Fukushima Prefecture is famed for its food, both of the fishery and agricultural variety. One of my pieces of fieldwork this week was a spot of ‘virtual shopping’ in the supermarkets of Fukushima City, looking at the Prefectural produce on the shelves. Here’s a little extract from my field notes, but before I get stuck in, I’d like to go on record as saying the food in Fukushima is some of the best I have eaten in Japan – ever. In fact, Fukushima Prefecture is the only place in Japan I have ever actually gained weight, such was the quantity I consumed. Anyway, to the field notes:
The afternoon is all about vegetables, fish and radiation for the consumers. I start with the vegetable section in the station plaza, which has some Fukushima vegetables, albeit not many. There are lots from the adjacent prefectures of Miyagi and Ibaraki, and the Fukushima things there are no cheaper than those from other areas. Yamagata peaches are more expensive, but then again are a bit bigger and come in larger boxes. In the fish section, there is some Fukushima octopus, which looks a bit cheaper, but in fairness in smaller packages, than the octopus from elsewhere. Ten minutes’ walk away is the Fukushima Co-op, which has Fukushima peaches, again a little cheaper than the Yamagata ones but not by much, probably more to do with size than provenance, and to my delight Fukushima octopus and Iwaki sanma, albeit the sanma caught in Hokkaido and processed in Iwaki. I do notice some fish with the location marked as only ‘Pacific Ocean’. Just up the road is York Benimaru, which has loads of Fukushima veg and an information display about how they monitor radiation (with the quintessential farmer mugshots on the adjacent poster).
Fukushima veg is no cheaper. At the fish section is a panel with a map, showing where all the prefectures are and how far out to sea the fish is caught. Nothing clearly from Fukushima, though, and certainly no tables of radiation for either veg or fish. Some schoolchildren are running around under the supervision of their teacher, looking for cheap produce, although it appears to be a maths class rather than a radiation lesson.
Fukushima rice weighs in at the same price as rice from everywhere else, in fact a bit more expensive, and there is a sticker explaining it is safe and showing where in Fukushima it comes from, i.e. far inland. The little cartoon map shows where the rice is grown (Aizu in the west), where the mountain ranges are, and a big blank green space in the east. Funny that.
I pop into the vegetable wholesaler across the road, and ask if the peaches in big baskets are for sale individually – and if they are Fukushima produce. The answer is it is from the Prefecture, and after a slight pause the woman agrees to sell me one for fifty yen, and wraps it up in the baseball section of yesterday’s newspaper. It will be my dessert on the train, and will be even sweeter and juicier than the previous one. Tohoku shinkansen, I apologise for the damage this may have done to your seats and floors. I note that again the Yamagata peaches are a little more expensive, but not much.
Takagi-san, the geographer from FURE, told me last night that Fukushima is famous for its peaches and that I should try one. I am glad I did – twice.