Originally published on metropolis.co.jp on June 2014

While Tokyo’s farmers’ markets are an easy and fun way to gather up fresh seasonal produce, there are other ways to dig in to the city’s bounty. Chokubaijo, one of Tokyo’s best little green secrets, are direct sale stands sprinkled throughout the city and greater metropolitan area. They come in a variety of guises ranging from a simple table with a sign and a coin box to coin lockers where ¥100 literally opens the door to everything from eggs and greens to fruit and the occasional homemade pickle. Chokubaijo at larger farms are often staffed with a grower ready to offer a recipe, recommend a new vegetable, or just chat.

For farmers, a chokubaijo means no shipping, whether that’s driving to a nearby grocery store or boxing produce up for shipment to individual buyers. Customers come to the farm, see where their food is grown and meet the grower. Depending on the location and what is in season, a farmer can average ¥120,000 a month­—and when Mother Nature is your business partner, that extra support can make all the difference.

Newest on the food scene are cooperatively run stores where area farmers drop off the day’s harvest or freshen stocks of reliables such as potatoes, onions, beans and jams. Arranged something like a supermarket—fresh fruit and vegetables here, dried beans there, flowers by the door and fresh eggs next to a shelf of nifty handicrafts—these little shops are local food hubs that contribute to the local economy, reduce food kilometers, and maintain green space while offering healthy food at a reasonable price.

HUNTING TIPS

JA Cooperative Stores

While all in Japanese, a little map-searching will lead to a fine selection of local fruits, vegetables, flowers and prepared foods all from area growers and producers. www.tyokubaisyo.com/chiki/kantou/tokyo/tokyolist.html

JA Office

Find a local JA office and/or bank and ask for a map of local farms.

Good Shoes or a Bicycle with a Basket

Old-school it may be, but the best way to find a chokubaijo is to look for one. Spend some time wandering the area and chatting up neighbors to find those delicious treasures. Think of it as exercise with benefits!