3 in 30 - 2001.0129 Monday
We have found that in Japan there is a mixture of the old and new. In Tokyo there is the mixture of the amenities of a large city and the closeness of small neighborhoods. We used to enjoy a column in the Daily Yomiuri newspaper written by a woman living in an very old, established neighborhood set in the middle of metropolitan Tokyo.
An established profession that has survived the years in many communities is that of street vendor. We've seen Tofuya-san before. He still comes around daily though we're not usually home when he passes our house. Another one is a vendor of laundry poles, though I haven't heard them for a while. On Christmas day, a woman came through the neighborhood selling potted flowers.
Here we have a yakiimo (sweet potato) vendor and his wife. They have located themselves at the corner at the stoplight about halfway between our house and the train station. You can see that they have a small portable self-contained hand cart with a burner in the bottom and a gas light inside the shade above.
You will notice the origami cranes attached to the roof of the cart.
The wood being burned looks as though it is scrap from demolished buildings so they have an inexpensive fuel source. The fire heats up these smooth river stones and the sweet potatoes are nestled in the stones, turned and occasionally checked. For us, on a cold evening after getting off the train, these yakiimo are a warm tasty treat.
There is another yakiimo vender that sometimes comes through the neighborhood in a truck with a loud speaker that broadcasts a tape recorded message that signs out "Yaki-imo. Hot yakiimo. It's delicious you know."
At the other end of the spectrum is the plenitude of impersonal flourescent-lit vending machines that are literally within ten minutes' walk from where ever you might be in Japan. This one next to the video store is obviously promoting BOSS coffee. Also offered in the top row is Pepsi, C.C. Lemon, 7-Up, an orange drink, a couple of yogurt drinks, Boss 7 and a vitamin drink. You can easily tell that these are served cold by the blue color beneath them.
The second row down is hot drinks. The color below them is red. You can get four different types of BOSS coffee or four kinds of hot tea. The coffees range from black to cafe au lait. Take your pick.