Friday, June 15, 2018

Tokyo and Yokohama Regional Farmers Markets: Saturday, June 16 and Sunday, June 17

Kamakura Farmers Market growers and their tasty veg!

Rainy season has arrived and even brought a typhoon along to join the fun. Growers and producers, however, are still hard at it in field, furrow and kitchen, so don't hesitate to head on out. This is, after all, the most farmers-markety weekend of the month, so it should be simple to find one near or relatively near and get some good grub. What better way to ward off the rainy season blues than a hearty soup or some wonderful pickles! See you at the market!

Kichijoji Harmonica Yokocho Asaichi
Sunday, June 17
Early birds on Tokyo's west side should count themselves lucky to find this little market in the warren of shops just north of the station. While fruits and veg are a bit lacking, the market is big on craftsmen and women doing interesting work, excellent baked goods, miso, rice, and other tasty treats. It's worth noting that a number of places offer breakfast deals in the market!
Look for my review in Outdoor Japan's Spring Traveler!
7am - 10am

Koenji Farmers Market
Saturday, June 16*
Spotted a handful of years ago while riding the Chuo Line, this little market is still going strong. A circle of red awnings in front of the Za-Koenji Public Theatre marks the spot where friendly folks with good food and interesting stories await.
*A wee bit of a best guess here as they haven't updated their blog yet. Do check before making the trip over there.
11am - 6pm

Nippori Farmers Market
Saturday, June 16 and Sunday, June 17
This charming market in the heart of old Tokyo abounds with a sense of community and friendliness as well as good food. Small but lively, particularly on Saturday, it features a monthly geographical theme although regular vendors include Tohoku growers and some of the best steamed manju in the world.
No map, but just head out the East Exit and look for the green awnings
10am to 5pm

Osonbashi Marche
Saturday, June 16 and Sunday, June 17
This new market in Yokohama is one I have only seen a poster and website for, but not been to yet. The venue should be beautiful, and I have no doubt the offerings will be good. Keep in mind that it is relatively new, so it might be small. However, markets don't get bigger and better if you don't go to them and support the people there. I can't go this month, but I'd love to hear from anyone who does!
10:30am to 4pm
Nihon-Oodoori Station
Look for the exit for the International Ferry Passenger Terminal and follow the signs.

Yokohama Kitanaka Marche
Saturday, June 16 and Sunday, June 17
One of the best markets going in the Yokohama area, and it's perhaps no coincidence that they are only moments away from Baird Beer's Bashamichi Taproom. Started by the same folks who created the Market of the Sun, the Kitanaka Marche to be growing steadily with tasty offerings of fresh seasonal veg, fruit, baked goods and preserves. Read my other review over at Outdoor Japan's Traveler Magazine for the full scoop.
10am to 4pm
Bashamichi Station, Exit 2*
Note that the market has moved, so come out of the station, turn right, and take the next right turn. Keep walking past the construction site and keep an eye out for the white tents running along next to the river.

Oiso Farmers Market
Sunday, June 17
This little gem of a community shindig is one of the best things going outside of the Earth Day Market. 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 varieties. In summer, it transforms into a night market, while year-round a much smaller version takes place every Saturday. Lee's Bread alone is worth the journey. Read my full review at Outdoor Japan's Traveler Magazine.
10am to 2pm
Oiso Port Building

Kamakura Farmers Market
Every day
This market is an absolute treasure of a small local affair featuring Kamakura heirloom fruits and vegetables raised in or nearby another one of Japan's former capitals. Head in early to get the best selection and pick up a loaf of Paradise Alley's charcoal-infused bread while you're there. They also make an excellent cup of coffee.
7am until sold out

Ebisu Market
Every Sunday
A small handful of years ago, the Ebisu Market became a weekly Sunday event. Part of the original Marche Japon movement, this market carries on with a nice selection of regional farmers, seasonal veg, baked goods, and the addition of arts and crafts. It does bill itself as all organic, and there are some; however, I recommend asking vendors to be sure. I also recommend a trip to Afuri Ramen to fortify yourself with some of the best yuzu tsukemen in town.
11am to 5pm

UN University Market
Every Saturday and Sunday
A massive weekend affair that started out as the flagship market for Marche Japon busted out on its own a few years back. Now one of the most happening places on the weekend, the market features a variety of fruits and vegetables and prepared products from all over Japan. Winter vegetables can be found here, but produce offerings do vary in amount by season. There is a most excellent selection of food trucks whipping up everything from salad to zingy curry to roast chicken and falafel! Oh, and don't forget the craft beer truck, too!
10am to 4pm

Hills Marche Farmers Market
Every Tuesday and Saturday
The Ark Hills Marche in Roppongi is perhaps one of the best things going in this part of Tokyo. Originally created to serve residents of the nearby high-rise, it is a bountiful and booming event. Don't miss the chance to meet a grower from Tokyo's very own Kokobunji, take in a little music, and sample a variety of other seasonal delights.
Saturday, 10am to 4pm
Tuesday, 11am to 7pm**

Yurakucho Farmers Market
Every Saturday and Sunday
Smaller than the UNU Market, the Yurakucho Market takes its cue from the antenna shops located nearby and 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 do come weekly, though, with some excellent treats.
11am to 5pm
Directions: Turn left out of Yurakucho 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 I'll add it to the list!

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Thursday Snapshot: Ajisai and the Rainy Season

This  year's ajisai (hydrangea) bloom.
June is rainy season, and it is also when ajisai (hydrangea) make themselves known. I cannot help but mention them each year at about this time. They are remarkable to me for a variety of reasons, not least because Japan is the place where I came to appreciate them.

It was hiking in Hokkaido, deep in the heart of Daisetsuzan Koen, that I spotted my first wild hydrangea. Hiking down a steep valley to a wild onsen recommended by a friend, I paused to catch my breath. I looked up and saw among the various plants and flowers clinging to the rocky walls a lone hydrangea. It's blue purple blossom waved with the wind that moved down the valley with the stream we were following. It was one of the loveliest things I'd ever seen, so unlike the giant white basketball blooms I'd seen and disdained back home.

Since then, I look for them and look forward to this native plant's show each year. And take my annual round of photos, marveling at their colors and shapes, happy for the chance to see them again. And if you're hiking in the mountains this summer, keep an eye out for this lovely blooms.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Women of a Certain Age: Review

Image courtesy of Freemantle Press

I was recently offered the chance to review a book of essays written by women about the later years of life. Women of a Certain Age, (Freemantle Press, March 2018) proved a compelling read, not just because I'm a woman, but because it is a glimpse into the human experience that I think is rarely put in the spotlight. I am grateful the opportunity came my way. Read my whole review here and see the link there for how to find your own copy.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Kanagawa Garden Update: June

The garden from the west side.
Now that our move is over and the kittens are, for the most part, settled in, I've been able to return some attention to my garden. It's a further walk now - about 30 minutes versus the previous 10 minutes - but I plan to keep it for the foreseeable future. I'm attached to my fellow gardeners, and I've put a great deal of effort into building up that soil. It isn't perfect, of course, a subject I'll write more about soon, but it is pretty wonderful.

The North Bed - West to East

As the temperatures and humidity rise, things get a bit wonky in the garden. Everything starts growing like crazy, and keeping up with that level of enthusiasm is challenging. My tomatoes have sent runner branches hither and yon, something I suspect is normal for heirloom tomatoes. This is perhaps the third or fourth year that I have grown them from seed, and I am suspicious that as an American tomato they may prefer not to be pruned. They seem very happy in their chaos, and a little research tells me that they would like to be staked or supported in their endeavors only. Messiness seems to be the American way in this case.

My habit of letting my greens - kale, norabo, etc. - go to seed and then laying those branches on the soil to compost resulted as always in an abundance of baby plants. We are still eating and enjoying them, although the humidity, aphids, and cabbage worms are getting the better of them. However, those plants made a nice carpet mulch for the tomatoes and later offered some protection from the weather. I'm now pruning/eating the larger greens to allow in more light and air.

The onion harvest is done, and that bed is in good shape. The soil is rich with worms and critters, and will be a happy home for a fresh round of greens come the fall. I'm giving serious thought to carrots or some of the soramame gifted at the seed saving workshop. I've grown neither of them before, but I am sure it will be an interesting endeavor.

The arugula has gone to seed, and a bundle of the branches now hang under the eaves of our veranda to dry for next year. I still have some purchased seed left over, but I'm hoping to develop a strain that is particularly happy in this region.

Bergamot blooms in full swing.
The yakon, bergamot, and swiss chard are in good shape, too. The latter, of course, is winding down, but I'll let it do it's thing until it sets seed. Everything grown this year is from seed saved last year, which feels like quite an accomplishment. I also noticed yesterday a Lacinato kale plant adding its lush greenery to the scene in that corner of the garden, which also made me quite happy.

I've also seen young shoots of tsurumurasaki here and there, the great-great-great-grandchildren of a couple of plants I bought a few years ago. I welcome them, too, as we enjoy their tender leaves in salads, cold soups, and sandwiches.

The South Bed - East to West

The popcorn plants stand shoulder high now and have yet to tassle. I always forget just how tall these plants get. I'm always impressed at the strength of their roots and how the shape themselves to the wind. Granted, the unseasonal typhoons that are now the norm are a challenge, but I remain hopeful.

The popcorn standing tall.
 At the base of these, too, I laid the tall branches of greens gone to seed, and I'm looking forward to seeing what happens. You can never have enough greens, if you ask me. I'm also letting the strawberry runners wander here and there on this side. I won't let them take over as they did a few years ago, but I'm still happy to see them and feast on them in the spring.

Finally, at the far west end of the south bed are the potatoes and what I believe is myoga. The potatoes are ready to be harvested as the branches are dying off and falling over. That will be Friday's big job, and the myoga will remain where it is until I sort out in more detail what I am supposed to do.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Sprouting Daikon Top Means Edible Greens

The little sprouting daikon top: a portrait.
I remember visiting my good friend Junko one day and noticing a shallow bowl filled with water and three kabu tops sitting there. The leaves of the kabu were still attached and a vibrant green. "They're easy to keep like this," she said and went on to explain that they would get new leaves, too. 

It seemed like a great idea, but I didn't really think much about it for some time. We usually eat all of our vegetables - tops, leaves, etc. - so it wasn't until recently I remembered her idea and gave it a shot.

The container with the tomatoes and the daikon in the back left corner.
I'd bought a lovely red daikon at the UNU a.k.a. Aoyama Farmers Market from Mercato back in April. We'd eaten most of it, but the top still had a few tiny leaves. I found a shallow bowl and plopped it in. Soon, new leaves were sprouting. It wasn't too exciting, so I left it be. (That really means I simply forgot about it.) My husband moved it to a small flower pot on our patio, and there it stayed until about two weeks ago. When it rained and when I remembered, I gave it water. Miraculously, it lived. When I picked it up, I noticed roots coming out the bottom. My next thought was...

...why not?

I planted it in a back corner of a planter with two cherry tomatoes and some random green seeds.

The other day when I went to stake the tomatoes and arrange a net for a green curtain, I was sure there must have been more seeds spread about on the soil than I thought. Then I realized my error.

The base of the original daikon happily growing.
Those leaves belonged to that little daikon top!

Lush and green, the little guy is holding its own in that back corner. Where we go from here, I don't know, but I'll be enjoying them in our house salads for some time, I think. It also seems to want to throw up bloom or two, which will mean seeds. I'll be collecting those, of course. Such enthusiasm should be honored.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Sunday Reading

Stubbers "helping" me stay on task.
The new office assistants are keeping me hopping, that's for sure. Last week must have been a fluke of peacefulness, because it's been a steady run of laundry, food, and play time all for them ever since. It's a miracle I got to read anything this week. Here's a few items I got to savor in between kitten attacks.

Food and Farming

What 'No Antibiotic' Claims Really Mean at Consumer Reports lays out in detail what that means in different contexts. The related links on food labeling are also worth sitting down with, too.

Nature in Various Forms

Hundreds of Shoes Form Memorial in Puerto Rico After Maria Death Toll Spikes at Huffington Post is a vivid portrayal of the grief and frustration these U.S. citizens continue to face nearly a year after the hurricane struck. Check out the good work being done by the Land+Heart Project in Puerto Rico to see one of way of how to help.

Invasive Beetle Threatens Japan's Beloved Cherry Blossoms at The Japan Times tells of the threat posed to the nation's beloved trees by the red-necked longhorn beetle. A stowaway on imported lumber perhaps, the beetle is munching its way along.

The team and I recently listened to Krista Tippett talk with Michael McCarthy for a recent episode of On Being, and then I found this amazing piece, Nature and the Serious Business of Joy, at Brainpickings. Deep, complex, and beautifully written, the article is worth the time it takes to read and ponder.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Onion Harvest Drying

Onions drying on our veranda.
The onion harvest is in from my Kanagawa garden. I planted about twenty-five red onions in December or January (I can't recall exactly, and my office assistants won't let me up.) in a bed layered with leaves and manure and then mulched with wara (rice straw).

The mulched onion bed in January. If you squint, you can see them...
It didn't feel too promising, I must admit, in the early days as they battled the cold, dry winter, but they held on until the weather warmed.

My brave little onions stretching for the sun.
Then they sent up their strong green leaves and set my mouth to watering as I anticipated pickles, salads, and chutneys. Friends, of course, anticipated the same as well as one or two to call their very own.

I harvested them a little late - Saturday, June 2 - but before the rainy season arrived in earnest. Now, they are lounging on our veranda in between showers and underneath the laundry.