I have been in Kyoto for two days now. Today, Sunday, we got up at 5:00am to get to the biggest temple flea market in Kyoto by 6:00. 3 1/2 hours was not nearly enough time to see half the stalls, much less take in the temple and gardens. I chose a beautiful stack (mountain?) of men’s and women’s kimonos which took three of us with four bags each to drag to the car half a mile away. We were also carrying a cast iron lantern and the backpack mentioned below. This is a strange and wonderful culture. I found a 200 year old Edo period raincoat with rare Edo patterns of indigo dyeing and a huge, 100 year old, leather, herbalist’s backpack with perhaps 20 woven trays and one hundred sections for healing herbs.
On our way to the car we rested next to the most famous plum tree garden in Japan. I was warned I would miss cherry blossom time, but the plums would be in bloom. I never thought much about the importance of plum gardens until that moment! There were hundreds of 200-300 year old trees, all in full bloom in a multitude of pinks. Having massaged our hands and rested, we made our way through Kyoto’s backstreets to the van and headed toward Rhett’s warehouse.
The warehouse is well out of town on a fast moving river. It’s up in the hills above the city, often above the snowline, even now in late March. We spent a few hours at the warehouse, mostly looking through 150-250 year old folding screens. Last trip I’d spent many days here learning about the history of 100’s of Japanese antiques and how they fit the culture of the time. I am most fascinated by the Edo Period, the Time of Shoguns, 1600-1868, when Japan was entirely isolated from the rest of the world and developed its unique culture. I buy whatever is good that I can afford from that era. This trip included two (!) pairs(!) of rare black and white, 6′ x 12′ folding screens, each pair showing a dragon on one screen and a tiger on the other. Neither painter had ever seen a tiger (or dragon, for that matter), so he made the tiger almost kitty cat/human-like.
In the early afternoon we went higher into the mountains to visit a country dealer, Jiro, to find old cabinets, folk art, and other odd goodies. Our hours of digging through his warehouse were cold, windy, and hugely rewarding! It was snowing much of the time and the winds shook the roof and wall panels. So far the only heated places I have been on this trip are restaurants, convenience stores, and my room, which takes an hour to heat up when I return at the end of the day.