The Genesis of Su Beng’s Tokyo Noodle Shop- PART II

Su Beng decided that he’d make a living by opening up a food stall. Initially he thought about selling Taiwanese dishes. After all, the Japanese had colonized Taiwan for 50 years. But then he realized that there would be a larger market for Northern Chinese cuisine since less than three million Japanese had been repatriated from Taiwan after the colonial occupation of Taiwan (1895-1945), but over ten million Japanese had been repatriated from Northern China. During World War II, many Japanese had been stationed in Northeast China and Su Beng thought that they surely must have missed many of the delicious Northern Chinese dishes that they'd had there. So he set up a food stall, selling Northern Chinese style dumplings and fried noodles near the Ikebukuro train station in Tokyo.

The food stall was a small space. Its footprint measured just 3 tatami mats. In Japan, square footage is commonly described in terms of tatami mats, which are commonly used as flooring in Japan. Tokyo tatami mats are said to measure .88 m by 1.76 m.

More than just a source of income for Su Beng and his partner Hiraga, the food stall was also a roof over their heads. Everyday they opened for business around 10-11am and closed up around 1 or 2am the next morning. With only running water, they'd use the washroom facilities at the nearby Ikebukuro train station and public bathes to bathe at the end of their long, greasy work days. At night, they slept in the stall's upper crawl space.

Ikebukuro train station (2005). Photo by F. Lin.