Vintage Photos of Japan’s Old Art of Soba Delivery on Bicycles

Food delivery has changed drastically since the old days of demae (trans. “to go in front of”) in Japan. Before cell phones, apps, and online ordering existed, deliverymen used a special technique for stacking towers of food on their shoulders as they biked to places filled with frequent customers, such as universities. One popular food was soba–buckwheat noodles that can be eaten cold with dipping sauce or served in hot broth–because it was affordable and could be carried around without losing flavor or appearance.

Demae is thought to have originated during the mid-Edo period in the 1700s. It was primarily used by wealthy daimyo, feudal lords who would send servants to let shopkeepers know that they wanted food delivered to their homes. Over time, demae evolved into a more mainstream practice enjoyed by everyone from students to office workers.

As these mid-20th century photos show, demae required a tremendous amount of poise, precision, and care on the deliveryman's part. After all, it can't be easy to balance enough soba and bowls to feed dozens or even up to a hundred people. Amazingly, although this particular method of delivering food isn't often seen today, many of the photos are from soba shops that are still in business even today!

Above: Photo via Japaaan Magazine

Photo via koitarou2006

Photo via Japaaan Magazine

Photo via Japaaan Magazine

Photos via touyoko ensen, jun281

Photo via mana_big

via [Spoon & Tamago

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