Times always change. New things come and old things fade away. Depending on your age and location you may have some fond memory of milk being delivered by a horse-drawn carriage or going to a so-called “vi-dee-oh store” to rent a moving picture etched onto some weird magnetic tape or disc.
And some Japanese people may reminisce about the Showa period of Japan when food delivery men would ride around on bicycles carrying an absurd amount of food on a single shoulder.
The Showa Period runs through the reign of Emperor Hirohito (renamed “Showa” after death) from 1926 to 1989. It’s during the early half of this era that you’d find these hunchbacked bikers cruising the streets of Japan. It started off relatively small but still impressive judging by this photo from 1928.
Things began to escalate quickly though as a few heavy trays would erupt into towers of bowls and steamer trays.
Image: Shashin ga Kataru Ensen
These delivery men were under the employment of soba joints which offered noodles made of buckwheat. Many of these same restaurants are still in operation such as Yudetaro where this man once worked.
It’s unclear whether the arrangements of bowls and trays were done out of aesthetics or for the maximum structural integrity…possibly both. Either way, by around the end of World War II things had gotten to point where delivery men would have competitions to see who could haul the largest order.
Image: Showa Clip-san no Blog
Image: Koi Tarou Osanpo Nikii II
However, as the Showa period entered its twilight years these brave men who laughed in the face of spillage began to fade. The advent of motorbikes made their feats of strength obsolete and extremely reckless. Actually they were probably extremely reckless before too, but by that point there was even less justification for it. Modern times had replaced towers of bowls and trays with weird spill-proof spring contraptions which are still eye-catching, but not quite as much as before.
And so, we salute you, mid-20th century soba noodle delivery people, for helping carry the country into the future like so many dishes atop an arthritic rotator cuff.