Nov 30, 2016
Trust in Japan: A Vegetable Stand
I love these fruit and vegetable stands you can accidentally run across or sometimes find throughout Japan. The thought of having one of these in my parent's current American city is unfathomable. It would not be more than 5 minutes before everything was long gone and stolen. The first time I saw one of these it happened to have strawberries being offered. They were in bunched groups sitting quite cutely inside of small, plastic, green fruit baskets. Normally strawberries cost an arm and a leg, or in other words, are pretty expensive in Japan. This year I believe I paid about four hundred yen, or more, at my local grocery store and only getting six small strawberries from that purchase. Strawberries are no longer in season so you will not find them in the store or in a stand right now. I will never forget the moment I saw that very first fruit and vegetable stand. I am sure a smile will come every time I see one once again, no matter how many times it happens during my life in Japan. I just feel overwhelmed with joy and a sort of peace flows through me when I see one. If I have money on me I try my best to make a purchase of the asking amount to help out the local farmers and field workers. If I cannot, and it is close enough to where I can return easily, I will make sure to go back.
This specific stand held only 4 bags of vegetables in it by the time I found it in the late afternoon. It looked like 3 bags were small potatoes and one was filled with greens. They looked pretty healthy and quite tasty. I honestly wanted to buy at least one of those potatoes bags but I did not carry my wallet on this trip. I had to leave without but I will return the next time I'm passing by.
How does this stand actually work, you are wondering? It is based on the honor system. I believe it is done mainly in the country areas but the trust in Japan is so great that I would not be surprised to see this in a big city's downtown either. The person, or persons, managing and growing these vegetables are usually located within a short distance from the stand itself. I happened to pass by at least 4 different fields that were a walk able distance from this stand. Any one of these fields, if not all, probably use this same stand. Once the vegetable is ready, they will gather them up and place them in the stand waiting for someone to walk by and take enough interest to make a quick purchase. The stand will have a sign, usually located right on the front of it with a large display, showing the asking price per item, group, or bag of fruit or vegetables left on the shelves. This specific stand requested just one hundred yen for today's bag of vegetables. It is really a good price compared to the local supermarket! Also, if you live in this area it will be a lot closer distance from your home as well than the closest store. The farmers even included a small packet of free white grocery bags for you to use! Amazing. I do not really pay to take a bag from the grocery store, per say, but if I chose not to use one, I get 2 points on the store's point card. To see someone allowing or offering you a bag with the vegetables or fruits is really considerate. There will be some sort of container located in the stand or maybe on the side / top of the stand to place the requested amount of money in that equals to what the buyer takes. I checked by shaking the baby powder like container to see if they had any good business today. They in fact did! I have never seen someone just take without paying.
This is the sole reason that the stands are still able to thrive in Japan's society today, in the year of 2016. The forever rule following and honor that is introduced to people from birth really pays off for the better, I think. Consideration, moderation, manners, and the high standard of your promise is taught at a young age and continued to be taught during school and in the classroom. I would love to have this back home or where my parents live now but there is just no way, as I have stated above. It can only be seen in the movies from there or heard from replaying memories alone of my grandparent's lives long ago. I am beyond blessed to have the ability to raise my small child in Japan so they can grow up knowing this beloved trust of the Japanese culture.
I love these too. There are lots of versions of veggie stands without staff needed. My favorite is the coin locker type where you pay to open the locker with the produce you want, like a makeshift vending machine. I have seen honor system stands like this (one is selling honey!), mostly in rural parts of the US, but I agree it wouldn't work in some areas.
Enjoyed this very much. Actually, I've never seen them but I've always lived in the city here in Japan. I can be pretty sure that there is no way these would world in my home country. Like you said, the vegetables would be stolen in no time. This reminds me a little bit of that shop in Sweden that opened which has no staff, and customers are trusted not to steal. Here's a link to the story: https://futurism.com/store-no-employees-sweden-opens-first-unstaffed-store/