Finding American-style food in Japan is easy. Finding authentic American-style food in Japan is much harder.
While I can get pizza with corn and mayonnaise and skinny hot dogs with tough outsides, it’s just not the same as at home. I’ve found a few places here and there where I can get traditional American food, but they tend to be out of the way and somewhat pricy.
Last May, that changed somewhat when a Taco Bell opened in Shibuya. I was pleased to see it, but it was far from perfect — the menu was greatly abbreviated, and rather than tortilla chips as sides, they served what every fast-food joint in Japan serves: French fries. Still, better than nothing.
Roughly ten months later, a Carl’s, Jr. opened in Akihabara. I somehow missed this news, so it was three days after it opened that I found myself waiting outside in line for the new restaurant. It’s way down past the Taito Station and Don Quixote, which is how I missed happening to see it on my usual Saturday run, but when a Sunday-only coworker mentioned it to me, I knew I’d have to go after work.
It took me a few minutes to get all the way down, but there it was, well-lit and full of people. There was a line, of course, but a short one that started on the opposite side of the sidewalk. The outside staff were passing out laminated menus, as well as loaner umbrellas to ward against the light rain. I waited maybe fifteen minutes before they let me in. Inside was lively, with another long line to wait through. It took another fifteen minutes or so before it was my turn, giving me time to marvel at the truly massive menu. They apparently omitted nothing from their US counterpart, including breakfast and even adding a draft beer (because it’s Japan). In addition, just like in America, soft drink refills are free. I ordered a “Portobello Mushroom Burger” (basically a Hardee’s Mushroom ‘n’ Swiss) and got seated by the window.
The burger was delicious, but felt like it had been shipped pre-shaped (no complaints; Japan is a long way from the West). I also got to speak to some of the US employees and Japanese employees while there (in their respective languages), and they all seem to be having a good time. I’ll definitely be going back — just not too often, since the menu prices are unsurprisingly steep.