Today I noticed that a building I loved was torn down. I would see it almost everyday as we pulled into the station. It was very close to the tracks, on the ocean side, an old, run down two-story, painted white, obviously neglected and empty. I think the only thing that loved the building, besides me, was the ivy that grew all over, covering the outdoor staircase, enclosing it in a protective layer, almost obscuring the windows. The all-important windows. You see, the second story featured two sides of long windows, providing a 180 degree view of the world around it. It is rare to find a house with a lot of windows in Japan. These windows were the kind that have been around for a very long time, so long that they were slightly warped little squares of glass, set in checkerboard panes. When I would see the sun shining into the windows lining the sides of the second story, I would imagine myself up in that room, curled in a comfy chair, reading a book, the smell of the ocean coming in on a gentle breeze. Isamu
could train watch from the comfort of his own home. Perhaps this little building wasn't even a home, I think it was owned by the train company, but I wanted to live in it.
On a train between Shinagawa and Kawasaki, an Italian Greyhound was sitting in a striped bag on the lap of a Japanese young lady. His name was Pierre. A dog with an identity crisis. She could have at least named him Giovanni. . . .or Taro.
Pulling sweet potatoes is a right of passage for Japanese children. Most preschools organize a field trip and the kids get all dirty and bring home the fruits of their labor. My children's school offers them all kinds of wonderful opportunities, but sweet potato pulling is not one of them. I noticed a sign up at our local subway station advertising the chance to pull your own sweet potatoes, right in our backyard! I roped one of Sam's friends into the plan and we met at the station bright and early to try our hand at harvesting. I was so excited, you see, it was my first time too. I imagined the children tugging and pulling, laughing and falling back on their bums as they unearthed the precious
potatoes, simultaneously realizing that that food doesn't come from the supermarket and that it takes labor to get it there. Well, when we got to the field, most of the work had already been done for us. All of the entwined vines and leaves that grow above ground had been chopped off and a small power shovel had come along each row and loosened the earth around the potatoes. The kids walked up to the stubs
sticking out, lifted them up and watched the dirt fall off the sweet potatoes. Voila! Satsuma imo
! The kids loved it, but I was ready to complain, what the heck?!? What happened to breaking a sweat?!?! It was so much fun for the kids and so easy that they kept pulling and pulling and in about 15 minutes we had two large plastic bags full of sweet potatoes. Stop! Stop! We have to buy these you know!!!! The price was right, 300 yen for one kilo
, but we ended up with 10 kilos of sweet potatoes. TEN! I maybe buy five sweet potatoes over the course of fall and winter, what on earth and I going to do with 10 kilos! I think these farmers have a scam running. They make it easy, so you pull out 20 potatoes before you know what has happened. On the way home, the kids and I delivered sweet potatoes to several friends and neighbors. We gave half of the remainder of one bag to Jiji
and the other half to Aunt Yoshiko. That still left us with more sweet potatoes than I have consumed in the entire time I have lived in Japan. We made sweet potato cakes, had them steamed in all their natural glory, cooked them cubed with the rice, Mina has had sweet potatoes in her lunch box everyday this week, sweet potato tempura and sweet potato fries. I am sweet potatoed
out. Then, after school the other day, Mina's friend's mom tried to had me a bag of, you guessed it, sweet potatoes. Sweet lord.