“Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be.” ~Peter De Vries
“Too much has been forgotten in the name of memory.” ~Don DeLillo, Americana
McDonald’s in the Far East continued flirting with all-things Americana with their “final” phase of their “American Vintage Campaign.” In a phrase, McDonald’s Japan is attempting to take the nostalgia that many in the East have for most things West, and cram it into sandwiches which neither resonate with our prototypical ideal of American vintage, nor with the food of American’s tasteful past.
Now McDonald’s this time around has gotten the print ads just about right – the fashion, icons of the era, and the look and feel of 1980’s Americana. However, here in Japan, they continue to do the food…wrong. Again, the signature items remain centered on two sandwiches, both BBQ-based. I have searched back in my mind for a connection between the 1980s and barbeque, and can find…none. And I can rightly claim the 80s as my generation’s decade! At least this time around they haven’t molested the BBQ chicken and beef, adding only those things we would 1) recognize and 2) expect, such as lettuce, BBQ sauce, cheese, mustard and pickles.
While the menu choices offered may be interesting to see and try, it’s highly doubtful that such items ever existed on the Mickey D’s menu, let alone in the 1980s. However, Micky D’s is not alone in such experiments; other Japanese branches of notable fast food chains are known for their own culinary foray flirtations in the Far East, especially during targeted promotional campaigns. McDonald’s here has tried a “60-second service” service, where the customer gets a free burger if their order isn’t fulfilled in 60 seconds or less, as well as a home-delivery service. This past winter season, they unveiled a “Gracoro Burger,” complete with a fried patty of macaroni, shrimp, and a white “fish” sauce. Yummy.
Burger King Japan in the fall offers the “BK Pumpkin,” a hamburger topped with pumpkin slices. It even has a “Kuro Burger,” made with black buns and a black-ink squid sauce. Also, for its 5th birthday (in Japan), BK unveiled a special “B’i King” buffet deal promotion where for specified sandwich meals the food was all-you-can-eat for thirty minutes!
Kentucky Fried Chicken is pretty popular in Japan as well. It has a partnership with Japan Airlines during winter season on certain flights to the US or Europe, and during Christmas, KFC Japan is the staple main course in Japanese homes (see my blog about that here). The KFC restaurant at Shimokitazawa Station (Tokyo) has a special third floor called “ROUTE 25,” KFC’s first ever whiskey bar. Now we’re talkin’!!
McDonald’s in Japan this time around has been cleverer than ever in their vintage-themed décor. They have reproduced some classically delightful Americana posters and prints. And while I stopped in to snap a few photos here and there and grab a fountain soda (which are nearly impossible to find in Japan), I can’t say that I’ve tried these menu items. And my heart and arteries thank me for, daily.
This is the finale phase of the American vintage campaign. Although I’m disappointed that I missed the middle phase,“1970s Soul Food,” I’m glad I swung by to see this take on my generation’s decade back home.
I hope you’ve enjoyed these delicious developments as much as I have. Stay tuned for follow-on flirtations with Far Eastern fast-food. I can already smell the humor, and can taste the fun!