Nowadays, many people associate the Japanese word “yatai” with the covered food stalls found at festivals and events. However, the original yatai (屋台) were wooden, two-wheeled mobile pushcarts that were manned by individual food vendors. These carts date as far back as the 5th or 6th century, and gained widespread popularity during the Edo period. Vendors would set up their carts along busy city streets, and serve patrons from late afternoon into the early hours of the morning.
Though the urbanization of the 1900s led to an increase in regulations on yatai businesses, there are a few places in Japan where you can still experience this traditional style of cuisine. These mobile restaurants offer a variety of Japanese “fast food”, including ramen, oden, yakitori, and okonomiyaki.