Over the past few years a trend for growing potted vegetables has been taking root on balconies throughout urban Japan. Driven by an increased interest in organic produce, many have been deciding to have a go at growing their own produce on tiny strips of sun-kissed balcony. Now with the crisis at Fukushima utmost in many people’s minds, the idea of growing your own vegetables is even more attractive.
Since the mid-noughties, a bumper crop of books containing the words “veranda saien” (balcony vegetable garden) have been published. Indeed, March this year alone saw three new titles hit bookstore shelves. “Easy to Grow Vegetables in Containers and Pots,” for example, shows budding gardeners how to grow veggies including cress, carrots, egg plants and cucumbers. According to Nikkei Trendy who reported on the “boom” back in summer 2008, one of the easiest plants to grow on a balcony are baby tomatoes, but as we reported a little while back, “green curtains” grown from goya have also been popular with those who want to use foliage to provide natural shade for their windows.
John Moore, a British resident of Japan, teaches classes in Tokyo on how to grow organic vegetables. Moore says that he has noticed a significant rise in the number of pupils recently. “The numbers to our workshops have been increasing for the past three years. Safe food, safe DNA for the next generation and clean safe living is foremost in Japanese people’s minds, and also in the minds of overseas customers of food from Japan,” he said in a recent email interview. “On balconies, or inside the house in various places, good food can be safely grown, no insects, no climate worries, no nuclear worries, etc.”
As concerns about the safety of produce mount and vegetable-centric cuisine grows in popularity we think the trend looks set to spread even further. Japan’s cities are notoriously short on green spaces, so this is trend also has the advantage of making the concrete jungle look that little bit more leafy and pleasant.