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McDonald’s in Japan

I first blogged about the subject of food in Japan way back in September, and promised another culinary installment of Konnichi Wa, Fort Collins. Well, the day has finally come! I’ve had a lot of awesome food here in Japan; I’m going to miss okonomiyaki, takoyaki, Japanese curry, tonkatsu and yakisoba on about a daily basis when I go back to the States. But today, I’m not going to talk about Japanese food; instead, I’ll talk about the Japanese interpretation of American food.

One of my Japanese friends here said that a stereotype she had about Americans is that we’re always eating hamburgers, especially ones from McDonald’s. And that’s not completely wrong; there are over 14,000 McDonald’s in the USA, and considering the way these restaurants sprout up from the ground, there are probably a few more that will be finished by the time you finish reading this blog. But, the McDonald’s formula seems to be appealing to the Japanese as well; there are about 3,200 locations in the country (and keep in mind, Japan is around the size of Montana).

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Japan McDonald's
McDonald’s, why must you be four floors high?

So what exactly are the differences between the Japanese and American editions of the Golden Arches? The first noticeable difference is size (don’t worry, I’m not going to make a lazy “big in Japan” joke). While the McDonald’s I have on my campus is an exception, the majority of Makkudo (that’s the Japanese nickname for the franchise) locations are multiple floors high. You order on the first floor, then go up and eat your food upstairs. In Tokyo, I even saw one that was four floors high! Also, the majority are open 24/7 due to the complete lack of drive-thru’s in the country, making them a conveniently free place to sleep if you miss the last train!

As for food, a lot of the options are the same as back home. You have your Big Macs, your Quarter Pounders (despite them using the Metric system), and your Chicken McNuggets. They taste mostly the same as well, though they are generally smaller (the Big Mac is no bigger than a Quarter Pounder) and their Chicken McNuggets actually taste like chicken and not mystery paste.

Cow Pastries
Not in McDonald’s, but here’s a Japanese bakery with cow-shaped bread. Adorable.

The most popular option not available in the States is the Ebi Filet-O, a shrimp burger smothered in Big Mac sauce. I was wary at first, but turns out it’s delicious. It’s even become my go-to order, though this is partially because eating a McDonald’s burger makes me realize how much I miss real hamburgers at places like Five Guys (I’m going to go so hard at the nearest Five Guys when I get back).

Other odd things you can try? The Teriyaki Burger is a normal burger with teriyaki sauce; it’s decent but pales in comparison to Mos Burger’s (another popular fast-food chain) take on it. The Shaku-Shaku Chicken is a piece of chicken that comes in a bag, along with a flavor packet. You pour the flavor in, shaku-shaku, and voila! It’s nothing special, though I only tried one of the two available options.

One last difference is the prevalence of “melon soda” here, a soft drink that looks like antifreeze and tastes more like sugar-coated plastic than melon. Some of my American friends swear by it, but the only time I’ve enjoyed it is in a McDonald’s float. Hope you’ve enjoyed my quick peek at McDonald’s in Japan! I’ll see you next week, Fort Collins.

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