浅草橋での焼き芋 Yakiimo in Asakusabashi

During the cooler months, itinerant salesmen roam the streets selling baked potatoes: yakiimo. Similarly to the cries of hi no yojin, the sounds of men wandering the streets chanting "imo... yakiimo...." are a pleasant indication that winter is on its way.

Asakusa-bashi Bridge over the Sumida River (connecting Ryogoku to Akihabara)

The present recording occurred in the back alleyways underneath Asakusa-bashi (Asakusa Bridge). The story as to how I made the recording is an interesting one which has implications for the research of sonic practices. The yakiimo salesman is a relatively ephemeral sound, one can never truly predict when it will occur- you cannot easily stake it out for a recording. Each night during my stay in Tokyo, I would take an evening walk through the shitamachi (low city). One evening I had just completed a leisurely stroll along the Sumida River and was wandering through the Asakusa-bashi district on my way home. Suddenly, in the distance, I heard the cries "imo... yakiimo." I heard, quite by chance, one of the sonic practices which was high on my "to record" list! I followed the sounds as it moved through the unfamiliar streets, running after the sounds in order to get a recording. I could only think "is this how someone desperate for yakiimo would perhaps behave, chasing down the truck?" Eventually, I found it, after having been listening to it for many minutes. It was a good feeling!

Interestingly, the cries of the salesman have been amplified using a loudspeaker. I didn't get a close enough look to determine if the cries were pre-recorded or whether the salesman was actually shouting. Either way, the amplification via modern technology is an interesting addition to this "traditional" practice of the shitamachi.

Recording Credit: Thomas Baudinette Photo Credit: 多摩に暇人 used under creative commons license from WikiCommons

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