Yep, that's right - you can get pizza in Japan. Sometimes, if you're lucky you can even get something that's close to what you would get in the States or what is available in Europe, but pizza in Japan often takes some strange forms.
Looking at a "Pizza California" flyer, I see various interesting combinations like a "mochi combo" (rice cake, bacon, 'double cheese', seaweed, parmesan cheese), a "California special" (shrimp, squid, tuna, onions, mushrooms, corn, mayonnaise), and a "Curry German Deluxe" (potatoes, onions, mayonnaise, bacon, parmesan cheese - no curry) available with a tomato sauce base or a gratin base.
Not to be beaten, "Farmer's Pizza" offers a whole slew of interesting pizzas as well. They even have "Japanese style" pizzas like the "Mentaiko (cod roe) Special" (cod roe, squid, onions, green peppers, mayonnaise, cheese) and "Teriyaki Jidori (Japanese chicken)" (onions, corn, bacon, fresh asparagus, mayonnaise, cheese). If you prefer an "American" pizza, you can try the "American Mix" (bacon, corn, mushrooms, onions, double cheese) or if you prefer something European, there's the "German Brunch" (2 wiener sausages, mustard, potatoes, green peppers, onions, cheese).
Japanese young people love pizza almost as much as people in Western countries. Pizza delivery 3-wheelers race around Japanese city streets as they fight to get the pizza to the customer before it gets cold. Delivery is usually within the hour, and sometimes within 20 minutes. At the date of this writing (November 2000) pizzas in my area get delivered in between 15-45 minutes with free delivery from 1300 yen ($12.04 U.S. at 108 yen to the dollar) to 1500 yen ($13.89 U.S.) depending on the company.
Shakeys, Pizza Hut, Dominos, Pizza California, Farmers, etc. as well as a lot of regional and local outfits help to fill the Japanese craving for pizza. Some offer delivery services to take care of those Japanese folks who'd rather eat in. Sizes are small and prices rather high, though, so if you come down to Japan and decide you want to phone out for pizza think carefully about the sizes and how hungry you are. A small size is about 20cm (7.9 inches), a medium 25cm (9.8 inches) and a 'large' pizza is a massive 35cm (13.8 inches) and is intended to serve 4 to 5 people! Prices range from about 800 - 900 yen ($7.40 U.S. to $8.33) for a small pizza to about 2, 800 yen ($25.93 U.S.) for a large pizza.
Eating a pizza at a pizza restaurant can also be educational and give you insights into what the Japanese people think people in various countries eat as toppings. I once had a "Mexican Special" that was a mixture of chili peppers, chili powder and cheese with a bit of Indian curry added to make sure that it would have an "authentic" spicy Mexican flavor. It was spicy enough for me to drink glass after glass of water as I ate it and it kept me thirsty for hours afterwards.
Some restaurants in Japan (especially Italian restaurants) offer really good pizza and with a bit of searching you can eat pizza that's as good as what you'd get anywhere in the world if you're willing to pay a little bit more. But when you get the hungries for a pizza late in the evening...
Copyright November 2000. Billy Hammond. Reproduction in whole or in part prohibited. Mention of company names in this article does not constitute an endorsement.