2007/03/16

Cafe Au Go Go*

When you think of street food vendors in Japan, what do you picture? Food stalls lining the streets around a shrine during a festival? Push carts offering traditional snacks like ramen or takoyaki to people on their way home in the evening? Certainly such examples are abundant. But this industry, like any other in Japan, has kept up with the times and there are some new twists in which Western visitors may find interesting.

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Onomiyaki vendor at Kashima Jingu during a festival

The vendors I am referring to no longer work from a human powered push cart, but a micro-van, and offer things like crepes, melon flavored bread, agepan, and espresso.

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Here's K ordering a café mocha outside the big electronics store called "K's" (sorry, I can't get you a discount - it isn't her store). The vendor - a franchise called "Motoya Espresso Express" sets up next to the main entrance.

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On board his tiny van is an espresso machine with which he will make you a fresh cafe latte, espresso, cappuccino, or other coffee delight. K's café mocha was ¥260, or $2.22 US. He uses quality coffee and does a great job preparing it. I also like the latin jazz he has playing softly over a couple of marine speakers.

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A few blocks away, in the parking lot of a home improvement store, you might find this PINK van selling "agepan".  
It too is a franchise business - "Kyushoku-toban rokugosha". Agepan is deep fried bread which is rolled in the flavoring of your choice - sugar, kinako (soy bean powder), cocoa, cinnamon, or cafe latte. In cramped quarters the woman operating this van makes the agepan fresh to order. Price: ¥100 (about 85 cents US). 

Of course it has occurred to me that these two businesses might do better if they parked closer to one another. On the other hand, if people were presented with too many items of food, perhaps they'd just leave for a restaurant. A single small item is an easy impulse sale - especially when it tastes so good. Whatever the reason, it's probably a good thing for my waistline that they aren't side by side.


*Title Trivia: The title seemed to fit the espresso van business. "Cafe Au Go Go" was actually a nightclub in Greenwich Village, New York, where many famous blues, folk, rock, and jazz musicians performed. Comedian Lenny Bruce was arrested there in 1964 for using "obscene" language in his act. One of Pandabonium's first jazz albums was "Getz au Go Go".

7 comments:

ladybug said...

Those sound like fun, especially if you just want something quickly, for not much money.

The fried bread dough sounds like what we call "Indian Fry Bread" which can be variously topped w/Cinnamon sugar (most common), honey; and in the southwest (so I've heard, I've never seen or eaten it this way) as a "Navajo Taco" - with the usual mexi-american toppings of meat, salsa, cheese, beans, guacamole, etc.

If you go further North, in Alaska & BC, they call it Bannock (sometimes here too, in OR, WA & ID)

Pandabonium said...

Ladybug- yes, it is something like Indian fry bread, but perhaps a bit softer.

Oddly enough, there is a Pow Wow on Maui every year (I should post something on that sometime). Fry bread is sold of course. My daughters, being a good part Cherokee, have worked that booth as volunteers. On Maui they do offer fry bread with either taco toppings or just sugar.

Martin J Frid said...

I noticed a similar truck vendor here in Yono, selling yakitori. SO I had a close look at his boxes, and all the chicken he used was "Made in Thailand". Globalization coming to Japan, one yakitori stick at the time. Except that information was not conveyed on any of his signs.

The pink bus is terrific. Looks like something that could be hanging off a mobile phone.

Pandabonium said...

Martin - it's really tough to know what you might be getting these days - in anything you buy. I decided not to mention in the post that a curry that was boiled up with a rat in the pot was served to 18 people at a noodle stand at JR Shin-Koiwa Station in Tokyo recently. ewwww.

Swinebread said...

The Microvan, what a great idea, Americans are too fat to fit in them but they'd be really good for those hippy fests or art markets...

Pandabonium said...

Swinebread- in the news yesterday they mentioned the "shrinking population of Hokkaido" as a reason for dropping car ownership. I tried to tell K that the people up there keep getting smaller, so need smaller and smaller vehicles. (she didn't buy it).

YD said...

My lecturer happened to just commented today that Japanese are smaller sized people, cuz he as an big built American felt extremely cramped inside a Japanese made car. ;-P

I like those minivans! It's not the food, but the experience that counts! :-D (shows how effective marketing gimmicks are...)