What’s a Japanese McDonald’s Like?

See special menu items and what foreigners who live in Japan have to say about what a Japanese McDonald’s is like!

July 28, 2021
  • Known for its cleanliness, amazing customer service, and tasty meals, McDonald’s Japan is a popular fast food option in Japan. Japan is second on the list of nations with the most McDonald’s locations.
  • McDonald’s Japan offers special Japan-only menu items like the famous Teriyaki Burger, Shaka-Shaka Chicken, and Shrimp-Katsu Burger.
  • Foreigners who live in Japan praise McDonald’s Japan for its tasty burgers and special menu items and great customer service. However, they are not totally satisfied with the generally smaller portion sizes compared to overseas locations.

As the world’s largest restaurant chain with over 39 thousand franchise locations worldwide, McDonald’s continues to lead the global fast-food industry.  From the famous Big Mac to chicken nuggets, french fries, and McShakes, McDonald’s offers its customers a quick, cheap, tasty, and, importantly, a somewhat familiar meal anywhere in the world. 

While McDonald’s is always a haven for tourists who visit places where the food isn’t exactly a match for their palette, menu items, prices, and standards of customer service differ from country to country.  

McDonald’s food. Image sourced from Limo.

McDonald’s in Japan

While an entire article could be written about the different menu items that can be found at McDonald’s locations around the world, here at Japan Insider, we’ll focus, of course, on Japan.  We’ll take a look at some special menu picks, what’s different, what’s the same, and of course, how it tastes.

Further, My Navi News conducted interviews with foreigners residing in Japan who were asked what they thought about Japanese McDonald’s as they compared and contrasted with the McDonald’s in their home countries.  

First, let’s take a look at some basics.  Since the first McDonald’s franchise opened in 1971, Japan now has almost 3,000 operating outlets, making it the country with the second most McDonald’s locations after the US.  

Special Menu Items

While it may seem that McDonald’s was successful since they first opened in Japan, that wasn’t the case.  It actually wasn’t until more recently that McDonald’s started to become really popular.  This was likely thanks to the special menu items more suited for “Japanese taste buds.”

McDonald’s Teriyaki Burger. Image sourced from Mognavi.

Like many countries, McDonald’s in Japan offers special menu items that are a better fit for the Japanese market.  These include the teriyaki burger, ebi-filet-o or fried shrimp burger, and shaka-shaka chicken.  Shaka-shaka chicken is served in a paper bag with either cheese flavored or red-pepper flavored seasoning added to the bag, which is then shaken up to spread the seasoning over the chicken.  “Shaka-shaka” refers to the sound and action of shaking something.

McDonald’s Ebi-Filet-o. Image sourced from Mognavi.
McDonald’s Shaka-shaka chicken. Image sourced from Pecopocononki.

Since some of you may be getting hungry, let’s see what foreigners thought about these special menu items and Japanese McDonald’s in general.  

The majority of the responses from 20 foreigners of different backgrounds fall under three main categories.  Taste, customer service, and portions.  Within each of these common themes in the responses, there are understandably similarities and differences and pros and cons.  Let’s take a look at each.

1. Taste

Across the board, the general consensus on taste is extremely positive.  Regardless of background, many of the respondents noted the teriyaki burger as a tasty favorite pick that isn’t available outside Japan.  

For example, a 31-year-old male from Canada states that he loves the special menu items, including the aforementioned teriyaki burger and the bacon-lettuce burger, but was disappointed that he isn’t able to get chicken nugget sauce to eat with his fries or have the ice cream sundae flavors mixed.  

Bacon Lettuce Burger at McDonald's Japan
McDonald’s Bacon-lettuce Burger. Image sourced from Mognavi.

A 39-year-old German male noted the special Halloween “squid-ink burger” as a usual pick that had him coming back.  He went on to say that these kinds of strange limited special menu items encouraged him to stop by a McDonald’s every once and a while. 

McDonald’s Squid Ink Burger. Image sourced from Chitoma.

2. Customer Service

Customer service was also regarded in an extremely positive manner across the responses.  Like literally everything else in Japan, even at McDonald’s, customer service standards are very high.  

The majority of the respondents were amazed at how good the customer service was, and as a result, how clean the restaurants were.  One 31-year-old Vietnamese respondent stated that the clean atmospheres of the restaurants are so nice that she often grabs a coffee to study inside a McDonald’s.  

McDonald’s Staff. Image sourced from Mcdonald’s Japan.

One of the main things that came up in the responses revolved around the quality of the food.  In particular, they were referring to the food’s resemblance to the picture on the menu.  This is something that I often hear overseas when talking about fast food, as many will say something along the lines of “it looks good, but it won’t look like the picture.”

Many respondents, including a 30-year-old man from France, mention that they like how carefully the burgers are assembled when you unwrap the paper packaging or open up the cardboard container.  

McDonald’s staff member serving a customer. Image sourced from Toyokeizai.

On the other hand, a 39-year-old man from Turkey said that he felt that McDonald’s were all the same worldwide, but the clerks and staff in Japan are just much more kind to customers.  This being said, something to note is that an actual item on menus at McDonald’s in Japan is a smile for 0 yen (free)! 

3. Portions

While almost everyone seemed to like Japanese McDonald’s, foreigners didn’t seem to be leaving the restaurants feeling full unless they had more than one entree.  Based on the responses, compared to McDonald’s overseas, Japanese portions are too small to satisfy most foreign customers.  I, too, often find myself ordering two cheeseburgers.  

Different McDonald’s drink sizes. Image sourced from Pouch.

A 32-year-old woman from Spain and a 30-year old woman from Brazil also felt that the portions were too small. However, the woman from Brazil notes that this may be a good thing as it means you are consuming slightly fewer calories, thus, being healthier.  

There you have it.  Go check out a Japanese McDonald’s when you can, and let us know what you thought about it!   


Kevin Murasaki

Kevin Murasaki grew up moving back and forth between Chicago and Yokohama, Japan. Known as a "hafu", Kevin is half Japanese, and half American. Now a videographer and drone operator based in Fukuoka, Japan, Kevin enjoys playing basketball, driving on mountain or "touge" roads, and fishing in his free time. Kevin is a recent graduate of the University of British Columbia.

More articles by Kevin Murasaki

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