Tangerines and Pears

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Japanese tangerines are called “Mikan.” Pears are called “Nashi.” I think Japanese tangerines and pears are exceptionally delicious. They are generally only available in September and October. So the supply is always short, excepting a few weeks in the middle there. By the time November rolls around, the price for these fruit goes up to anywhere from two-dollars to four-dollars just for one!

Of course I have had tangerines and pears from many other countries. But the ones from Japan are the best. It’s probably due to the hot summers and the fact that Japan is one of the very few countries in the world that rains naturally soft water. And it rains a lot. The pears are not soft; they are kind of hard like apples. I like that.

The tangerines are so sweet and the skin is easily peeled off in a single piece. Their size is perfect for taking the entire fruit and popping it into your mouth in one piece. And since they are so easily peeled, you don’t get sticky hands from eating them either. They are truly nature’s candy.

Of course these fruit are available at all fruit stands and grocery stores, but I always buy from a guy named, “Chiba-San.” Mr. Chiba always has the best tangerines and pears I’ve ever tasted, and at the best prices. I don’t know how he does it. Perhaps he lives directly on a farm, so he can sell the best produce at the lowest prices? Perhaps he doesn’t have to deal with a wholesaler; maybe that’s it.

He knows he has the best produce, so he seems like he couldn’t care less whether you want to buy his fruit or not. But everyone around here knows you can’t beat him for price and quality.

I have met a few people who seem like they don’t like Mr. Chiba’s attitude. In this country, it is quite rare to meet a seller who is not out in front of his shop asking you to come in and look around. Chiba-San doesn’t do that. So, I gather some older people don’t like it; they think he’s not friendly — Or they think he is “cold.”

Chiba just sits by the cash register, smoking cigarettes, and listening to 70′s American Rock and Roll Music. He knows he has the goods.

But you know what? Chiba-San is not stupid. If business went bad, he’d do what he has to do to increase sales. I guess that explains why everyone around here knows him and why his fruit and vegetable stand has been so successful for these last twenty years.

Let’s face it. Regardless of how delicious his fruit is, he still needs cold hard cash to live. Just like you and I do.

Personally, I like Chiba-San. I like him because he doesn’t give me any grief and he sells me what I want. What else could I ask for from a vegetable and fruit stand dealer? I’m not asking him to be my friend or anything. He leaves me alone; I leave him alone. He gives me what I want; I give him the money that he needs. No problem. Everybody’s happy.

I guess I have come to think this way from living in Japan so long. The Japanese people generally mind their own business and don’t really concern themselves with what’s going on at someone else’s house. Everyone has enough problems of their own. Oh sure, some people are so contented with their lives that they like to gossip — Just like anyone else in any other country. But who cares about gossip?

Chiba-San runs his own store. It’s his store. I don’t care how he runs it. I only care about getting the best for my money. If the day ever comes when he stops selling me what I want, for the price I want it at, I’ll start shopping somewhere else.

Now this might sound so obvious to you folks in the States that it seems absurd; and I agree. That’s why I, and just about all the Japanese people I talk to, have a question to ask you folks in America:

“What do you care who is selling oil to you? Be it Saddam Hussein, Ayatollah Khomeini, or Hank Hill? What difference does it make to you? If they don’t offer their product to you, at a price you like, then don’t buy it. What are they going to do? Eat oil?”

Sure, I’m no geo-political expert on these matters. But it seems common sense to me that for how much money and lives you folks in America have already wasted on Iraq, you could have bought every single last drop of oil from them — Every stinking last drop! And still saved money; plus saved a lot of people one hell-of-a-lot of heartache.

If everyone stopped buying from Chiba-San, and in turn he had no more money to buy the food he needs; I wonder how long a person can go without getting very sick on just eating tangerines and pears?

I don’t suppose you need a doctor’s degree in medicine to figure out the answer to that question.

Mike (in Tokyo) Rogers [send him mail] was born and raised in the USA and moved to Japan in 1984. He has worked as an independent writer, producer, and personality in the mass media for nearly 30 years.

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