When I made my first trip to the supermarket after coming back from Japan, I was immediately thrown off by the produce section. There was counter after counter of fruits and vegetables, and by the counters was a set of plastic bags and a few scales.
That's right, I thought. How could I have forgotten? Produce here is sold by weight.
It's the kind of thing that you may all take for granted, but it is something that had I had not thought of in ages.. In Japan, bananas and oranges and heads of lettuce are, for the most part, sold in units. One bunch of bananas (pre-bagged) might be 388 yen, or a bag of five clementines may be 298 yen. Cucumbers may be 98 yen each. Prices vary widely by season (in the off season, greenhouse-clementines, for example, climb to nearly 600 yen). No weighing, no calculating.
Simpler, yes, but it certainly makes people pickier about which fruit they choose. Do I take this bunch of three large bananas, or this other bunch of four small bananas? Do these five apples amount to the same size as those five apples? There was many a day in which I bought a bag of five clementines, only to find that one of the mix was in less than ideal condition.
I prefer the American system: choose the volume and weight that's right for you, and pick everything individually. Perhaps I only want one apple today. Maybe I want one each of several varieties of apple. Perhaps today I only care to take home a small bunch of grapes. If this leek is a few grams lighter than that one, then I want to pay a little less for it. Sure, limiting those options means that you don't see many people hanging around the produce sections in Japan thumping melons, but if I'm going to be eating it, then I want to be able to choose the produce that's right for me.