After a short bike ride up a gentle rise, we find ourselves at a Sunday flea market, in no other location than the grounds of a temple.
Some of the most coveted items - cassette Walkmans for example - would only be ironic purchases among the vast swathes of hipsters in Australia. But in Japan purchasing these devices, despite being well past their prime, involves deep contemplation and perhaps a quick conference on your flip phone with a relative or friend.
Markets in most places I've been are hectic - people hustling and bustling everywhere, rifling through tables of scarves, shopkeepers shouting "Hello! Hello! Special price for you!". But in Japan, everything is calm, people mill about and shopkeepers let you quietly browse without feigning an interest in how your day is going in the hope it might encourage you to buy.
We pass by stalls selling vintage kimonos, fabric off cuts, kitsch ornaments, teapots, Doge phone pouches, woodworking tools, stretchy pants (popular with the grandmas), the tiniest bonsais you've ever seen and of course - food. While the wares for sale are appealing, I recall something that I'm sure someone famous said once: don't shop on an empty stomach - so we set out for a sizeable queue...
For those not already aware of this phenomenon, Japanese people love queuing up for stuff. Urban legend has it that if you stand in the one spot long enough there's a real likelihood of a queue forming behind you. But usually a queue is worth it here - so we spot an okonomiyaki stall selling the Hiroshima style (there's a healthy rivalry between the Hiroshima style and Kansai style okonomiyaki which ensures quality with low prices because economics).
The okonomiyaki production line lets off a wonderful smell and a welcome warmth radiates from the row of teppans (while it's almost spring here, it's still rather cold). Said production line ensures the wait isn't long in the lengthly queue before we're holding our prize. Another fun fact about Japan is that it's rude to eat and walk, so we settle down on the stools behind the stall and tuck in to our lunch. We sit in a row of fellow okonomiyaki connoisseurs quietly munching away while the temple bell rings, bringing out the juxtaposition of the whole scenario.
With lunch settled, we set out once again into the crowd. Eyeing off the several kimono stalls, a navy and white cotton number takes my fancy and after a stilted exchange in Japanese it's mine for ¥1000 (just over AU$10). Bargain. My own piece of Japan to cherish long after this peaceful and seemingly spiritual afternoon wandering through a strange market in the temple grounds...