Monday, August 13, 2001

An Unmanned Vegetable Stand

In areas which grow vegetables, it's probably not very unusual, but, in and around the Northern area of Yamanashi Prefecture, where our villa is located, there are a number of unmanned vegetable stands along the road. It's not that this is the only place that you can buy vegetables. Right off the Nagasaka Interchange, the main thoroughfare here, there's a large supermarket, not much different from those in the city. In the town next to ours, Takane, there are shops where you can buy vegetables by the cardboard boxfuls. But what's best about these unmanned stands is that you can get fresh vegetables picked that very morning. Unlike those sold in supermarkets, you can buy fully ripened tomatoes and things at a very cheap price.

There are different types of these vegetable stands: There are simple ones with vegetables laid out on wooden stands underneath a tent, and there are also those built like small wooden huts, with a roof and walls, in front of which the vegetables are arranged on a special stand. In the former, you pay for your purchase by putting your money in a box, without a lid, that's left there. If you need change, you take from the coins left by people who bought before you. In the latter case, there are often times a metallic cylinder that juts out from inside the hut and you put your money in there. It's made so that the cash isn't exposed outside the stand. In either case, however, it's selling merchandise putting wholehearted trust and good faith in the customer. It's truly refreshing to look at.

It seems, though, that there are "customers" who betray that trust. At one stand, there was a written notice, enough to dampen anyone's enthusiasm, saying, "If you don't leave payment, we'll notify the police." We've bought at the supermarket as well as at the shops, but we've also gratefully purchased tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, okra, string beans, green peppers and other vegetables at these stands. Actually we would have liked to have seen the farmers who grew these vegetables, but that's probably asking too much. They were selling large, full-sized squash at the stand, but, wanting to share in the humor of the farmers, we bought some mini-squash instead.

- MT

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