Started with six vendors in 2006, the Earth Day Market in Tokyo’s Yoyogi Park was intended as a place to use Earth Day Money (an alternative currency) and to help organic farmers find buyers. Today, there are 50-60 regular sellers that include growers, producers and tasty food purveyors, with another 60 or so rotating in seasonally.
Tables groan with produce, tea, jams, breads and handicrafts, mostly from the Tokyo and Chiba regions, but with some also from Shizouka, Nagano, Yamagata, Iwate and even Kobe. Customers can find a greater selection of organic and fair-trade produce and products here than almost anywhere else. Hiroshi Tomiyama, manager of the market and one of its original founders, conducted an informal census of products over the course of a year.
In June, when the growing season is running nearly at its peak, he found 180 kinds of fruits, vegetables, grains and beans on offer. Even during slow times of the year, 103 varieties can be found to satisfy even the heartiest of appetites. Tomohiro and Nagisa Minowa bring their duck-managed organic rice—white, brown and kochi varieties regularly available—along with suntan (charcoaled rice hulls) that gardeners adore. Masaru Kurosawa, a natural farmer from Ibaraki, brings his vast selection of grains, including six kinds of rice, soba (buckwheat), wheat, along with fresh ground flours and scrumptious vegetables.
Miyamotoyama Farm brings farm-fresh eggs, homemade mochi and miso that are some of the best to be had. Their homemade onigiri (rice balls) are no slouch, either. Other earth-friendly vendors are on hand to share their knowledge and wares. Yoshio Atsuo from Saitama offers sachets of cedar shavings for protecting winter wear, as well as rounds of cedar for dunking in the bath.
“Just let it soak in the hot water and then soak yourself,” he advises, adding that it should last for roughly a year. Yoshio Fujikura’s smile is the first draw to his table of bamboo, wood and rattan products. His team of trained craftsmen creates everything from graters to shopping baskets to cutting boards.
True to their first objectives, Tomiyama and the Earth Day Market organizers maintain that the ability to offer a wide variety of produce and products requires supporting new organic growers. Nearly all vendors represent family-run operations that work on a small scale. Many of the farmers are literally in their first year. Some are transitioning or, like orchardist Hiroto Matsafuji, have transitioned from other jobs to farming. All are in need of customers. Most of the growers and producers who come to the market have been in the trade for less than 10 years.
“The first years of farming can be very unstable. By coming here, the farmer can begin establishing a customer base that will help them become successful,” said Tomiyama. He added that supporting organic farming also means supporting the diverse wildlife on, and surrounding, those farms, as well as ensuring a secure food future for everyone.
Earth Day Market – Tokyo
Fourth Sunday of every month
Yoyogi Park Elms
10 a.m to 4 p.m. (Rain or shine)
*Check the website before heading out in case of the occasional change in schedule.