It’s summer, and Ochuugen, the Japanese season of giving, is upon us.
Looking for a gift for grandma, whom you’ll be visiting in a few days, you anxiously wander into the heart of Tokyo’s Nihonbashi neighbourhood. You come across what, at first glance, appears to be a Japanese take on a Cartier outlet and notice that this jewellery boutique flaunts rather strange wares. On closer inspection, to your surprise, the gilded shelves are lined with nothing other than bushels of apples and punnets of strawberries.
This is Sembikiya, where a melon might cost only slightly less than a diamond-studded necklace.
Around 180 years ago at its inception, Sembikiya was a modest store, marked only by a sign with mizugashi tasuuri dokoro (which translates to fruits discount store) painted on it - a far cry from the brand in its current form. Samurai Benzo Ohshima started the business as a neighbourhood greengrocer, and the brand only grew from there. Passed down over generations, the store evolved into its current iteration, with its name evolving as well, lest the original stand out against fancy lightboxes as a garish oxymoronic misnomer.
Before and After. Photo: Sembikiya
You were never going to treat grandma to that breakfast at Tiffany’s, and were just about to turn on your heel, but now that you’ve seen the fruits, you’re having second thoughts.
While jewellery or other sparkly accoutrements are great, fruits are considered a tad more valuable; they make popular gifts during the gift-giving seasons and are favoured to express gratitude. You know this though you can’t remember why, but a jaunty traipse on Wikipedia reveals that contrary to vegetables, the Japanese don’t consider fruits a necessity or something to have every day.
This makes perfect sense!, you think to yourself. If I’m getting grandma a gift, I’m gonna wanna get her something that she doesn’t need, even better still if it fits the very definition of perfect.
And it is by these axes that Sembikiya fills its niche.
In case you’re not actually reading from the streets of Tokyo, we’ll save you the trip. Here we’ve compiled our top picks for putting a smile on grandma’s lovely face if you’re someone who’s big on giving gifts with an extravagant flair and happen to have a little more cash to burn (or if you’re looking, for whatever reason, to break the bank):
So the next time a birthday or an anniversary comes around, maybe re-think that last-minute DIY macaroni artwork.
We might not have fantastic fruits, but quality produce makes a good (practical) gift too! Shop now!