What an Ichiman Gets You at the Ginza Farmers Market

This post is also available in: Japanese

farmers picks 20150919Every weekend I visit the Ginza Farmers Market to stock up on the best produce in Tokyo and catch up with my friends at the market. Each visit is a ritual – in addition to getting outside and procuring fresh foods that will drive me toward greater health, I get to build community, interact with vendors, visitors and regular shoppers, and always learn something new, about the produce, the people, or a particular area of Japan.

Selection at this market is generally much better than supermarkets, with hard-to-find items like kale, spaghetti squash, and butternut squash – to name a few I picked up today – available when in season. Prices range from below supermarket prices for regular produce to about double supermarket prices for JAS certified organic – which means the produce undergoes official examinations to ensure it doesn’t use chemical fertilizers or pesticides. In the middle of this range are items that are organic/no-chemical that do not have the JAS certification. Compared to organic stores like Natural House in Aoyama, this market is a much better value.

It’s an even better value if you become a regular shopper. If you go every weekend and develop a relationship with the vendors you will receive discounts and presents, as well as be able to pre-order items you want in advance. A note on haggling: you can haggle at this market, but I recommend that instead you get to know the vendors and the market, become a regular patron and over time reap the rewards. If you do wish to haggle, as this a fairly foreign concept in Japan, do it subtly – for example, “these berries look delicious, but they are pretty expensive, aren’t they?” This will go over better than if you say, “I’ll buy those berries if you discount them x amount” or “Cheaper can or not?”

On average I spend around an ichiman, 10,000 yen ($80), per week here and about the same split between regular supermarkets and online stores. This may sound like a lot to spend on groceries, but when you consider that it goes to feed 2.25 people (blue belt junior gets and honorary quarter) and we rarely eat out, that’s about 1,300 yen ($11) per person per day for our nutritional needs – you can’t beat that anywhere outside of fast food establishments, and don’t get me started on the horrors those places wreak on the human body, psyche, and the world.

So here is what that ichiman got me this week:

ケール Kale  Aki’s JAS Organic Kale from Hokkaido (340 yen)

ほうれん草 Spinach  3x Aki’s JAS Organic Spinach from Gifu (900)

komatsuna mustard green  4x Aki’s JAS Organic Mustard Green from Gifu (1,000)

mizuna  Aki’s JAS Organic Mizuna from Gifu (250)

organic grapes  Aki’s JAS Organic Shain Muscat from Yamanashi (730)

wara natto  Hiro’s Chemical-free Traditional Straw Natto (1,400)

organic free range eggs  Hiro’s Organic Free-range Eggs from Chiba (800)

ninjin carrot  Maeda’s Carrots from Hokkaido (250)

organic banana  2x Maeda’s Organic Bananas from Peru (500)

satsumaimo sweet potato  Maeda’s Sweet Potatoes from Miyazaki (300)

tamanegi onion  Maeda’s Chemical-free Onions from Miyazaki (250)

butternut kabocha squash  Yoshi’s Butternut Squash from Kamakura (350)

kamakura satsumaimo sweet potato  Yoshi’s Purple Sweet Potatoes from Kamakura  (200)

murasaki imo purple sweet potato  Yoshi’s Sweet Potatoes from Kamakura (200)

ringo apple  2x Nose’s Apples (300)

kaki persimmon  3x Nose’s Japanese Persimmon (300)

kuri chestnut  Nose’s Chestnuts (400)

nashi asian pear  Kodaira’s Asian Pear from Nagano (200)

akibae apple  Kodaira’s Akibae Apple from Nagano (200)

soumen kabocha spaghetti squash  Spaghetti Squash (300)

zucchini  Zucchini (150)

shadow queen potato  Chemical-free Shadow Queen Potatoes (300)

ninjin carrot 2  Chemical-free Carrots (200)

kyuri cucumber  Cucumbers (180)

soy scone  Roasted Green Tea and Chestnut Soy Scone (260)