Vintage Photos of Japan’s Noodle Delivery On Bicycles

In recent years, companies that specialize in delivering your food to your door have dominated the food industry. Just with a few clicks, people can get their hands on their food from their favorite restaurant anytime. Moreover, getting your food on your doorstep is highly convenient for many who don’t have the time or desire to go out. However, food delivery has a long history, especially, noodle delivery in Japan.

These are demae, the delivery men who traveled through the streets of Japan on their bicycles to sell noodles. Demae would stack the noodles on their shoulders and look for hungry customers.

a collage of noodle delivery in japan

Demae has a history that goes back to as early as the 18th century. In those times, the delivery of food was only affordable to wealthy people such as feudal lords or other officials.

a delivery man in traffic
A Tokyo soba noodle delivery in 1956.

As time passed, demae became cheaper and widely used by the middle and working classes as well. The popularity of food delivery rose rapidly throughout Japan.

a delivery man near a train
A soba delivery man in Marunouchi business district in 1959.

The delivery men of Japan usually sold noodles and in some instances soba noodles, especially popular in Nagano Prefecture.

Noodles form an important part of Asian cuisine with various types and dozens of different recipes. Therefore, due to the demand for noodles, food places would focus on selling as many noodles to the public as possible.

Soba noodles deliveryman in Tokyo, 1935. Photo by the Mainichi Shimbun. Piles of soba bowls were packed on the shoulders of bicycle couriers
a delivery man about to ride his bicycle
a noodle delivery man

However, as cars became more popular in Japan, the use of bicycles in traffic became dangerous both for the drivers and the delivery men. Consequently, noodle delivery in Japan took a hit.

noodle delivery in japan in traffic
noodle delivery in japan on the road
A young man delivering soba along Meguro-dori in Tokyo.

In the early 1960s, the Tokyo police issued that bicycle delivery was unsafe. However, they did not ban it altogether since it would hurt the noodle business. Nowadays, noodle delivery on bicycles is no longer common and is just a memory from older times.

noodle delivery in japan in the street

Sources: Wikimedia Commons / Flickr / Pinterest / Old Japan Magazine