Department store basements and chic organic food shops are not the only places to get natural products: Miyagi Prefecture’s pilot shop in Tokyo, for people in the know, is a good health-food shop with reasonable prices.
Opened in 1964, the small store attracts more than 200 regulars, manager Akio Obata said.
Many are drawn to its selection of healthy food, which ranges from agricultural and processed marine products to traditional confections.
Some items are so popular they are also marketed at high-end food shops in the Tokyo area.
The hottest product at the shop, much to the manager’s surprise, is “natto” fermented soybeans. The shop sells more than 10,000 of the 80 yen and 120 yen packs a year.
“Some customers even want to buy all we have in stock,” Obata said. The beans have a reputation of being less pungent than most varieties and of having a consistently high quality, he said.
The beans, manufacturer Kawaguchi Natto Inc. claims, are a product of pure water from Mount Kurikoma and a moderate climate that keeps the area around Ichihazama, the firm’s hometown, cool during summer.
The company also said it has distanced itself from the idea of mass production and has tried “not to overwork soybeans and natto fungi.”
The shop is part of Miyagi’s Tokyo office, which also serves as a tourism and local products service center. It is one of the oldest of its kind in the capital offering a taste of an outlying prefecture.
The office boasts 303 food products and 389 traditional works of art, along with sightseeing brochures and information on almost everything to do with Miyagi.
At the center of the Tohoku region, Miyagi is sandwiched between the Pacific Ocean to the east and 1,500 meter-high mountains to the west. It is blessed with rich fishing grounds and ideal soil for paddies, making it the nation’s fourth most bountiful rice-growing prefecture.
Visitors to the Tokyo shop can purchase the Miyagi rice strains Sasanishiki and Hitomebore at 500 yen per kg. The shop keeps it in the form of brown rice and mills it at the request of customers.
“There are even people asking us to mill it right before their eyes,” Obata said. “I get the sense that consumers have a craving for the real thing.”
While retaining its natural beauty, Miyagi is Tohoku’s commercial and industrial hub, centering on Sendai. The prefecture is the only one of the six that make up Tohoku to experience a growth in population in recent years.
Other popular products at the shop include sake made from high-quality rice and traditional confection.
“This shop has a lot of good stuff,” said Yoshiro Chiba, 75, who visits the outlet more than once a month.
A Miyagi native who was taken to Kawasaki at age 16 to work in a factory during World War II and has remained there ever since, Chiba cannot hide his love for Miyagi products. His friends have also become big fans and now ask him to buy things for them whenever he visits the shop, he said.
“This shop has the same things I had as a child,” he said, adding, after making his purchase and chatting with staff, “I’ll come back soon.”
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