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May 19, 2015

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

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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!"

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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)

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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)

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