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Dr John Hawkins

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The Little Things

Posted on 2005/10/29 14:29:22 (October 2005).

[Saturday 29th October]
What's that phrase? Something like: Life is all the little things that happen while you're waiting for the big things to happen. I'm paraphrasing no doubt, but it is something like that. Today was like that - lots of little things that were just really, well, nice. It was the first day Chie and I had both been in Japan, and both able to spend the whole day together, for a good few weeks. Given that we'd both started new jobs, suddenly our free time was a lot more precious and, probably as a result, more enjoyable.

We had an appointment at 11 to go to the estate agents, to look for a more permanent appartment (the one we're in at the moment is only temporary, and only really suitable for a month or so). This ended up carving quite a large chunk out of the middle of our day, but I didn't mind, it was't particularly taxing and was generally quite instructive. We went to look at two appartments - we hadn't particularly asked to look at the first one, and I suspect it was just thrown in for strategic reasons, the thinking being that if they show you something crap first it'll make the one you actually want to see appear much better.

The estate agent took us by car to see the flats, which was interesting in itself as it's pretty rare for me to to be in a car Tokyo. While we were waiting for him to get his car out of the parking lot, somewhere off in the distance we could hear singing. I'd assumed to begin with it was some kind of Buddhist thing, as it sounded a lot like the chanting I'd heard in temples before... but Chie informed me it was in fact a guy selling yaki-imo (more or less baked potatoes)... It was a tremendously serious sounding song for somebody hawking something so mundane (hot spuds!). We both found it very funny, and were compelled to sing along. The words certainly weren't difficult - ooooooooh yaki imo, o-imo, o-imo, o-imo, etc. Naturally, we got some funny looks from people on the street, but there is a wonderful sense of immunity in being a foreigner here sometimes. Anyway, this is one of those little things I was talking about at the start of this post, one of those little moments that makes life fun.

The flat we went to look at was nice - very, very new (only completed this month) and quite trendy looking as a result. Naturally, being in Tokyo, it was very small, but the money side of things was quite good - a lot less money required up front than usual (no reikin, for those in the know). It was pretty conveniently located, but the only thing that let it down were the windows. There were full length windows in both of the rooms, and given that the view was to another house just a few metres away it felt very exposed. It would be a choice between always sitting in the gloom (or unatural light) or having an unnerving feeling that you were being watched... It was also a bit early for us to move - I would be away for the next three weeks, and we already had our temporary accomodation booked up to then... So we said we'd go away and think about it. Probably someone else will take it in the meantime, but it didn't feel like the right time to make a decision.

We left the estate agents at about 2:30, hurried on by my feeling of guilt that we were taking up so much of his time in a potentially fruitless pursuit, and also by my grumbling stomach! We wandered a few doors down and came to a ludicrously cheap "famiresu" - short for family restaurant. Here we had some surprisingly good pizza and pasta. We also enjoyed another very nice moment, looking at the windows of a recording studios across the street. There was a band rehearsing or something and we could see the silhouettes of the drummer, and the guitarist as he jumped about. It was somehow spellbinding to watch. (I took a little video to illustrate this, for which there should hopefully be a little thumbnail to the right of this paragraph.)

Spent the rest of the day back at our weekly mansion place. Did a bit of laundry towards the end of the afternoon, and also enjoyed a couple of games of pool in the communal area in the basement.

Comment 1

ooooooooh yaki imo, o-imo, o-imo, o-imo,

Could catch on ...

If I meet a baked spud seller on the streets of Caernarfon ... then I will listen carefully ..there might be an international dimension to this particular trade ... very interesting

Posted by Dad again (not actually my surname) at 2005/10/29 15:50:38.

Comment 2

We have been singing it on and off all day.

It is such powerful advertising that we felt compelled to have some yaki imo as part of our dinner.

Trivia fans may be keen to note that the default potato ("imo") in Japan is in fact the sweet potato. So yaki imo is in fact a baked (or charcoal grilled) sweet potato.

Posted by John at 2005/10/29 16:47:56.

Comment 3


Vital culinary information ... I might have approached a completely inappropriate street vendor in Caernarfon .. which could have led to an altercation.

Further .... the international search for musical connections might be just slightly more difficult now as (sadly) there is likely to be a rather low 'coefficient of culinary density' (CCD to those in the know) based upon the guidelines issued by the rather unfortunately named international regulatory body ... PISSED ...Potatoes In (the) Street Sellers Environmental Directorate Caernarfon
... due to the obvious fact that the product is different.
One way in which I could (of course) personally influence this (worrying) international discrepancy .. is by selling them myself .... so .... if you could maybe committ the tune to some suitable form of musical notation ... I could learn it .. and then delight the citizens and visitors in Caernarfon with an authentic rendition of :

ooooooooh yaki imo, o-imo, o-imo, o-imo,

They will probably think it was Welsh ?!

But ... the presence of a substantial Japanese ex-pat community in nearby Bangor could save the day .. should any of them have travelled to Caernarfon that day for the purpose of purchasing a sweet potato from a street vendor ... they would have their 'hearts truly gladdened'

Obvious really !

Ho Hum .....

I will reflect further .....

Posted by Dad at 2005/10/29 17:04:38.

Comment 4

I'm glad you and Chie had a nice day. Reading your posts is like travelling by proxy. I enjoy it very much.

Posted by Sheri at 2005/10/29 18:08:51.

Comment 5

Thanks Sheri, that is very kind of you to say so... I am really sorry they are a bit drawn out and no doubt verging on boring a lot of the time... I really appreciate your perserverance in reading through them!

Posted by John at 2005/11/01 05:58:34.

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