I am always happy to get an email from my friend Hiroko and doubly happy when she brings news from Tokyo's swingin' produce scene.
Recently she wrote to me,
I went to a town in Tokyo called Ebisu in Tokyo last Sunday and stumbled upon a farmers market. It was pretty small, maybe too small to call a market, so they called it "Marche" (as if the serving size is always smaller in France than in the US).
She actually wrote more, but of course I was chock full of questions about this first paragraph, and I made Hiroko go back and explain.
What do you mean, “town in Tokyo”? Does Tokyo have towns? And how far away is Ebisu from your “town” in Tokyo?
Hiroko patiently explained,
Tokyo has 23 wards (called "ku," like Meguro-ku, Shibuya-ku) and cities (called "shi," like Tama-shi), and small towns in them. Ebisu is in Shibuya-ku, Tokyo - and is about 15 minutes train ride from where I live. Ebisu housed famous brewery, which produced Yebisu Beer (that is available in the U.S) . The fancy mall where this marche was held used be a beer factory with beautiful red brick architecture, but was kind of abandoned after the shut down of the factory. It kind of reminds me of the the South Street Seaport.
Back to her original comments:
Because it was in one of those fancy urban malls it seemed more for tourists than for locals to get fresh produce. But actually there were a couple of good stands - I got some organic herbs and peppers. One of the shops was called "Insect Farm."
I asked the lady there what's in the name, and she said "We are organic, so there are a lot of insects in our farm." I thought it was so cute I took some pictures.
I was surprised by the routine use of English, so I asked Hiroko, Would the use of English be routine in a tourist area?
Yes, pretty much. Train/subway stations, other main attractions of the city usually have Japanese/English signs, some even have signs in Chinese and Korean.
(Hmm, so why does Japan have a reputation as being challenging for (admittedly spoiled and self-entitled) English speakers? Oh, it's spoken English that is the problem, not written English. And Japanese students typically study English for at least 6 years, unlike the US, famous for its foreign language deficit.)
I asked Hiroko to translate the prices and compare them to the standard costs in Tokyo. She wrote,
The bunch of sage I'm holding was 150 yen, about $1.25. It's a reasonable price for organic herbs. [Hiroko, that's cheaper than NYC prices!]
The big bunch of French celery is 300 yen [around $2.50] and a bunch of borage is 150 yen [around $1.25] . A bag of assorted color bell peppers is 300 yen [around $2.50].
The apples in the photo cost 150 yen a piece and 500 yen for four. The muscat grapes are 1000 yen a bunch. It is a bit expensive compared to the regular market price, but they were organic.I asked Hiroko if most of the market apples were the Japanese-origin apples that are now popular in the markets here - Fuji and Mutsu. She wrote,
We have quite a bit of varieties - Akibae, Shin Sekai, Shinano Gold and Kogyoku. My favorite is Fuji to eat and Kogyoku to cook. Kogyoku has tart flavor and crisp texture, and it won't get mushy when cooked.
That small Marche made me missing Honeycrisp apples, hot apple cider, and other stuff at Union Sq. Green Market. And I miss Autumn in NYC.
We miss you too, Hiroko! Our fingers are crossed for a visit to NYC in 2016!