How Will American Fast Food Affect Japanese Culture?

November 2nd, 2012By Category: Culture, Food & Dining

I won’t lie, I DO love a good Mickey D’s strawberry shake and some fries. This Crispy apple pies ain’t bad neither.

Mmm, mmm, mmm! I will be the first one to tell you that a McDonald’s chicken sandwich with a large order of crispy, lightly salted, golden fries followed by the sweet frothiness of Triple Thick Strawberry Milkshake* can be pure taste bud bliss! The effect is intensified when I’m stoically focused on training and eating right. I’m in training mode as I’m typing this…man I hope this post doesn’t knock me the freak of the “eat right” wagon.

*I don’t think they have Triple thick milkshakes in Japan.*

Here in Japan, I’ve seen a number of American fast food chains chillin’ all over the place: Mc Donald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s (they’re making a comeback it seems), KFC, and Subway (does that really count?). It’s hard to say which chain is my favorite, though. I have always been a fan of Wendy’s because the sandwiches always seemed more robust than most chains, if that makes any sense. Wendy’s has these great-tasting, old-fashioned burgers/sandwiches, which I loved; I DO enjoy a good frosty, too. McDonald’s of course has the milkshakes, french fries, and crispy apple pies down to a franchise science. KFC on the other hand just knows how to put together a good meal: juicy chicken with mashed potatoes, and other side dishes that no other chain can really match. The truth is, I can’t choose! I like them all equally for different reasons.

Despite how good it can be, it is very rare, that I eat fast food. When I lived in America, I was much more apt to stop by and grab a bite or something sweet from my local fast food joint. I would go so far as to say I would eat fast food 2-4 times a month. Here in Japan, though, I’d say I eat fast food maybe once every two or three months…if that. Now that doesn’t mean I don’t grab something from my local コンビニ (convenience store) from time to time, but my fast food intake in the last four years is lower than it has ever been. I feel a lot healthier for it, but for me, Japanese food is like a tasty, healthy novelty, so I’ve kind of gotten hooked. Conversely, American fast food is like a novelty here in Japan. People in Japan love fast food just as much as Americans do. Okay, maybe not just as much, but they are going and it must be profitable, otherwise chains wouldn’t just keep popping up.

I’m definitely not a fast food basher by any means. It’d be silly of me to preach about “The fast food machine being evil…” because I do patron these businesses on occasion. Out of curiosity, though, I do sometimes wonder what impact American fast food culture will have on Japanese society.

Yep, the Colonel’s here in Japan, too!

In America, the busier people become, the more popular fast food seems to become. Of course this doesn’t apply to every person, but as a whole, there is a growing trend of fast food consumption when there is less time to cook. Japan is a society of very busy people. Businessmen, businesswomen, and researchers are always packed on trains after late days at work. More and more I’m starting to see Japanese workers hopping on trains with McDonald’s bags in hand, trying to catch a quick bite before the last legs of their commutes home.

What exactly will this mean in ten years? In twenty years? Will the growth of fast food culture in Japan lead to bigger waistlines and a health-related issues down the road? I’d like to believe that because Japan does such a good job of providing a healthy, balanced diet in many of it’s schools, that people will think of fast food as something they treat themselves to from time to time, but only time will tell.

What do you think?

Author of this article

Donald Ash

Donald Ash is the creator of website.  He is from Atlanta, Georgia, U.S. and is currently living and working in Ibaraki, Japan as an English teacher.  The majority of his professional work has been in the educational field, having taught both karate and middle school in the United States.

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  • Problem with fast food in Japan is indeed price and quantity. I’d rather have a very nice bento or
    ramen or onigiri ! But I do love American fast food, once a month. Still compare to my actual everyday French food, there is no competition…

  • Trevor says:

    For the same price as a Mccrap meal, you can get a delicious healthy lunch in Japan. Why anyone goes to Maccas or Wendy’s etc.. (except maybe for a cheap coffee) is beyond me.

  • leslie nguyen says:

    I probably could not choose either since I am a fast food junkie! It’s like walking into a candy store, but I want all the sweets though so I cannot only choose one haah!! I’ve heard that Mc Donald’s in Japan changes the menu every month. This is interesting because in the United States, this is not the case. I just can’t imagine the smaller portions in Japan compared to the states. But this makes sense regarding healthy eating habits and what not in Japan. The convenience of fast food right? I mean no time to cook, lazy to fine dine, and just not cooking well would do it. I honestly don’t think any country can beat America in obesity and craving fast food regardless of time!!! I feel like most people who live in Japan if not all prefer to eat healthier foods instead.


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