“You are what you eat.” This phase is famous for bringing up the importance of eating healthy. Moreover, this phase can also be read as your personality is shown in the food you eat, and perhaps how you eat. When it comes to a nation, much can be gleaned from how its citizens dine. The food culture of a country can depend on its history, religious demographics, geography, etc.Therefore, by analysing how and why Japan developed its conventions of street dining, we can have a better understanding of Japan’s street culture.
While travelling in Japan, we have seen several unique features of how food is incorporated into street culture, including the stand-up meal.
The origin of the tacchigui (立ち食い - Stand-up meal) in Japan is believed to have originated from either the Edo period or after World War 2. Rather something related to Japanese traditional culture, it is something often represents modern Japan. The time and space limitations are the two biggest contributing factors to the popularity of the stand up meal. It’s target customers are those who are in such a hurry that the inconvenience of standing while eating is of little concern when compared to the time and money saved. From the restaurant side, they can save cost by renting a smaller place and serve more customers in a fixed time as their customer will finish their meals quickly. Overall, they can prove a cheaper meal with better taste while sacrificing the eating environment.
Much of this is predicated on the notion that Japanese workers work longer hours than their international counterparts. From numerous studies we can see that there is in fact evidence to support this notion. In the 1950s legislative changes were made in order to make it more difficult to dismiss workers. As a result, companies hired fewer workers so that in lean times they would not be saddled with too many employees. As a result, when opportunity is plentiful the existing employees must cover the demand with overtime. This dynamic has relaxed since the 1950s, with legislative changes to disincentivize overwork, but the effect still persists. The ways in which people eat on the streets are in large part informed by this work culture.
We will continue to keep an eye out for tasty food to try, and the interesting ways in which it is to be eaten in Japan.
by Denver and Stella