Hamburgers, as you might expect in Japan, are about as exotic as sushi is in the United States -- bearing in mind that these days you can find sushi at the Wal-Mart in Plano, Texas. That means that while they're not as common as burger joints are in the United States, there are nonetheless very many around.
I've always liked cheeseburgers, and even here in Japan I occasionally indulge -- and by that I don't mean McDonald's. There are a couple of places I generally go for real burgers, and I usually don't get much out of that particular rut. But lately I've had burgers on the brain for a couple of reasons.
The first reason was a surprising discovery at Tokyo's City Hall. I found, while browsing at their tourist information center, a tourist brochure from the city of Sasebo near Nagasaki, billing itself as a "Burger Map of Sasebo". Yes, it was a map in the burger joints of this port city, which is also home to a U.S. Navy base and claims to be the place where hamburgers were first made popular in Japan (presumably to serve the appetites of the American sailors on liberty). I've even seen the name "Sasebo Burger" used in Tokyo as a brand name and identifier of a particular burger style.
My next burger encounter was a publication I saw on sale at Tower Books in Shibuya last weekend, called the Best Burger Book. This publication is a guide to the hamburgers of Japan, from Hokkaido in northern Japan all the way down to the island of Okinawa, organized by region. It has such things as profiles of owners of hamburger joints -- including the person who perhaps introduced hamburgers in Japan, at a sandwich shop up north in Sendai. There's also an introduction including the history of the hamburger (there's a photo of Louis' Lunch in New Haven, Connecticut) and the four top hamburger joints of Los Angeles (which I'm assuming they considered the center of hamburger culture in America. Yes, In-and-Out Burger is tops on that list).
I was most interested, of course, in their listings for the Tokyo area: 35 or so different restaurants, each with an entry, a specialty burger, and location. Lots of pictures, which is helpful for me since my Japanese-language abilities are so rotten and the book is entirely in Japanese.
Naturally, I wanted to know where the burger places were, and while I could puzzle out the addresses with the aid of a map, I thought I would use technology instead: as you can see, I entered all the aforementioned Tokyo entries into Google maps and have created a "burgers in Tokyo" map. This was originally intended for my own use, but what the hey, I might as well share.
The burger-and-soda icons mean a standard burger joint, the martini-glass icon means a bar, and the bed icon means a fancy hotel restaurant. Don't blame me, those were the categories the book used. Some highlights include:
- 7025 Franklin Avenue, a cozy place in Shinagawa which resembles an oversized American living room, complete with fireplace. This was Liz's favorite (or, since Liz is Canadian, favourite). I'm not entirely certain what the source of the name is, though my browsing through Google maps convinces me it's connected to that address in Los Angeles, which is the location of the Magic Castle Hotel in Hollywood.
- Seasons Bistro, attached to the Four Seasons Hotel. Yes, it's marked by one of those little red beds: other hotels with restaurants attached include the Peninsula Hotel, the Westin Tokyo Hotel, and the Hotel New Otani. As you might expect, the burgers are priced accordingly, with the Seasons Bistro offer being a truffle burger at ¥3150 (about $32 or so).
I've only just started, and I've only eaten at a few of the places on this map, so the entries are still a bit sketchy. But over the next several months (diet willing) I hope to eat at most of the places on this map (except the hotel restaurants, of course) and I'll flesh out the entries as I do. If I make it a habit, I suspect I'll be a bit more fleshed out, too.