Monday, May 2, 2016

Sotto.com: A Little Fresh Veg Everyday in Shimokitazawa


Welcome to Sotto Co!
Somewhere between coffee shops I stumbled on a brand new yaoya (vegetable store), and the vegetable geek in me couldn't resist. Ruby red tomatoes and bright red cucumbers dazzled my eyes, while some purple-stemmed mizuna and emerald green pea pods shimmered nearby. All laid out with an attention to detail usually only found in high-end boutiques, Akemi and Fumihiko Inagaki, aim to inspire their Shimokitazawa neighbors with some of their own passion for good, fresh food.

"We can hardly keep them in stock," Akemi tells me when she sees me admiring the tomatoes. I'm not a big fan of tomatoes out of season, but when she tells me the grower uses natural farming techniques, I give in. I pick up two for dinner that night. (For the record, I was not disappointed.)

Some of the fresh veg on offer.
The Inagaki's moved to Kyoto with their young child in 2011, and stayed for about a year. While there, they discovered a number of organic farmers, shops, and groceries. When the Inagaki's decided to move back north, they wanted to bring some of the good things they found in Kyoto back to share. The vegetables, rice, oils, and other products come primarily from Kyoto and other parts of the Kansai region.

Rice, cooking oil, salt and more can be found.
"We hope to turn this part into a gallery someday," says Akemi and gestures toward the back half of the first floor shop while Fumihiko helps their neighbor, the owner of a local fish shop, carry his potatoes and other vegetables to the counter. "He comes every day," she tells me with a smile.

Dazzling.
Opened in March, 2016, Sottoco remains a work in progress, although the fresh, seasonal vegetables are perfect. Shoppers will also find a small but wonderful collection of tenugui along with bags and headbands hand sewn by a friend of Akemi's.

"There are many obaachan living around here, and it's nice for them to come and be able to just buy one or two of something," she adds. I always say those older ladies know where to find the best of everything.

Sotto Co
Open Tuesday through Saturday
11am - 6pm
Nearest Station: Shimo-kitazawa
Head out the south exit and turn right. Follow the main road to an intersection and turn right. (You'll see Coffee Ex Libris across the street and later a Starbucks.) Sotto Co will be on the right.