recovering from a cold, I woke up late to a discouraging text. it was snowing outside. I had yet to see it with my own eyes due to the opaque windows of asia. with one eye open and only using enough energy to move my thumb, I tapped on the weather app of my iphone. yep, it’s snowing outside. I had to have a conversation with myself. I closed my eyes and saw 2 paths: I could stay laying facedown on the floor for another hour and not do much all day or–I could get up and meet maria in k-town to eat a sweet sweet sweet potato despite the advancing blizzard. last weekend our plans were foiled by the first snow, and damned if I wanted to let that happen again. I decided to go on a sweet potato adventure.
I was completely unprepared and without the proper equipment to battle the onslaught of whimsical flurries. I “geared up” in thin, fraying gloves, $20 ankle boots neither slush, sleet, water, rain, or cold proof and a fuzzy hat that brushed the tops of my ears. I found a rusted umbrella that hadn’t be opened in months, but somehow collected mounds of dirt inside of it from sitting on the porch under a dust bin. time to get that sweet potato.
I snapped photos and took video along the way, making my right hand susceptible to the harsh weather conditions. after 2 stops on 2 train lines, maria and I were united amidst the snow and cranky koreans sloshing through shin-okubo. we headed straight to don quixote without a moment to spare, marching and pumping our umbrellas up and down in unison, chanting “ya-kii-mo! ya-kii-mo!” telling the masses what we had on our minds. not once did the thought occur to the slow pedestrians with the clumsy umbrellas that anyone else could exist in the world besides them. on the narrow sidewalk we were stuck behind the slowest paced human beings (if they were in fact humans and not sloths in disguise) and our bellies and minds increasingly became more ravenous for a fresh roasted potato of sweetness.
after the human obstacles made of snail feet were ditched, we came upon our temple of holy yakimo. entering with sopping umbrellas, following the blue tape on the floor through the overwhelming maze of overstimulating overstocked shelves, we saw a radiating warm box, with 5 fresh sweet potatoes awaiting us with a glowing tasty aura. maria fondled and inspected each one carefully, to get the softest and sweetest potatoes of highest quality. we wanted to get our ¥100 worth.
we purchased the golden warm orbs, stuffed them deep into maria’s cavernous purse and trotted to a 7-11 2nd floor cafe, made available to us with purchase of hot tea. the atmosphere was perfect for our sweet potato dreams come true. we sat at a long table outlooking the snow falling on the street, sipped on our tea, ate a potato whole–took photos of progress of eating said potatoes–and listened to midi covers of popular 70s music under fluorescent lights. we were warm inside and out.
mission accomplished. but more lingered on my mind. it was valentine’s day and I knew there was some special confectionary treats that I wanted to take part in. who cares if it’s meant for couples, who cares if it’s making singles sad, who cares if it’s a made up holiday, I just want to eat treats.
we stopped in one specialty cafe and I was not impressed by the cake selection. I was envisioning something specific. or macaroons. we came upon another place, a k-pop cafe. the signs had pictures of waffles and ice cream and other promising looking confectionary concoctions. up 2 flights of colorfully painted stairs into a small colorful cafe with giant windows to gaze upon more idol shops across the street. the cafe was empty but full of the sounds of harmonizing hangul blaring from 9 television sets, rocking the plastic shelves lined with autographed idol cds, dvds and booklets. on their counter was a display of cakes, with kpop groups names written in frosting next to unrelated slices of cheesecakes. I ordered the earl grey berry scone. they gave me a regular scone. I returned it, and the older korean gentleman flinched at me with an annoyed look but the present situation reminded him he resides in japan, not korea, and he took back the scone and in japanese blamed himself (although I could tell the korean in him was ready to scream at me). the earl grey berry scone tasted exactly like a tasteless plain scone. fail after fail, maria and I were ready to continue our hunt for a satisfying valentine’s day treat. right after the new shinee video. and then the taeyang video I was in. and then half of the new TVXQ video and THEN we were ready to leave to continue our adventure beyond the realms of sweet potato.
after walking like a couple of obaasans through the slurpee textured snow, we made a couple of shopping stops that we couldn’t afford but needed regardless. maria invested in some cute platform heels to keep her hovering above the cold ground. it was a brilliant theory, 4 inches between the ice and your feet will logically make your feet warmer. meanwhile my socks sopped up every bit of frozen condensation it could come in contact with. as everyone knows, shopping involves an abundance of brain power–making decisions, planning ahead, coordinating, math, etc–so you lose your energy fast. therefore, shopping induces hunger. and since we are smart hungry girls, we decided to get sashimi bowls that I immediately inhaled in 2.5 seconds. I cried with pain and pleasure as the extra large chunks of wasabi seared the inside of my skull and released all the demons in my body in the form of tears. it was an exorcism in the best way.
I still wasn’t satisfied with my valentine treat mission. there was only one place left to scout–the shinjuku station department store. we meandered through the busy crowds of people who were scouring for last minute valentine’s treats before their valentine’s dinner after their valentine’s work day. I saw a bakery. it was amazing. but we kept moving. we moved too far, to another department store. all I could think about was that bakery. I decided I wanted the goods they had to offer. we trudged back through the mass of irritated commuters back to the other side of the vast station with muffins in mind. we returned and I was committed. I wanted to buy 3 (or, all) pastries but I limited myself to 2: a large croissant in the shape of a pretzel half-dipped in strawberry frosting and a crumbly muffin made of walnuts and frosted with maple. the key flavor “maple” will have me buy anything.
the strawberry croissant tasted like a giant flakey strawberry pocky. it also had bits of almond flakes baked in. the maple walnut muffin was buttery and thick. I looked at my reflection on the glass window in front of me devouring these pastries without shame. with an understanding between my body and mind, one thought was echoing: treat yo self.
maria made a video of half the things I speak about in this blog post.