Monday, July 25, 2016

My essay in A Cup of Culture and a Pinch of Crisis: Tales from a Small Planet: The Food Edition

Takashi and C-chan Arai on the farm.
I am so very pleased to announce that my essay, "Growing Home in Tokyo", is included in the latest collection of essays from Tales from a Small Planet - A Cup of Culture and a Pinch of Crisis. I wrote, of course, about how I landed on an organic farm in Tokyo and how my years there shaped my experience here. Japan is my second home in great part because of the hours and days spent working side by side with the Arai family. They and their farm are more dear to me than a few paragraphs can express, and that's not even counting all those awesome recipes I learned.

So, please consider buying it or asking your library to buy it. I might mention, too, that it makes a great gift.


Friday, July 22, 2016

Tokyo and Yokohama Regional Farmers Markets: Saturday, July 23rd and Sunday, July 24th

The Minowa's and their most excellent rice at the Earth Day Farmers Market.
As July winds its way out with a little rain, some heat, and a healthy dose of humidity, the farmers markets carry on. This is the peak of summer harvest, and those harvest will only continue to grow until we turn our attention more fully to winter. Don't be shy to head out to one of the best in the city, the Earth Day Market, along with a fine selection of regular markets that offer plenty of goodness every week. Enjoy!
Saturday, July 24th
I could go wax on forever about how great this market is and how important it is for the future of Japanese farming and global food security. Instead, I'll just insist that folks go and see for themselves what great things the market and these innovative growers are doing. Come find some good food and fun and enjoy!
10am to 4pm, Rain or shine!

Every day
A small local affair featuring Kamakura heirloom fruits and vegetables raised in yet another former capital city, the Kamakura Market is a small but wonderful venue. Head in early to get the best selection and pick up a loaf of Paradise Alley's charcoal infused bread while you're there.
7am until sold out

Every Sunday
Ebisu Market management are going all-out this month and hosting a market every Sunday. They've been recruiting more staff and hunting up vendors, so head on out to be part of the action. A recent visit showed this always lovely market remains charming as ever with an excellent selection of seasonal fruits and vegetables, scrumptious looking snacks, and crafty items. I'd also recommend a trip to Afuri Ramen when you're done for some of the best yuzu tsukemen in town.
11am to 5pm

Every Friday
A charming little weekly market tucked conveniently just outside the turnstile at Futamatagawa Station in Yokohama where a nice selection of fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables await. Joining them are baked goods, rice, miso, and all the other fixings one might need for the week or just a good snack. Plenty of Kanagawa goodies, too, so be sure to ask!
10am to 6pm
Look for the tables when you step out the gate!

Every Saturday and Sunday
A massive weekend affair that is great fun and features a variety of fruits and vegetables and prepared products from all over Japan. Plus, there's a most excellent selection of food trucks offering everything from salad to zingy curry to roast chicken to falafel!
10am to 4pm

Every Saturday
Back up and running after a refurbishment of the market space, the Roppongi Farmers Market is as booming and bountiful as ever. Don't miss this chance to meet a grower from Tokyo's very own Kokobunji and sample seasonal bounty.
10am to 4pm (Usually. Do check their website for schedule fluctuations.)

Every Saturday and Sunday
Smaller than the UNU Market, Yurakacho features a particular region of Japan each week along with an excellent selection of seasonal fruit and vegetables. Growers from nearby Chiba, Kamakura, and Saitama are also on hand to help fill the larder.
11am to 5pm
Directions: Turn left out of Yurakacho station and cross the courtyard toward Tokyo Kouku Keitan. Look for the fun under the overhang!

Know of a market? Give me a shout and we'll add it to the list!

Monday, July 18, 2016

My review of Baird's Takadanobaba Taproom at Metropolis

Baird's good beer at the Takadanobaba Taproom.
It is no secret that I am something of a beer fan. I've never brewed my own, but I do enjoy the beverages other take the time to craft. Even more, I enjoy writing about those brews and sharing what I discover. Read my review of Baird Beer's Takadanobaba Taproom at Metropolis and then head on over there to do a little delicious work of your own.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Tokyo and Yokohama Regional Farmer's Markets: Saturday, July 16th and Sunday, July 17th

The Roppongi Ark Hills Market in full swing!
Welcome to the most farmers-markety weekend of the month! It is well worth hopping out to one of these lovely affairs to see what's going on in terms of food, music, workshops, and other foodly hijinks. The Nippori Market, as covered by Martin Frid earlier this week, is one of the best ones going. It may be small, but it is big on charm, selection, and fun. Don't miss it.

Saturday, July 16th
A new market I spotted while riding the train a few years ago on a Saturday morning into the city center is still going strong. That circle of red awnings in front of the Za-Koenji Public Theatre could only mean one thing! Sure enough, I found a small group of area growers and producers, and the bounty surely continues!
11am - 5pm

Saturday, July 16th and Sunday, July 17th
Another great market in the city found with a little help from friends, this one is sure to not disappoint. A small but lively market, particularly on Saturday, it is well worth the trip. Plus, Tohoku growers are on hand sharing their best-of-the-best, so come on out to be part of the recovery and get something good to eat.
No map, but just head out the east exit and look for the green awnings!
10am to 5pm

Saturday, July 16th and Sunday, July 17th
A brand new market opening this month in Yokohama that looks quite promising. Their Facebook page says the Market of the Sun folks decided to start it up, so it could be good. I'll be visiting to check it out!
10am to 4pm
Bashamichi Station, Exit 2

Sunday, July 17th
This little gem of a community shindig is one of the best things going outside of the Earth Day Market, and I don't say that lightly. A nice little community affair started a handful of years ago, it blossomed into a full-on monthly festival that just happens to feature Shonan area produce in its fresh, seasonal form as well as pickled, dried, and prepared-hot-in-a-bowl. In summer it turns into a night market, but in fall it will swing back to regular daylight hours. More than worth the trek down to see what's going on!
10am to 3pm

Oiso Port Building

Every day
A small local affair featuring Kamakura heirloom fruits and vegetables raised in yet another former capital city, the Kamakura Market is a small but wonderful venue. Head in early to get the best selection and pick up a loaf of Paradise Alley's charcoal infused bread while you're there.
7am until sold out

Every Sunday
Ebisu Market management are going all-out this month and hosting a market every Sunday. They've been recruiting more staff and hunting up vendors, so head on out to be part of the action. A recent visit showed this always lovely market remains charming as ever with an excellent selection of seasonal fruits and vegetables, scrumptious looking snacks, and crafty items. I'd also recommend a trip to Afuri Ramen when you're done for some of the best yuzu tsukemen in town.
11am to 5pm

Every Friday
A charming little weekly market tucked conveniently just outside the turnstile at Futamatagawa Station in Yokohama where a nice selection of fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables await. Joining them are baked goods, rice, miso, and all the other fixings one might need for the week or just a good snack. Plenty of Kanagawa goodies, too, so be sure to ask!
10am to 6pm
Look for the tables when you step out the gate!

Every Saturday and Sunday
A massive weekend affair that is great fun and features a variety of fruits and vegetables and prepared products from all over Japan. Plus, there's a most excellent selection of food trucks offering everything from salad to zingy curry to roast chicken to falafel!
10am to 4pm

Every Saturday
Back up and running after a refurbishment of the market space, the Roppongi Farmers Market is as booming and bountiful as ever. Don't miss this chance to meet a grower from Tokyo's very own Kokobunji and sample seasonal bounty.
10am to 4pm (Usually. Do check their website for schedule fluctuations.)

Every Saturday and Sunday
Smaller than the UNU Market, Yurakacho features a particular region of Japan each week along with an excellent selection of seasonal fruit and vegetables. Growers from nearby Chiba, Kamakura, and Saitama are also on hand to help fill the larder.
11am to 5pm
Directions: Turn left out of Yurakacho station and cross the courtyard toward Tokyo Kouku Keitan. Look for the fun under the overhang!

Know of a market? Give me a shout and we'll add it to the list!

Monday, July 11, 2016

Nippori Marche: Fresh food and fun in the heart of old Tokyo

Martin J. Frid is an old friend and fellow lover of good food and farmers. He also happens to be deeply involved in the Nippori Marche, one of the best little monthly markets in the city. Martin offered this guest post as an update on what's happening there and to bring an insider's perspective. Enjoy! - JB

Kimura-san's most amazing vegetables always attract a crowd!
I work part-time at Nippori Marche and thought I'd talk a bit about what it takes to help run a (small) market one weekend a month in Tokyo. As Joan points out in her fabulous monthly listing of events and farmers markets, this is a lively event with a focus on good food and fresh fruit and vegetables. It all started six years ago, when the good people who own the event square in Nippori joined up with Arakawa-ku and decided that they wanted to create opportunities for farmers to meet their customers directly, in a city that doesn't have a lot of event squares with available space for this kind of activity. It really started from scratch and we have never cancelled a single day, rain, snow or shine. In fact, I think “shine” is the worst, when it is 36 C or more in the sun. Typhoons do cause some trouble too for an outdoor market like ours! 

Sase-san's bountiful harvest is worth a good long look, and he's always up for a chat.
We meet up on the Friday before the weekend to bring the green tents and tables and other equipment to the event square. Stuff like sinks and running water, as well as fire extinguishers, are required by law, and we also provide a PA system for music and a stage for performances. The tents are really heavy but still tend to lift and take off with strong gusts of wind, so we have to bring heavy concrete blocks to secure all the tent poles, and yikes, they ARE heavy! Flags and ads also add to the fun. Many vendors bring their own flags to decorate their booths, but we like to have a sense of unity so that people can see that the market is “on” as they exit the JR Nippori station.

Regional themes occur regularly.
The vendors arrive early Saturday morning, some from quite a distance. Sase-san and Kimura-san drive all the way from Aizu Wakamatsu in Fukushima prefecture, and their fresh produce is always incredibly popular. We have vendors selling fruit from Aomori, including apples. Look out for Sameshima-san who sells food shipped from Tanegashima, the tiny island south of Kagoshima. Several people bring just harvested veggies and pickles and organic food from Chiba and Miyagi. Gyoza from Utsunomiya. Food from Chichibu in rural Saitama is brought in, depending on the season. Homemade honey and delicious olive oil also to be sampled and brought home, maybe as a present for someone special?

Hello, Samosa!
We are pretty international: I highly recommend sampling Richard's fine French pastries and quiche & pies that he makes himself, and you can feast on Brazilian dishes, as well as fried samosa and Pakistani food. Many people come back each month for the yakisoba and dumplings. Soft drinks, beer, nihonshu (sake) and more will be served, plus the best coffee in town from Ethiopia! Oh, and in summer, do head to Nippori to satisfy your sweet tooth craving of kakigori, the traditional shaved ice with different syrups, so beloved by kids all over Japan.

At dusk, we decide if we will close at 5 pm or maybe put up lamps and carry on an hour longer, depending on the weather and the mood. The stage performances continue until we close, with dance by Sanchome, solo guitar by Hitori Ventures, and all kinds of local talents, including a team of guys with mad basketball skills... From around lunch time we set up tables so people can enjoy their food and drinks – we jokingly call it the Nippori Marche Beer Garden, although that is not entirely official. We have been featured on TV and in Tokyo Walker, but we could really need some major PR. Do visit and share with your friends.

Then the hard work begins to take everything down. Many vendors join in to help and it is pretty smooth going by now. On a good evening it takes less than an hour to dismantle the entire market, tent by tent, table by table, booth by booth, sink by sink, flag by flag. Sometimes, we go for karaoke or head to the nearest izakaya to relax together. In summer, we party right there at the event square, so don't be surprised if you should happen to see a bunch of tired but happy people sitting outside on the event square in a rather un-Japanese fashion, late into the evening.

Location: JR Nippori station, north east exit, Tokyo
Time: 10 am – 5 pm
Date: Every third weekend of each month

July 16-17 (Sat – Sun) will mark the 70th event so far!

Friday, July 8, 2016

Tokyo and Yokohama Regional Farmers Markets: Saturday, July 9th and Sunday, July 10th

Scrumptious biwa at the Nagoya Organic Farmers Market.
Hot times, indeed, these days. Summer's bounty is rolling in so it's time to break out recipes for pesto, Maan's beans and tomatoes, Maan's potato salad, and whatever other glorious things can be conjured up from so many lovely vegetables. See you at the market!

Earth Day Market - Kichijoji
Saturday, July 9th and Sunday, July 10th
One of Tokyo's best markets goes on the road to one of the best spots on the city's west side. Don't miss this organic opportunity to meet some of the coolest people doing important work for our world and our food.
10am to 4pm
Innokashira Park

Saturday, July 9th and Sunday, July 10th
The newest of Tokyo's farmers markets at two years old, Market of the Sun professes to be one of the largest, and this month looks to be all about the grape. A short walk from Tsukiji Market and its wonderful surrounds, it's worth a stop for a selection of foodly and crafty items that rivals that at the UNU Market.
10am to 4pm
No map but step out of Kachidoki Station exits A4a and A4b

Every day
A small local affair featuring Kamakura heirloom fruits and vegetables raised in yet another former capital city, the Kamakura Market is a small but wonderful venue. Head in early to get the best selection and pick up a loaf of Paradise Alley's charcoal infused bread while you're there.
7am until sold out

Every Sunday
Ebisu Market management are going all-out this month and hosting a market every Sunday. They've been recruiting more staff and hunting up vendors, so head on out to be part of the action. A recent visit showed this always lovely market remains charming as ever with an excellent selection of seasonal fruits and vegetables, scrumptious looking snacks, and crafty items. I'd also recommend a trip to Afuri Ramen when you're done for some of the best yuzu tsukemen in town.
11am to 5pm

Every Friday
A charming little weekly market tucked conveniently just outside the turnstile at Futamatagawa Station in Yokohama where a nice selection of fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables await. Joining them are baked goods, rice, miso, and all the other fixings one might need for the week or just a good snack. Plenty of Kanagawa goodies, too, so be sure to ask!
10am to 6pm
Look for the tables when you step out the gate!

Every Saturday and Sunday
A massive weekend affair that is great fun and features a variety of fruits and vegetables and prepared products from all over Japan. Plus, there's a most excellent selection of food trucks offering everything from salad to zingy curry to roast chicken to falafel!
10am to 4pm

Every Saturday
Back up and running after a refurbishment of the market space, the Roppongi Farmers Market is as booming and bountiful as ever. Don't miss this chance to meet a grower from Tokyo's very own Kokobunji and sample seasonal bounty.
10am to 4pm (Usually. Do check their website for schedule fluctuations.)

Every Saturday and Sunday
Smaller than the UNU Market, Yurakacho features a particular region of Japan each week along with an excellent selection of seasonal fruit and vegetables. Growers from nearby Chiba, Kamakura, and Saitama are also on hand to help fill the larder.
11am to 5pm
Directions: Turn left out of Yurakacho station and cross the courtyard toward Tokyo Kouku Keitan. Look for the fun under the overhang!

Know of a market? Give me a shout and we'll add it to the list!

Monday, July 4, 2016

My essay on finding the familiar in Japan at Metropolis

Why tulips in July?
Read the essay and find out.
Living in a foreign country is a ripe opportunity for seeing the differences in cultures. Most people relish and marvel at them, and it goes without saying that there are moments where all of us living as foreigners in a foreign land complain about them, too.

One of the things, though, that has struck me since the beginning are the similarities. I am often astounded and humbled by the fact that all mother's believe their children are geniuses, that all grandmothers have way too much stuff in their houses, and that all farmers are eager to share the stories behind the food they grow. I see it every day, and it puts the truth to what I previously thought was just a lame cliche: People are people.

So, here is my essay at Metropolis. Enjoy.