UNU Farmer's Market: Farm-fresh food and lots, lots more
Everyone loves an outdoor market, no matter what it is that’s being sold. The UNU Farmer’s Market in Tokyo is no exception. This market brings the country to the city and has the potential to become a regular week-end shopping stop.
The market, which is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday at the United Nations University in Omotesando, features farm-fresh seasonal produce, as well as other specialty food items and handicrafts. The laid back atmosphere and the interesting array of items on sale make this a fun place to browse.
Many of the fresh fruits and vegetables on sale are organically grown and sold by the people who grew them, giving you a chance to chat and directly connect with these farmers. Or meet the bakers of breads, cakes and even bagels. Especially for those of us who are health-conscious, this is a rare opportunity to be confident about the origins of our food. For others, it just a chance to pick up something extra fresh, or perhaps unique.
In addition to the fresh food vendors, there are several stalls offering specialty and gourmet foods, including high quality olive oil, gourmet salts and other condiments, locally produced honey and preserves, as well as select dried beans and even specialized teas. One stall sells Oak-roasted tomatoes—similar to sun-dried, but better—imported from the UK and not otherwise available in Japan.
If you don’t want to carry your newly purchased treasures, you can arrange for next-day delivery, too.
They say it’s not good to shop for food when you’re hungry, but this market has a solution to that. Several food trucks seem to converge here, each offering something different. The pizza van has a wood-fire stove ablaze inside. Ethnic foods available include Indian, Middle Eastern, and specialist Italian (including Italian beer and wine). Home-made soups, organic salads, fresh juices, and specialist coffees are other examples of the variety available.
Tables and chairs are set up at either end of the marketplace, so that you can make your selection from one of the food trucks and have a leisurely lunch while people watching and deciding which stall’s vendors you want to chat with next.
Non-food items include fresh flowers, handicrafts, and toiletry items containing natural ingredients. Sometimes, there’s even a man who makes balloon animals.
There are also special events and special vendors that appear at regular intervals. For example, once a month, a dog rescue organization known as ARK (Animal Rescue Kansai) brings dogs available for adoption and has volunteer staff available to explain their work. (The entire venue is dog-friendly.)
On the third Saturday of every month, there is also an atmospheric night market from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
One fun aspect of any outdoor market is that there are different vendors and different offerings each time you go. This market is no different. Because the farm-fresh produce is seasonal, you never know what the farmers might bring to sell. And some of the other vendors also vary weekly, making it a worthwhile place to check out from time to time.