On the second Saturday of each month, the undercover parking area in front of Shishimai Ramen Café becomes a market plaza. Local growers and producers gather with their seasonal wares to entice customers to try their fresh produce, while artisans and entrepreneurs offer products that range from the decorative to the practical. Filled with fruits, vegetables, and a used item exchange, local residents, including children and pets, laugh, linger and shop.
Started a year ago by farmer Yoichi Miyakawa, florist Yoko Yahiro, and Shishimai owner, Toyoko Miyadai, this neighborhood market hosts anywhere from five to eight vendors and roughly 50 customers (not including pets and children, of course) from 8 a.m. to just before the ramen shop opens at eleven. While it may seem small, this little market packs quite a punch.
After farming part-time for a handful of years, Miyakawa’s fields offered enough that he could make the shift to full-time farming two years ago and start selling his surplus. His stall fills one corner of the space with a bounty of vegetables including some of the usual seasonal suspects such as daikon, carrots and satoimo, along with two kinds of potatoes, three kinds of kale, squash and Brussels sprouts.
A few steps away, Masumi Aoki of Blue Tree Farm stands behind a table where the vivid reds and greens of tender lettuce greens and sprigs of broccoli are displayed in boxes made from recycled advertising flyers. Blue Tree Farm uses no plastic whatsoever, whether it is the plastic-robed greenhouses or black mulch that are common features of modern farms. Instead, Aoki relies on organic materials for weed protection and waits for the soil to warm before planting squash, tomatoes and other summer crops.
Sharing table space with Aoki’s delicious efforts are tidy rows of bottles of Junko Torikai’s local orange juice. Through the combined efforts of Torikai and her volunteers, the orchard that sat fallow for ten years is in production again. Harvested at different points in the season, the resulting juices have slightly different flavors that reflect varying stages of ripeness, although all 100 trees are the same variety.
With its emphasis on local, organic, and plastic-free shopping in a bring-your-own-bag-and-container kind of venue, the Shishimai Marche is refreshing in every sense. Miyadai also sells hot breakfasts of curry rice or oden for takeaway before her shop opens. Come for the food, stay for the community.
Where: Oiso, Kanagawa
When: Second Saturday of the month, 8 a.m. – 10:45 a.m.