The interesting thing about being a tekiya is that you can talk with customers. I can talk with the customers. Come on in! Without the red ginger? I can’t help it. The customers laugh at me when I joke around with them. I love the atmosphere, just like Tora-san in the movie “Otoko wa Tsuraiyo.
Mr. Yang Seung-woo, 56, a photographer from South Korea, said, “I love the atmosphere of Tora-san in the movie ‘Otoko wa Tsuraiyo’ (The Man is Tora-san).
A “tekiya” is a street vendor who sells simple food and toys at festivals and fairs. It has long been customary for people to do business with yakuza, who act as organizers of the event, after being offered jobs by them. Mr. Liang has been a tekiya for a total of 10 years, fascinated by Japanese festivals where the whole town gets together to celebrate. He makes karaage, yakisoba, and Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki …….’ Liang, who won the Ken Domon Award in 2005 for his photo book “Shinjuku Lost Child,” talks about how he got started as a tekiya.
As a foreign student at the time, my visa limited the kind of work I could do. I was looking at job sites and happened to find tekiya. When I went to the yakuza office that was in charge, I was assigned to a fireworks display in the Kanto area. I made fried food there for the first time in my life, and it sold well. I thought it was my calling.
As he continued his business, Mr. Liang began to feel that he wanted to make tekiya, the flower of the fair, into a work of art. When he asked the head of the gang that was arranging the job to let him take pictures, he was given the go-ahead with a resounding “yes.
As he continued to take pictures, he gradually came to be recognized as a photographer by his fellow tekiya. He said, “Oh, Jan! You should take pictures of my store, too.
Liang’s joking and businesslike manner became so popular that he once sold about 500,000 yen in a single day. But it is not all good news.
I don’t have much time to sleep, and it’s hard work,” he says. The place where the stalls are set up is decided by the caretakers around 7:00 a.m., and the buyers start selling in the morning. Depending on the festival, we may continue selling until midnight and then move on to the next location. When we are busy, we get two to three hours of sleep.”
Problems arise depending on the season.
Summer is tough,” he says. We have to stand in front of the hot griddle for a long time, and many people collapse from heat stroke. In the winter, if it snows heavily, it’s bad for business. We once sold only three okonomiyaki because the number of customers was extremely small.
There are also many problems between vendors.
I once had a customer eat yakisoba noodles from my stall in a teahouse (a large tent with several seats). At the teahouse, you can only eat what is sold there. The teahouse seller complained to me. ‘You’re interrupting my bai! He said. The head of the clan, who has been very kind to me, intervened, saying, ‘Don’t fight with our young people,’ and fortunately it didn’t become a problem.
November is the season of the rooster. Mr. Liang’s photos show us the human side of the festival.
Yang Sunwoo/’66, Jeollabuk-do, Southwest Korea. Came to Japan in 1996 at the age of 30. Graduated from Tokyo Polytechnic University, Faculty of Arts. Has been taking photographs mainly in Kabukicho, Shinjuku. Has published many photo collections, including “Hito.
From the November 18, 2022 issue of FRIDAY
Photographed by： Liang Cheng Yu