Place Where You Live:

Teraya (Temple Valley), Tsurumi-ku, Yokohama, Japan


Swept Away 

by J.T. Cassidy


His eyes locked on mine for a moment frozen in time. Then with a wave of the hand he broke the spell, turned while shaking his head, and disappeared. We’ve been meeting like this for years. He knocks at the door. I answer. He slowly turns and shuffles away, broom in hand, out the gate and down the sloping sidewalk. It took two or three chance encounters before I realized he was a door-to-door broom salesman.

That’s got to be one of the toughest sales gigs ever. Plus he has the softest of soft-sell approaches. It’s beyond soft sell, it’s more like an “I give up-sell.”


Someone once suggested he might be a downtrodden victim of downsizing. Once a proud member of Japan’s modern day samurai class of “salary men” who fill the corporate ranks, he now wanders the streets eking out a living whatever way he can. Honestly I think he is looking for the old lady who used to live here before my family and I moved in and he’s heartbroken every time it’s someone else who answers the door.


Whatever the reason, he is the most uncommunicative sales person ever. It’s a good thing he’s hawking a super-hot product. Brooms are big in Japan, where sweeping is a national past-time. The rhythmic stroking of bamboo branches against the pavement is the sound of morning in Yokohama. On my lane it’s old women in white aprons who clear the pathways in what’s part cleansing ritual, part local news network. Besides picking up litter, sweeping involves picking up the word on the street and the broom is the medium used to do both. They’re magical devices.

Used to ward off evil, get rid of unwanted house guests and even enable people to fly, brooms have long been associated with magic. Where I live they are used daily to purify the streets and bring people together so they can share a good story, a smile and more. It’s a truly magical spectacle. What’s the mystery behind these magical broomsticks? I know someone who may know but he’s not talking.