This weekend I headed over to an organic market being held in Nishiki. Posters had been put up all around my town and a few people had told me about it; as a veggie I’m the direct line for the area’s vegetable-related news (hit me up with any carrot-related queries).
The market ran for both days of the weekend but, because of my town’s English Camp on the Saturday and a Christmas party on the Saturday night, I went on the Sunday. It started at 10am and we got there at around half past.
It was at this point that Jessica Langshaw left Planet Earth.
As we descended into the market, I saw the teepees, heard the ‘sound of distant drumming’ and already knew this was going to be good.
Before we even got to the stalls, a little Japanese boy wearing a farmer’s hat ran over with a bag of potatoes. He told me that they were 100 yen and, me being me, I obviously bought them.
First purchase of many to come completed, we walked around the stalls. Every single one was unique and filled with the owner’s personality. There were craft stalls, massage stalls, drinks stalls and then on the other side of the main performance ground was a little food court.
As it was insanely cold we kept walking to keep warm, heading over to the food stalls. We walked past a group performing Okinawan taiko. As we walked past, people were saying hello and even trying to speak in English. Everyone was so friendly and open to talking, I immediately immersed into the whole vibe.
I bought organic chips, which were noticeably nicer than normal chips (trust me I’m a potato connoisseur). As I was walking, I thought of a tradition from back home that I have with my mum.
When it gets close to Christmas, usually when it snows, we wrap up and walk down to the chippy to get a big bag of hot chippy chips to share. She’d let me hold the bag so my hands would be warm and we’d eat them walking home through the park.
It felt nice to be reminded of a happy time back home and, instead of it making me sad, for it to contribute to the happiness I was feeling. For multiple reasons, I was feeling everything at a more intense level. I was happy, but the feeling was much stronger because of how aware I was of my feelings.
We did another round of the markets and got chatting to some soba farmers. The guy I spoke to looked way too cool to be talking to me. He had dreads wrapped up in a blue cloth and despite the FREEZING cold weather, was wearing flip flops.
Turns out, they grow the soba using an ancient method that involves burning bamboo and throwing the buckwheat seeds down while the ground was still hot.
Another high point, apologies for the precursory pun, was the giant swing! It was was made from really tall bamboo, which if I’m honest had a Wickerman vibe to it.
Being the infant that I am, I had to have a go
If you keep up to date with my blogs you’ll have read about my love of Hitoyoshi’s Sanpo Café and it was to my delight that they had a stall at the market!
I got chance to chat with the owner and to meet her family, including her father- the umeboshi master. I had tried umeboshi before, as they’re used in the restaurant and, knowing that they would be just as good, I bought some!
My whole experience at the Organic Market is one big reason that I’m grateful for living in the inaka, as well as just generally being more integrated in a Japanese community. I also felt lucky to have seen this side of Japanese culture, a side that I had never really considered.
I felt so connected with everyone there and, living so rural and so far away from home, it’s connection that I’ve been looking for.
I chatted to strangers, tried to fit as many mushrooms as I could onto a plate for 500 yen (only to have the owner pile in a load more for my efforts), pulled stupid faces at a little boy for about 20 minutes and got to stroke a little puppy.
So, despite being able to see my misty breath, the warmth of the community I had stumbled into fought off the cold.
Photos of me taken by Kira!