The Yaki-Imo Man of Japan

By Michael Gakuran | | Japan | 22 Comments |

At first a faint wail carried by a distant wind, slowly growing louder and louder into a caterwauling song. As the leaves turn yellow and red and the temperature drops, Japan’s 100 year-old Ishi Yaki-Imo Man comes out to play. Video below.

I’ve been hearing his song for a few weeks now. It always comes after dark, when the streetlights burn their deep orange colour and the children have deserted the roads. Like a ghostly plea carried on the wind….

♪♪ Ishii ya-kimo, yaki-imo, yaki-imo ♪♪

(♪♪ Stone-baked sweet potatoes, baked potatoes, baked potatoes ♪♪)

yaki-imo

Source: Belluna Foods

Yes… He comes, and he goes, leaving only a trail of roasted potato smell, taunting me night after night. I am always in a compromising position; never on my toes and quick enough to catch him before he drives off.

But tonight… Tonight I heard his wailing as I cycled home from Aeon. The cars roaring past on the road beside me couldn’t disguise it. Oh no! It was him alright. Tonight, Yaki-Imo Man, we duel.

yaki-imo3

Source: Ishi-yaki

Making a sharp turn and shooting across the road while I had an opening, I pricked up my ears. He was nearby. I scooted down a side-road, past a few night-walkers and turned into another avenue. The music was close now. I could distinctly make out his seductive melody…

♪♪ Ishii ya-kimo, yaki-imo, yaki-imo ♪♪
♪♪ Yakitate no atsu atsu ♪♪
(♪♪ Stone-baked sweet potatoes, baked potatoes, baked potatoes ♪♪)
(♪♪ Freshly baked and piping hot ♪♪)

yaki-imo4

Source: Yummyseaweed

I trundled closer, and the van came into sight. Fumbling with my camera, I tailed him for a while until he came to a stop. For a moment I thought he had gotten the better of me…

“You’re packing up for the night now?!”
“Just when I finally caught you! You can’t! No!”

His song quietened into a gentle lull as he fumbled about with the hefty stove stored in the back of the van…

♪♪ …yaki-imo, yaki-imo… ♪♪

Just as I was about to give up in despair, the boot slammed shut and he hopped back into the car. The piercing wail blared out once again and he was on his way. But I was ready, camera poised to shoot video as the van moved towards me.

And then the unthinkable happened… He called out to me. Here’s the video of what happened:

It turns out that the Yaki-Imo Man isn’t a soul-sucking blood demon after all, but a friendly neighbourhood ghoul who has haunted the streets of Japan for well over 100 years, originally with two-wheeled hand-pulled trolleys:

yaki-imo-man

The combination of a lit stove so near a tank full of petrol may instil fear into the hearts of some, but the Yaki-Imo Man knows how to handle his baby. They are all over Japan, scooting here and there in their little trucks when the weather turns cold. The songs appear to vary as well, as you can see by looking at some of the related videos on Youtube.

Yaki-imo men (and yaki-imo women, too!) can be found selling their hot, roasted snacks in all manner of places around Japan. I have one fond memory buying a humongous baked potato from Ueno-park in Tokyo and nearly choking myself to death while trying to consume all of its mighty starchiness. They are pretty cheap eats, and really do fill you up, so if you spot a seller on your travels, do help them keep up their business and buy a spud or two. Who knows, maybe you yourself will come home with some tales from the yaki-imo man!

The Ishi Yaki-Imo Man Song of Okazaki


石焼き芋、焼き芋、焼き芋 Ishii ya-kimo, yaki-imo, yaki-imo.
石焼き芋、焼き芋、焼き芋 Ishii ya-kimo, yaki-imo, yaki-imo.
石で焼いた焼き芋 Ishi de yaita yaki-imoooo.
一本100円と300円だよ Ippon 100 yen to 300 yen da yooo.
とても大きいのが400円だよ Totemo ookii no ga 400 yen da yooo.

石焼き芋、焼き芋、焼き芋 Ishii ya-kimo, yaki-imo, yaki-imo.
焼きたての熱々 Yakitate no atsu atsu.
石焼き芋、焼き芋、焼き芋 Ishii ya-kimo, yaki-imo, yaki-imo.
早く来ないと行っちゃうよ Hayaku konai to icchau yo

Stone-baked sweet potatoes, baked potatoes, baked potatoes
Stone-baked sweet potatoes, baked potatoes, baked potatoes
Sweet potatoes baked on hot stone
One for 100 yen or 300 yen
A really big one for 400 yen

Stone-baked sweet potatoes, baked potatoes, baked potatoes
Freshly baked and piping hot
Stone-baked sweet potatoes, baked potatoes, baked potatoes
Come quick or you’ll miss me!

**********

Oh and hamsters seem to like yaki-imo too. Check out this dastardly little specimen ^_^:

hamster-yaki-imo

Source: Karako86

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