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!)