Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Yatai - Mobile Food Stalls

Fukuoka is the largest city in Kyuushu. It took me only about two and a half hours to reach Fukuoka from Himeji by Bullet train. The city is best known for the mobile, open-air food stalls named "yatai", where I had my dinner.

Yatai are foodstalls made in the form of hand carts. The vendors bring them to the Naka river bank at dusk, and keep them open until about 2:00a.m. Many visitors have two dinners, one early and one very late, so that they can try more food during the limited time they have. :o)

The foodstalls 'have a break' during the daytime, like this.

The most popular food are: Hakata ramen (soup noodles in pork bone soup) yaki-tori (grilled chicken) and mizutaki (steampot meal with lots of chicken). You can order beer and sake (Japanese rice wine) too.

The river bank offers a pleasant view, which brings additional value. You can find a few yatai in places other than the river bank, too.

Random photo: Stone lantern against a neon signboard

I learnt that Yatai used to be there in other cities too, but disappeared due to problems with parking and traffic. You can still find vans converted to yatai in some cities, often starting to sell food at about 9:00 p.m. The association of yatai owners in Fukuoka keeps things going, by working closely with the city office. One of the owners told me that there are around 200 yatai in Fukuoka city.

Yatai is a must visit if you visit Fukuoka. The food is cheap, and delicious, with a different taste from the same food sold elsewhere. Depending on your choice, you can either sit among unknown persons and join a conversation, or find a less crowded yatai and eat leisurely.

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