This month marks a decade since a city ordinance established new rules for "yatai" food stall operators in Fukuoka, southwestern Japan.

The tightening of yatai regulations in the 1990s had caused a decline in Japan's famous food stalls. But since the ordinance went into effect -- the first in the nation to clarify rules for the stalls -- a resurgence has been underway, despite the aging of shop owners and the more recent consequences of the coronavirus pandemic.

The "akachochin" red lanterns of the yatai are part of the nightlife scene in the city's Hakata district, where more than 100 food carts line the streets, enticing visitors to Japan among others to try their wares.

Photo taken in Nakasu, a downtown area of Fukuoka, southwestern Japan, is lined with food stalls lit up by red lanterns in June 2023. (For editorial use only) (No reuse permitted) (Kyodo)

On the night of Aug. 22, Park Hye Bin, an 18-year-old university student from Busan, South Korea, visited a food stall in Hakata's Nakasu area. "I came here to feel the summer in Japan. The ramen is delicious," she said.

According to Hiroomi Tanaka, 50, the owner of the stall, nearly 40 percent of his customers are foreign tourists, and there has been a noticeable uptick in Chinese patrons lately with the lifting of the ban on group tours to Japan imposed under COVID-19 restrictions.

"Many customers wait around for us to open the food stall," Tanaka said while wiping sweat from his brow.

Yatai, which open in the early evening and close in the wee hours, serve a variety of Japanese fare such as ramen, yakitori and oden, along with beer, sake, shochu and other beverages.

In its Jan. 12 travel section, The New York Times listed "52 Places to Go in 2023," featuring Fukuoka in 19th place.

Customers make a toast at a food stall in Nakasu, downtown Fukuoka, southwestern Japan, on Aug. 22, 2023. The two customers in the foreground are visitors from Australia. (For editorial use only) (No reuse permitted) (Kyodo)

The Fukuoka city office has introduced its yatai specialties on the internet for people both inside and outside of Japan.

The city has been stepping up its efforts since around July, and Takayuki Mukae, 49, head of an association of mobile restaurants in Fukuoka, welcomes the "great effect of the city's promotion of yatai stalls."

After World War II, many former soldiers and others returning to the country operated yatai to make a living, but the food carts were abolished under pressure from the Allied occupation headquarters, citing concerns over sanitary conditions.

However, in Fukuoka, yatai operators formed a trade association and campaigned for their continuation in hard-fought negotiations with the government and other parties.

At their peak around 1965, there were more than 400 food stalls in the city. But sidewalk occupancy and other issues, such as sewage dumping, became a problem.

Tourists pass by food stalls in Nakasu, downtown Fukuoka, southwestern Japan, on Aug. 22, 2023. (For editorial use only) (No reuse permitted) (Kyodo)

In 1995, police decided to basically not allow new entrants to the yatai business, with the city following suit. This led to a decline in their number.

But with the city seeing yatai as vital for attracting tourists, a new ordinance went into effect on Sept. 1, 2013, requiring clear displays of food prices and adherence to hours of use on city streets. Business hours have been set from 5 p.m. to 4 a.m. the following day.

New yatai businesses who have gone through a public offering procedure were also allowed in the city from 2016.

In other regions of Japan, yatai have also helped stimulate local economies.

In Obihiro, Hokkaido in Japan's northernmost main island, a food stall village has been popular since 2001. The restaurants there serve wild game such as deer and brown bear. Even in the winter, some 7,000 people come each night.

In Kure, Hiroshima Prefecture in western Japan, about 10 yatai stand side by side on one of its streets.

Commenting on food stalls in Fukuoka, Yusuke Nakatani, a professor of economic policy at Bunri University of Hospitality, said, "There used to be some gray areas, such as unclear accounting practices, but since the ordinance came into effect, they are becoming an entity that visitors to Japan can use with peace of mind."