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Showing posts from May, 2013

Tokyo Farmer's Markets: June

Yomogi cake by Erina at Hamma Farm. Find it at the Nara Farmer's Market ! Today may still be May, but June is upon us. With that turning of the calendar comes the rainy season, ume , umeboshi , and all things humid and hot. And that means that tables at farmers markets will soon be swimming with tomatoes, corn, cucumbers, the occasional zucchini and more. Last weekend I even spotted some of the season's first garlic at the Earth Day Market - a lovely treat if ever there was one. Grab your basket or backpack or bag and head on out to gather this month's scrumptious harvest! Ebisu Market Sunday, June 2nd Sunday, June 16th 11am to 5pm A nice sized market held on the terrace just in front of Ebisu Garden Place that will always be special to me for introducing me to dried natto and  tea seedpods . Map Gyre Market Saturday,  June 8th and Sunday, June 9th (Probably.*) A gem of a market hidden away in one of Tokyo's high-end shopping districts offer

The Blogathon and My Writing Life

Inspiration blooms with the Blogathon. Hanashobu as arranged by Mita-san's mother. Each year, usually in May, I participate in the Blogathon . Organized by freelance journalist extraordinaire, Michelle Rafter, the Blogathon requires just one thing: a post every day. It's both as easy as it sounds and as difficult. There certainly were days where my Muse hid herself incredibly well ,  but mostly the Blogathon got me rolling and writing. I elaborate on this in greater detail in a guest post on WordCount , Michelle's blog, about How the Blogathon Changed My Writing Career . And that's what I wanted then and that's what I want now. The registration form asks participants what their number one goal is for this year, and I think mine is to push myself again this year, to find that nugget of interest that seems to appear each time. (The Blogathon is where the farmer's market calendar was born and where I found my usual three weekly post routine.)  Since that f

Tokyo Farmers Markets: May 25th and 26th

Bamboo shoots ready to go in the pot at the Ibaraki Farmers Market in Roppongi! As temperatures rise and the rainy season approaches tables at the farmers markets are just beginning to groan under the weight of the bounty beginning to arrive. Sansai, cool season favorites like cabbage and broccoli will be just beginning their spring harvest, and maybe a few of the first tomatoes, too! For those who crave fruits, strawberries should still be on the scene, although they will be winding down. Oh, and there's plenty more to be found, too, from jam to bread to cheese to wine to tea to beer to potatoes to rice and a whole variety of other grains weird, wonderful and delicious. See you at the market! Earth Day Market Sunday, May 26th I could go wax on forever about how great this market is and how important it is for the future of Japanese farming. Instead, I'll just insist that folks go and see for themselves what great things the market and these innovative growers ar

Tokyo Farmer's Market Review: 246 Common

Hello, Brooklyn Ribbon Fries. Tokyo's newest market is, by now, nearly one year old. I first caught wind of it when Robbie Swinnerton wrote a review of it for the Japan Times . (He also referenced this website at the end, bless his foodly little heart.) I'd also chatted with one of the managers of the UNU Farmers Market about it as it's his group that's organizing it. It's been on the list of places to go ever since. Last weekend we finally made it. Bustling 246 Common from a shady seat. Tucked between, behind, and around, this little market offers a series of cafes and shops in a variety of building types, all of which are small with the indelible feeling that given good directions they could be folded up and tucked into a pocket for easy transport. The beauty of 246 Common is encapsulated in exactly that it feels like it could disappear at any moment. The exciting array of entrepreneurial experiments happening here center mostly around food with a fl

Adventures in Mulching

Illicit grass harvesting team! As I mentioned in an earlier post about living mulch for containers , I'm not using the usual black plastic this year in the garden. It never felt quite right to me, although the benefits of weed suppression, soil warming, and moisture retention were all apparent. It's plastic, though, and that means it's made from oil, that it won't easily break down, and can't be reused. And it does nothing for the soil. It helps the plants in the short term and keeps my work load slightly lighter for the season, which are things I don't take lightly. I go away for the better part of August and September, and I come home each time to weed chaos. Plus, summer is hot, hot, hot and often dry. But unlike straw or even compost from my bin it doesn't feed the community that lives below the soil surface that does more work in my garden than I'll ever do in a lifetime. I don't take that lightly, either. After all the reading and thin

Tokyo Farmers Markets: May 18th and 19th

Bundles of warabi, a type of sansai or mountain vegetable, at the Ibaraki Farmers Market in Roppongi. For seasonal vegetable explorers, this is the weekend to gather up your gear and head on out the door. A bundle of delightful markets await with their charming vendors, free samples, and more tantalizing items to buy than a single backpack can carry. (Go with a friend, is my advice.) Nippori, as usual, will be rocking it both days, and the UN University Night Market on Saturday is no slouch of an entertainment alternative, either. And while Koenji is a small market, it offers a nice mix of local and regional fare. Wander off and see what you find! Ebisu Market Sunday, May 19th 11am to 5pm A nice sized market held on the terrace just in front of Ebisu Garden Place that will always be special to me for introducing me to dried natto and  tea seedpods . Map Nippori Farmer's Market Saturday, May 18th and Sunday, May 19th 10am to 5pm Another great market in the

Natural Farm Visit: A Very Short Report

Working the potato rows at Hamma Noeun.  If I had to describe our visit to Kazuto and Erina Hamma's natural farm in a single word I would choose: amazing. Then I would choose affirming, enlightening, hilarious, thought-provoking, inspiring, satisfying, and mind-blowing. And then I might choose a few more, such as delicious and fun, but that little list will have to suffice. Kazuto and Erina, a brother sister farming duo, use natural farming techniques to grow the best rice I've ever had, fantastic tea, shitake mushrooms, and heirloom vegetables. Set in a small rural village in the mountains of Nara Prefecture, their fields bloom with life and health above as well as below ground. Their soil is rich and springy, and the rows simply overflow with sansai (mountain vegetables), happy tea bushes, and daikon setting seed. And for the moment, I'm going to stop there. I've sent out a pitch to a magazine to tell this story, and I don't want to say too much here bef

What I Live For: All the Little Things

A good strong cup of coffee at the Kamakura Farmers Market. Satya Robyn , a talented and prolific writer out of the UK, periodically poses a question or idea for writers to respond to that is often related to a recent book of her own. I participated in this global conversation previously when I wrote about my most beautiful thing . It was fun and thought-provoking, and helped me find the motivation I needed just then to get back to work in the garden. Satya's most recent group write answering the question "What do you live for?" took place on Friday, May 10th. It clashed with my weekly publication of the Tokyo farmers market schedule , so it got pushed back. Those growers and producers and customers need each other more than I need to post on time. Now, however, the new week is underway. Time to share what I live for. This question turned out to be a bit more difficult than I anticipated. When I really sat down to think about what it was that I live for, what get

Tokyo Farmers Markets: May 11th and 12th

A sweet little organic vegetable stand near Haibara in Nara Prefecture. May is proving rather blustery this year, but no less sun-shiney than usual. Spring vegetables abound at markets, including a delightful array of sansai (mountain vegetables). I'm no expert in them, but I can say without hesitation that you shouldn't be shy about giving them a go. A farmer or vendor with sansai on the table ( Midori at the UN Farmers Market is a perfect example! ) will be more than pleased to tell you a tale or two about how they were found, where they grow, and most importantly for your rumbling stomach, how to prepare them. I discovered them four years ago while out carousing on a thatched roof with One Life Japan , and my taste buds have never looked back. Warabi (fern or bracken buds), fuki (the flower shoots of butterbur), sugina (horse tail), itadori (Japanese knotweed) and more are some of the wild delights just waiting for you. Get on out there! Gyre Market Saturday,  Ma

Strong in the Rain Review in Metropolis Magazine

I had the great pleasure of interviewing Lucy Birmingham and David McNeill, co-authors of Strong in the Rain: Surviving Japan's Earthquake, Tsunami, and Fukushima Nuclear Disaster (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012) shortly before they gave a talk at Temple University. It was a fascinating conversation about media, government, disaster, human reactions, and culture as they mixed together in the series of events triggered by the March 11th earthquake. The story is compelling but not easy. I wept and cringed and felt outrage as the pages turned, and it's left an impression that won't easily be erased. My full review with excerpts from the interview can be found over at Metropolis . Then head on out to a bookstore to read it for yourself.

Tokyo Farmers Markets: May

Pottery for sale at the Earth Day Farmers Market! Oh, the lovely month of May is upon us with all it's charms: blossoms, leaves, birds, and more. the undercurrent of warm air means the rainy season, ume season and all its glorious concoctions, and the beginning of summer vegetables are just around the corner. Mark your calendar for one of these fantastic markets and don't miss a glorious moment! Ebisu Market Sunday, May 5th Sunday, May 19th 11am to 5pm A nice sized market held on the terrace just in front of Ebisu Garden Place that will always be special to me for introducing me to dried natto and  tea seedpods . Map Gyre Market Saturday,  May 11th and Sunday, May 12th A gem of a market hidden away in one of Tokyo's high-end shopping districts offering seasonal favorites in a way that feels homey yet rather boutique-y. 11am to 5pm Map Earth Day Market Sunday, May 26th I could go wax on forever about how great this market is and how imp

Review: Sowing Seeds in the Desert by Masanobu Fukuoka

This week's trip to a natural farm is, of course, inspired by Masanabu Fukuoka. During our first year here I ordered two books: F.H. King's Farmers of Forty Centuries and Fukuoka's One Straw Revolution . I dipped into Fukuoka's book first as it was most closely related to Japan, I'd just started helping on the farm here in Tokyo , and I was eager to learn everything I could. I didn't like it. C-chan, one of the farmers I work with, and I read it at the same time. Fukuoka sounded  mad, like some guy who'd spent way too much time alone in the field. He rambled on about life, not farming, about nature and how crazy modern society was, blah, blah, blah. I forced myself to finish and tucked it on the shelf with a breath of relief. But what stuck with me were the descriptions of his fields, rich with life and sparkling with dew in the morning sun. I recalled how one year he'd noticed many spiders, and another year another insect seemed to dominate. I r