An event that only happens seven times a year is an event not to be missed. Aside from housing a plethora of beautiful historic sites and shrines, Kyoto is host to the Umekoji Handicrafts Market held near Umekoji Park.
Wandering through the Umekoji Handicrafts Market in Kyoto provides the opportunity to meet and support the local community, and the fact that the market is only held seven times a year is all the more reason to have a look while you happen to be in the ancient capital. The Umekoji Handicrafts Market takes place on the first Saturday of every month, except for January and May. It opens from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm, and not even a light drizzle will prevent it from welcoming visitors.
Easily accessible by bus, and with a bus terminal right next door, the Umekoji Handicrafts Market was already hustling and bustling by 10:30 am. Foreigners and locals alike gather here, peering into each stall and admiring the talent presented to them, while artists and vendors stand behind their products and introduce them to the curious. The market is a fabulous venue selling all kinds of handmade items, ranging from ceramic chopstick holders to reusable sanitary napkins, as well as homemade edible treats and fresh organic produce. Every stall had something special to offer, every vendor was extremely friendly, and of course, almost everything had that a kawaii or cute vibe.
It was certainly by sheer chance that I planned to stay in Kyoto during the first weekend of June, and I had never heard of this market until one of my dorm mates invited me to go with her. We bought some breakfast from a Family Mart convenience store and ate in front of the market entrance before entering. The market itself was larger than I expected, with an extended area at the back where it ends at a playground, accommodating families with small children.
There were many ceramic goods in the form of plates, bowls, cups, and miniature cats. Various kinds of clothing that are reminiscent of those sold at Muji were scattered around the market. Intricate paper cutout pop-up cards adorned one stall, and another booth was filled with anime-themed pins and other handmade merchandise. Overall, there was a generally a prominent cat motif and elegant simplicity to all the arts and crafts sold at the market.
Food-wise, there was an extensive selection of Japanese treats. One stall at the market entrance had a seemingly never-ending line of customers waiting for their delicious homemade bread. Another vendor offered us samples of his iced herbal tea, which could help treat certain bodily discomforts. One lady gave us sample after sample of her crunchy snacks that came in all sorts of flavors, including coconut, sesame, and, of course, a little something catered to the tastebuds of matcha lovers. More stalls toward the back sold assortments of pickled vegetables, dried baby sardines, and freshly harvested vegetables.
If you ever find yourself in Kyoto during the first Saturday of each month from June to December, make sure to treat yourself to this delightful market. Avoid large crowds of tourists, experience an entirely local event, and find a thing or two to fall in love with at the Umekoji Handicrafts Market.