In Tokyo, if you want to buy something, chances are it’s packed in plastic. It doesn’t matter if this is a cheap meal from a convenience store, a single donut from a pastry shop or delicious fresh produce from a local Yaoya 八百屋. This means going plastic free suddenly becomes a greater issue than just saying “no thanks” to the shop clerk. Buying zero waste products in Tokyo thus takes time, planning, know-how and sometimes even luck, and there is simply no room in the busy daily schedules of the Tokyoites for this. It is demotivating and due to the general inconvenience, we often end up submitting to the plastic wrapping and go home. It’s truly a shame.
In Ogikubo lies the KIKI shared house, which has a special focus on sustainability. As a way to make shopping plastic free easier and more convenient, we are currently working on making a map over where you can shop sustainably in the Ogikubo area, meaning it will be easier for the inhabitants of the share house (and maybe other inhabitants in Ogikubo) to find places to shop sustainably. At the moment, we have come far in making a map over the vegetable stores around Ogikubo and what they offer without plastic wrapping. These stores and this mapping is the topic of this post. Later we hope to include bakeries and bulk shops that allow you to bring your own container or are able to sell the items without plastic.
Zero waste shopping map
Making a map such as the one we are making is actually quite easy, and I want to make clear how we did it in hope that it will inspire you to do the same thing. So even if the actual map is not very useful for you, as you maybe live in a completely different place, we hope that this example will intrigue you to do the same thing. Making a map not only helps yourself to shop more sustainably on a daily basis; it also makes it easier for people in your area to join the movement!
Gathering information to make the map does take some time, but it is actually quite enjoyable and it’s also time well spent. The “work” consists of noting down the green grocer’s or bakeries in your area and then simply strolling around between the spots in your own pace. When you find a place, like a vegetable store, you just take a look at their selection, maybe talk a bit with them, write what they offer down as a note to yourself, say thank you and continue your walk. It’s a lovely thing to do on a day off and it also helps you to discover little new gems in your area that you possibly never would have visited otherwise. And the knowledge that you gain really makes you feel like a true local! Just be sure to note the location and take lots of photos for your own sake.
Plastic Free vegetables around Ogikubo, Tokyo
As I mentioned earlier, we are starting with the veggie stores, or yaoya (八百屋), as they’re known in Japan.
The yaoya that I visited were all close to either the Ogikubo station or the Nishi-Ogikubo station. None of the ones I visited had a full plastic free selection of fruits and vegetables, but they always had something without plastic. The best stores sported a selection of maybe 15 fruits and vegetables without plastic while the smallest selections consisted of little more than pumpkins. Even super markets offer plastic free vegetables and fruits, but the selection is usually not impressive and it’s often the same thing. The yaoyas are usually offering a larger and more varied collection of plastic free produce.
Enough talking! Underneath is the list of the Yaoya in and around Ogikubo and what they offer plastic-free. With the list, you can finally buy veggies and fruits zero waste!:
Suzuki Vegetable&Fruits shop (鈴木青果店)
Address: 3-26-15 Amanuma, Suginami-city, Tokyo
Selection (plastic-free): lettuce, leek, cabbage, tomato, grapes, apple, clementine, persimmon, orange and squash
Note: This is one of the few yaoyas in Ogikubo. It’s an old man who runs the place and he’s very sweet. I usually buy lettuce and tomato here as it’s on the way home from the station.
Location: NISHI-OGIKUBO. About 100m west along the main road if you take the north exit.
Address: 3-1-6, Nishiogi Kita, Suginami-city, Tokyo
Selection (plastic-free): apple, kiwi fruit, avocado, grape, banana, onion, tomato, cabbage, turnip, daikon, celery, cauliflower, salad, asparagus, broccoli, garlic, squash, cucumber, potato, carrot
Note: this is my favorite of them all. This shop has a big selection of plastic free produce and what’s more they also sell rice in bulk! They also sell some vegetables prepared for deep frying and they have two big pots of cooked vegetables and sometimes hot soup that you can buy if you’re looking for something warm and healthy to snack on.
Location: NISHI-OGIKUBO. about 100m directly north of the north exit of the station.
Address:3-20-7 Nishiogi Kita, Suginami, Tokyo
Selection (plastic-free): peppers, leek, cauliflower, eggplant, cabbage, turnip, daikon, tomato, lemon, citrus fruits, apple, mushroom (two kinds), broccoli, melon, avocado, celery, red cabbage and cucumber
Note: this is a huge yaoya compared to many others and they have a big selection of vegetables in general of which about 1/5 is without plastic. Here they have some special vegetables without plastic, which I couldn’t find elsewhere such as mushroom (even big matsutake mushrooms), eggplant and peppers.
Location: NISHI-OGIKUBO, about 200m eastwards along the railways from the south exit
Address: 3-14-11 Nishiogi Minami, Suginami-city, Tokyo
Selection (plastic-free): leek, pumpkin, squash, tomato, lettuce, cabbage, apple, citrus fruits, daikon, turnip, broccoli and grapes
Note: This is a very conveniently located vegetable store with a decent collection of vegetables – if you pass N.O. station on your way, it’s easy enough to drop by here.
Location: NISHI-OGIKUBO. Also south-east of the station, on a road between the two aforementioned shops
Address: 3-15-3 Nishiogi Minami Suginami-city, Tokyo
Note: This store is 100% organic, and they have many nice products, however most of their vegetables are wrapped in plastic, as is common with organic produce in Japan. Only their pumpkins were not wrapped in plastic. They also sell clams from a small aquarium, so you can get them without plastic.
Location: NISHI-OGIKUBO. This is located about 400m along the big road that goes south-eastwards from the south exit at the station.
Address: 2-29-17 Nishiogi Minami, Suginami-city, Tokyo
Selection (plastic-free): leek, pumpkin, squash, tomato, cabbage, apple, citrus fruits, daikon, turnip, broccoli, grapes, melon, corn, lotus root, taro and cauliflower
Note: This the only place I found lotus root, corn and taro without plastic. A good selection for such a small store.
And I’m sure there are more stores that are waiting to be discovered!
Lastly I want to note that this list was made in mid-October and the selection will most likely vary with the season, so take the list with a grain of salt (as you would a cooked vegetable). However, I find that the amount of vegetables and fruit they offer without plastic is likely to remain the same, as they decide what to wrap and what not to wrap, so it should still be usable guideline for other times as well. It is also possible to do your shopping at a farmer’s market, where the produce is local. Here you’ll sadly also find a lot of plastic, but it is possible to find good things without plastic anyways.
I hope that this will make it easier for you to shop sustainably in Ogikubo, if you’re from these parts and if not I hope this project will inspire you to do the same thing in your area. Please feel free to comment if you do – I would love to hear how it is where you live!
Happy sustainable shopping!