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Tokyo Farmers Markets: Saturday, December 28th and Sunday, December 29th

Beautiful tat-tsoi at the holiday Earth Day Market. This final weekend of 2013 winds down with a handful of good, solid Tokyo farmers markets. Head on out to find all the ingredients necessary for the perfect pot of nabe, New Year's treats, and the all-important year-end dish: nanakusagayu . (I could use a bowl of that now. It's been quite a series of holiday feasts already.) And stock up! Markets won't open up again until the middle of January. Maybe take an extra backpack? UN University Market 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 Map Roppongi Market Every Saturday A first  visit to this market  was well worth the trek for the number of organic growers and getting to meet a Tokyo farm

Tokyo Farmers Markets: Saturday, December 21st and Sunday, December 23rd

Mushrooms galore at Hida Takayama markets! Another lovely weekend in Tokyo after a bit of rain. Cold weather gives the air the sharp tingle of the holidays, which should be wonderful inspiration to head on out and see what wonderful seasonal treats can be found. The Nippori Market takes center stage this weekend with its holiday extravaganza. Santa on Sunday, a wine garden, and vendors galore will be on hand to feed, entertain, and help supply presents. Don't miss it! Nippori Farmer's Market Sunday, December 8th and Saturday, December 21st through Monday, December 23rd 10am to 5pm Like the Earth Day Market, Nippori is running one regular market day early on and then a holiday extravaganza that should knock your Christmas stockings off. The three day affair will feature a wine garden (like a beer garden, but with wine), live music, excellent food carts, gifty bits and most likely a wee bit of dancing. All that wine, you know. No map, but just head out the  east exit a

Tokyo Farmers Markets: Saturday, December 14th and Sunday, December 15th

Kabuchiyo-san at one of Hida-Takayama's morning markets. Gracious me, this weekend is bumper-to-bumper markets. Not least among them will be the Earth Day Market's Merry X'Mas with Fair Trade, an affair not to be missed. The rest of the markets will surely have a fun feeling, too, especially given December's never-ending sunshine, so don't be shy about heading out. This is the best time of year to go and gather those most excellent winter vegetables. See you there! Earth Day Market Sunday, December 15th A fantastic two times this month, the Earth Day Market will have a regular showing of vendors this weekend and then their special event, Merry X'Mas with Fair Trade. The latter event will feature many of the markets wonderful regular features along with a wreath-making workshop (back by popular demand), amazing ceramics, and a bevy of international goods! 10am to 4pm, Rain or shine! Map Koenji Farmer's Market Saturday, December 14th A

December Farmers Markets in Tokyo

Earth Day Market Wreath Photo courtesy of Earth Day Market. December brings with it brilliant skies and an even more brilliant set of markets. Get ready to stock up on favorite winter fruits and vegetables, some lovely gifty items (jam or pickles, anyone?), organic wine and beer for that year-end party, and a wonderful selection of ceramics to serve it in. Or just head on out to the special events some of the markets are offering to rev up your holiday energies! The Earth Day and Nippori Markets are rolling out two (yes, two!) events each this month that promise to be wonderful, while the old faithfuls carry on with their wonderful fare. Check the calendar and head on out to get the holiday season started right! Ebisu Market This usually twice monthly farmers market is taking a short holiday this month. It promises to be back in January full of the usual fun, flavor, and foodliness! Map Earth Day Market Saturday, December 7th and Sunday, December 15th A fantasti

Tokyo Farmers Markets Saturday, November 30th and Sunday, December 1st

Drying togarashi braided with wara (rice straw) at the Nippori Farmers Market. Another lovely weekend awaits those seeking seasonal, fresh food. Seriously, winter is such the best season in Tokyo for wandering about! No searing temperatures and humidity to weigh a shopper down as they peruse sweet potatoes , some of the first hoshigaki (dried persimmons ) of the season, winter greens, daikon types galore, and more kabu than should be legal in one sitting. Just imagine the pickle possibilities ! Oh, and the yuzu and other citrus just coming along now. And the apples. And the mochi. Heavens, what could you be waiting for? UN University Market Every Saturday and Sunday* *Check out the Bread Festival on Sunday, November 1st where a variety of sourdough and other breads will be ready for eating! 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 fo

Thursday Snapshots: Minamisanriku Garden

Garden in Minamisanriku, Tohoku. Today is Thanksgiving in my home country, and I pondered for quite some time about what photo to put here. I'm homesick this year for the holiday more than I ever have been in our nearly five years here. I can't put my finger on exactly why, but my heart pines to be with all sides of my crazy, loving, and weird family.  Close-up of the squash. However, I also thought about others who would give anything to be with those they love. That would be folks from Washington County, Illinois, recently devastated by tornadoes, people in the Philippines ravaged by the recent typhoon, and those still living, literally, in the aftermath of the 2011 triple disaster. My heart goes out to all of them today and always, and while I know they grieve and pine, too, they also find hope and carry on as best they can. Me with the genki gardener! And here's one gardener I had the pleasure of meeting this summer while volunteering in Minamisanriku. S

Tougan: Introducing Winter Melon

Tougan (winter melon) at Hosotani's natural farm near Nara. October, 2013. Tougan (winter melon) has been on my vegetable radar since our very first days in Japan. Large, oblong, and deep green, it is an attractive vegetable nearly irresistible to a curious eater. A neighbor down the road grows them, and each year I ponder a purchase but never quite got around to it. Their chokubaijo (direct sale stand) is a popular one despite its secluded location along the Tamagawajousui. It's best to arrive early and then politely duke it out with the local grandmothers for the choicest bouquet, pickles, and vegetables.) I've also seen it at various farmers markets around town, but somehow lugged one home. Tomiyama-san, manager of the Earth Day Market, even suggested a warm winter punch recipe made with red wine, cinnamon and other spices, that sorely tempted. Somehow I resisted. This year, though, Hosotani-san, a natural farmer I had the great pleasure of meeting and interviewi

Tokyo Farmers Markets Saturday, November 23rd and Sunday, November 24th

My lovely sister-in-law and a farmer we met at one of Hida Takayama's morning markets. Another beautiful weekend dawns and brings a round of the standard Tokyo markets, which should be plum full of autumn goodness. Get your fill of early daikon , winter greens , and tougan (winter melon), along with plenty of kaki (persimmons) for general eating, jamming, or turning into hoshigaki (dried persimmons). (For the latter, make sure you get the tannic variety. Sweet should work, but the tannic are the most commonly used.) Amezake (sweet sake made from the lees of the sake brewing process) should also be on hand to warm hands and tummies, and I'm betting there's plenty of scrumptious mochi (rice cakes, for lack of a better translation) freshly made and waiting to be grilled. Grab a backpack (you'll be glad you did!) and head out the door! UN University Market Every Saturday and Sunday* *Check out the Bread Festival on Sunday, November 1st where a variety of sourdoug

Thursday Snapshot: Praying Mantis Laying Eggs

While visiting Hosotani's natural farm near Nara a few weeks ago, we encountered this kamakiri (praying mantis) laying eggs in one of the fruit trees. Testament, if you ask me, of how great this place was. Vegetables couch in abundant greenery made up of weeds and other volunteer vegetables. Insect and animal life is apparent, but the crops suffer very little damage. It truly was one of the most beautiful farms I have ever seen.

Earth Day Market Tour Highlights

Image courtesty of Cynthia at AMJMX. We couldn't have asked for a better day for Sunday's tour of the Earth Day Market with the Mexico-Japan Society . A perfectly sized group of about six, we wandered about the market sampling greens, various misos, and some of the most amazing bread ever. We chatted about recipes, new vegetables, how to use some of the grains and flours for sale there, and how to serve up satoimo (taro root) stem. (Sauted in miso and served over rice.) We bought tea, juice, and gave serious thought to which food truck we should choose for lunch. Perfect. Check out the Mexico-Japan Society website for more photos and to see what other great fun their up to!

Tokyo Farmers Markets Saturday, November 16th and Sunday, November 17th

A lovely line-up of melons at one of Sapporo's regular markets. Welcome to the most happening weekend for farmers markets in Tokyo! There's a fantastic selection of places to go, fruits and vegetables to sample and purchase, and recipes to be discovered. Just grab a good-sized bag (I recommend a backpack.) and head out the door! If you're looking for a little company at the market or feeling shy, then swing over to the Earth Day Market where I'll be walking people about , answering questions, and introducing produce and the folks that brought it to life. Should be fun! Ebisu Market Sunday, November 17th Making up for missing last month apparently, the Ebisu Market is rocking it four (yes, four!) times this month. Don't miss the opportunity to head to a nifty part of the city where on these sweet Sundays you'll find farmers and producers galore. (One even comes from Okutama with a lovely array of vegetables and a vegetable-based spread that will knock

Thursday Snapshot: Printing blocks at Kyoto roketsu workshop

The Yamamoto's roketsu workshop walls are lined with rolling print blocks. During my sister-in-law's visit to Japan, we, of course, went to Kyoto. We detoured from the usual temple-shrine-garden agenda to participate in a roketsu workshop . Over the course of two hours we drew and chatted and worked in companionable silence on our separate pieces. It was an amazing experience in a lovely spot. The workshop, run by the Yamamoto family, is filled with patterns, dyeing blocks, and the smell of hot wax and is beautifully utilitarian. We loved every minute there.

Antenna shop article in Metropolis Magazine

Freshly made sushi at the Ishikawa antenna shop in Yurakacho. Read the article at Metropolis Magazine for the full scoop! Rather than home to complicated technical gear, antenna shops in Tokyo refer to stores featuring a variety of foods and products found only in Japan's 47 prefectures. (Two notable and clever twists on this are Kogane-ya and d&Department, of course.) Treasure troves of culinary wonder, antenna shops provide "an open window to provincial Japan," said Lionel Dersot during an interview and he is so very right. Whether on one of Yukari Sakamoto's most excellent tours (also interviewed for the article) or wandering the aisles alone, visitors will find no end of delightful things to ponder, taste, and enjoy. Sakamoto and Dersot both adore the Okinawa shop while my favorite turned out to be Ishikawa's. (The butternut squash ice cream sealed the deal.) Read the full article at Metropolis then head out to find your favorite!

Earth Day Farmers Market Tour this weekend!

Meet Minowa Farms and try the rice! Don't forget to sign up for this fun-filled market adventure this weekend! Email Robin and Diana directly to register or leave a comment here. (I promise not to publish your information.) You'll be glad you joined us! Two new arrivals to Tokyo, Diana and Robin, are pretty excited about the good green stuff going on all around them here. So much so that they have joined up with the Mexico-Japan Society to create cross-cultural environmentally friendly series of events rooted in Diana's home country of Mexico and Robin's farm beginnings in Australia to share the pleasure in their findings with others. I think good things are in store for all of us! And, I'm not saying that just because their first event features a farmers market tour with yours truly at the Earth Day Farmers Market on Sunday, November 17th. Mark your calendars, bring a bit of spending money, a backpack (Trust me. You'll be glad you did.), and an appeti

Tokyo Farmers Markets Saturday, November 9th and Sunday, November 10th

Lovely grapes from Ibaraki at the October Nippori Farmers Market. These cooler days make for perfect wandering in Tokyo's farmers markets or even further afield. If viewing fall colors in Kyoto , do take the time time to head to Nishiki Ichiba, an extraordinary market street brimming with good foods and flavors. If in Hida Takayama, don't miss the two morning markets for good fun and a sample of local dishes and ingredients. Meanwhile, if Tokyo is the beat for the weekend, simply head out to one of these lovelies and enjoy the best the season has to offer thus far! UN University Market 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 Map Roppongi Market Every Saturday A first  visit to this market  was

Thursday Snapshot: Squash Arbor in Saroma

Saroma's most amazing squash arbor. Hokkaido, 2013 This past summer took us to Hokkaido as usual and found us wandering about via train and bus to catch up with friends new and old. One of those lovely folks lives in Saroma, a small seaside city we visited during our first year in Japan. Famous for its scallops as well as a long wild beach, we discovered squash are also well celebrated. (The Pumpkin Festival includes a parade, super rocking live band dancing party, fireworks, and an excellent selection of foods made with pumpkin.) Hence, the squash arbor pictured here where perhaps more than twenty varieties of the lovely autumn fruits grow and hang.

Hida Takayama farmers markets in Outdoor Japan's Autumn Traveler

Outdoor Japan Autumn Traveler, 2013 The latest issue of Outdoor Japan's print magazine is where you'll find my newest Market Watch column raving about the culinary gems to be sampled at Hida Takayama's two morning markets. (Yes, two! It is a slice of heaven.) A favorite spot that I will be venturing to next week to take in the fall colors, the markets are high on my agenda of things to do. Check out the Autumn Traveler (page nine) and then head on out!

Mottainai: Ume Hachimitsu and Umeshu Jam

Still cleaning out that shu closet! The latest result was a jam where I combined ume (plums) leftover from a jar of umeshu and a jar of umehachimitsu . The only change I made to the recipe below is that I used water rather than umehachimitsu. The result is a jam perfect with cheese, toast, or stirred into yogurt or oatmeal. Plus, it made a big batch - eight tiny jars and a half pint - which made it well worth the effort. Enjoy! - JB  One of the leftovers of  umehachimitsu  are the  plums or  ume . Last year I made  marmalade  with the yuzu peels I removed from the  yuzushu , but I never quite sorted out what to do with the ume from the hachimitsu or the  umeshu . This year I decided to try making jam. Remembering the damson jam served from the larder of good friends in England and those sampled at  Ludlow , I perused a few recipes.  These simple ones  and this  one for plum butter  caught my imagination, but for the first batch I thought I would keep additions to a minimum. The f

November Farmers Markets in Tokyo

Uyama-san, a wonderful organic farmer I met in Hokkaido this summer, with eggplant. These are the perfect days for browsing  markets and planning what delectable seasonal goodness will fill the table for the evening meal. Don't be shy and try something new like tougan (winter melon) (recipe coming soon!), duck (another recipe coming soon!), new rice and the first of the new season's citrus. If you're still feeling shy, join me at the Earth Day Market on Sunday, November 17th for a guided tour . I'll most happily help you sort out seasonal favorites you never knew you had! And, check out the bread festival on November 1st at the UNU Market, too! Dear me, my mouth is watering already! Ebisu Market Saturday, November 3rd and Sunday, November 17th Making up for missing last month apparently, the Ebisu Market is rocking it four (yes, four!) times this month. Don't miss the opportunity to head to a nifty part of the city where on these sweet Sundays you'll

Thursday Snapshot: Floating Head at Fushimi Inari

Richard lost his head at Fushimi Inari shrine. Last year we took my mother-in-law to one of the places all three of us love best in the world: the Fushimi Inari shrine between Kyoto and Nara. The winding paths lined with innumerable tori gates, the quiet as you climb through the cemetery to watch the sun set and the mysterious feeling as you descend in the dark make it one of the simplest yet most unique experiences to be had in Japan. Plus, there's an excellent eel restaurant right near the entrance to the shrine.

Mottainai: Brandied Chestnut Butter

A spiky bundle of scrumptiousness. It must be nearly two years ago now that I made a batch of chestnut brandy . There is a lovely kuri (chestnut) grove at the farm, and the farmers always give me a nice bundle to make kurigohan (chestnut rice) or whatever else suits my fancy. Since arriving here I've been on a homemade alcohol kick. It started with umeshu and I began experimenting from there. We now have a shu closet full of homemade brews that we are trying to drink our way through before having to move early next year. (If you'd like to help with that, let me know.) It was only natural to try something with the kuri . So, the bits of chestnut have been steeping since then, and I decided it was time to turn them into something else. ( Mottainai and all that, you know.) So, I found this recipe at Food in Jars for chestnut butter , tweaked it, and made my own Tokyo version. The result is rather pleasant on toast, if I do say so myself. Brandied Chestnut Butter 500 gram

Sweet Potato Harvest: Reprise

It's almost impossible to believe that nearly five years have passed since I set foot on the  family farm here in Tokyo. My time there has easily been the best part of my life in Japan. The Arai's have become some combination of family and friend to me. As we ponder our next move, I can hardly bear the thought of not having C-chan and Takashi-san as part of my daily life. So, as I type this with tears in my eyes, I'm going to share again one of my favorite farm happenings: the sweet potato harvest. It's early writing, so bear with me to the recipe near the end. It's one of my favorites and worth the wait! - JB Two kinds of sweet potatoes, both delicious. This Spring I planted  sweet potatoes  for the first time. I'd certainly eaten them, and given some thought to growing them, but space in my garden often felt like it was at a premium. And past experience taught me that the potato can be a master of disguise resulting in a surprise second year harvest.

Tokyo Farmers Markets: Saturday, October 26th and Sunday, October 27th

Adorable eggplant from Kamakura at the Yurakucho Farmers Market. The word for this week is typhoon, and super typhoon at that. Before heading out to see what seasonal bounty can be scooped up for turning into something amazing (like the golden sweet potatoes Fujita-san gave me at the Nippori Farmers Market last weekend) check the market websites. I will do my best to update here, but I may be on the road with my sister-in-law also plotting how to avoid getting soaked. Meanwhile, if the weather is decent, do head out to one of these fantastic markets. The Earth Day Market is where you can find Minowa Farms and their amazing rice along with komenuka (rice bran) for pickling or composting. You can also find pottery, homemade onigiri and mochi, and heaps of the best vegetables in town. The Ebisu Market is worth a trip, too, as they host a small handful of Tokyo farmers and always have a lovely selection of delectables, decoratives, and practicals. And then the others - Yurakucho,

Thursday Snapshot: Soba Seedlings

Soba seedlings near Inawashiroko, Fukushima Prefecture. This summer we stayed with a farmer friend at her home in Aizu Wakamatsu and camped near Inawashiroko, too. One evening while toodling about the lake area we found soba fields interspersed with rice fields. It turns out that farmers plant soba after the rice harvest to get one more edible crop in before the snow flies. Clever. And delicious.

Farmers Market Tour with the Mexican Japan Society

Robin and Diana. Don't you just want to hang out with them at a farmers market?!? Photo courtesy of Robin and Diana. Two new arrivals to Tokyo, Diana and Robin, are pretty excited about the good green stuff going on all around them here. So much so that they have joined up with the Mexico-Japan society to create cross-cultural environmentally friendly series of events rooted in Diana's home country of Mexico and Robin's farm beginnings in Australia to share the pleasure in their findings with others. I think good things are in store for all of us! And, I'm not saying that just because their first event features a farmers market tour with yours truly at the Earth Day Farmers Market on Sunday, November 17th. Mark your calendars, bring a bit of spending money, a backpack (Trust me. You'll be glad you did.), and an appetite. The market promises, as always, to be brimming with the seasons best grown in a manner healthy for the earth and the eater. What's goin

Tokyo Farmers Markets: Saturday, October 19th and Sunday, October 20th

Serious seasonal shopping at the Yurakacho Farmers Market. Fall temperatures blew in with that last typhoon, and we're thoroughly enjoying it. (I'm typing wearing a fleecy robe. Oh, the joy!) Cooler temperatures signal the closing of summer, and that means winter vegetables on the horizon. While we wait for those cool, rich greens try a bit of sweet potato , pumpkin , kaki (persimmon), and snarf up the last of the nashi (Japanese pear), too. Savor the first rice of the season (mine from Minowa Farms just arrived!) and begin dusting off recipes for houtou udon or nabe. And don't forget to try some of the lovely manju at the Nippori Market to tide your tastebuds over until you can really get down to cooking! See you at the market! Ebisu Market Sunday, October 20th Making up for missing last month apparently, the Ebisu Market is rocking it four (yes, four!) times this month. (See October's full schedule for the other dates.) Don't miss the opportunity to h

Tokyo Farmers Markets: Saturday, October 12th and Sunday, October 13th

Dried fruit vendor rocking it at the inaugural Market of the Sun. As the typhoons wind down and the temperatures gradually sink it's time to bask in the glory of fall bounty: squash , chestnuts , togarashi (Japanese hot peppers), and some of the season's first rice . Sidle up to a table at one of these lovely markets and see what you can find to whip up a fall friendly dish or two. Apples , nashi (Japanese pears), and kaki (persimmons) are all rolling in as are pomegranates. Enjoy! Market of the Sun Saturday, October 12th and Sunday, October 13th Tokyo's newest market is only steps away from Tsukiji and bills itself as the city's largest with a variety of fruits, vegetables, and prepared foods as well as soaps, jewelry and heaps of food vendors. Feels a bit like the UN University Market but in a much smaller space. 10am - 5pm UN University Market Every Saturday and Sunday A massive weekend affair that is great fun and features a variety of fruits and

Thursday Snapshot: Giant Kokeshi Dolls in Sugamo

Illuminated kokeshi outside Koganji Temple in Sugamo. Friends of friends were visiting this past August and I volunteered to tour them about one day. We ended up in Sugamo, a.k.a. Grandma's Harajuku. Renowned for its old ladies wear, red underwear (red makes you healthy and energetic), and slightly salty daifuku mochi, we spotted this lovely trio near the entrance to Koganji Temple.

Market Review: Tokyo's Market of the Sun

Vendors bustling at the Market of the Sun. Last month a new farmers market popped up in Tokyo. The Market of the Sun opened on Saturday, September 14th to a nearly full house of vendors and an incredible number of customers despite unseemly heat. Claiming to be the city's largest market with roughly 100 vendors, the market tucks itself nicely at the foot of a residential building just outside Kachidoki station in Tsukishima Second Children's Park. Visitors can find everything from fruits and vegetables to soap, jewelry, tea, honey, jam, and seedlings.  According to Akiko Yamagata, Market of the Sun manager, the monthly event is sponsored by Mitsuii Real Estate Residential Corporation as something interesting for their residents to do and as an attractive option for those drawn to the area by the upcoming 2020 Olympics.  "We wanted consumers to be able to meet farmers face to face and let farmers promote their wares directly," she said. Held the second Saturda