After the sun sets on Tokyo, and the weather begins to go from cool to cold, a serenade floats out over the city. It's a song that has been sung for centuries by vendors selling their wares. The closest American equivalent is the Good Humor man. For Japan, it is Yaki-mo (sweet potato).
As I close my eyes, I envision an old man with a weathered face pulling a cart down one of old Edo's narrow streets (Edo is to Tokyo as New Amsterdam is to New York). The ginko leaves are ablaze in colors of orange, red, and yellow. He's passing samurai, geisha, and other characters from a by gone era. A lantern illuminates his path with a dancing light. It's not the kind of light you encounter these days: Cold, Consistent, Fluorescent. This light has the kind of personality that only a light afraid of a strong wind can have. The flame's fear is what warms you.
The song is getting closer and closer. His voice is gravelly but sure. Now, he's right behind me.
It seems that my nose and ears have fooled me again. Both are large by Japanese standards so it doesn't come as a surprise. Much to my chagrin, reality and my imagination are more than centuries apart. The dear, old おじいちゃん (Ojiichan or Grandpa) of my day-dream is not pulling a cart but driving a small pick-up truck. It's a late model, blue Daihatsu with a large megaphone strapped to the top, a-la the Blues Brothers. His way is lit by halogen lamps, not whale oil. Fortunately, the smell of baked sweet potato is not a dream. I wonder if there's a beer truck too...