Location: 35°46'11.8"N 139°36'33.1"E
Tokyo has 23 wards (ku), each unique in its own right. I’ve lived in eight: Bunkyo, Minato, Edogawa, Suginami, Shinjuku, Nakano, Shibuya, and Nerima, or nine if I count all those absinthe-fueled nights in Toshima back in the 90s. Now I reside in Nerima with my beautiful, oftentimes ill-tempered wife and two gorgeous, interminably quarrelsome kids, not to mention five ravenous goldfish, foisted upon us by the kindergarten one by one annually.
Where was I heading with this…? Ah, yes, cabbage. And Nerima, the ku where I bought a house three years ago—before the metropolitan government expanded the local landslide hazard zone to include my property, without an iota of concern for resale value or the exorbitant mortgage I’d only weeks before committed to. But I hear the optimists call out, Stay positive! And so back to the cabbage...
Nerima has superb cabbage. I mean, world-class in its crisp crunchiness and mild spicy-sweetness. What’s more, you can buy a whole cabbage head from any of the veggie vending machines scattered about the ku.
Like a wooden cabinet with pitched roof, the machine pictured is adjacent to the grower’s house on the border of Nerima-ku and Saitama Prefecture. It requires no electricity to operate. And leeks, Japanese “daikon” radish, broccoli, spinach and more are on offer in accordance with the season. Basically, the veggies are planted, harvested, and transported by hand. How’s that for carbon footprint?
On the consumer side: Local (me) rolls up on his rusty mamachari bicycle with aforementioned gorgeous, interminably quarrelsome kids in tow, along with a hankering for kyabetsu. He pops a 100-yen coin into a slot to unlock a little windowed door, opens it—much to the jaw-dropping awe of the youngsters—and booyah! A cabbage is released, plopped into a rusty mamachari basket, and taken home by pedal for lunch. Fresh. Crunchy. A taste of home.