This Sunday is flea market day at Toji Temple and I wasn’t going to let a little rain or cold stop me. Second to gardens and art museums I love flea markets. Dressing in my heaviest clothing (whatever I hadn’t abandoned in Chicago) I set out but didn’t get far, at first.
The hotel has several small temples and/or shrines nearby. When the palace has its open house these temples are also publicly active. One has a bazaar. I stopped in during my last trip and had coffee and a sweet. This time I walked through and found something I had been looking for: a small bag I could put extra things in when I ran out of pockets. One of the tables had such bags, and I was told the vendor’s mother made the bags. It wasn’t exactly what I wanted but it was so beautifully made with a wonderful polished cotton fabric, I couldn’t resist. For 1500 yen I have a beautiful, handmade bag and a picture of the maker. Of course all of this ended in a great love fest of picture taking.
Next a long bus ride to Toji Temple where I immediately sought shelter from the rain and a cup of coffee, which turned out to be amazingly good. I certainly would not have gotten anything like it in similar circumstances at home. I walked all around the market and around several of the subtemples that had never been open on my previous visits. One of the buildings had an exhibit of indigo dyed textiles, some made into kimonos, some wall hangings. All were beautifully painted, not the usual tie-dyed technique. I wish I knew more about how it was done. Also wish I could afford a kimono. There were scarves for sale for 8000 yen; I didn’t ask the price of the kimonos.
After that, a short bus ride to Tofukuji Temple. There seem to be no signs directing you from the bus stop. Another temple, near the stop, had a sign that said: this is not Tofukuji, no public entry, but didn’t tell where to go. From the map and from my previous visit I recalled a long walk down a small, unmarked street. That’s not unusual. One has to have faith here. I got to a fork in the road and didn’t know where to go. A lot of signs in Japanese pointed in one direction, but that could have been for the local souvenir shop.
I stopped a marvelously, well-dressed, older couple and asked directions. They were charming and, even without a common language, they insisted on accompanying me. After determining I was alone and from the US, we had no conversation. When we got to the temple they insisted on helping me up some very high steps to see the ceiling of one of the prayer halls where there was a dimly lit, difficult to see dragon. They also had to help me down. My knees are not functioning well, even though I keep scolding them.
I have already mentioned I like being alone on these visits. This time I was also desperate for a toilet and the wind had blown something into my left eye, which I could barely keep open, and when this happens, instead of producing lots of tears that would have removed the dirt, my nose runs. It wouldn’t stop, and I was running out of tissues.
The man walked ahead and bought 3 passes to enter the temple proper, even though I said no. He didn’t hear. I did not know how to get out of this. We finished the temple and she said: “My home.” At least I think that’s what she was saying. And they started walking out continuing to say “My home” and gesturing like she wanted me to follow. Was I being invited to their home, me, my runny nose, not very sharp looking clothing? I kept saying yes, but I didn’t know what I was saying yes to. Finally we stopped another couple, a Japanese man and a /Western woman. He was able to translate and told me they just wanted to go home and leave me at the temple. I was very grateful I felt like he saved my life. Finally I could go and find the toilet.
Happily spent more time alone in the garden musing over the kinds of craziness you can get into without a common language.