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Wander through Shinjuku’s neon-lit streets of Golden Gai to find a myriad of mismatched bars. Over 200 bars line the alleys with themes galore, like a hospital-themed bar, a rubber ducky theme, a bar with floor to ceiling green-grass and a personal favorite - the American bar. Now, although it may seem strange to come all the way to Japan to visit an American themed bar, it's better not to discount it. You can find yourself surrounded by Japanese salarymen raising a glass of cold Sapporo beers to an Aerosmith bootleg video of their old 2013 Japan concert. Bags of Doritos, and Budweiser lining the walls and an American flag proudly hung behind the bar. Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man” roaring over the speakers, with some drunk Japanese fans singing along. This strange phenomenon of American pop culture has grasped Japan and has created its own unique subculture.
Image: Mc Donald’s Japan
Between the years 2017-2019 more than 90 million tourists flocked to Japan to soak up its deep history, culture, tradition and unique food. Japan has such a strong identity, think anime, manga, arcades and anything cute. Once you're in Japan walking the streets of Shibuya you’ll notice more and more Americanised food chains, clothing stores, snacks, drinks and characters. Japan has re-engineered American culture and changed it with all of the loving details.
A long standing obsession with American things has led to a bigger and better variety of items. Look at McDonalds, yes in America you may get a new type of burger every once in a while, but in Japan, every season and holiday is celebrated with a new type of burger, drink or pie - I mean look at Ultraman speciality chicken burger! McDonalds (マクドナルド) is popular in Japan because it makes life easier for people who need to eat something good and quickly - no sitting needed. Japan is so popular that it has the 3rd most McDonald's locations globally, and has become a great clean place to grab a snack, plug in your phone and relax.
Now, we can’t forget Starbucks, Japanese, non-Japanese, tourists, children and small dogs flock to Starbucks during sakura season to get a taste of the limited edition exclusive sakura flavor drinks. This type of hype for seasonal items is rare, but it’s pretty common in Japan. If you want to try a specialty item exclusive to Japan you better be willing to wait, but it will one hundred percent be worth the 40 minute wait for it!
A major player that is adored in Japan is American snacks, candy and drinks. A pretty similar idea has come out of these American brands - exclusive japan only crazy flavors! Doritos are no different, Japanese Doritos have come in a lot of wacky flavors like wasabi and salted shrimp, and right now there are a few fan favorite Doritos flavors. Like the avocado and cheese Doritos, bacon cheeseburger Doritos and even teriyaki burger Doritos. The beloved moustache man - Pringles also have mouth watering exclusive flavors. Like the limited Japanese Pringles, Kansai Takoyaki Flavor (octopus balls) and Tokyo Famous Curry.
You can’t have potato chips without a drink in hand, in Japan there are a few famous American drink brands like Coca Cola, Fanta, Mountain Dew and Monster. To quench your Japan thirst try exclusive Japanese soda like the Fanta Okinawa Shikuwasa! Shikuwasa fruit is a green, tangy lemon-like citrus fruit, grown in the southern, Japanese tropical island of Okinawa. Or want to really try an outstanding and intriguing flavor, the Fanta Peach Yogurt is the one for you. However, if you need a kick starter to your day the Monster super cola is your best friend! In Japan you’ll often see vending machines dotted along the city streets and train stations and behind the gleaming class you’ll see the Japanese classic coffees and teas. But you’ll also see many American branded drinks, the ideal collab.
Image: Your Name anime
Now that you know all of these amazing snacks exist, where exactly can you buy them? Online at Sugoi Mart you have access to hundreds of Japanese exclusive items, but if you’re in Japan - simply head to the convenience stores - kombini (コンビニ) also spelt as Conbini. In Japan there are 3 idolized convenience stores, Seven Eleven, Family Mart and Lawsons. It’s a pretty hot debate amongst friends on which is actually the best, things like food quality, food variety, product availability and customer service all come into play. At this point having a strong opinion about your favorite convenience store becomes a personality trait.
The first Japanese convenience store was a Seven Eleven that popped up in 1969 - which you guessed it - is originally from America! It did not take long for convenience stores to become popular and start to take over the country, right now there are over 56 thousand convenience stores all over Japan. Conbinis are small convenient stores that are stocked with almost all of your daily essentials, ready to eat food like spaghetti carbonara, beer, wine, and the latest and tastiest snacks. Japanese conbinis are similar to those in the USA and have a connection in culture by wanting to provide their customers with fast, easy to grab items - but like the snack in Japan, it takes an idea and it makes it bigger and better. And kombinis are really no different, they are the backbone of daily life, they have everything imaginable - fresh socks, undies, frozen pizza, card games.
Image: Adobe Stock
Japan has an abundance of characters, anime and anime movies that are adored by the public, like Hello Kitty, Pikachu, Totoro but Japan has another love - Disney. Disney is very popular in Japan, this is down to the stunning animations, utopian themes and characters that are polar opposite to Japanese lifestyles, and really the characters are so cute! Disney has such lovable characters that create happiness and enrich people, so often you'll see Disney items adorned in homes, like plushies, mugs, and the very unique Disney Mickey Foaming Hand Wash Soap.
Japan’s love of both animation and Disney is no secret - Tokyo Disney Resort and Disneyland has seen well over 550 million visitors since it opened in 1983, more than four times the population of Japan. Disneyland, also known as “Dreamland” is a popular place to visit for locals and tourists, a place to feel as if you were in the land of dreams, which isn’t Japan or any other country. You can meet cute Disney characters at Disney world Japan, enjoy exciting attractions, watch shows and parades and taste Japan exclusive food. Disney is literally a world of its own, magical creatures and magical lands, it’s a place where you can forget the stressors of life and give the ultimate escape.
Image: Adobe stock
American culture in Japan has become increasingly popular over the years. Japan has embraced brands, snacks and attractions, but originally the love for American culture came from Hollywood. A major insight into America is through westernized movies that provide a looking glass into what daily life would be. It allowed people of Japan to see a world that is vastly different to theirs, and create an imagined world where you can hop on a bus to LA and become mega famous, and every small town has picket white fences.
Japan has a love for modern America, but before that Japan loved Mid-Century America. During the 1950’s Japan had a large boom in modernization and industrialization after recognizing the start in western countries Japan was eager to adopt the new way of life. This eagerness has led Japan to what it is today, and why there is a perfect balance of Japanese culture with an altered, some say better, American idea.
In Japan there are a lot of American brands that are famous, fast food chains like McDonalds, Starbucks, Wendys, clothing like Adidas, Nike and Lululemon and snacks like Doritos, Pringles, Fanta, Hershey Kisses. What is one American-turned Japanese snack you are dying to try, is it the Disney x Coca Cola anniversary collab or the Pringles Cream Stew? Whatever it may be, head to Sugoi Mart to find your Japan exclusive snack now!