Tokyo food trucks get in gear
Nikkei -- May 23
It's a spring morning as seven food trucks pitch up by an office building in Ginza, where a few curious workers are already nosing around for lunch options. Run by husband-and-wife duo Naoya and Rieko Shibutani, the Pieni Kissa van is a big hit and queues quickly form to take advantage of its best-selling taco rice.

"Food trucks can be run at a relatively low cost," says Naoya, passing a steaming parcel to a hungry-looking salaryman. "We cannot afford to open a restaurant in Ginza but we can serve people here."

The Shibutanis' business is one of many on the books at Mellow, a food and technology startup that's helping Tokyo's nascent food truck scene get into gear. For a start, Mellow's database of what's sold and where has proved a useful resource for these entrepreneurs and many like them. "With the sales data we can have a good idea how much food we need to prep to minimize waste," says Naoya.

By noon the trickle of office workers has become a flood and longer queues are forming. Shodai Kawabe, 29, is busy doling out portions of lasagna and risotto from his green Subaru truck, while nearby Takako Tsumura is serving an aromatic south Indian curry. Popular fast-serving chefs can sell as many as 280 meals in a two-and-a-half-hour lunch service.

Eating on the go is big business all around the world, but in Tokyo it traditionally has been associated with poor food and bad manners. Mellow wants to change this, and is working with property developers to offer small-scale food entrepreneurs a chance to get their businesses motoring. What's more, these battalions of "kitchen cars," as they're known in Japan, are tempting the lunch crowd away from bricks-and-mortar alternatives in favor of colorful takes on vegan bento boxes, Okinawan taco rice and falafel.

Mellow's main sell is that it connects independent food trucks with places to park and building owners. The company was set up in 2016 but the co-founder, Masayoshi Ishizawa, has been in the business since the early 2000s. "Passionate food-truck owners are so attractive [to nearby businesses]," says Ishizawa. "Our purpose was to build a business platform for them." If you're a building owner, this rotating army of food trucks visits from Monday to Friday and plays a key part in keeping the workers in surrounding buildings happy.

News source: Nikkei
Jun 21
Bank of Japan Governor Haruko Kuroda said extra stimulus would be an option if prices refuse to keep rising toward the central bank's 2% inflation target. (Nikkei)
Jun 20
Japan has posted a trade deficit for the first time in four months. The shortfall comes as shipments to China and other Asian economies plunged. (NHK)
Jun 18
Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten and supermarket chain Seiyu are starting a drone delivery service for summer visitors to an island off Yokosuka, near Tokyo. (NHK)
Jun 17
The number of private lodgings in Japan has increased eightfold since the law legalizing them took effect a year ago to relieve a shortage of hotel rooms in the wake of the inbound tourism boom, according to data released by the government. (Japan Today)
Jun 17
Japanese manga needs a new superhero. Battered by a shrinking population and changing consumer tastes, the once undisputed champion of the country's pop culture is on the ropes as readership plummets. (Nikkei)
Jun 15
A Japanese firm has shelved an advertising campaign intended to promote gender equity at home after its #beWHITE hashtag sparked concern about racial sensitivities. (Japan Today)
Jun 13
Food delivery staff working in Japan for ride-hailing company Uber Technologies Inc said Wednesday they plan to form a labor union in a bid to improve what they see as disadvantageous treatment for being classified as independent contractors rather than employees. (Japan Today)
Jun 12
More than 60 percent of women in Japan have experienced the enforcement rules calling for the wearing of heels in the workplace or while job-hunting, or have witnessed others being forced to wear them, according to a survey conducted by a Japanese business website, which also reported the findings Tuesday to a Diet discussion. (Japan Today)
Jun 12
Keidanren, the Japan Business Federation, says major companies are planning to trim summer bonuses this year. (NHK)
Jun 12
Japan's leading instant noodle company is joining the fight against pollution. Nissin Food Products says it will redesign its containers to use less petroleum-based products and more so-called bio-plastic, derived from plants. (NHK)