Japanese Taco Bell: Un-American

Nestled in Shibuya across from Wild One (the one that sells sex toys, not camping goods), America’s greatest fast food restaurant made its long-awaited return to Japan. Was it up to snuff? I waited on line for an hour to find out.

Taco Bell’s Japanese menu is noticeably different from its American counterpart. Yes, McDonald’s and Burger King also have their differences, but those are usually reserved for limited-time items while the core menu remains identical. Japanese Taco Bell, on the other hand, changed up some of the core menu items. For example, there’s no Mexican pizza, Burrito Supreme, or Chalupa. Instead you’ll find things like the Fajita Burrito (apparently this is on the U.K. menu), the Taco Rice Bowl, and the Shrimp & Avocado Burrito, all of which could easily exist in America but don’t. There is, however, at least one item you’d never find at an American Taco Bell.

Exactly my reaction

To an unbiased palate these menu differences are hardly a problem, but if you’re looking to satisfy a nostalgic craving, your options will be limited.

Japanese Taco Bell pre-sauces your food (Hot/Medium/Mild). This is a nice gesture, but it’s also un-American and therefore wrong. One surprising carryover from America is free refills, which you won’t find at Japanese McDonald’s. The free refills (“drink bar”) concept does exist in Japan, but it’s usually seen in family restaurants.

There are no sporks.

I ordered the soft taco combo and the nachos. Even though they dump all the toppings on the loaded fries, the nacho toppings are left of the side. In Japan they expect nachos to be a shared dish. Fat chance.

No, they don’t poison-taste your food before serving it to you. I’m just not an idiot who reflexively takes pics of everything he eats, so I ate a few bites before snapping a photo.

Taco Bell prices are much higher in Japan than America. I spent about $15 for my meal, which in America would easily cost me less than $10. A side taco, which would go for about $1 in America, is about $2.50 in Japan. Chalk some of it up to the weak yen and some of it up to Tokyo rent. Chalk the rest up to price-gouging.

Ultimately, Taco Bell is better than no Taco Bell. If you’re in the neighborhood, go for it. If you don’t live near any Mexican restaurants (i.e., you live in Japan), go for it. Just be aware that it’s not the same as it is in America.

Taco Bell (Japan): +