「ST」は紙名を新たに「Alpha」として2018年6月29日より新創刊しました。 Alpha以降の英文記事はこちら
「ST」は紙名を新たに「Alpha」として2018年6月29日より新創刊しました。 Alpha以降の英文記事はこちら


The new fast food

By Patrick St. Michel


During the two years I spent living in the Japanese countryside, a common conversation between an American friend and me centered around what non-Japanese restaurants we wanted to make magically appear in town. “Oh, we could put a Mexican spot in the empty lot next to those apartments, and the new burger shop can go up near the electronics store.”

These flights of imagination were partially inspired by the boredom that sometimes occurs when living somewhere small and remote. Yet, for both of us, I think it was also a way to cope with all of the food from our shared home country that was no longer easily accessible for us. Sure, we were now surrounded by delicious Japanese options, but sometimes you just want a big American burger or Tex-Mex burrito.

Now I live in Tokyo, which boasts more international dining options than anywhere else in Japan. Over the past year, though, a new wave of familiar food options has popped up in the city. This past spring, American fast-food chain Taco Bell set up shop in Shibuya, sending the hearts of U.S. expats fluttering.

Yet Taco Bell, considered one of the cheapest and less-than-tasty offerings in the U.S., might be an exception to a change in the capital’s culinary scene. Another wave of establishments that opened up this year, including hip New York eateries such as Magnolia Bakery and Luke’s Lobster, includes examples of “fast-casual” spots that are gaining in popularity in the U.S. Whereas fast-food restaurants emphasize speed and low price, fast-casual spots offer a more upscale setting where the food still comes out quickly, but at a higher price.

Recently, classic fast-food chains such as McDonald’s and Burger King have seen business slow in the U.S., as hungry consumers choose more fast-casual venues instead. It feels like this is happening in Japan, too. McDonald’s Japan has seen sales plummet after various food-related scandals, while Japanese chains such as Freshness Burger and Mos Burger have opened up special, higher-end venues in the city mimicking American fast casual.

The biggest recent arrival, though, was in Meiji Jingu Gaien park this past November, as beloved New Yorker burger store Shake Shack opened its first Japanese location on Nov. 13. It is one of the best examples of the fast-casual idea in action ― it started as a single store near Madison Square Garden, but now boasts locations all over the world.

Tokyo’s embrace of the fast-casual restaurant, especially ones hailing from the U.S., has resulted in way more quality dining options to choose from for those missing the taste of America heading into the new year. I don’t always want to eat at these places, but when nostalgia kicks in, I’m happy I have a few go-to locations.


外国で生活していると、時には母国の味が恋しくなるもの。最近 東京では米ファストフード店や少し高級感のあるファストカジュアル 店が次々オープンし、アメリカ人の筆者にはうれしい限りだ。

The Japan Times ST: December 4, 2015

The Japan Times ST 読者アンケート




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