Location: Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture
Date: June 24, 2012
The culture of farming is so interwoven with the fabric of daily life in Japan that it is easy to not appreciate it. While running some errands in the Honmoku neighborhood of Yokohama the other day, we stumbled across an American school bus parked on a sidewalk. An unusual site, we approached it, only to find that there was a fellow propped in the rear exit of the bus, inspecting tomatoes.
For the past three years, Hayashi Gaku has been selling organic vegetables produced on farms in neighboring Kamakura out of the back of a school bus. The bus, originally from California, found its way to Hayashi through sheer coincidence, and he decided to turn it into a vegetable shop. Now called Marche 21, Hayashi sells the locally-produced, organic vegetables, allowing Kamakura’s small-scale, organic farmers to reach a wider audience without having to jump through regulatory hoops or employ too many middle men. Hayashi mentioned that after three years with Marche 21, he is about to launch a new project, an organic restaurant and store. He seemed pleased to note that his next endeavor will not involve the bus.
Hayashi’s Marche 21 might be considered by some to be a form of 直売所 (direct sale of produce from the farmer to the consumer), since his process effectively circumvents Japan Agriculture (JA) and other traditional outlets. More importantly though, his unique and successful approach suggests that the allure of organic vegetables is more mainstream than some might suggest. At present, organic grains and soybeans still comprise the vast majority of the Japanese organic market, but as awareness and interest in food safety and production evolve and change, will demand for organic produce increase? There will be a follow up post on organics later this summer, so please stay tuned.
To explain this shorter than usual post, we should mention that 47 Japanese Farms is starting a new chapter. We are moving from Yokohama to Tokyo in less than a week to begin our day jobs here. In our always too short free time, we have 34 prefectures left to explore! We look forward to peeling back more layers of rural life and agriculture in Japan with you. Also, we love to hear from you, so if you have suggestions, comments, or ideas for us, please leave a comment or email us at email@example.com