Skip to main content

SUN Grocery: Students of the Vegetable

As part of a continuing series of useful 'reprints' now being updated, this post features a student-led local grocery. I stumbled across them in Shinjuku on the way to class one day, and happily did a bit of shopping and chatting. This post first appeared at Greenz on October 22, 2010.

As a locavore, it is a real pleasure to see vegetables appearing all around this metropolis we call home. A number of large farmers markets, a night market, and even a farmer-coop shop are signs of a growing local food movement. Yet, in my wildest local food dreams I never thought I'd see a stand selling fresh produce on a busy intersection in Shinjuku.

A promotional event for SUN, a student-run grocery, the table showcased seasonal favorites such as chestnuts, mushrooms, nashi (Japanese pear), and squash along with fresh eggs, kaki (persimmon) and satoimo. Sourced from farms and orchards as close as Chiba and as far away as Nagano and Yamagata, the group seeks to encourage people not only with small growers but with the concept of a local grocer.

Started in 2010 by Nakamori Tsuyoshi and a group of fellow students at the Tokyo University of Agriculture, SUN aims to link farmers to communities and community members to each other through food. Sharing recipes, informing shoppers about the farmers and how the fruit or vegetable in their hand was grown is all part of a day's work, according to their blog.

SUN's students, from a variety of universities and all interested in agriculture, also hope their grocery full of fresh, local foods will energize the local economy as well as lend much needed support to Japan's agricultural sector. Organizing an assortment of activities to bring people together they are slowly forging those connections for the future.

Watching Nakamori and Oride Yu, another student from the group, work the table as a steady train of people came and went it looked like they were old hands. Bantering easily with customers as they restocked produce or helped balance a carton of eggs atop a bag of rice, the two put visitors instantly at ease. Connecting people with farmers and each other seemed so simple, and suddenly perfectly normal in this most urban of urban places.

Looking for some local produce?

Head on over to SUN Grocery in Iriya and be part of a growing vegetable community while picking up the goods for that next meal.

9:30am - 7pm Monday through Friday and Sunday.
Closed on Saturdays.
Five minute walk from Hibiya Station.

First Saturday of each month in front of Shinjuku's Noni Cafe. (Where I first found them!)


Popular posts from this blog

Finding Heirloom Seeds in Japan

Drying pods of heirloom Hutterite Soup Beans. Since moving to Japan eight years ago, one of my greatest challenges as a farmer-gardener has been to find heirloom or open-pollinated seeds. The majority of seeds available are not GMO (genetically modified organisms) as Japan, at this point, doesn't accept this material. Most seeds, though, are nearly all F1 varieties. Heirloom and F1 Varieties In plant breeding, F1 is the name given to the first generation of a cross between two true breeding parents. For example, if I decide to cross an Amish Paste Tomato with another heirloom variety tomato such as Emmy, in hopes of getting a gold paste tomato, the resulting generation of fruit is F1. In order to get that tomato of my culinary dreams, I'll need to choose members of that first generation that are headed in a direction I like - early ripening, medium-sized fruit, good taste - and save their seeds. I'll plant them and repeat the process again and again over time unti

Satoimo: One of Japan's Favorite Slimy Things

Satoimo in all their hairy glory. This post first appeared in slightly different form on Garden to Table as part of the 2012  Blogathon . The website has since moved on to the ether, but the post is still a good one. After all, people here are still eating satoimo on a daily basis, and many others are just seeing these little potato-like objects for the first time. Enjoy! Satoimo is one of Japan's odder vegetables. Under it's rough, slightly furry skin is white flesh that is a little bit slimy even raw, and with a gentle nutty flavor.* Baked, grilled, steamed with dashi, or deep-fried satoimo stands well on its own or paired up with other vegetables and meats in a wide variety of soups and stews . (The leaves are also edible.) Satoimo stores well, and like any root crop worth the effort, stocks are just running low on this household favorite as the farmers in my area of Tokyo get ready to put a new crop in the ground in May. I cannot say I was a fan of this l

Goma Ai Shingiku - Sesame and Chrysanthemum Greens

Last week I had the pleasure of helping some friends work in their parents garden not too far away. Tucked behind the house, the garden sits on a former house lot. When it came up for sale about five years ago, my friend's father jumped at the chance. Open land in Tokyo can be hard to find and expensive, but for a retired professional looking for a little spot to till in the city it was an opportunity to good to pass up. Now, it is a garden to envy. As we came through the gate rose, lily, and peony blooms greeted us with great shouts of color while rows of vegetables stood tidily at attention on the sunny center stage. Small fruit trees along with one of the biggest sansho trees I've seen yet stood quietly here and there. Near waist-high sweet corn, bushy young potato plants, cherry tomatoes, eggplants, and beans were preparing their summer fruits, while a handful of still quite luscious looking winter vegetables like komatsuna, mizuna, and kabu held one last ro