For 42 years, the man with a gentle smile had been selling takoyaki (fried octopus dumpling) from his red stall set up on the sidewalks near Shinjuku Station.
He came to Tokyo from Ehime Prefecture around 1971 to operate a stall and went on to become the longest-running stall-keeper in the Shinjuku district.
It all ended Feb. 14, following health complications and advice from a police officer. He decided to call it quits.
“It had been my desire to work as a street vendor until I die,” said the 73-year-old man, who withheld his name.
The man said he operated the stall on days when the weather and his physical condition were both fine, from about 9 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. He was arrested four times for setting up along roadways without a permit.
Until about three years ago, there had been 30 illegally operated stalls in the district. However, most of them have disappeared.
“I never thought I would stop working (as a street vendor),” he said.
Asked why he continued to operate his takoyaki stand illegally, the man said with a little smile, “This is the only thing I can do.”
He decided to give it all up after he was arrested on Valentine’s Day this year. A police officer, whom he had been familiar with, told him in an interrogation room, “Please live long.”
The man said he thought, “What the officer is saying may be right.”
Eight years ago, the man was diagnosed with liver cancer, but he kept working, despite being hospitalized on several occasions.
In March, doctors discovered an anomaly in the man's bone marrow. He now lies in a hospital bed in Shinjuku Ward. An oxygen tube is attached to his nose.
“Has my stall been removed (from the sidewalk)?” he asked in a small voice as if to himself. “If I recover, I want to sell takoyaki again. Next time, not on a road, but by borrowing an empty house or other places.”
“No, no. You must not work again," said the man's 69-year-old wife. "You are too eager to work as a vendor.”
Then, the man fell asleep.
An uninhabited lonely red takoyaki stand remains on a sidewalk near Shinjuku Station.
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