One of the things I've always really liked about Japan is that once you get out of the big cities, you start coming across these things called mujin hanbai, literally "unmanned selling." Mujin hanbais are simply small, open-faced huts with shelves and a roof. Owned by a nearby local farmer, more often than not, they're shoddily -- but cleverly! -- built, and stumbling across one is always a treat.
You see, early every morning, a farmer will totter over and stock the shelves with freshly picked fruit, vegetables or even flowers. They'll set out a price tag (often just a propped up, torn piece of cardboard) and leave some kind of container for the passerby to drop in his or her coins. At the end of the day, they'll return to collect their profits and hurry home to get some sleep before they're up at dawn to pick more produce to once again stock their little unmanned shop.
Some mujin hanbai are just people who have family gardens and grow too much to eat. Others are farmers with bigger fields, but have vegetables or fruit that, while perfectly delicious, might be blemished or oddly shaped and cannot be sold to a supermarket. All those misfit veggies find themselves on an outdoor shelf to be sold using the honor system.
That is what is so endearing about this whole system. In my 28 years of living in Japan, I've never seen or heard about anyone taking advantage of these unmanned, self-serve, roadside stores. You go for a walk and come across one, check your pockets for change, and purchase some fresh greens for the night's meal. No one would think of stealing the food or the money that's been left by customers, even though, more often than not, it's just a piece of tupperware with a hole cut on top.
It's a small thing, but it's sweet, and when I see one of these mujin hanbai for a moment, at least, it makes me feel a little bit better in this ever uncertain world.
Photos by Thersa Matsuura
According to this video and article from by The Atlantic, most of the wasabi eaten around the world is horseradish with green food coloring in it. Shigeo Iida, a 75-year-old farmer in Japan, grows the real stuff, and in this beautifully shot video, we get to see him harvest wasabi and make wasabi paste while […]
A train station in Japan is apparently unique, in that it has no exit or entrance other than the platform. Get off the train, check out the beautiful scenery, and get right back on again. 清流みはらし駅全貌駅出口という概念がない、展望専用駅とは…w pic.twitter.com/JPdx4ajvrm — Gota.del.Vient-SH1-1 (@Gota_Kaze_SH11) March 11, 2019 Called Seiryu Miharashi Eki, which translates to “Clear Stream Viewing Platform Station“, […]
Walter Thompson-Hernández grew up in southeast Los Angeles. He went to Japan to make a short film for the New York Times about Chicano fashion and Culture in Japan. What I found when I got there is that, while most instances of cultural appropriation completely disregard the original communities, the people whom I met did […]
Despite government legislation and improving caller ID technology, robocalls and scam artists are rampant on the phone lines – up to 35 billion a year in the US alone. They can be annoying at best and a financial threat at worst, but there’s a way to take security into your own hands. One good example […]
If you’re a Mac user, you thrive on simplicity. Everything in its place and a place for everything. Unsurprisingly, there’s a ton of great organizational apps out there for Mac, and now someone’s had the great idea to bundle them all together. Whether you’re running a demanding business or just getting through the day to […]
Seems like drones are doing a lot of jobs these days, from reconnaissance to delivery. Now, we can add “keeping the Death Star safe” to that list. Whether you’re a drone enthusiast or a Star Wars fan, these Star Wars Propel Drones are undeniably the coolest toy around. Yes, that’s a fully functional drone replica […]