古書（特別是兒童書）。出乎意料的，跳蚤市並沒有太多古書。只有很偶然的時候，可能在一堆完全沒有關係爛爛鐵之中，會出現一兩本毫不起眼的小書。幸運是弘法市裡100日元的《心》、在洋溢一片洋風的福岡護國神社跳蚤市裡一本封面脫落了的Everyman’s Library Shakespeare’s Comedies。在東京大江戶市發現戰前的小學練習本，用來送贈給在香港籌辦舊課本展示館的友人。在我最後一次的弘法市，在一個其貌不揚的亂七八糟的露店我發現了博物館級別的昭和初期的兒童繪本，一臉反正你也買不起表情的男檔主索價五本小書共二萬日元。我真的買不起，帶着依依不捨的心情從東寺的南門離開了。
If you ask me why I like going to flea markets, and what I look for in them, I would say perhaps all I want is just that simple society and life style long distinct in Hong Kong. The emphasis of interactions between people, quality and ethics which define the historic marketplace, instead of the blind pursuit of pure profits and economic efficiency of the modern supermarket.
It all sounds very ideal. Given so there are actually things that I want to acquire from flea markets. Although without a shopping list, I find myself attracted to certain things whenever I went to one: kimono, Japanese/western ceramics and containers, book covers (or other paper/cloth crafts), antiquarian books (especially children’s books).
Kimono. There is kimono rental everywhere in Kyoto, very soon I became satiated with even the newest designs. Then there were “Hanako & Anne" and Yumeji Takehisa which inspired my new love for Taisho Romance and Showa Retro. I had been to too many cheap kimono stalls, been presented with too many choice from the very good and the very bad, till I became very lost. Then one day at Tenjin-ichi at Kitano-Tenmangu, I was captivated by a rather rare kimono in cerulean blue with red-yellow-white-grey floral patterns and bright red linings at the sleeves which looked not too cheap. The obasan said it was from early Showa. I debated with myself for a long time, while the obasan and another obasan kept persuading me to take it, and I did for 7,000 yen. Compared with those as cheap as 500 yen it was a huge sum, but I gave in, choosing to believe that this is my destiny to find it. Just like love. Later on I realised what made me fall for that blue: the maiko at Gion’s Miyako Odori wear exactly that same cerulean blue.
Japanese/western ceramics and containers. The Japanese attention for details and love of objects breed all sorts of beautiful containers. Knowing very little about Japanese ceramics I can hardly tell good from bad, and can only gape at the difference in prices. My policy was “intuitive instead of informed". As I liked English tea, Noritake tea wares also became one of my targets. At under 1,000 yen per item, there were this 60-70s white porcelain for export to France from Kobo-ichi and Oedo Antique Market in Tokyo, floral tea cup and saucer from Tenjin-ichi, Noritake coffee cup and saucer from Osaka Nakasaki Flea Market. Not able to afford wooden chests and drawers from the Edo era, I made do with boxes mounted by chiyo paper, and handmade stationary boxes and medicine boxes from Umekoji Park Craft Market in Kyoto. The only Japanese ware I got at the flea market was a late-Edo tea cup and saucer with Chinese floral prints, from the Nogi Shrine Antique Flea Market in Tokyo (by then I was more acquainted with Japanese ceramics).
Book covers (or other paper/cloth crafts). A purely Japanese invention by the book-loving people. Antique yuzen, retro floral, chiyo paper, washi, nostalgic western prints, leather…… handmade book covers render me defenseless. During this year my collection of book covers grew alongside my collection of books. The most expensive was the Liberty print book cover from the craft market at Shimogamo Shrine Tadasunomori in Kyoto. And the ones with traditional Kyoto floral prints from Kobo-ichi. Many kimono stalls also sell shredded fabric, and I picked many in old floral patterns. Antique yuzen and chiyo paper was also a big temptation, and their prices brought me back to my senses.
Antiquarian books (especially children’s books). Surprisingly there are not that many old books in flea markets. Only very occasionally one may find among heaps of junk a small copy or two obscure publications. Lucky was the day when I found “Kokoro" at Kobo-ichi for 100 yen, and a Everyman’s Library Shakespeare’s Comedies with a torn cover from Fukuoka’s Gokoku Shrine Flea Market. Two elementary school notebooks from the prewar years, discovered at Oedo Antique Market, for my friend who is opening an old textbook museum in Hong Kong. At my last visit to Kobo-ichi, at a messy stall I found some children’s picture books from early Showa period worthy of a museum, and the male owner in a careless tone told me 20,000 yen for 5 copies. I left.