Random Japan: McDonalds Bacon Potato Pie

We ate really well in Japan, and savoured tons of local delicacies, a range of fusion cuisines from China, India, Pakistan, and Korea, melding with Japanese food. But we also ate at McDonalds a few times, because when you’re eating unfamiliar food night-and-day for three weeks, it’s nice to know that McDonalds in Japan tastes exactly like McDonalds everywhere else in the world. My husband is a baco-tarian, which is to say a vegetarian who cannot resist bacon, which is to say a bad vegetarian, so when it came to a quick, familiar snack wherever we were (literally wherever), we dropped in for The McDonalds Bacon Potato Pie.

It is potatoes and little tiny bits of bacon, deep-fried in a McDonalds apple-pie crust. It is delicious in the most horrifying possible way–kind of like a portable scalloped potato, but with more bacon and cheese. And deep-fried. It is also mostly-vegetarian, which is a difficult thing to find without lots of prior research when wandering around Tokyo, let alone the parts of Japan that get far fewer foreign visitors.

For the bargain price of 120yen, I heartily recommend you try your own while there. Maybe pair it up with an Ebi McBurger (kind of a fillet-o-fish made of baby shrimp) or a McPork.

– Christopher

Random Japan: Chicken Bento

One of the most interesting posts I’ve read in the last little while comes from TokyoMango blogger Lisa Katayama (writing at BoingBoing), called “Why It’s Time To Lighten Up About Weird Japan.” In the article Katayama talks about her experiences writing about the bizarre and fascinating aspects of Japan, for money, and the friction that can cause. It’s a good blog post, and Katayama’s a controversial figure in otaku circles precisely because of the articles she’s written.

It made me consider things like my Japan posts, which I’ve become known for, and which inspire and delight people. For example, this post is about a fried chicken lunch box you buy at a train station, which I could describe in a pretty boring way. Or I could say: Chicken Bentou! It’s a fried chicken bentou box! And delicious! Check this out:

On the right we have fried chicken (karage–kah-rah-gay) and a little serving of potato salad. On the left, we’ve got chicken-flavoured fried rice… and…

The fried rice has crumbled-fried-egg topping! Chicken and egg in the same dish! And peas! Seriously, a decent meal on a train-station platform for a whopping $8. Japanese cuisine isn’t just fish and rice (tho there’s lots of fish and rice), and despite sensationalist writings to the contrary westerners can eat familiar food should they desire, while visiting Japan. and they make a good piece of fried-chicken, lemmie tell ya.

It’s a fascinating juxtaposition on the surface, a traditional Japanese food preparation like a bento-box, instead filled with fairly “western’ ¬†ingredients like fried chicken and potato salad… and rice. :). The humour and the interest comes from the east-meets-west friction, and then having it turned back on itself. I don’t think a post like this would dip into the category of “look at the freakshow!”, and going back over my posts even something like Namjatown is presented fairly neutrally, because quite honestly, that place is fucking crazy. Anything I’ve posted about my trip to Japan has been, to my mind, positive, while reveling in the culture and the (quite frankly) alienness that you occasionally feel while immersed in it.

I get what Katayama is saying and I’d like to think I stay on just this side of carnival barker when talking about Japan. Even the random, unexplainable and fascinating and wonderful stuff that I try to pin down and explain and enjoy. Like Chicken Bentou. Here’s hoping that as I wrap-up my 2009 trip this week and continue posting Random Japan installments for the months to come, people continue to appreciate them as a peek into another culture, and not a peek under a circus tent. And if I err, here’s hoping that I don’t incur even a tenth the shit that Katayama’s had to suffer for doing the same coverage…!

– Chris

Random Japan: Cup Ice

So one of the things that absolutely blew me away is that, for a dollar, you can buy a cup of ice cubes at most combini (convenience stores) located in/near train stations. You buy a cup of ice because maybe you bought a beer earlier in your train trip, and now it’s warm, and you want to drink the beer so you pour it into the cup of ice.

It is goddamned genius.

This woman doing just that at 10am on a Saturday reminded us that our puritanical bullshit about drinking was thousands of kilometres away, and so we bought a few beers from the vending machine on the train and joined her in having an ice-cold beer for breakfast. Life was very good indeed.

– Christopher

Random Japan: Beer at the KFC


One of the things that really took me back in Japan? The alcohol culture in general is a hell of a lot more enlightened than it is in North America. We’ve all heard the stories about drunken salarymen making a mess of the streets of Tokyo, but I’ll take that over the wierd puritan love/hate relationship we have with alcohol here any day…

To that end, if you happen to wanna drop in to the local KFC for dinner, why not pick yourself up a nice big not-quite-a-pint of Kirin Beer? Beer: It really does go great with Fried Chicken.

(I couldn’t find any hint of this at the KFC site, which leads me to believe this is a more ground-level production… Or they want to keep it under the radar for some reason!)

– Christopher
Not everything I wanna say about Japan will be in 30-photo chunks… enjoy!