The Sporting Life

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December in Japan closed out with me being duped into doing something I hate. Experiencing Japanese culture first hand.

It started innocently enough, with me in Nara one Saturday afternoon, having lunch with friends from school. With nothing else to do, they decided to throw a yaki-imo (roasted sweet-potato) party that night. I had never been to one, but I’d been to nabe (hotpot) parties and okonomiyaki (..okonomiyaki) parties, and they amount to drunken house parties, so I was immediately on board. I didn’t know whose house we were going to, but I hopped in the car and got ready to drink…

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We were still driving well after it got dark. Traffic in Nara was bad, but that only delayed us for a couple hours. We were well out of Nara, in the mountains of Kyoto. In the mountains of Kyoto at night. In the mountains of Kyoto at night in December. Yaki-imo parties are BBQ parties. Japanese BBQs are not like western BBQs. They usually amount to a group of people huddled together squatting around a fire in a park with meat and vegetables on sticks. Well, as long as there is fire. We stopped by a store to pick up the materials, potatoes, butter, salt, pepper, popcorn, and marshmallows. Wait, no charcoal? That should have tipped me off. We drove to a deserted, pitch black river bank in the mountains. Then we left. Huh? Oh yeah, we need to get something for the fire. Not charcoal though. Yaki-imo are roasted in piles of burning leaves. They don’t sell leaves, but fortunately, in the mountain forest of Kyoto, there are leaves everywhere. So there we were in the middle of the night, collecting leaves (12 garbage bags full) of leaves to use for our ill-planned yaki-imo party. We also raided a lonely mountain conbini for their discarded cardboard boxes in case our leaves weren’t enough.

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Once we made our way back to the river bank and got the fire going, it was a mere 30 minutes of freezing cold asses and hot smoky faces before the potatoes were deemed done and pulled from the fire.

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They were good and with added butter even better. Perhaps not worth the ordeal, but an experience for the books nonetheless. We waited until the fire was completely out so none of the surrounding rocks or river would catch fire in the below zero temps. Then we high tailed it out of there. The clothes I wore unfortunately stank of burning leaves and boxes, and continue to stink to this day. I should probably wash them…

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~ by foomfoom on December 18, 2006.

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