Stone Basin

Stone Basin
at Ryo An Jin

Monday, May 21, 2007

Day 18 Toji and Ceramics

Today was one long day of shopping and attempting to bargain in my poor Japanese. My friend Takami accompanied me to Toji temple, the site of the monthly 'flea market' of antiques and all kinds of street vendors selling all kinds of wares. Fortunately there was an ice cream stand with a great Yuzu flavour, or Takami and I would have fainted. It was a hot, glaring sunny day, and the crowd was out in troves. For the first time, I felt tall. I could see above the crowd! Many senior citizens were out, especially, older Japanese women, and boy, I felt like a giant! Anyway, it was good not to speak too much Japanese, for as it turned out, I could be rude and bargain the vendors to the death. Takami was amazed at the prices I got, but it was not the bloody duels that a market in China, for example, would have generated.
Anyway, got a variety of antiques, including a furui Korean stone ware bowl of about 350 years old (discount it by at least half that number of years for true age) and a great chawan from the Meiji period, which is not really that long ago. So it was a good day.
Headed out to KiyoMizu Pottery district, where some of the earliest potters thrived and made wares for the throne. Kyoto is famous for so many arts and crafts. There are tofu shops, fan shops, indigo dye shops, wagashi sweet shops, silk, pottery, combs, baskets, and of course, tea shops, just to name a few. Kyoto is fabulous, where old and new meets seamlessly and the new does not seem to intrude into the flavor of its timeless identity. Everything is orderly and neat, people are polite and friendly, and hardly anything felt contrived or tacky. The only disquieting issue was that for such an immaculate city, there was a curious lack of public trash cans. Because of 9/11, Takami said. The city removed all the trash cans for fear of Al Qaida. There was as much chance of Al Qaida choosing Kyoto trash cans as choosing the Walmarts in Ohio, but one is allowed to dream....

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