I admit to being surprised to learn that the number favorite fast food restaurant in Japan was NOT McDonald's. While few people other than myself tend to admit a love of their food, there's a reason why it is indeed the top-selling fastfood restaurant in the world—just not in Japan.
That honorable distinction goes to Japan's own Mos Burger - Yay!!!! Above is a Mos Burger menu from Australia... just to give you an idea of what the foods look like... the pricing, again, is in Australian dollars and may not match Japanese prices.
When I lived in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, Japan back in 1990-1993, there was no nearby McDonald's... I had to ride my bicycle 20 minutes to a train station and ride south for 25 minutes or more and then walk 15 minutes to the central shopping area... and there I could find a McDonald's.
Actually... that's not quite correct.. in 1993, I believe, a McDonald's was put in nearby Nishinasuno-machi... but except for a single visit, by that time I was wholly immersed in Japanese cuisine - despite McDonald's Japan having a specific Japanese menu.
But... once a week... on a Wednesday for the first two years on the JET (Japan Exchange & Teaching) Programme... after my weekly kyudo (Japanese archery) lesson, I would ride over to the Mos Burger in Ohtawara and we chow down on a Mosburger, fries and a Coke.
Just to don't ask for oki-sai (large size is the direct translation) - it confuses the staff. There as in any fast food restaurant in Japan, they only know L-sai (pronounced Elu-sai) meaning Large size. Or Emmu-sai (M-sai) or sumaru-sai (S-Sai), which means Medium-size or Small size).... it's a curious thing when they don't understand the Japanese I used because culturally it's not used in that instance.
Anyhow... according to a recent Niconico News survey of adults, the reigning king of fast food in Japan is the country’s own native Mos Burger – although McDonald’s runs a close second.
First: Mos Burger (45.1%)Some of those surveyed said that Mos Burger seemed to use higher quality ingredients, while others appreciated that some burgers are offered with grilled rice patties instead of buns on request. Mos Burger has exploded in popularity since its debut in 1972 and we can’t help but think national pride for the native Japanese chain may have a little to do with its strong showing in this survey.
Second: McDonald’s (37%)
McDonald’s unsurprisingly grabs the second spot, with survey respondents saying the consistent taste and low price kept them coming back. Some with larger appetites also noted that the Big Mac set and other larger meal sets were also a big draw.
Third: Freshness Burger (3.8%)
“Mosu” and “Makku” may take the lion’s share of the vote, but there was still some love for the slightly lesser-known guys. Most of those surveyed commented on the high quality of the burgers at Freshness Burger, which seems to maintain decent customer loyalty despite a piddling market share. Freshness Burger borders on “fast casual” rather than “fast food,” with burgers and fries handcrafted to order and delivered to your table. Many locations also serve beer, which doesn’t hurt. Never heard of the place...
Fourth: Lotteria (3.6%)
Another native Japanese chain, Lotteria restaurants can be found near most major Tokyo train stations. While the presence of “shake fries” – french fries that are shaken together with your choice of seasoning – as a persistent menu item kept many survey respondents coming back, we speculate the fact that the chain’s menu engineers succumbed to madness a few years ago and set about creating chocolate chicken sandwiches, towering nine-patty burgers and other mind-bending oddities probably had a role to play in Lotteria’s middling ranking. Heard of it, but never ate there...
Fifth: Burger King (2.5%)
Some commented in the Niconico survey that its Burger King signature Whopper sandwich that calls to them every other lunch break. The chain also sticks to its American big brother’s “Have it your way” creed, letting diners customize to their heart’s content; the only limit being their imaginations and their willingness to undergo gastric bypass surgeries. I ate there once, and would be satisfied if I never ate Burger King again... I've been disappointed with the food received in downtown Toronto off Yonge Street near Queen.
Sixth: First Kitchen (1.9%)
Nothing really explains First Kitchen’s poor performance on the survey, as its menu features all the same greasy, calorie-dense delights as the above chains. Hell, it even offers pasta! Then again, perhaps it’s this very “kitchen sink” approach to their menu that spelled First Kitchen’s downfall this time around. Never saw one of these places...
Seventh: Dom Dom Burger (.8%)
Dom Dom Burger has the distinction of being Japan’s first ever burger chain, established in February, 1970 – beating McDonald’s to the punch by a little over a year. Still, the years haven’t been kind to the chain with apparently only a few dozen locations remaining of the over 400 that once stood in its heyday. I do believe I ate here... and it wasn't bad at all!
Eighth: Wendy’s (.4%)
Even less well-known than Dom Dom Burger is the American transplant Wendy’s. We imagine the low penetration of the brand has a lot to do with Wendy’s pulling out of the Japan market less than a decade ago, then, after much waffling, deciding to have another go at it, albeit with slightly fancier offerings like lobster and caviar burgers. Currently, there are just two Wendy’s in operation in Japan – both located in the heart of Tokyo. If Wendy's was around when I was there, I never saw it. I do enjoy Wendy's, though. It's burgers are better than McDonald's according to my son, and I'd put it right up there with Mos Burger for variety. They need to showcase the redheaded Wendy icon more - Anne of Green Gables fans would gobble it up... especially if they offered a contest with the winner getting a trip to Canada to see the real Anne of Green Gables locales... plus a trip to either Montreal, Quebec City, Toronto, Calgary or Vancouver...
Niconico News says: "if the Japanese ever catch on to the fact that a french fry dipped in one of Wendy’s signature Frosty shakes is literally the most delicious thing you can ever possibly put in your mouth, we imagine we’ll be seeing two Wendy’s on every block in our (probably steampunk) future."
Niconico News notes that these results do NOT represent market share, as McDonald's still outsells everyone... this was just a survey over what they preferred... seems to me, people prefer convenience - American convenience over Japanese quality.
Anyhow... no KFC? Pizza joints? What the heck? How is it that here in Canada we have Quiznos (awesome), Mr. Sub and Subway and Pizza Pizza and Pizza Nova and Momma's Pizza (awesome) on every damn block in the big city of Toronto, but there isn't a mention here of them in Japan?
It just takes one... can I have a franchise to start in in Japan?