If you know anything about gift giving in East Asian cultures, you’ve probably heard of the ostentatious spherical pears given as a luxury gift. They are often jazzed up in pretty wrapping paper, nestled neatly in boxes to an almost godlike perfection. These are Asian Pears (Pyrus pyrifolia) and yes, we treat our fruits with the utmost respect. Crispy, juicy and bursting with an intensely sweet flavor, they will elegantly outdo your regular bell shaped pear. They are best enjoyed the way they are, ripe and raw. However, not the ideal types for cooking, since they are a lot more fibrous and extremely watery.
The prefecture of Tottori is famous for their large cultivation of this luxury fruit. The Pear industry in this area can be a very affluent line of business, but pear farming also comes with many challenges. Farming often adheres to a more traditional strategy, including intense manual labor which can make production more inefficient than other types of farming. However, for good reasons, pear farming remains very competitive and has a strict form of production, since the product must have almost zero imperfections in order to sell at the normal market value. So because the Tottori pear industry is by far the biggest provider of all of Japan, the packaging center is the hub where all pears come together, are sorted, categorized, and distributed to the rest of the country. Knowing that this takes place here at the packaging factory, what can regular custies take away from this perfectionist society? A lot of mediocre pears for a bargain price!
That day was a lively day at the pear packing factory. People coming in with cars, and leaving with boxes full of scrumptious pears. Men with forklifts moving crates of pears around outside, at the entrance workers are punching off their tickets, and inside countless old people are working along a highway of conveyer-belts either fixing, sorting, or boxing the produce to their respective place. It all looked like one big machine from afar, but looking through the many gaps of this engine you find so many old people crouched over and hustling pears back and forth. I was genuinely surprised to see elderly people chopping away at such speeds, yet remaining placid against the rattling of the engines.
Despite it being a very productive day for selling pears, I found it difficult to see anyone smiling. But when you are caught in a gloomy crowd, one smile can break through the fog like the morning sun, and it was a very big sunny smile indeed. I was not able to catch his name, but we’ll call him Smiley. Smiley is the like the energy station for the workers. He stations his convertible car next to the entrance, and exposes his cornucopia of baked goods such as donuts, filled pastries, breads, and several drinks for the hard workers and buyers of pears. He has surely secured himself in this location, made himself the local cafe on wheels for the pear industry. A very joyful looking man, cracking jokes to the ol’ ladies and shines a warmingly big smile without an end.
So we got ourselves some pears, and we headed home feeling like a champion.