Entwined in the midst of traditional heritage and modern city life are the longstanding traditional flea markets in Kyoto. Kyoto markets are a true haven for travellers to experience scrumptious street food, sample a selection of fresh and dried pickles, buy ornate souvenirs along with adorable kimono or yukata with pretty footwear — inexpensively.

While there are a number of flea markets in Kyoto that are open daily, the temples and shrines in Kyoto tend to host their markets on specific days once a month. These monthly Kyoto markets are places where you can pick up some really good bargains. Almost everything is up at a sale price. Here are two Kyoto markets which make a great stop for visitors.

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1 | Kobo-san Flea Markets at Toji Temple in Kyoto

One of the popular Kyoto markets which I would recommend is the Kobo-san flea market. Kobo-san market is held within the grounds of one of Kyoto’s most historic temples, the To-ji Temple.

The Kobo-san market at Toji Temple is a rewarding cultural experience and is one of the most intense and unique Japanese shopping events.

To-ji Temple, translated to East Temple is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site and is home to a five-storey pagoda which was founded in 796 AD. Due to a lightning strike, the pagoda was rebuilt in the Edo period by Tokugawa Iemitsu. The Toji Pagoda stands at 57 metres high (187 ft).

The market is called ‘Kobo-san’ to honour the Buddhist priest, Kukai, who brought Shingon Buddhism to Japan. He founded the temple in 796. After his death on 21st March 835, he was honoured with “Kobo-Daishi” title.

So, on the 21st of each month, the popular Kobo-san flea market takes place from dawn to dusk.

1.1 | A bustling Kobo-san Kyoto market from dawn to dusk

A bustling Kobo-san Market that offer a great choice in antiques, vintage garments and street food.| Kyoto markets | timelesstravelsteps.com
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A bustling Kobo-san market that offer a great choice in antiques, vintage garments and street food | Flea markets in Kyoto.

On this one-day each month, the To-ji Temple itself becomes a secondary stage. The grounds of the Temple, turns into an enormous and liveliest market area, bustling with tourists and locals in search of antiques and good bargains. There is an incredible variety here and you can find pretty much anything that you might be looking for. The market opens at sunrise and as the sun begins to set, you will note the stalls start to pack-up and prices fall to a dramatic low!

1.2 | Kimono and Yukata are a Bargain at Kobo-san Flea Market in Kyoto

Kobo-san flea market in Kyoto at To-ji Temple is home to over 1000 stalls where you can find beautiful vintage and cultural products such as second-hand kimonos, shoes, hats, hand-fans, ceramics, chopsticks, books and prints.

Beautiful handmade second-hand silk kimonos at a bargain at the Kobo-san market | Kyoto markets | timelesstravelsteps.com
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Kyoto Markets: Beautiful handmade second-hand silk kimonos at a bargain at the Kobo-san market

I bought a few kimonos for 500 Yen each. These are of top quality fabric and were well worth the money. I am a proud owner of the beautiful kimonos pictured above which are hanging in my wardrobe at the moment. There were some for even 300 Yen!

NB: The Kobo-san Kyoto Market is one of the very few markets where you can negotiate and bargain over the products.

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There are so many stalls and you just have to keep looking till you find the right stall 😊. If you see something you really like at a good price, grab it. It won’t be there if you return in an hour! On the other hand, if you wait till after 2 or 3 pm, you will find some really good bargains as the crowd begins to dwindle after lunch and vendors begin to pack-up for the day.

Kyoto flea markets

1.3 | Street Food at Kobo-san Kyoto Market

Yakitori | Japan food | Kyoto markets | timelesstravelsteps.com
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Yakitori

Aside from the bargain-hunting for traditional garments and fantastic souvenirs, the Kobo-san flea market in Kyoto offers a great opportunity to experience the variety of Japanese street food. From yakitori (grilled meat on skewers), or takoyaki to Hiroshima style okonomiyaki.

1.3.1 | Okonomiyaki | Food at flea markets in Kyoto

Okonomiyaki | Kyoto markets | timelesstravelsteps.com
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Okonomiyaki

Try the okonomiyaki if you feel like having something substantial. It is a Japanese-style savoury pancake, topped with layers of cabbage, meat, noodles and a choice of octopus or fish, with lots of okonomiyaki sauce (a combination of ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, oyster sauce, sugar or honey).

Recommended read: Okonomiyaki Hiroshima’s Soul Food

1.3.2 | Takoyaki

takoyaki | Kyoto markets | timelesstravelsteps.com
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takoyaki in special moulded pan | street food at Kyoto markets

Takoyaki is a popular Japanese snack. It is ball-shaped, made of wheat flour batter and cooked in special moulded pan.

takoyaki2. | flea markets in Kyoto | timelesstravelsteps.com
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These dough balls are filled with pieces of octopus, pickled ginger and onions but you can hardly taste the ginger or the onions. It is topped with takoyaki sauce (similar to Worcestershire sauce) and Japanese mayonnaise, sprinkled with aonori or green laver (an edible green seaweed). Takoyaki is sometimes topped with shavings of dried bonito.

I must admit that takoyaki is not one of my favourite of Japanese food. People differ in taste, therefore I suggest that you try it at least once!

1.4 | Best Tips for Kobo-san Flea Market in Kyoto

Explore the grounds of Kobo-san Market while shopping and visit the Toji Temple | flea markets in Kyoto | timelesstravelsteps.com
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Kyoto Markets: Explore the grounds of Kobo-san Market while shopping and visit the Toji Temple.

1.4.1 | Give yourself plenty of time to explore.

Give yourself plenty of time to explore. You can easily get lost here, amongst the huge crowd. The enormous market area is like a maze and on occasions navigating around the stalls and re-tracing your steps may be a little challenging. So, give yourself plenty of time to get lost here and experience the authentic market atmosphere.

1.4.2 | Mornings are best for specific items

Mornings are best if you want choices and are looking for specific items such as antiques, traditional ceramics or silk kimonos.

Kobo-san market gets going from about 9:00 A.M. but people start arriving from 8:00 A.M. to grab a good selection of what they need. Also, it is not so crowded first thing in the morning and vendors are eager to sell to their first customers as they unpack to set up stalls.

Vendors usually begin to end their day at about 4:00 P.M but the market stays open for longer in the summer months.

If you are looking for a bargain, after 3 pm would be best as the vendors reduce their prices to at least half so they can get rid of their stock.

I visited the market at about 10:00 and the crowd was already beginning to build up but it was still pleasant. However, by midday, it was really crowded and queues were building up around the food stalls.

1.5 | How to Get to Kobo-san Flea Market in Kyoto

Kobo-san Kyoto market is within the grounds of Toji Temple. Toji Temple is situated in Minami-ku. There are three ways to get to Toji temple.

1.5.1 | Kyoto Station

Kobo-san flea market in Kyoto is easily accessible via the modern Kyoto Station, a 15-minute walk southwest through the Omiya and Kujo Street intersection. However, be warned as this walk is not really that interesting. There is not much to see except busy streets amidst heavy traffic. 15-minutes is quite a long walk, if you think about it.

If you don’t fancy the walk, the nearest station, which I used, is the Toji Station.

1.5.2 | Toji Station

Toji Station is on the Kintetsu Kyoto Line. It takes about 5-minutes to reach Toji Temple/Kobo-san Market. You can see the pagoda from the street outside the Toji Station.

1.5.3 | By Bus

Buses #202 and #205 pass through Toji Temple. Find out more about taking a bus in Kyoto and whether a flat fare or a day pass is suitable for your needs.

WHERE: Toji Temple,

ADDRESS: 1 Kujocho, Minami Ward, Kyoto, 601-8473, Japan

GPS Co-ordinates for Toji Temple, Kyoto, Japan

Latitude: 34.979831
Longitude: 135.752642

WHEN: 21st of each month

FROM: 9:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M

1.6 | Access

Entry to the market and the grounds are free but there is a small charge if you are planning on visiting the pagoda and the surrounding buildings.

1.7 | My thoughts on Kobo-san Flea Market at Toji Temple in Kyoto

Though the market can be intense, the temples provide a serene haven to escape to if you need a breather. Despite the crowd, Kobo-san Market is the place for antiques, trinkets and good value kimonos. There are other selections of traditional garments and hand woven pieces of material which you can purchase too. Even if you do not buy anything, the Kobo-san market at Toji temple is a great event to experience. In addition, there is a great selection of street food for you to taste.

For one day, on every 21st of each month, Kobo-san market in Kyoto comes together to represent the sereneness of the temple, the affluence of Japanese artistic traditions along with a bustling avariciousness.

If you wish to experience an authentic Japanese traditional market, I would recommend that you visit the Kobo-san flea market in Kyoto.


My second of  the two Kyoto Markets not to miss is the Tenjin-san Market at the Kitano Tenmangu-Shrine.

2 | Tenjin-san Market at Kitano Tenmangu Shrine Kyoto

Affectionately known as Tenjin-san market by the locals, the monthly market at Kitano Tenmangu Shrine in northwestern Kyoto is popular for its amazing bargains, fabric, vintage items and rare finds. Visiting the market makes a great excuse to visit the Kitano Tenmangu Shrine also, a destination that is popular among the locals as well as tourists.

The Tenjin-san market at the Kitano Tenmangu-shrine is one of the largest in Kyoto, held on the 25th of each month. There are well over 1000 stalls, in and around the shrine. Each street overflows with stalls and exploring the market stalls is an experience in itself. There are rare ornaments, silk kimonos and yukatas for a bargain. You shall also find vintage items such as pottery, and antiques along with fine woodworking. Various types of tea and ceramic tea-sets are also available.

2.1 | About Kitano Tenmangu Shrine, Kyoto

Kyoto Markets: Tenjin-san Market at Kitano Tenmangu Shrine is a popular destination for students. | timelesstravelsteps.com
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Kyoto Markets: Tenjin-san Market at Kitano Tenmangu Shrine is a popular destination for students.

The Kitano Tenmangu Shrine was built in 947 AD in honour of Sugawara no Michizane, who was unfairly exiled by the political rivals of his time. He was a scholar and a politician during 794 AD to 1185 AD which represents the middle Heian period.

2.1.1 | Sugawara no Michizane

Sugawara no Michizane was incredibly talented. He read poems at the age of 5 and wrote Chinese poems at the age of 11. Shrines were built to appease him, and he became known as the “god of academics.” He led the popular “Tenjin faith” throughout Japan. The Kitano Tenmangu is the main shrine and the origin of the faith, and there are 12,000 shrines that are dedicated to Sugawara no Michizane.

Kyoto Markets | Kitano Tenmangu Shrine | timelesstravelsteps.com
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Kyoto Markets: Kitano Tenmangu Shrine - Students studying the Shinto faith are preparing for some activities | Kyoto markets | timelesstravelsteps.com
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Kyoto Markets: Kitano Tenmangu Shrine – Students studying the Shinto faith are preparing for some activities.

2.1.2 | Rituals and Events

Rituals and events are held at various times throughout the year to commemorate the life of Sugawara. The Tenjin-san flea market is held on the 25th of each month to commemorate the anniversary of Sugawara’s passing

The Kitano Tenmangu shrine is popular amongst students during exam time and during school trips.

2.2 | Tenjin-san Flea Market in Kyoto

Tenjin san flea markets in Kyoto | Kitano Tenmangu | timelesstravelsteps.com
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The Tenjin-san Market on 25th of each month.

What makes this flea market unique and will be well-worth your visit is the mixture of stalls within the traditional shrine setting. The grounds are large and there are many buildings such as the main shrine which is situated behind the worship hall (this is where the deity is enshrined). The worship hall is connected by the Ishi-no-Ma-Hall which one can visit.

Wander around the grounds of Kitano Tenmangu Shrine while shopping | Flea markets in Kyoto | timelesstravelsteps.com
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Kyoto Markets: Wander around the grounds of Kitano Tenmangu Shrine while shopping
Kitano Tenmangu Shrine, Kyoto
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Kyoto Markets: Kitano Tenmangu Shrine is home to beautiful buildings that has architecture going back centuries. It is decorated with hanging lanterns of various colours that just grabs your attention every now and again as you walk through the grounds.
Kyoto Markets: Tenjin-san market at Kitano Tenmangu Shrine
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Tenjin-san market at Kitano Tenmangu Shrine sits within a large beautifully landscaped gardens. It is peaceful, quiet – an area of total zen from the bustling crowds just a few hundred feet away.

In addition, there are the Sanko-mon Gate and the Ro-mon Gate. So, when you get tired of the bustling crowd and need some space and quiet, you can just wander off to the calmness of the shrine and the gardens, or to enjoy your meal.

2.3 | Street Food at Tenjin-san Market at Kitano Tenmangu Shrine Kyoto

No flea market is complete without street food. Tenjin-san is no exception. There is a huge selection of street food stalls for every taste-bud!

street food at Tenjin-san flea market in Kyoto | timelesstravelsteps.com
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yakisoba | flea markets in Kyoto

The aroma of the yakisoba just draws you…which is mouth-wateringly delicious, cooked right in front of you.

Also on offer are freshly grilled corn-on-cob, fried yuba, yakitori, fried chicken along with takoyaki and okonomiyaki.

The market is open from the break of dawn till late, 9 pm, but has early closing hours in the winter.

2.3 | Practical Information about Tenjin-san Market at Kitano Tenmangu Kyoto

2.3.1 How to Get to Tenjin-san Market at Kitano Tenmangu Shrine Kyoto

The Tenjin-san Market at Kitano Tenmangu shrine can be accessed directly by Kyoto City Bus numbers 50 and 101 from Kyoto Station. It is about 30 minutes ride and costs 230 Yen.

There is a quicker route – take the Karasuma Subway Line to Imadegawa Station and then take the bus number 102 or 203.

In either case, get off at the Kitano Tenmangumae bus-stop.


WHERE: Kitano Tenmangu Shrine

ADDRESS: Bakurocho, Kamigyo Ward, Kyoto, 602-8386, Japan

GPS CO-ORDINATES FOR KITANO TENMANGU SHRINE:

Latitude: 35.0314012
Longitude: 135.7351215

WHEN: On the 25th of each month

FROM: 6:00 A.M to 4:00 P.M | Later in the summer.

ADMISSION: Free

Kyoto markets

2.4 | My thoughts on Tenjin-san Market and Kitano Tenmangu Shrine

Tenjin-san Market is a popular market visited by both tourists and local, especially by students as they pray for wisdom and academic success in observing the Tenjin faith.

I was pleasantly surprised when I visited here. The architectural design was exceptional and the many lanterns just caught my attention. In addition, I watched a show performed by the students of the Shinto faith who sang and danced depicting an ancient story. Unfortunately, photography was not allowed.

I enjoyed watching the gracefulness of the female actresses, the beating of the drums that signified the dramatic turns in the story and the upbeat attention grabbing dancing. It was free to watch, so just make your way to the podium when visiting the market.

Tenjin-san market is a market with a difference. It is a place where you will not only experience what a traditional market in Kyoto is and what the market offers but also the inspiring architectural designs, the sereneness of the gardens along with a closer look at Shinto practices.

Recommended read: The 5 Etiquette you need to know before Visiting a Shinto Shrine


Kyoto markets

Travel resources at a Glance

Planning your dream vacation? Excellent! Here are all the Resources and Practical information you need for your self-guided or guided vacation.

Legal entry/Tourist travel Visa

Check Visa requirements with iVisa, a leading independent company in the travel documentation industry.

Flights

I have a few choices. Search Google flights because they offer very competitive prices. You could also try Opodo for cheap airfares. For special experiences, go to On the Beach and Jet2Holidays. My all time favourite has been Qatar Airways for long-haul flights for the comfort and their first-class service. I use British Airways as well. For all other global deals >> kiwi.com

Accommodations

My favourite website for booking hotels is booking.com – I love their flexible cancellation policy which means I’m covered till the last minute. I also like that the totals show up for the whole stay so it helps me budget better. Other favourites of mine are Millennium & Copthorne Group of Hotels and Resorts for their consistent high quality accommodations and service. You could also take a look at the Radisson Hotels chain that caters for all budget. For accommodations in UK that has a personal touch and affordable luxury, stay at Hotel du Vin.

Unique experiences & tours

My all time go to resource for unique experiences and tours is Get your Guide. I am also a fan of Viator for their special deals. You shall find suggestions on recommended tours sprinkled throughout TTS on each experience I write about.

Travel insurance

Never travel without travel insurance and never overpay for travel insurance! Before purchasing any any travel policy, read through the terms to ensure that the plan is right for you and your trip.

Travel essentials

Never travel without these! I use and fully endorse all the products on this page but especially: High powered wireless power bank, Universal travel adapter and unlimited portable pocket wifi.


finally…

My sincere wish is that this guide has been valuable in your search for the best Kyoto markets to visit for an authentic and rich experience of the Japanese culture. If so, use the links embedded in this article to book your travels, place to stay or activities you intend to do. TTS earns a commission from qualified bookings or purchases at zero cost to you. Alternatively, you may wish to buy us a coffee. As always, your support is highly appreciated to keep this blog going.

Do get in touch if you have any questions.

Have an awesome time exploring and discovering the ancient land of Japan.

Georgina xoxo


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Kyoto Markets — Ultimate Guide to the Best 2 not to miss first published at timelesstravelsteps.com | Regularly edited and updated. Last update was on May 24, 2022


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By Georgina

Travel Writer & Content Creator. Single Traveller. An Escapist.

15 comments

  1. I am so glad you enjoyed my post on Kyoto Markets! With so much to see in Kyoto, the markets can be overlooked. However. they are a great place for picking up some good quality kimonos for a bargain. Look forward to hearing of your future experiences at the flea markets in Japan.

  2. I have been to Kyoto but not to any of the markets there. Flea markets sound like a great idea. Those colorful kimonos look so tempting! Thank you for this informative blog post. 🙂

  3. If you love shopping then the flea markets in Kyoto and throughout Japan are the places to go. You will get a kimono at a bargain!

  4. This is a bucket list experience, I love shopping and sure will enjoy these markets

  5. If you love flea markets, you will absolutely love Kyoto. There are so many more, each unique to a temple and its traditions that go way back hundreds of years. The kimonos are beautifully stitched and, yes it’s a shame to cut them up – I haven’t…yet 🙂

  6. Thank you so much for clicking through to the 6-step guide to an awesome and pinning it for later. I appreciate it very much. So happy you found the tip useful. Sincerely hope and I am sure you will return to Japan to experience the flea markets again.

  7. You will absolutely love the vintage markets here. There are so many more to visit in Kyoto alone that will have you occupied for several days! Whenever you do visit, I wish you to have a fabulous time.

  8. Wowow this post about the vintage markets in Japan made me so want to go there immediately!!! Thank you so much fod sharing these tips, vintage shopping and street food is one of my favorite travel combo!!!

  9. Can not wait to experience this again someday. Love the tip within the tips ‘late afternoon bargaining is a good one! Clicked through to your 6-step guide to an awesome vacation and Pinned for later.

  10. How fabulous… that’s my kind of ideal day, wandering around flea markets looking for a bargain and then trying some street food. I don’t know why, but I just didn’t imagine Japan having any flea markets. I wonder why I thought that! You’re right about hunting down a kimono for the fabric, seems a shame to cut them up, but a great opportunity to recycle the material to make something else with it.

  11. Didn’t come across these flea markets when I visited Kyoto but it was a long time ago. I could really do with a new kimono! Keeping this post as will be in Japan again later this year!

  12. I would love to visit Kyoto and when I do, I’ll be heading straight for these markets. I can’t believe you bought kimono’s for such a great price! My problem would have been narrowing down my choice…just looking at your photos is making my heart dance, they’re so pretty. Thank you for sharing your insights.

  13. Another magical journey indeed! Thank you so very much for your thoughtful comments. Much appreciated.

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