Friday, March 29, 2013

Tokyo Farmers Markets: March 30th and 31st

Nannohanna bundles at Tsukiji's Outer Market.
Skies are a wee bit gray and the cherry blossoms are falling. Spring is here, and thankfully, so are the farmers markets. This final weekend of March finds mostly the old faithfuls ready to supply you with all you need for the week or a good seasonal fix of nanohanna. Don't miss it!

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

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 farmer from just down the tracks in Kokobunji!
10am to 2pm

Yurakucho Farmer's Market
Every Saturday and Sunday
Smaller than the UNU Market, Yurakacho 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 are also on hand to help fill the larder.
11am to 5pm
Directions: Turn left out of Yurakacho 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 we'll add it to the list!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Where to View Cherry Blossoms or Hanami Hot Spots

Sakura in full bloom!
Usually I share links to articles I've written on Wednesdays, but this week I've decided to change it up a bit. Sakura (cherry blossoms) are in full swing at the moment, and locals and visitors alike are scrambling to see them. They've arrived a full two weeks early, which surely is changing plans left and right. An unusual spate of warm weather set things in motion, and as I've said before, nature waits for no one. The blossoms are here.

So, without further ado, I'll mention a couple places I love to go to see them. These cherry blossom viewing spots are also terrific places to soak up the people soaking up the blossoms, too. It's a brilliant time to see some stunning natural beauty and to see Japan really kick back and enjoy itself in so many ways. Pack your party sheet, favorite snacks, a beverage or two, and head on out!

Koganei Koen (Park) - an absolutely huge park on Tokyo's west side, there are nearly two thousand trees in full bloom this very second. And that's not including those that line the Tamagawajousui that forms the southern border of the park, either.

Inokashira Koen - a small, intimate park a five-minute walk from Kichijoji's south exit. Just follow the throng of people carrying picnic gear. It's a real stunner.

Yanaka Cemetery - one of Tokyo's oldest cemeteries in a wonderful old part of town, the cemetery is full of cherry trees and cats. It may sound odd, but it really is fantastic.



Friday, March 22, 2013

Tokyo Farmers Markets: March 23rd and 24th

Maker of the most-amazing ume (Japanese plum) jam!
Join the sakura (cherry blossoms) and head on out to see what's happening in this early Spring world! A nice selection of markets this weekend should offer good hanami (cherry blossom viewing) party fixings as well as the usual round of scrumptious meal ingredients. Look for nanohana's yellow blossoms, winter greens, and some of the season's best strawberries. And do consider heading on over to the Earth Day Market in Shinonome Court. It's a bit of a hike, but you might just find Miyamotoyama Farm there with a few last miso-making kits. Check it out and get fermenting!

Saturday,  March 23rd and Sunday, March 24th
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

Earth Day Market - Shinonome Court
Saturday, March 23rd
A lovely little market held periodically in the midst of towering skyscrapers within sight of the Rainbow Bridge and a stone's throw from Tokyo Big Sight. Worth a trek to get a little quality time with the vendors and soak in a new part of the city!
10am to 4pm
Map

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

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 farmer from just down the tracks in Kokobunji!
10am to 2pm

Yurakucho Farmer's Market
Every Saturday and Sunday
Smaller than the UNU Market, Yurakacho 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 are also on hand to help fill the larder.
11am to 5pm
Directions: Turn left out of Yurakacho 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 we'll add it to the list!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Umami: A Taste of Japan in Wisconsin

Umami's sign glowing above the snow.
While visiting the Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems I received a very nice little publication called the Farm Fresh Atlas. Compiled and put out by REAP Food Group, another dreamy food-related organization in Wisconsin. The atlas is more like a local food lovers' almanac with maps. Here readers can find restaurants serving locally foods, farms, farmers markets, shops, CSA's, and more along with their contact information and, of course, a very nice map showing where they're located. Brilliant.

Paging through it over a cup of coffee at Memorial Union (Yes, it was a perfect visit to my alma mater), I noticed the word ramen. I paused. I'm not a huge fan, although I've come to enjoy a good bowl of noodles now and again. But the husband is, and I've met more than one satisfying bowl over these last few years.

That evening, of course, found us at Umami Ramen and Dumpling Bar. We ordered the ramen, tsukemono (a kind of Japanese pickle), and gyoza. It was heaven. The noodles are made around the corner at RP's Pasta, and the bowls come from the Midwest Clay Project literally just across the street. The vegetables, meat, and all else are also sourced locally, and it was a great taste of Japan in America.

Monday, March 18, 2013

A Visit to the Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems at UW-Madison

A photo taken near Greencastle, Indiana.
Strangely, I have no barn photos from Wisconsin.
I seriously considered titling this post "Meeting my People," but thought better of it. Yet, that is exactly what it felt like two weeks ago as I met the folks at the Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems (CIAS) offices. A charming, energetic, and passionate group of people committed to helping farmers, eaters, and businesses interested in bringing those two groups together, I felt right at home as we talked. CIAS runs a variety of programs and events that are helping to build a local food system that also builds economic viability and community stability with an eye to environmental sustainability. I'm in love. I know that's not very professional of me, but it is a good summary of how I feel. (Full disclosure: I am a University of Wisconsin alum.) Go Badgers. And go visit their website for yourself and be inspired!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Tokyo Farmers Markets: March 16th and 17th

Awesome organic tea from Shizouka at the Earth Day Market!
Plum blossoms abound and just like anywhere else, March in Tokyo brings changeable weather that signals a shift in the seasons. Pack sunglasses and an umbrella (best to be prepared!) and head on out to one of these great markets this weekend. Of special note is the Earth Day Market, on this weekend versus its usual last one of the month. Those crazy hipsters are just keeping us on our organic toes. See you there!

Sunday, March 17th
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.

Nippori Farmer's Market
Saturday, March 16th and Sunday, March 17th
10am to 5pm
Another great market in the city found with a little help from friends, this one is sure to not disappoint. My first visit was wonderful despite cold temperatures and a smattering of rain. Plus, Tohoku growers are on hand sharing their best-of-the-best, so come on out to be part of the recovery and get something good to eat.
No map, but just head out the east exit and look for the green awnings!

Koenji Farmer's Market
Saturday, March 16th
A new market I spotted while riding the train on a Saturday morning into the city center. That circle of red awnings in front of the Za-Koenji Public Theatre could only mean one thing! Sure enough, I found a small group of area growers and producers, and the bounty surely continues!
11am - 5pm
Map

Saturday, March 16th
A unique event in the heart of the city that a vegetable loving geek like me wouldn't miss for the world. What better way to get the healthy vitamins and minerals you need to sustain an evening of karaoke and izakaya hopping?
5pm - 8pm

Sunday, March 17th**
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 are doing.
10am to 4pm, Rain or shine!
**Note the slightly different timing this month!

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

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 farmer from just down the tracks in Kokobunji!
10am to 2pm

Yurakucho Farmer's Market
Every Saturday and Sunday
Smaller than the UNU Market, Yurakacho 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 are also on hand to help fill the larder.
11am to 5pm
Directions: Turn left out of Yurakacho 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 we'll add it to the list!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Strong in the Rain Review Up at Ecotwaza

Cover image courtesy of Palgrave Macmilan
There's plenty to read about Japan's earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster, but one of the best I've seen so far (and subsequently reviewed) is Strong in the Rain by Lucy Birmingham and David McNeill.  Extensive research and countless interviews done by these two journalists make for a compelling read that proves revealing even for those who were here. Told from the vantage point of six survivors, Strong in the Rain is unforgettable. For those who watched from afar, the book clarify events here on the ground along with the cultural and political context of it all.

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Earthquake: Now and Then

A favorite flowerbed spotted while volunteering in Ishinomaki. 
Two years ago today I sat in our living room nursing an injured Soleus and working on an article for Summer Tomato. The room started shaking, which was not unusual. It kept going, though, and seemed to get stronger. The light near our kitchen shelves swung wildly, and I decided I'd better get my crutches and dive under the desk. It kept going and got even stronger. I limped outside to join my frightened neighbors while utility poles rattled above us and the ground literally rolled under our feet. I've never been so frightened in my life. We all know rest of the story of the 9.0 magnitude earthquake, the tsunami, and the nuclear disaster.

The story, however, isn't over. Disaster recovery and rebuilding takes a long time, longer than any one or any government or community or organization perhaps realizes. It also takes perseverance, cooperation, and a certain amount of energetic hope. While there are set-backs and missteps, there are also plenty of good things happening that move Japan forward from this triple disaster to a brighter future. As we think back on that day, I'd like to honor the people of an extraordinary region of a country I've come to love by remembering the good work underway.

Growing Solutions in Tohoku with Aquaponics discusses an innovative an on-going program to help people find a new way to grow food and plants a few entrepreneurial seeds along the way.

Rebuilding Faith: A Fukushima Farmer Finds Support at a Tokyo Farmers Market tells the story of how one farmer rebuilt her business with a little help from some new friends.

Growing New Life in Ishinomaki with Peace Boat shows how gardening feeds souls and communities as well as tummies.






Friday, March 8, 2013

Tokyo Farmers Markets: March 9th and 10th

Food designer fun at Gyre Farmers Market.
A handful of regular markets this March weekend to tempt visitors with lovely seasonal fare. Hop on out to find fixings for tasty winter recipes, listen to some good music, and generally have fun in the metropolis. I'm still home in America frolicking in the snow every chance I get, but I'm looking forward to a good bit of fun at the markets when I return!

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

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 farmer from just down the tracks in Kokobunji!
10am to 2pm

Yurakucho Farmer's Market
Every Saturday and Sunday
Smaller than the UNU Market, Yurakacho 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 are also on hand to help fill the larder.
11am to 5pm
Directions: Turn left out of Yurakacho 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 we'll add it to the list!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Just Enough Review at Ecotowaza

Taken during a trip to Koyasan.
One of my great pleasures in life is reading, and one of my great pleasures as a writer is to be able to review these books. Whether sent from the publisher or found on my own wanderings through library or bookstore, I relish the opportunity to read closely and critically, to search out the hidden gems in the text and share with others a worthwhile find.

Such is the case with Just Enough: Lessons in Living Green from Traditional Japan by Azby Brown. A wonderful book where we journey with Brown through Edo Period Japan for a close look at how things were and to find a multitude of things we can bring home with us. Read the review, find your own copy, and see how history can change your life for the better.

Monday, March 4, 2013

A Compendium of Favorite Winter Recipes

A little purple daikon for the chopping!
March slowly moves us from winter to spring. Eating with the seasons can sometimes feel a bit challenging as a result. Here are a handful of favorite recipes for those chilly evenings featuring things that should all be readily available this time of year.

Houtou Udon - A steamy bowl of noodle goodness if ever there was one. Kawaguchiko has made it their famous dish, but there's no reason not to whip up your own version.

Goma ai Shungiku - Serve these greens up hot or cold for a brilliantly colored side dish that is tasty and healthy to boot. It's worth mentioning that this can also be made with komatsuna, too. Simply shorten the cooking time slightly and the rest is all the same.

Kimchi - There is still a bounty of haksai (Chinese cabbage), winter greens, kabu, and daikon to be had, and what better way to make use of all that than a batch of kimchi. Chop and mix and then set it somewhere to stew away for later days.

C-Cafe's Kabu and Grapefruit Salad - A wonderful way to mix two seasonal favorites if ever there was one, this salad is the bomb-diggity. Easy on the eyes and on the taste buds, this little salad will fast become a seasonal favorite.

Nanohana no Kurashie - It's a tad bit early for this one, but it's worth keeping tab on this terrific recipe for when these great greens do begin to appear.

Friday, March 1, 2013

March Farmers Markets in Tokyo

Representatives of a nifty soil project at the Earth Day Market!
March falls somewhere between winter and spring, blustery and cold one day and full of sweet balm another.  I both love and hate the month, as it signifies the end of my favorite season and the fast-approaching hottest time in Tokyo. Yet, I can't deny the beauty of a plum blossom, and I get as excited as the next person about seeds,  flowers, and starting a new season. The farmers markets will still feature many of the fantastic winter greens and cool weather vegetables, so chow down on those while they remain on the seasonal menu!

A few notes about this month's calendar:
The Earth Day Market is a bit earlier than usual this month, and there's a Shinonome Court Market on this month, too. The Gyre Market is only one time again, so bustle on down to see what's on offer.


Sunday, March 3rd
Sunday, March 17th
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.
Saturday,  March 23rd and Sunday, March 24th
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

Nippori Farmer's Market
Saturday, March 16th and Sunday, March 17th
10am to 5pm
Another great market in the city found with a little help from friends, this one is sure to not disappoint. My first visit was wonderful despite cold temperatures and a smattering of rain. Plus, Tohoku growers are on hand sharing their best-of-the-best, so come on out to be part of the recovery and get something good to eat.
No map, but just head out the east exit and look for the green awnings!

Koenji Farmer's Market
Saturday, March 16th
A new market I spotted while riding the train on a Saturday morning into the city center. That circle of red awnings in front of the Za-Koenji Public Theatre could only mean one thing! Sure enough, I found a small group of area growers and producers, and the bounty surely continues!
11am - 5pm
Map

Saturday, March 16th
A unique event in the heart of the city that a vegetable loving geek like me wouldn't miss for the world. What better way to get the healthy vitamins and minerals you need to sustain an evening of karaoke and izakaya hopping?
5pm - 8pm

Sunday, March 17th**
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 are doing.
10am to 4pm, Rain or shine!
**Note the slightly different timing this month!

Earth Day Market - Shinonome Court
Saturday, March 23rd
A lovely little market held periodically in the midst of towering skyscrapers within sight of the Rainbow Bridge and a stone's throw from Tokyo Big Sight. Worth a trek to get a little quality time with the vendors and soak in a new part of the city!
10am to 4pm
Map

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

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 farmer from just down the tracks in Kokobunji!
10am to 2pm

Yurakucho Farmer's Market
Every Saturday and Sunday
Smaller than the UNU Market, Yurakacho 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 are also on hand to help fill the larder.
11am to 5pm
Directions: Turn left out of Yurakacho 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 we'll add it to the list!