Tokyo's "unmanned stores" - honor-system sheds where farmers sell their surplus produce

In Japan, farmers sell their blemished, surplus and otherwise unmarketable vegetables in unstaffed, honor-system roadside stalls called "Unmanned stores" ("mujin hanbai"). Produce is set out in trays with an anchored cashbox and a note inviting passers-by to take what they please and leave payment in the box. Farmers sometimes add recipes and other serving suggestions. Here's a map of 120+ mujin hanbais, in Nerima ward -- part of greater Tokyo (a city whose sprawl encompasses a surprising amount of farmland). A fascinating, lavishly illustrated article on PingMag explores the use and practice of these stores, including the growing trend to coin-operated lockers.

After selling their crops to the market, farmers might then here sell the leftovers from their own personal supply. This means that the vegetables sometimes have markings or otherwise is not in the “perfect” condition demanded for sale on the regular market. But while the food may not always look wonderful, the taste will be just fine. Farmers, of course, don’t want to throw things away so by selling leftovers like this they can earn a bit of extra cash — two birds with one stone!

The Stores Without Staff [Mayu Fueki/PingMag]

Notable Replies

  1. You see this sort of thing in the Southeast US all the time. Little truck farms and family farms leave things out on a roadside cart with an honor system box.

  2. They're pretty common here in NJ. I'm in a rural part of the state, and I pass probably half a dozen every day during my commute that sell vegetables and/or firewood, depending on the season.

  3. Ethel says:

    In the Willamette Valley, in the rural areas, you can purchase fresh eggs, vegetables, fruit and flowers in a similar manner. It has been that way for over 40 years. Some places it is pick your own fruit based on the honor system.

  4. I've also seen them in various Hawaiian islands, particularly where families have wild tropical fruits growing on their property.

  5. Also common in rural New Zealand.

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