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Come to Hamby Town Flea Market

By: Steve Carr

Date Posted: 2000-05-19

As the evening begins in, so do Hamby Townís Flea Market vendors start setting up their stalls. The Flea Market is on the road that runs parallel to the ocean, opposite the Hit cell phone shop. The bustle starts at 6pm and continues until midnight. The sellers occupy trestle tables, some under large red and white canopies and some open to the skies. More permanent stalls, some of which remain open during the day, ring the area.

This is the place to go if you want to shop for glitter sprayed hair clips at •30 each, tie dyed fabrics, sarongs, woolen caps, embroidered bags or flowered sandals. There are also polished stone pendants, shells, coral, starfish, dolls, shoes, cameras, clocks, videos, cassettes and groceries. Some hawkers concentrate on distinct categories of goods and others look like mini thrift shops with bizarre collections of objects.

Nobu and Mika, a hippy looking couple, originally from Yokohama, who is at the Flea Market every night, specialize in selling silver jewelry they make themselves. Their silver rings, bracelets, necklaces and pendants form wave-like patterns and many are set with glass. The couple also sell bracelets made from a brown, closely woven fibrous material, designed to be soaked in water. When soaked it shrinks to the exact form of the limb it is around.

They also have a selection of intricately carved bone rings at •1200 each. These were made from camel bone which Nobu said he had found while traveling around South America. Their last trip away from home lasted four months and they are often gone for half the year, scouting the world for interesting handicrafts. Their main sources of supply are Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam. Like other vendors Nobu and Mika have been affected by the current economic downturn. They have not been as busy in the last couple of years than they used to be. They supplement their earnings at the Flea Market by selling their jewelry in hotels.

A different kind of vendor is Chika Kobayshi who sells at the Flea Market only occasionally, when she needs some extra cash. She has an incredibly diverse collection of objects on her two trestle tables. There are a pile of sarongs she bought in Bali, a Thai hilltribe belt studded with cowrie shells and Burmese silver coins, some Indonesian bamboo wind-chimes, a Lotus computer manual, a bongo drum, a Playboy playmate calendar, psychedelic spinning tops which make a siren sound, a surfing suit with shoes and some suntan lotion. Chika has also brought a rack of clothes that included jackets, anoraks and coats of fur and fake green leather. Besides T-shirts she is also selling a black velvet bustier dangling with gold metal tassels. There are however no exotic dancers sizing up the marketís wares and the bustier remains unsold. The playmate calendar however gets snapped up quickly, a bargain at •100.

Several tables down my eye is caught by some beautiful green and blue glass vases which Kim Ehman is selling for only •50. She says they cost double that in a •100 shop. She bought them when she was making handicrafts but now no longer needs them. For some reason they are proving hard to shift at the Flea Market. The other unusual item among Kimís wares is an electric cookie maker for •5000. She says that on a good night a vendor can make •10,000 at the market, though most stall holders claim they make •10,000 to •20,000. Takings also depend on the weather. If it is a rainy night people donít want to go outside and a vendor may only get •2000. This might only just cover the cost of renting a table.

Anyone can be a vendor on payment of a fee. On weekdays uncovered tables cost •1500 and covered ones •2000. On weekends the charges are •2000 and •2500 respectively.

There is plenty of food on sale at the Flea Market, ranging from Okinawan style noodles and goat soup to rib steak and barbecued chicken. There is also an Indian Curry stand run by Mr. Suzuki, who has been here four years. He too is nostalgic about the boom years and says he used to be able, in two days, to earn enough for the month. Now meets his needs by working the whole month. Suzuki was taught his trade by an Indian chef and they used to make curry at outdoor festivals. But his mentor is back in India now. Suzuki just confines himself to the Flea Market now.

Another man at the market does a thriving trade in X-rated videos which he says G.I.s cannot buy on base. They come to him for the latest sizzling releases and trade in their old ones too.

Some of the items on sale can be considered fine art. One stall sells finely carved red and green stone Buddhas, shi shi dogs and dragons.

There are also highly original handicrafts. One example of these is picture frames with bright red varnished chili pods and seeds glued to them.

A horoscope caster inside a tent plies his trade for •1000 a time.

Perhaps the most unusual stall is run by a man named Shuichiro, who draws designs and writes names on single rice grains. These are then put in a liquid inside glass ampoules, made into silver topped pendants. Shuichuro inscribes the names under a lamp with his naked eye. His only instruments are a needle and colored pens. He can write 26 characters on a rice grain, though his most popular line is names. Customers clasp their hands in prayer before he begins carving their names. He charges •1500 for a name, •1800 for a name and picture and •2800 for two names and pictures. There is only one other person on Okinawa who can do this. When away from his astonishingly meticulous work, Shuichiroís ordinary handwriting is apparently very messy!

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