By Sherilyn Siy
Out in the countryside, honesty shops abound. These are small stalls, sometimes just a table, with local produce displayed. No one looks after the shop. Early in the morning, someone restocks the shop with the freshest picks of the day. If you want to buy something, you bag it up yourself and deposit the exact amount into the cash box provided. Sometimes the cash box is strapped down with chains, but sometimes, they aren't. For the convenience of customers, all produce are usually priced at ¥100, and more expensive produce in increments of 100. When the supermarket sells a bag of spinach for ¥178, the honesty shop sells a big bunch for ¥100. In the summer, when the supermarket sells small sized zucchinis for ¥100 each, a bag of three huge green and yellow zucchinis sell for ¥100 at the honesty shop .
Honesty shops only sell the freshest fruits and vegetables of the season. In the spring, I can get bunches of nanohana, norabou, and komatsuna no hana (these are beautiful green leafy vegetables with flowers), so fresh they are delicious blanched quickly in hot water or stir-fried in sesame oil and soy sauce. The summer brings eggplants, zucchinis, and tomatoes. In the fall, there are fresh shiitake mushrooms and net bags bursting with chestnuts. Winter is probably the slowest season for honesty shops but you'll still find leeks and daikon.
The shop nearest Koma Station carries items that you'd have a hard time finding in the supermarket: A sizable jar of homemade turmeric powder (ukon), citrus peel (chinpi) -- so fragrant you could smell it through the bag, and dried taro stems (zuiki).
If you happen to visit, stop by the honesty shop and bring home a bag of freshness.
From Koma Station (Seibu Chichibu Line) following the path towards Kinchakuda, you will find the first honesty shop on your right hand side after the bicycle parking. Cross the road at the stoplight and follow the small walking path. You will get to another road. If you turn right, there is a house selling organic homegrown vegetables (you will see a sign for 有機野菜). If you turn left, you go past the tofu shop and up another small walking path. You will see two honest shops on your left hand side.
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For Sherilyn Siy, Asia is home. Born in Hong Kong, Sherilyn spent time in the Philippines, China, and now lives in Japan. She speaks English, Filipino, Chinese (or putonghua), and Hokkien, her family's local dialect. Running is one of her favorite ways to explore Japan. She proudly finished the 2015 Tokyo Marathon -- her first ever full marathon -- in 4 hours and 37 minutes. She was absolutely psyched when she got selected again to run the new Tokyo Marathon route in 2018. She hopes to complete other races in Japan.