Just a few years ago, those interested in purchasing organic food in Japan had quite a challenge. Even in 2017 it isn’t the easiest task, but things are definitely improving.
The organic food landscape in Japan doesn’t even compare to that in America, Canada, Europe, Australia, etc.. Buying organic is something that is mostly done by those really concerned about the origins of what they eat and the hip and trendy. One might make the same argument about those buying organic food outside Japan, but again, things are different here.
There are no major food chains such as Whole Foods in Japan. Most major chain supermarkets sell next to no organic produce, but in bigger cities and in areas where there is agriculture that is changing.
Since last year, my local supermarket in Kobe, Japan has a “Buy Local” organic produce section. It takes up about 1/6 of the overall produce section, but that is a great start. You can buy fresh veggies grown by farmers in the city and throughout the local prefecture. They even have photos and profiles of the local farmers so you can “get to know” the people you are buying your food from.
Small organic vegetable and fruit shops are also starting to open up in various areas of the city. Many are in the more trendy and fashionable areas of the city and they are small, but they are opening and that’s a great thing. Younger generations in Japan are starting to become more aware of farming practices and about what they eat. More people are starting to care about buying local and supporting local farmers.
Here in Kobe, Japan we have a great initiative called #EatLocalKobe. It is promoted a lot by the City of Kobe and it has a weekly farmer’s market held downtown in Kobe on Saturdays. It gives organic farmers and artisanal food producers and makers the opportunity to sell their food and goods on Saturday mornings. The farmers are all based in the more rural areas of the City of Kobe.
The city is also beginning to promote agri-tourism (agricultural tourism) on the Harvest Kobe site. Having people visit local farms and harvest fruit and vegetables is a win-win situation. People pay local farmers to pick fruit and harvest vegetables. The farmers earn extra income and regular people get outdoors and have a chance to learn about where their food really comes from. I think it’s a fabulous idea!
As my wife and I become more concerned about our health and that of our children, we are happy to support local farmers and buy the organic food they grow. Actually, later in the spring you will be able to see myself and my family in an agri-tourism promotional video for the City of Kobe (more to come about that).
Although it may not be as easy to get as in other countries, if you live in a big city in Japan, you can get organic food with a bit of leg work. You may have to visit a variety of supermarkets and shops, but it is out there. Once you find a shop that sells it, become a frequent patron and spread the word. The more both Japanese and foreign residents of Japan know about organic food, the more will be produced and it will be easier to get!
Kevin O’Shea is the host of the Just Japan Podcast and the Just Japan News Podcast. He is also the guy behind JustJapanStuff. Kevin is a Canadian educator who lives in Kobe, Japan with his family.
Follow him on Twitter: @jlandkev