One of the things I love about walking in the Japanese countryside is the huge variety of fruit trees and plants you find growing around just about every human settlement. Here are a few trees I saw in my walk along the Tamagawa river in Tokyo’s western Ome city, Sawai district. This area is just about as rural as you can get in Tokyo and just a little over an hour from the skyscrapers in Shinjuku on the Chuo and Ome lines. Before the industrial revolution, in the Edo era (1600-1868), Japan was a completely self sufficient nation where the population was absolutely maxed out to a sustainable figure of about 30 million. That meant every usable scrap of nutrition and land was put to use in one way or another. One common method for farmers and nobles alike was to have as many fruit trees crammed into their gardens as possible. They would plant fruit trees on river banks and hill sides that were to steep for anything else. To this day you still find that old roads and gardens are lined with fruit trees. On one short walk along the river I noticed over 12 species of fruits and nuts, I took photos of some of them. I also passed an “honesty box”, a small stall set up where locals put out the fruits of their gardens for sale, totally unmanned. You take what you need and put the money in the box on the table. That a system like this works in this day and age never ceases to amaze me. Unfortunately this one was pretty much sold out, but they had peppers, sudachi (which I have never seen growing in Tokyo before) and chestnuts. Amazing! As I reached the bridge leading up to Sawai station I looked up to see the nice little restaurant. Some lucky people had gotten the best seats in the house!
To get to Sawai just hop on the Chuo line and go as far as Ome station, from there you get on the smaller Ome line (just walk across the platform) and then it’s just a few stops more. This place will get pretty crowded in November, as people come out to see the leaves turning red all over the mountain sides. Magical.
In late March I went to the Izu peninsula west of Tokyo to photograph cherry blossoms for the Special.T campaign. I took these photos of cherry and plum blossoms as well as a fruit tree with what could possibly be yuzu or maybe bitter orange (which would explain the fact that they seem to be totally unmolested by the local kids). Izu is famous among cherry blossom chasers, the people who live for following the cherry blossoms blooming around the country, the reason being that these are the earliest blossoming trees on the Japanese mainland! Even in late March they were in full bloom only in this garden in Higashiizu City, in most other places they had already gone past full bloom and I was lucky to find these trees still in bloom, at the Inatori Onzen hot springs. There’s plenty of stuff to see and do in Higashiizu so I think I will be back there soon this year.
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!