Kale In Tokyo: By Erica Jordan
I had just discovered my love for kale about a year before I moved to Tokyo. Being such a large city with a reputation for being able to find anything from zombie bars to maid cafes, I’d somehow assumed that I would be able to walk home from a Japanese supermarket, arms full of kale. As with most assumptions that I’ve made, this incorrect.
Instead of seeing this as a sign that Japanese people do not eat kale, I saw it as a sort-of challenge and began going into every supermarket that I saw, especially high-end grocers in the city, leaving empty handed every time. This continued for my entire first year in Japan. The reason I was so hopeful? There’s a product in Japan that commonly lists kale as one of the main ingredients. It’s called aojiru, which literally translated, means “green juice.” It’s known as a bitter sort of health drink that people only consume as part of a diet or as punishment for losing some kind of game. Many people also seem to know that kale is a common ingredient of aojiru. What they don’t know, is where one can purchase some of those lush green leaves.
At the end of my first year, I was convinced that kale in Japan was grown in powdered form. I was also consuming a lot of aojiru since it was my only method of kale intake. I know. I was a little desperate.
After some time lamenting that I didn’t have any kale in my life, I came across the kale project. I left a comment mentioning the lack of kale in Tokyo, to which Kristen replied with some pictures from a farmer’s market that she had found while in Tokyo. Thrilled, I set out to play private eye, trying to deduce where the farmer’s market was located from the photos that she had sent me. It ended up being quite easy to identify them, thanks to a little Googling. I decided to stop by the next time I was in the area. No kale. I was heartbroken, and consoled myself by looking through the other organic fruits and vegetables that were in season, as well as picking out a couple items from the amazing food carts and bakery booths.
Packing up my apartment after 3 years of life in Tokyo, I lamented never having succeeded in my kale search. After a 3 month journey, I returned to Tokyo to say my final goodbyes. Kale always being on my mind, I convinced a friend to go to the UNU farmer’s market with me. And there it was, at the first booth that I saw, KALE!!! I could not have been more thrilled. As with everything in Japan, the leaves were laid flat, in perfect, plastic packaging. After close inspection, there were 2 sellers, one having about 5 leaves for 300JPY and the other selling 2 leaves for 200JPY or 3 leaves for 300JPY. Yes, kale in Japan does not come cheap, unfortunately.
At least you have some good food vendors around for consolation. I had the carrot ginger soup and an organic bagel.
How to find kale in Japan:
- Your local farmer’s market during the winter.
- Order kale online to be delivered to your door. (Unfortunately, all the sites that I could find were in Japanese, so you may have to enlist the help of a friend if you have trouble reading Japanese, including kanji.) Below are two sites that I was able to find by googling 「ケール販売」or “kale sellers”:
Though kale is not as readily available in Japan as it is in the U.S., but all of the methods of purchase make it really obvious where the kale was grown, which is always a plus. Check back on Kale Monday for some Japanese inspired kale recipes.
Erica Jordan is a Seattleite, currently recovering from living in Tokyo, Japan for 3 years. Finally back in a place where you can buy kale at grocery stores, you can find her walking around New York City with bunches of kale in her arms. When she’s not eating kale, you can find her documenting her adventures at Kizzling Around.