Autumn is when leaves start changing color, the air becomes cooler and, of course, another season of harvest before winter comes! In Japan, there are particular foods that are eaten in each season. And in autumn, sweet potatoes are one of those essential foods. There are many ways to prepare sweet potatoes in Japan. Especially this time of the year, yaki imo is the most popular way!
Yaki imo, or ishi yaki imo, is more familiar to most western people as baked sweet potato. They are sweet and sometimes a little sticky, but still a food that will warm you up in the cool autumn air. You can actually bake these potatoes in your home, buy them at the supermarket or even from yaki imo vendors.
Long ago, yaki imo vendors used to make rounds on the streets with their carts. But now, these vendors have modernized and instead of carts, they use little trucks with their products in the back. These vendors are more known as yaki imo ya san (焼き芋屋さん) in Japan. Some of the vendors roast the sweet potatoes in a special way, using rocks (ishi 石).
Buying from a yaki imo ya san is the most authentic experience and if you ever hear one making rounds around your neighborhood, see it for yourself and try it out! When buying yaki imo, it will come wrapped in newspaper and foil from the yaki imo ya san. If you buy it at a supermarket instead, it will come in regular packaging. The price of the yaki imo will vary depending on what supermarket you buy it from. Just remember that it’s best to eat as soon as you buy it!
Here’s a bit of trivia: Did you know that October 13, is actually Satsuma Imo no Hi (さつま芋の日), or Day of Sweet Potatoes?