Black Buns and Batman – Halloween in Japan

Happy Halloween
Happy Halloween

One thing you can’t help but notice if you spend any length of time in Japan is the awareness of seasons and the seasonal food and products that come with it. Seasons seem to be set in Japan, regardless of the weather. For example, the swimming season runs from mid-July to the end of August, despite the fact that the sea is more than warm enough to allow swimming before and after this.

When it’s September, it ‘becomes’ autumn. This means a wilful ignorance of the up to 30°C temperatures outside and an excruciating amount of layers topped off with a thick scarf. For four amusing and accurate signs of autumn in Japan, refer to this article.

With all this love of mascots, characters and seasonal food, it doesn’t take a giant leap of imagination to move into Halloween food. So begins the tale of the black burgers.

It began with Burger King. How could they pimp up their menu for some autumnal thrills and chills? By making a burger that was entirely black – the buns, the cheese, the sauce – the lot. This was a pretty smart move beyond a marketing coup de force. For me, it represented true dedication to Halloween because what could be more terrifying than this highly processed, meat-resembling patty wedged in between various other processed items, all dyed with squid ink?

The Black 'Pearl'. Yes, really.
The Black ‘Pearl’. Yes, really.

At least MacDonald’s saw the light and allowed a bit of colour to permeate their monstrous version.

Halloween is definitely here
Halloween is definitely here

Many people urged me to tuck into black buns. I’m a food blogger – this is my duty, they told me. Plus you wouldn’t want to be seen to discriminate against black buns, would you? That just wouldn’t be PC. But the food snob out-snobbed the blogger in me, and I just couldn’t violate my body. If you want to know what it tasted like, I recommend a perusal of this hilarious review.

My food blogger instincts were on high alert, however. After spending two years in London eating gourmet burger after gourmet burger, I was craving… more gourmet burgers. So on my research to locate burger places in Tokyo, I happened across Journal Standard burgers and….

Bringing black buns into the mainstream to disrupt white buns hegemony
Busting white hegemonic ghosts with some black buns power

I AIN’T AFRAID OF NO GHOST.

They had shamelessly jumped on the black burger bandwagon and demonstrated even less imagination by nicking the Ghostbusters logo. And I loved it.

So on October 30th, I found myself sitting outside in the sun in Shibuya, tucking into the ‘Black Buns Mozzarella Burger with Spicy Tomato Sauce’, and intermittently shouting ‘I ain’t afraid of no ghost!’ (This actually proved to be somewhat embarrassing as my dining companion had not seen the movie and was therefore thoroughly confused.)

What I have discovered is that two years of a gourmet burger trend in London has left me spoiled. As I bit into my Ghostbusters black burger, I knew that this was a burger of the old-school kind. Read: dry and highly processed patty. They’d made an effort to make it beef-flavoured and a generous amount of black pepper has been applied. But it was just underwhelming.

Their heart is clearly in the right place.
Their heart is clearly in the right place.

The spicy tomato salsa was of the El Paso variety that you spoon out a jar to eat with fajitas in the UK. If you like that jarry taste – or if you perhaps have never noticed the difference between jar and homemade salsa – I’m sure you’ll be happy.

And as for the black buns, I was quite convinced the squid ink made it taste very slightly fishy. This may have been all in my mind but I’m going to stick to white buns in future.

So I didn’t finish my black burger, but I still felt content as I ate my potato waffles and stared at the Ghostbusters logo, travelling back in time to my childhood, where Ghostbusters and potato waffles were the epitome of a good time.

Ah Halloween, how I used to anticipate it. And how people really anticipate it in Japan. That’s because the actual day is utter madness: the Japanese out-do the Americans and swarm the streets of Shibuya in a kind of carnvalesque revelry where everyone automatically becomes your best friend, even the guy who has unzipped his face.

Zip it up, please!
Zip it up, please!

People told me that they turned down party invites so they could go out and photograph the proceedings. Now I understand why. I saw Batman, riding a motorbike with purple lights, blasting out tunes to the world.

Batman is a dude. Pump those tunes!
Batman is a dude. Pump those tunes!

You’re not hallucinating. Enjoy.

Blue men.
Blue men.
Meow
Meow
Wassup?
Wassup?
Toy soldiers are literally terrifying
Toy soldiers are literally terrifying
This guy was playing his guitar like he just didn't care. And it was awesome.
This guy was playing his guitar like he just didn’t care. And it was awesome.
Tenga
Tenga
I love Ed.
I love Ed.
Where's Wally?
Where’s Wally?
Zombie
Zombie
The geography student in me just ejaculated
The geography student in me just ejaculated
YEAH BABY
YEAH BABY
Mayhem
Mayhem
Slut angel from hell.
Slut angel from hell.
He's supposed to be telling them to get out the road, but is that a cheeky smile?
He’s supposed to be telling them to get out the road, but is that a cheeky smile?
Alien rave
Alien rave
Daikon are giant radishes. And if they all start walking, we are doomed/
Daikon are giant radishes. And if they all start walking, we are doomed/
Shopping witch
Shopping witch
Are they OK?
Are they OK?
Oh yep, they're fine!
Oh yep, they’re fine!

 

Maid and meatman?
Maid and meatman?
Halloween is all about legs
Halloween is all about legs
Party for all
Party for all
Ouch
Ouch
LUFFY!
LUFFY!
Crowd control?
Crowd control?
Mario is f*cking sexy, all righ?!
Mario is f*cking sexy, all right?! The Agent thinks so.
Exotic
Exotic
Sumo rave
Sumo rave
Sumos and Blue Men - the world makes sense now
Sumos and Blue Men – the world makes sense now
Japanese Zombie Woody
Japanese Zombie Woody
Even Mario is a playboy...
Even Mario is a playboy…
Gratuitous flesh hello
Gratuitous flesh hello
Bananas in pyjamas
Bananas in pyjamas
Why has no-one made a Scream/Pirates of the Caribbean mash-up yet?
Why has no-one made a Scream/Pirates of the Caribbean mash-up yet?
So sexy. I think.
So sexy. I think.
Imagine waking up and this was the first thing you saw...
Imagine waking up and this was the first thing you saw…
Bunny zombie sluts. My favourite.
Bunny zombie sluts. My favourite.

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