No48 [Dining] Eat out or stay home? 1/2

Delivering soba noodles - the second owner of Mitaka Sunaba (around 1950) and a worker at Kirakuan (around 1955).
Delivering soba noodles – the second owner of Mitaka Sunaba (around 1950) and a worker at Kirakuan
(around 1955).

They say that people delivered soba and udon noodles in Japan as early as the Edo period started in 1603.

Food delivery, called demae in Japanese, has been such an important part of Japanese food culture. Ranging from sushi, which is often eaten when families gather together, to ramen, Chinese food, bento boxes, pork cutlets, pizza and even hamburgers, you can say that there is almost no genre of food that cannot be delivered in Japan. In the present day they usually deliver by motorbike, but in the good old days of the Showa period (1926 – 1989) you could often see delivery men balancing a mountainous pile of food boxes in one hand and skilfully managing the handle of their bicycle with the other.

A number of massive restaurant chains that only offer take away and delivery have gained significant popularity, mainly sushi and pizza outlets. However it is still quite normal for small restaurants in towns to employ their own drivers and deliver hot dishes straight from their regular kitchens in the same way that they serve the usual customers eating in. Even now, with the internet generation, the old-fashioned style of ordering demae, where each household keep the menu cards from nearby restaurants and give them a call when the time comes, is far from dying out.

In the UK, on the other hand, pizza has been a staple food delivery for a long time. In recent years however, online services such as Just Eat, Hungry House and Deliveroo, which handle the orders and delivery on behalf of a massive number of small restaurants, have been attracting more and more customers. We can probably say that this is one of the most reliable alternatives to eating out, which has been as popular with British people as demae has been with the Japanese.

In 2011, a leading Japanese sushi delivery chain started their new business called “Fine Dine”, which offers the very same service that has taken off in the UK. However, the difference is that they specialise in delivering rather luxurious foods from famous, popular and sophisticated restaurants to be tasted at home. The minimum order price is 10,000 yen (Roughly £70), which is not very cheap, and they are only providing the service in very limited areas of Tokyo at this stage, so we will have to wait and see if the idea becomes a replacement for traditional demae services.




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