Of all the places I have travelled, Japan is one of the most modern yet culturally enriched countries. From the bustling city of Tokyo to a more laid-back Hokkaido, Japan has the perfect balance between advanced modernity and long-established traditions. While I enjoyed everything from walking around the Ginza shopping district (which was amazing; if any of you ever go to Tokyo, definitely check it out) to visiting the massive Tokyo Disneyland, nothing made me fall in love with Japan more than their food and cuisine. As a major seafood lover, Japan was my paradise; from their fresh salmon and uni to their seared tuna and mackerel, every meal was a pleasure experience. This was no exception for McDonald’s – with such an extensive menu and unique Japanese items, I was not disappointed at all.
Anyone who has been to Japan would know that the locals love their fish and fresh seafood. Indulging in that idea, McDonald’s in Japan offer an EBI Fillet-O burger. Similar to the regular Fillet-O-Fish, the EBI Fillet-O is actually a whole shrimp burger fried in a breaded crust, put in a Big Mac roll. Topped with some spicy sauce, the shrimp burger is one of my favorite things on the menu. McDonald’s use of a shrimp patty instead of the typical beef or chicken creates a nice mix and blend between Western and Eastern flavors, and really tailors to the local’s love for seafood over other proteins. With the crunch of the breaded crust and the juicy shrimp patty, the shrimp fillet burger really puts a tang to the regular Big Macs.
Just like a lot of other tourists, I visited Japan mainly to see the Cherry Blossoms during the Sakura season around April. Beautifully covered in a pink hue, the country really comes to full bloom during the Sakura season. Embracing this, McDonald’s offers a seasonal “Cherry Blossom Burger” during the annual period when the Sakura flowers are at full bloom. The burger consists of a pink bun (to parallel the pinkness of the blossoms), and is filled with an egg, a teriyaki patty, and a spread of pink mayo and Japanese radish “Sakura sauce.” Not only does this burger encapsulate one of the most traditional and famous Japanese teriyaki style, it also has a very appetizing sour radish sauce, contrasting against the strong flavors of the meaty teriyaki. The pink bun also makes it all the worthwhile for the Instagram post!
To pair the burger, Japan McDonald’s also have a Sakura Float – perfect for the summer weather. With a nice fizz and the rose-like fragrance, this drink is refreshing and aesthetically pleasing with the pink hue. Unlike other drinks and desserts at McDonald’s that lean towards the sweeter end of the spectrum, this drink has a perfect balance of a mild sweetness of the Sakura, topped with a swirl of vanilla floating on the soda. A twist on the usual coke float or root beer float, this Sakura float is definitely a more unique take, and it tailors to the more sensitive and intricate tastebuds.
Apart from the seafood and the beautiful Sakura seasons, Japan is known for its amazing selection on tea – especially matcha. Recently getting an excessive amount of hype and recognition, people around the world have fallen in love with this sweet green tea flavor. Whether its matcha dessert in the form of matcha chocolate or ice cream, matcha is seen everywhere, and has slowly become a staple for the Japanese culture. Taking advantage of this, McDonald’s introduced a Matcha Red bean McFlurry (which, needless to say, generated extreme hype and excitement). In my opinion, I thought this was one of the best desserts I’ve had – not just from McDonald’s, but desserts in general. I’ve always been a sucker for McFlurry, so when I saw matcha McFlurry, I couldn’t wait to try it. With the matcha powder mixed in completely with the vanilla ice cream, the matcha flavor explodes in your mouth, and is quite the sensational experience I can’t explain. The creaminess of the ice cream is then topped with red beans, which creates a contrasting chewy texture. The red bean is also traditionally the perfect pairing with matcha, making this dessert all the more authentic.
Having been to so many McDonald’s around the world, I can confidently say that the one in Japan is by far one of my favorite ones. From the burgers to the desserts, McDonald’s really dove into the culture and traditional flavors to add a unique spin on their food. By embracing the local love for seafood and the beautiful Sakura distinct to their nation, McDonald’s creates food that are one-of-a-kind; something you won’t be able to find anywhere else outside the country.