One beaming lady was selling good luck sesame balls--little balls of rice paste wrapped around a center of sweet red bean paste, the whole thing coated in sesame seeds and formed into a perfect little sphere. I asked if I could take her photo, and she almost split her face smiling, as she primped and touched up her hair and pinched her cheeks to make them pink for the photo.
There were several people selling good luck trinkets--bits of carved jade, special pieces of silk cord tied in intricate knots--all of them looked a little like bookmarks to me, and I am not quite sure what people actually do with these good luck bits once they buy them. I don't think there is a New Year's tree to decorate, and I don't see these things dangling from handbags or jacket zippers or bicycle handlebars...so I'm curious!
A little while later, I got a surprise. The crowd density had grown to a point that we were basically at a standstill. Suddenly, I felt two tiny hands--talons, almost--settle on my hips and begin to push with surprising strength. I felt like a snowplow, as I was shoved against the crowd, clearing a path. I finally was able to twist my head to look behind me--and there was a teeny, stooped old lady with iron grey hair and a very determined expression, shoving for all she was worth. We finally drew even with the shop I guess she wanted to visit, and she let go and went inside without a backward look or even a pat on the rump for her plow mule! It was very disconcerting, and very funny.
The yakitori was very good...and the smell was sheer heaven. Sweet, salty, garlicky, all wrapped around the rich aroma of roasting meat. The others in my group played it safe and got either beef or chicken. Not me--I had to be different! So I pointed to skewers of what looked like it might be squid, which I adore. I got the hot, fragrant paper packet and took a bite. Yummmm...garlic, sweet, salty, savory....wait. What?? I hadn't ordered squid. I'd ordered a delicacy enjoyed by many of the elderly in Japan...a skewer composed completely of folded, flabby squares of chicken skin. Yes, chicken skin--not crispy, but flabby and fatty. As good as it smelled, as good as the sauce was, I just couldn't eat two skewers of chicken skin. Luckily, I was able to dispose of the evidence without anyone seeing me, or questioning what I'd purchased. I was so disappointed! But one bad experience among all the good won't stop me from continuing to try all the new and different and wonderful things here in Japan!