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Kobo-ichi Flea Market, Toji Temple Kyoto – Bustling Air Makes You Excited



One day, many years ago, one of my students, a young Japanese schoolgirl, told me that she actually took a “flea market” for “free” market. I explained to her where the word “flea market” came from. The French term “marche aux puces” literally meaning “market of the fleas.” She understood it, but she continued, “Don’t you feel that ‘free market’ sounds better than “flea market”? The former sounds attractive to me because the connotation suggested by the word makes me feel ‘free to participate and enjoy’ shopping.”

The word “free market” stands for an economic term that represents an economic system where prices and wages are come out from some commercial factors. But her own take on the word makes sense to me in a way. The Kobo-ichi Market in Toji Temple, which I am going to introduce in this article, guarantees that you will feel “free” at the market in its busting and exciting atmosphere.

Toji Temple – One of the Oldest Temples in Kyoto

Toji Temple (East Temple) is one of Kyoto’s oldest temples. It was established as a guardian place in 796, two years after the capital relocation from Heijo-kyo (平城京) to Heian-kyo (平安京). The guardian temple was one that was built to protect the capital from energies of evil spirits. Along with Saiji Temple (West Temple) and Shingon-in Temple (located in the Heian Palace), it was one of the only three temples allowed in the imperial capital and only one of the three that remains at the present moment.

Kobo Daishi (弘法大師)ーOne of the Most Well-known Buddhist Monks in Japanese History

Toji Temple is often associated with Kobo Daishi, also famous as Kukai (空海:774-835), who was a versatile Buddhist monk in the Heian Period (794-1185). The current hiragana characters are said to have been invented by the great monk. Toji Temple went through tough times when its prosperity began to decline in the late 12th century, which is the end of the Heian Period. But the temple’s fame came back as Kukai became popular among the commoners in the Kamakura Period (1185-1333). They worshipped Kobo Daishi by the posthumous title of Kukai, in the form of the Daishi Shinko (大師信仰).

When Kukai was put in charge of Toji Temple in 823 by the imperial ordinance from the emperor at that time, he showed his talents in many fields.  Kukai was a real brilliance. As the founder of the Shingon sect of Buddhism, which people know as Japanese Esoteric Buddhism nowadays, Kukai studied in the Tang Dynasty China and then brought back various spiritual and cultural teachings new to the public those days.

As an artist, he was a historic calligrapher. Just as there is an English proverb that goes: “even Homer sometimes nods, even Kobo sometimes fails” (a brush stroke) in a Japanese saying. As a civil engineer, he made Toji Temple the headquarters of his Shingon sect of Buddhism and refurbished the temple. He added several buildings to the grounds including the five-storied pagoda, which symbolizes the image of Kyoto.

Image courtesy of Run Mizumushi-kun 

The Event Breakdown

Kobo-ichi (弘法市) Marketーa Vibrant Monthly Anniversary of the Death of Kobo Daishi

On the 21st day of each month, the grounds in Toji Temple replace a holy and calm atmosphere with a bustling shopping environment, which features hundreds of booths roofed with colorful canopies. This market is a part of a monthly religious event to commemorate Kukai’s death. (He passed away on March 21st in 835.) Since his death, the market has been going on a monthly basis under Kukai’s posthumous title. Hence, the market’s name “Kobo-ichi”. Walking along the stalls, you can see and hear people praying while chanting Buddhist sutras. This is a kind of exciting experience to feel yourself in the heady mixture of the secular and religious.

The market here offers a variety of goods that you can associate with the old and historical city: antiques, artwork, pottery, lacquerware, calligraphy materials, tea ceremony utensils, cutlery, curiosities, plants, flowers, and bonsai trees, along with things a typical flea market consists of. When you get tired of exploring the bustling crowds and need some energy boost, you can get a snack from the food and drink stands around the market.

Image courtesy of Run Mizumushi-kun 

Details and Access

• Date: 21st of each month
• Time: 5:00 am – 4:00 pm
• Place: In the grounds of Toji Temple
• Address: 1 Kujocho, Minami Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture
• Official Website:
• Access(railroad):
– 15 minutes’ walk from Hachijo exit of JR Kyoto Station
– 10 minutes’ walk from Toji Station on the Kintetsu Kyoto Line

Closing Remarks

At the entrance of the street where Toji Temple is, there was a massive and monumental gate – the Rashomon (羅生門) Gate. By the 12th century, however, it became a notorious place for the hideout for thieves and other bandits.  Akutagawa Ryunosuke (芥川龍之介: 1892-1927), regarded as the “Father of the Japanese short stories” chose this abandoned place as the central setting of a short novel .

Now, there is just a stone pillar in a small playground near Toji Temple, showing where the Gate was before. It is lying forlornly in stark contrast to the lively atmosphere of the Kobo-ichi market.

If you would like to see this festival with a local guide who will tell you more about the celebration and show you hidden gems in the neighborhood, please click on the banner below.

An Ultimate Idea Source for Your Kyoto Stay!

Kyoto is an old capital of Japan and a cultural and historical mecca for everyone who visits this country. It is the most popular city among tourists and a must-see destination indeed. Kyoto boasts over 4000 historical places including shrines, temples, and attracts visitors with its charming atmosphere of an ancient city. This city is great for shopping, bicycling, hiking, museums, galleries, green spaces, and features many famous festivals. In the following article, you will find 100 things and many ideas on how to spend your time in Kyoto! Please, have a look, URL:

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I hope you enjoyed reading this article. Of course, Kyoto boasts many outstanding events to watch and participate, and you should do it when you have a chance! However, the original Gion festival with much bigger floats takes place every year in Kyoto in July. I am sure you will enjoy one of the most popular Gion festivals in Japan! For more information about Kyoto`s Gion Matsuri click on the link below!

Would You Like to Know How to Enjoy a Japanese Festival Even More?

A lot of people when they get to a Matsuri for the first time feel themselves a bit lost. They confuse about what is happening around. If you are new to Japanese Festivals or want to know an alternative way of how you can enjoy these events, the following article will provide you with a set of helpful tips on how to choose a proper festival and activities you should try there. Please don`t hesitate to take a look at it!


What to do in Kyoto this winter?

After you enjoyed this event, do you have any plan in Kyoto? If you don`t, what about checking this article! You`ll see what you can do in Kyoto this winter!


Sakura in Kyoto

Cherry blossoms are an essential part of Japanese culture. And, viewing cherry blossoms (Hanami) is very popular in Japan during the spring. This is because cherry blossoms, which the Japanese call “Sakura” are stunning in Japan at the time.

If you are planning to visit Japan this spring, and if you want to see more cherry blossoms in another area. I would like you to check the Best cherry blossom spots in Kyoto. Kyoto is one of the best places to see cherry blossom and Japanese culture.

Here`s the link. URL: 

Kyoto has many beautiful spots to see Cherry blossoms. However, other areas also have an excellent place for hanami, especially in Tokyo!

If you are in Tokyo around spring and looking for a place to see cherry blossom. Why don`t you check this “Cherry Blossom Spots and Sakura Festivals 2018 In Tokyo To Feel Spring.” This article will help you to choose which hanami spot is perfect for you! Click below for more details.



Have two kids. Teach English at an “eikaiwa” school more than a decade Love cake.

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