Yatai: Japan’s Original Food Truck

You wouldn’t dare catch me buying a dirty water dog from a hot dog cart in the city, primarily because I don’t think the vendors have a place to wash their hands (hence the dirty water).

But in Japan, I’m all about eating at yatai. Yatai (屋台) are stalls selling a variety of Japanese street food, such as ramen, oden, yakitori, and tempura. They’ve been around for about 300 years, and they still have the characteristic 2-wheeled wooden pushcart style.

In Fukuoka the yatai is taken to an art form. Each day at dusk vendors set up their carts – mainly along the river on Nakasu Island – and entice passersby to sit down and enjoy a quick and inexpensive meal.

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Diners at yatai in Fukuoka

Yatai culture is a treat for all of the senses. The colorful chouchin (提灯), or paper lanterns, dot the darkened paths while the succulent smells of meat and ramen broth waft through the sound of skewers on the grill, lively conversations, and the gentle clink of glasses before the shout of “Kampai!” The feel of hashi (箸), or chopsticks, in your hand is surpassed only by the incredible taste of the food that was prepared for you as you watched.

And all of the yatai have sinks, so the cooks can wash their hands.

Here’s a video that captures the feeling of Fukuoka’s yatai culture. You can’t taste the food, but at least you’ll get a sense of what the scene is like near Canal City and Nakasu Island.

 

 

Fukuoka, yatai, Japan, Japanese cuisine, Japanese street food, ramen, oden, yakitori, Hakata

Menu at a yatai

Fukuoka, yatai, Japan, Japanese cuisine, Japanese street food, ramen, oden, yakitori, Hakata

Ramen!

Fukuoka, yatai, Japan, Japanese cuisine, Japanese street food, ramen, oden, yakitori, Hakata

Selecting oden for a customer

By chance we found the place where the yatai are parked during the day.

Fukuoka, yatai, Japan, Japanese cuisine, Japanese street food, ramen, oden, yakitori, Hakata

Where the yatai sleep

Fukuoka, yatai, Japan, Japanese cuisine, Japanese street food, ramen, oden, yakitori, Hakata

Yatai storage in Fukuoka