McDonald’s in Japan

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Perhaps one of the top fast-food chains in the world, McDonald’s has successfully opened its business in many international locations. Not all McDonald’s offer the same menu items, each country does put a unique twist into their own burgers and fries.

For Japan in particular, though the basic burgers are available for order, there are many (often limited time only) unique and interesting menus ranging from cute Pikachu and Gudetama McFlurry to strange-looking Black Squid Ink Burger and Camembert Chicken Filet.

McDonald’s Reputation in Japan and in the U.S.

Firstly, before I delve into the uniquely-Japan McDonald’s items, it’s interesting to note that McDonald’s in Japan serves a slightly different function than the McDonald’s in the U.S. McDonald’s is indeed a fast-food restaurant chain that gets food for customers very fast. It only takes a couple minutes to perhaps 10 minutes during rush hours to a customer to get their food after ordering.

And although it is a type of “restaurant”, customers don’t usually sit and enjoy their food like they do in a four- to five-star restaurant. The place is more casual for a quick grab-o-bite and leave to wherever else. But in Japan, McDonald’s, though not exactly a fancy restaurant either, is held at a higher standard than in the U.S. Young teenagers and middle schoolers often hang around in McDonald’s as a place to sit, chit-chat, study, or just casually hang out for several hours.

Most time they would only order drinks, no food, and just sit at a table, much like how Starbucks is for teens and young adults in America. Although this isn’t as common nowadays, McDonald’s had a different reputation in Japan than in America.

Uniquely Japanese Items

Japanese cuisine is well-known around the world and has a unique and recognizable taste. So naturally, a Japanese twist to the classic McDonald’s would produce something like Teriyaki Burger with the patty marinade with teriyaki sauce, and Chicken Tatsuta, a fried chicken burger spiced with soy sauce and ginger. The Japanese twist is not limited to only the burgers but the side orders as well.

The Ume or the sour plum flavors for example, is sprinkled on to French Fries to give a sour tasting Ume Fries. The cherry blossom flowers are significant part of Japan’s spring season so comes the Sakura Cherry McFizz, a fizzy and pink soda drink. Also, since anime is a big part of popular culture in Japan, there are menu items featuring arts of Pokémon, Gudetama, and many fun popular characters.

A pair of black-buns and white-buns burger promoted in Japan during Halloween season.
A Gudetama-themed McFlurry.
Extra: McDonald’s Food Trends..?

Aside from their unique food items, Japan sometimes pick up strange trends that does raise some eyebrows. One of these include the Hamburger Straws trend which, in my opinion, is not practical at all. A Hamburger Straw is basically a hamburger placed on top of a soda cup lit with a straw going through the burger and into the soda cup.

Another strange phenomenon dates back some years ago. Back in 2012, Japan McDonald’s had a fries promotion where all fries are 150 yen regardless of size. This, as predicted, caused many people to take advantage of the promotion, buying as many fries as they could. Photos of 23 fries orders went viral in Japan when a group of kids uploaded them on twitter.

There were upset responses that criticized how wasteful this choice of action was, but many others were impressed at the ginormous number of fries they ordered. This was later picked up as a trend and several others began competing how many fries they can order and eat in one sitting.

However, the promotion was soon removed by McDonald’s as it caused inconvenience when customers order unprecedented number of fries and occupy several tables for a long time, just eating fries.

A trend that was viral for a short while in Japan, featuring the burger impalement by McDonald’s soda drink.

I suspect these trends are mostly motivated by gaining social media attention or just simply playing fun-and-games, and in a way I can see that. Fortunately, as strange and/or wasteful as some of these trends may seem, they don’t last very long… as is for most trends.