Just look at this banana vending machine! Fruit vending machines have been around for a long time in Japan, following in the illustrious footsteps of many other type of vending machines, and here is the famous banana vending machine of Shibuya. Japan truly is a nation of vending machines, although we seem to be way behind peak vending machine, as every year we see less and less of them around. At the island of Oshima for example, where quite a large part of the local villages were buried in ash and lava after a volcanic eruption you can still see the tops of old vending machines sticking out of fields of nothing here and there. So although we still get nice new vending machines every now and then it is nothing like the eighties. People who like fruit vending machines might also be interested in the cut flower machine in Shinjuku station or the apple vending machine in Suidobashi station here in Tokyo! The banana vending machine is easy to find, it is just at a corner of the lowest spot on the huge Tokyu Hands department store in Shibuya! Enjoy!
I guess you have heard of the “food shortages” we have here in Tokyo? To be brutally honest, there were a couple of days in the beginning of all this when it was hard to find cup noodles, eggs, bread and milk. Still, there were plenty of other stuff in most stores, flour, vegetables and meat for example. Even canned food, which as most of us know, is what you really want in an emergency. It didn’t take many days for food merchants to catch up on orders and deliveries and now we have plenty of everything again. Toilet paper was the last to be fully restocked but it became generally available after about ten days of waiting. Here in Tokyo, the only sign we have of this disaster when it comes to food is a 40% price increase in eggs, due to a shortage bird feed. The earthquake damaged storage facilities used to store it. I forgot the exact figure but apparently we import staggering amounts of bird feed daily in this country!
One of the main reason I love driving around the country side in Japan are the roadside farmer’s markets literally everywhere around the countryside. From the smallest (cardboard boxes of vegetables and a tin can to put your money in) to rural coops with staff and great stuff like local wine, honey, sake, tofu or fruits. Traveling around Shizuoka’s Izu peninsula last week I stopped at this one to buy a few kilos of cheap fruits, one of my purchases being the huge tangerine/orange hybrid called dekopon. Yeah, I hadn’t heard of it before either. It tastes like orange but sweeter and peels like a tangerine. In Tokyo they sometimes sell for as much as 800 yen per fruit but in the countryside you can usually buy at the orchards (like I did) for 800 yen per bag. Excellent stuff! Next time you go on a Japanese road-trip, don’t forget to stop and sample the local produce!
I’ve spent over a decade in Asia and still hadn’t seen this outrageous citrus fruit until a couple of weeks ago. Like a cross between a lemon and an octopus, an almost Lovecraftian invention, this rare fruit has a history thousands of years long. Some scholars believe it originated in India and was introduced in China about 15 centuries ago. Today there are commercial orchards in China, Japan and California (as far as I know) and it is mostly used to perfumate rooms (it has a wonderful long lasting lemon fragrance), Buddhist New Year’s decorations or in some sweets. The most common variety (there are several) have no pulp and few seeds. In Japan the most sought after variants are the ones where the fruit’s fingers are more closed than open as it symbolizes Buddha’s Hand, hence the English name. In Japan it is called Bushukan but most Japanese have never seen it nor heard of it. Still today, there haven’t been any effort gather and classify all the different varieties of this fruit and you will literally have to travel around the world to see all of them. In Japan there seems to be a popular bonsai sized variety that gives fruits after about three years. Very convenient for a small home. The trees are very frost sensitive (basically we’re talking sunny hot houses or indoors) but not particularly difficult to keep. I know what my next garden project will be!