This article is one of a series in
troducing English-language publications aimed primarily at a readership of foreigners living and working in the Kansai area. Such publications, whether web-based or print-only, free or subscription-based, ads-heavy or ads-lite, all exist to help local foreigners get the most out of their life in Kansai.
‘Kansai Flea Market’ (KFM) is a weekly Classified ads publication now approaching its 900th edition. The paper is a modest project founded on a simple concept and created to an even simpler format. Each edition comprises about 7 sheets of A4 paper, without any binding but folded to a compact A5 size, making it both pocket and back-pack friendly. KFM can be picked up almost anywhere frequented by non-Japanese residents and visitors – at the airport on arrival, in the foreign books section of larger book stores, in internet-cafes, in language schools, and in the watering holes popular with the younger sub-section of Kansai’s foreign community. The typical KFM user is European or American and in Kansai for a short-term immersive Japan-experience funded by the many English-teaching opportunities.
The KFM design, ostensibly unchanged, retains the zen-like monochrome aesthetic of a very early Macintosh word processor - minimal graphics, basic fonts, no photos. The one piece of obvious artwork is on the front cover – a cheerful flea character juggling a TV set, bicycle and dollar symbol which, in the context of KFM, represents “monthly rent” or “salary”. A few key sponsors (travel, insurance, schools, and pubs) take out full or part-page ads of their own design but the main listings are single paragraph ads by individuals that cost a mere 100 yen per line. Here you will find ads for rooms, all kinds of lessons, cosmetics, organic food, parties, and a few personals. There are no articles or editorials, and there are almost no services more usually associated with the long-term or permanent resident (pensions, investment, property, medical services, etc.).
KFM was founded in April 1991 by a local Osaka businessman, Hirokazu Hirayama and he still runs the project today with the help of 2 Japanese and 1 non-Japanese employees. Hirayama saw that, in the late 80s, “few landlords were offering rooms to foreigners which made it very hard for new visitors to find an apartment. Once they did, many would then furnish their new home with items thrown-out around the neighborhood”. Thanks to KFM, the budget-conscious and light-traveling foreign community at last had a regular and dedicated medium for settling in and eventually hosting a “Sayonara Sale”.
Indeed, while TV sets, bicycles and other second-hand goods used to be the staple of KFM listings, several trends from the past decade seem to have changed this dynamic and the history of KFM reflects them. No longer will you find ads for (landline) telephone contracts or hi-fi equipment. Perhaps more than 70% of current KFM classifieds are for accommodation and employment, a change due in part to the internet (on-line auction, shopping and social networking sites), in part due to lower post-bubble living costs and in part due to growing opportunities for Kansai’s foreign community. Hirakawa-san explains that “more and more small-scale foreign entrepreneurs have set up businesses in recent years and are using KFM to source extra help”. So in addition to the ubiquitous “P/T teachers” “models” and “bartenders” -wanted ads, there are increasing listings for “talent extras”, “computer experts”, “web-designers” and “reporters”.
KFM distribution has also moved with the times. A new web-site can be found at “ www.kfm.to ” including a mobile site for the latest generation of KFM users who network principally through their ‘keitai’ phones. Buyers and Sellers can also reach KFM by email at “ email@example.com ” or by phone at 06-6444-5535 (fax: 06-6444-5534).