« May 18, 2015 | Main | May 20, 2015 »

May 19, 2015

Once upon a time in old Japan: The golden age of soba delivery


Nowadays when we order takeout we open an app, push a few buttons, and 30 minutes later someone shows up on a motorcycle with your food. But in the olden days in Japan it was obviously a bit different. Demae, which literally means 'to go in front of,' is thought to have originated as early as the mid-Edo period in the 1700s.

Above left: "Date is unknown.... Note the symmetry and balance achieved through combining bowls and stackable plates. Above right: in the 1950s there were contests held to see who could deliver the most soba. Pictured here is the winner of such a contest, carrying meals for about 100."

"Demae was primarily reserved for [the] wealthy..., who would send servants to let the shop keepers know that they wanted delivery. Over the years demae evolved into a more mainstream practice. And one of its most popular forms became the delivery of soba noodles, an affordable dish that carried around without losing flavor or appearance."

"Deliverymen developed a skilled technique for stacking towers of soba noodle bowls and then carrying them on a bike to places like universities where they had frequent customers. Astonishingly, some of these photos are from soba shops that are still in business today!"


Above, around 1945, is the second generation owner of Sunabahonten, a soba shop that's still in business (and has been since 1923). The store is located in Tokyo's western suburbs of Mitaka (Gmap).

[Small world: I lived in Mitaka in 1968/69 while attending International Christian University as an Education Abroad program student from U.C.L.A. Among the things I remember vividly is buying a container of hot octopus-stuffed rice balls at the train station to take back to my little apartment for a bedtime snack.]

Pictured below (middle)


is Asamatsu Miyakawa, the owner of the Kakinokizaka Sarashina soba shop in Tokyo (Gmap). The photo was taken in 1939 as Mr. Miyakawa was making a delivery to the Tokyo Metropolitan University.

[via Spoon & Tamago]

May 19, 2015 at 08:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)

« May 18, 2015 | Main | May 20, 2015 »