Visitors to Nara will find the Nara Organic Farmers Market a natural addition to a city well steeped in history and culture. Similar to the daily markets that once occurred in every city across the country, the Nara farmers market offers a glimpse of modern everyday life in one of Japan's oldest and finest former capitals. A short walk away from Nara Park and its bounty of awe-inspiring temples, shrines, pagodas, and friendly deer, visitors will find plenty to please the eye as well as the taste bud.
Conveniently located in front of the JR Nara station, the Nara Organic Market and its more than 35 vendors have been greeting visitors with fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables as well as a wide variety of handmade goods for nearly two years. Throw in live music, food stalls serving fresh onigiri (rice balls) and spicy curry (on reusable plates with biodegradable cutlery, of course), a little dancing, and it starts feeling like a festival. It's easy to see why regular customers from neighboring Kyoto and Osaka happily ride the train upwards of an hour one-way to be here.
Travelers will find a unique opportunity to mix and mingle with local farmers, growers, and producers, as well as meet some new vegetables, teas, seasonal honeys, and several kinds of traditional pickle. Sample some of Ota-san's homemade scones or Douhounie's variety of heirloom beans served in a simple traditional Japanese style. Sip Kencha's green tea with a hint of yuzu to clear the palette while ogling Kitamuranoeun's array of seasonal produce. Feel the heft of Kazuto-san's scythe, a former student of Masanobu Fukuoka, one of Japan's most famous natural farmers, as he demonstrates the perfect technique.
Tourists suffering from a touch of temple burnout will find here an oasis of modern Japanese community at its best and most fun. Unique gifts – traditional pickles, sweets, teas, stunning ceramics and beautiful handspun and natural-dyed yarns – and an excellent variety of fresh and prepared foods in a festive environment aside, the Nara Organic Farmers Market is a rare opportunity to venture off the tourist trail. Taste, quite literally, life in Nara and Japan, at its best. Some growers speak English, but food and fellowship are the more common language communicated with smiles and laughter. Iitadakimasu! (Let's eat!)
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Joan Lambert Bailey lives and writes in Tokyo where she is lucky enough to get her hands dirty on a local organic farm in between forays to explore Japan from top to bottom. You can read about her adventures learning about Japanese food from seed to harvest to table at Japan Farmers Markets.