I'll be visiting Tokyo this November and I wanted to know if the satsumaimo (sweet potato) trucks still exist? I've read so much about them and I would love to be able to see/hear/taste it at least once. I assume if they are still around, you'd be more likely to find them in residential areas? Thanks!
We still have an old yaki-imo guy who comes around once a week or so (we live near JR Meguro station) when the weather gets colder in Nov/Dec. At least he's been coming around for the last few years. This guy doesn't even have a k-truck - he's got this jury-rigged oven-on-a-pullcart that looks even older than him and stinks up the entire street. Having said that, my wife bought one once and said it was one of the best potatoes she's ever had.
Also sometimes at night there is a yaki-imo truck on the bridge over the JR lines near Meguro station - across the street from the Mitsui Sumitomo bank on the corner.
Yes, these guys are still around in their little trucks. And the knife sharpeners, the tofu sellers, and the buyers of junk electrical goods. In some ways, Japan remains quaintly medieval.
There is always a yaki-imo truck at the top of the Azabu Juban shotengai, where the shotengai meets Roppongi Hills. There is another one on Cat Street between Omotesando and Gaien Nishi Doori. Another dude parks himself outside Hiroo Station. There is a guy in Kanda who makes the rounds. I am also 100% certain that you will find them in Shitamachi, and those are going to be real folkloric.
There are still yakiimo sellers in my neighborhood, but not on a schedule. I thought there might be guys hanging out regularly around someplace like Yoyogi park.
I've seen kibidango sellers twice in the last two weeks (yesterday in Akiba). At first I thought they were selling kibinago, i.e. little whole fish, and thought that was a kinda gross street snack.
I think that when it starts to get colder, you'll be able to find them everywhere, even in the city center. If you're into wandering around a bit, take a look in those open-air mom and pop vegetable stores. In late-autumn/winter, they frequently start roasting their own, on a little make-shift burner that looks a bit like a garbage can. Just let your nose lead the way.