I Flew To Japan To Try The McDonald's & It's The Best In The World

mcdonald's japan
The Best McDonald's Are In JapanMackenzie Filson / Alison Dominguez

I have one non-negotiable stop on every international trip I take: McDonald’s. I look for McDonald’s in other countries like a French fry-seeking missile. They’re just so much better than the ones in the U.S.

Come to think of it, I only go to McDonald’s when I'm traveling abroad. They manage to merge national pride so creatively with something so incredibly American. I’ve had “McDo" macarons walking down Parisian streets, a McRoyal with cheese with a beer in a Portuguese beach town, and a pistachio McFlurry near where Caesar was stabbed in Rome.

In short, I thought I’d eaten the world's best McDonald's food. That was, until I stepped into a McDonald’s in Japan. Japanese McDonald’s is the best, hands down. They've done what the best international McDonald’s do: made the American chain their own.

Japan Has the Best McDonald's Items

Just glancing at the sprawling menu, I knew I’d have to make a plan of attack. I had literally made a to-eat list in my journal. Would I go with the seaweed salt and buttered mashed potato with bacon teritama burger? And what about the Shaka-Chicki chicken, either with the red pepper or cheddar cheese seasoning?

mcdonald's japan menu
Mackenzie filson

I pored over the menu like it was a tactical map, which it essentially is. On my first trip (I went more than once) I ordered the basics: teriyaki McBurger, Shrimp Filet-O, a small fry with the Ume-Nori seasoned salt. The woman at the counter looked at me slightly concerned, like she was thinking, “Is this all for you?” I reminded myself to perhaps go to another McDonald’s location next time so as to not draw further concern.

One major thing I love about food in Japan was on display at their McDonald’s: You can have absolutely no clue what something is going to taste like, put it in your mouth, and go, Whoa that’s my new favorite food.

a hand holding a box of french fries
Mackenzie filson

That was absolutely the case with the Shrimp Filet-O, a crispy shrimp sandwich mimicking the classic Filet-O-Fish. It was my instant favorite. The teriyaki McBurger was also a winner, with a sage-y pork patty that’s coated in a sticky sweet teriyaki sauce that went well with the salty-sour-vegetal ume (which means “plum”) and nori seaweed seasoning you shake with the fries.

My stomach might have been full, but my curiosity was still rumbling. So I went back to McDonald’s the next day. There were still more drinks, sides, and desserts to try!

a hand holding a burger
Mackenzie filson

This time I did the smart thing and ordered the following feast: Seaweed Salt and Buttered Mashed Potato with Bacon Teritama burger, the Shaka-Chicki with Cheddar Cheese seasoning, the Matcha Kuro-Mitsu Warabi Mochi Pie, and the Strawberry Yogurt McFloat.

No surprise, it was a 12/10 lunch experience. The Teritama Burger seemed like a lot (it’s a portmanteau of “teriyaki” and “tamago,” which means “egg”), but the mashed potato topping was a great counterbalance to the layers of salty pork and egg patties.

a person holding a sandwich
Mackenzie filson

The Shaka-Chicki continued to prove that McDonald’s in Japan really loves a Shake-and-Bake experience. It’s a briny, crispy chicken cutlet you can shake (like their fries) with your seasoning of choice.

The real stars, though? The crackly, gooey and not-to-sweet matcha mochi pie and the strawberry yogurt soda topped with creamy vanilla soft serve. Another one of those instances of the “I have no idea what that will taste like, but I’m game for it” feeling.

The Prices Are Better, Too

a box of food
Mackenzie filson

Japanese McDonald’s is also way more affordable. I know I’m not alone in racking up a nearly $20 McDonald’s order in the U.S., but in Japan it was more like $7 for the same amount food, if not more (remember the concerned cashier?).

On both trips, I spent only about ¥1100 to ¥1280 Japanese yen ($7.29 to $8.49 USD) in total, whereas a single Big Mac in the U.S. will set you back $6.59. A side and a drink can easily bring your total to $11 to $12, not including tax.

Prior to my trip, I’d heard a rumor about a fry-scented perfume being released by McDonald’s in Japan, and the whole world was trying to track it down. The rumor has now sadly been debunked, so I guess I’ll just have to rub bits of the fry seasoning behind my ears until the perfume becomes a reality—by my next trip to Japan, I hope.

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