By Sherilyn Siy
Looking for a completely different shopping experience in a unique atmosphere? The Seiryu Open Air Market may just be the thing for you.
Already on its 53rd run (as of May 2015), the Seiryu Aozora (Open Air) Market is held on the last Sunday of the month, from April to November in the clearing of a forest in Seiryu, Hidaka, Saitama. Started by Eizaburo and Ai Kami over seven years ago, the market brings the local community together once a month in the festive atmosphere of a farmer's market. Setting up a stall is completely free - you just need to bring your own table and find your own space to lay out your wares. When asked why they don't charge vendors for setting up a booth, Ai-chan, who speaks fluent English says, "We do this all for fun."
Here you might find the fresh produce of the season and meet the farmers themselves. You might also find handcrafted items like tea cups, bowls, carved wooden implements, colored glass decorations, paintings and meet the artists as well. "Might" - because each market day is different and you never know what stalls will be there each month.
The market attracts vegans, vegetarians and people interested in organic, all natural food, products and lifestyle. A lot of the food and drink stalls offer homemade vegan and vegetarian meals and treats, although some vendors have cafes or restaurants in the neighborhood. Sometimes there are booths that offer acupressure massage, color therapy, aura reading and other similar kinds of consultation.
There is a wooden stage where people can come up and sing or dance. Kami-kun himself plays the saxophone and every so often, his band plays popular tunes.
The wonderfully energetic and sunny couple Kami-kun and Ai-chan shared with us how they found this place by accident. The location used to be overgrown with vegetation but when they explored it, they found a clearing right in the middle, probably where a house used to be located. It looked to them just like in The Secret Garden with sunlight streaming down. On regular days, this place is home to the Pono Pono forest kindergarten (mori no yochien), a playgroup cooperative. As such, there is plenty for kids to do while you shop -- thick ropes hang from trees for swings. There are wood planks for a seesaw and thick branches for a slide. The trampoline is also quite popular.
The Seiryu Aozora Market is usually held from 10 a.m. to 12 noon although once a year, in the summer, the market is held in the evening. This night market is worth checking out. The forest is lit with lamps and is even more festive than usual. When it rains, the market transfers to a nearby community center. Parking spaces are available.
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For Sherilyn Siy, Asia is home. Born in Hong Kong, Sherilyn spent time in the Philippines, China, and now lives in Japan. She speaks English, Filipino, Chinese (or putonghua), and Hokkien, her family's local dialect. Running is one of her favorite ways to explore Japan. She proudly finished the 2015 Tokyo Marathon -- her first ever full marathon -- in 4 hours and 37 minutes. She was absolutely psyched when she got selected again to run the new Tokyo Marathon route in 2018. She hopes to complete other races in Japan.