While a lot of Japanese people have chosen to grow Western-style gardens – those with flowers and shrubs – the majority still do keep Japanese gardens. Out front they have their lanterns and green conical-shaped bushes, and at back, they have their vegetable gardens.
A friend of mine said that in the olden days, Japanese households took care of their own needs within their own fences. They were self-sufficient that way. What they didn’t have, they traded for. They did not travel far to get what they needed, usually just bartering with neighbors and relatives. And they were always sure their food was safe and fresh, he said. His family used to bring me potatoes, tomatoes, strawberries and an assortment of Japanese herbs like shiso (in Kanji 紫蘇, which is a perilla). They use to invite me over to dinner so I could share in their meals made from vegetables that were all proudly home-grown. They said eating them was healthier and was a lot safer than store-bought vegetables.
So I understood instantly when I saw this article from Mainichi Daily News. Even before the question came up, I had an answer.
Incidentally, the same friend told me that one Autumn, his mother was getting ready to harvest their persimmon but then she woke up the next morning to find all the fruits gone. She was plenty angry but I guess it was しようがない (*read as shiyouganai, meaning a Japanese shrug of the shoulders, something can’t be helped).
The Original MDN Mainichi Article:
Woman steals vegetables from garden because they’re fresher than store goods
ISAHAYA, Nagasaki — A 76-year-old woman questioned on suspicion of stealing vegetables from a local resident’s garden has told police that they were fresher than what were sold in stores.
The woman, whose name has been withheld, is accused of stealing a cucumber. She has reportedly admitted having stolen other vegetables.
“They were fresher and tasted better than what were sold in stores,” she was quoted as saying. Police reportedly seized a cucumber from her home, which matched one stolen from the home of a 58-year-old woman in Isahaya.
Since she has reportedly paid the victim 1,000 yen for everything she took, police did not form a case against her.