Fast Food in Japan

If you think you know what fast food is like, then think again.  When we think about fast food in Canada, some of the big names come to mind.  There’s obviously the grand-daddy of them all, McDonald’s.  There are other large burger chains like Burger King and Wendy’s.  There’s the quintessential Canadian favourite in Tim Horton’s.  Then what about in Japan?  Who are the big players in the Land of the Rising Sun and home to the most vending machines per capita in the world.  Here’s four of the biggies.  There’s still more, but these are the fast food joints that we actually tried out.

[All food photos are courtesy of my wife]


Many travellers swear by McDonald’s.  I think it’s a waste to only eat McDonald’s when one travels.  One reason: the burgers taste like cardboard.  Second reason: you can eat the same food at home.  However, saying all that, you can still have a different gastronomic experience in a McD’s overseas.  Japan is one place where I would say the McDonald’s is vastly better.

You get a lot more choice and selection at a McDonald’s in Japan. There are the ubiquitous Big Macs and Filet-o-Fish burgers, but there are also Shrimp and Karage burgers.  In the morning, there are Sausage Egg McMuffins served beside Salad McMuffins.  Coke competes with Cafe au Lait and Green Tea options for drinks.  As far as teriyaki goes, though, it’s not on the menu in Japan. If you have a DS, you can also participate in special promotions set up by Nintendo and McDonald’s.

A McDonald’s breakfast in Japan

Mos Burger

What I know Mos Burger for is their rice burger.  A Mos Burger had opened up in Hong Kong and some of our friends were talking about trying the rice burger there.  We never got around to it when we were last in Hong Kong.  However, on the very night we arrived in Osaka, we stepped into the Mos Burger about a block or two from our hotel.  I was so tired that night, though, that I don’t remember what I ate.  What a waste of a good junk food meal.

However, I love the look of a Mos Burger.  The buns are these cute little slider type buns.  The sauce, if you have sauce, is a really thick layer that just wants to ooze out of the burger.  The paddy is just a little wider than the bun itself.  Bascially, a Mos Burger burger looks like it’s going to explode.  However, I think it’s thanks to the optical illusion of using a small bun.

Unfortunately, on this trip, we did not return for another Mos Burger meal.  I need try these burgers when I am more awake and more aware of the different tastes landing on my taste buds!

Look at that shredded lettuce explode!
Lots of sauce slathered across a slice of tomato
Fried chicken side order? Too tired to remember.


Lotteria, which actually is pronounced “Ro-te-ri-ya” in Japanese, is another giant of the Japanese fast food restaurant chain biz.  Again, you’ve got another huge selection of unique and not-so-unique hamburgers to choose from.  In our case, I decided that we should have Lotteria for breakfast.  I’m an ornery person if I haven’t had breakfast and this morning, anything would do.  Especially since this was our last morning in Osaka, I wanted food now.  I ordered a pizza sandwich which was below par and well, tasted like pizza.  Not what I really wanted for breakfast, but it looked good on the menu and I couldn’t read exactly what it was.  Wifey had an awesome half-raw egg sandwich.  If you love oozing egg yolk, then this is the breakfast sandwich for you.  It was really good.  I wish I had ordered that instead of my pizza sandwich.

Lotteria breakfast complete with carbonated fluids
My lowly pizza breakfast sandwich. It looked better in the pic on the menu 😦
Wife’s half raw egg sandwich. I was so jealous. I had one bite. It was really oozy-oozy good.


Matsuya, literally translated as pine house, was not new to us on this trip.  We learned to appreciate Matsuya on our trip to Tokyo in 2006.  24/7 Shinjuku had a Matsuya conveniently located right around the corner from our hotel in Tokyo.  We also had one situated just above the subway station in Osaka.  So Matsuya made for a quick breakfast before hopping on the subway to our destination of the day.

When ordering food at Matsuya, you don’t sit down at the counter right away.  You have to order food from the vending machine.  There are enough pictures that foreigners can get by and just push the button for the item you want.  Cash in first, punch the button of the meal you want, then click finish when you want your change back.  Simple.  Matsuya also serves one of the nastiest/tastiest (yes that’s a huge oxymoron) food items in Japan with some of their breakfasts.  Natto, is basically fermented soy bean and is a very pungent side dish.  My wife loves natto.  I can accept natto.  My best friend tried natto and almost died choking on it.  So it’s not for everyone, but you can try it with your breakfast at Matsuya.  Don’t forget to mix the natto with your rice if it’s too strong for your palate.

If a traditional Japanese style breakfast is not for you, Matsuya does offer a “Western” style alternative. Or you can even order one of their many “don” rice dishes which is similar to have a rice bowl at a Japanese restaurant here.

Matsuya Japanese breakfast set
Natto – a fermented soy bean side dish

5 thoughts on “Fast Food in Japan

  1. matsuya was a staple diet of mine back in japan. ramen and kaiten sushi maybe a weekly thing. have you been to 牛丼屋 on robson and richards?

  2. Haha…oh yeah…I’ve been there already for dinner. We were there at 5:30pm when it opened and the place was packed in 10 minutes. People say it’s very similar to Yoshinoya, but I still have yet to try a Yoshinoya.

  3. The Japanese would always tell me natto is a “challenge” for foreigners. The texture is a bit curious, sure, but if this is the hard part, where would “getemono” fit in?

    1. Apparently, getemono-ya type food is for those on the verge of starvation. Maybe it would fit in on a show like Survivor?

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