As a child who grew up with weekly sushi dinners and her nose glued to pictures of FRUiTS, Japan promised an insurmountable level of cultural shock in the most glorious of ways. Harajuku girls wearing outfits us Opening Ceremony basement sale-dwellers could only dream of! Delicious delicacies that would make friends' mouths water onto their phones! I couldn't have been more thrilled to see, taste, and snap it all until I arrived and discovered...so much of what we already had back home.
Some American obsessions can be expected, but others — Bareburger?! — are as confounding as they are interesting.
Vintage stores I'd made famous in my own mind were filled with racks of US basketball jerseys and Simpsons tees seemingly straight from Target. Trendy stores touted USC sorority gear instead of avant-garde blouses I planned to stuff my closet with. And where the restaurant scene is concerned, it was equally jarring. Some American obsessions can be expected, but others — Bareburger?! — are as confounding as they are interesting.
I spoke with Ben Conniff at Luke's Lobster, who opened a location in Harajuku this past April. The team was approached by Baycrews, a company with restaurant experience and a dedication to quality who had successfully licensed New York-based brands before. "We receive a lot of international franchise requests, but none seemed like a good fit for us until now. We're lucky to serve a huge number of visitors from Japan in our US shops and have gotten very warm reviews in Japanese press," he said.
"It was really the personal relationship we developed with them that was the last piece in the puzzle of saying yes," Conniff continued. The menu is the same, save for swapping chip brands, the addition of hot and iced coffee, and a smaller-sized roll "for guests who haven't had lobster before and want to just give it a try," he explained.
The Tokyo location serves the same lobster they do back in the states, a process that involved much planning, hammering out customs issues, and unique packaging process, by which the lobster is frozen through a liquid nitrogen tunnel and slow-thawed on location, thus keeping keep the quality intact. (Short version: it sounds incredibly laborious to have pulled this off.)
Find out what other New York businesses have popped up in Tokyo — or, should we say, Little America — in our map: