The Yokosuka Burger: An American Tradition
By Kelsey Leuzinger
On February 7, 2015
When you’re living as a foreigner in Japan, you try to assimilate to the culture as much as possible, especially when it comes to eating. But no matter how much you try to get used to raw eggs on top of your food, rice with every meal, and fermented everything, sometimes you can’t help but to crave that down-home cooking from your own country.
“Real” Mexican food, char-grilled steaks, and American-style cheeseburgers are some of the many meals that run through gaijins’ heads as they are braving the new world of Japanese cuisine. But now, thanks to the good friends at the restaurants in the city of Yokosuka, local foreigners can crave one food no more: the hamburger.
Actually, the story surrounding the American hamburger’s invention is a little controversial. Some date it all the way back to 1880 with Fletcher Davis, but its true founder may never be decided upon. No matter the origin, this beef sandwich is recognized around the world as an American classic; and has arrived in Japan as a treat everyone can enjoy.
The city of Yokosuka today houses over 20,000 American military members, families, and civilian workers, most of whom live near the city center on Yokosuka Naval Base. With so many foreigners in one city, there is inevitably a wish for food from “back home.” Of course the base offers a McDonalds and even a Chili’s Bar and Grill, but everyone knows eating only on base will just cause you to miss half of the experience of living in a foreign country. Thankfully, Yokosuka eateries offer a specially made American meal for people just like this.
About 6 years ago, local restaurants banded together to create what is known as the Yokosuka Burger. The main reason behind this is not only to bring in extra business from the sailors on base, but also to encourage “友達” (tomodachi), or “friendship,” between Japan and America. And what better way to do it than make a re-creation of a classic American dish?
What’s unique about the Yokosuka burger is that each restaurant offering this dish has created their own secret recipe. So, no two restaurants’ burgers are alike. Also, there are a few rules to making a Yokosuka burger that constitutes as “American.” These rules include: the chef use a sesame bun, not allow any bread crumbs or milk in the beef patty, no extra Japanese spices, and an 80/20 lean to fat ratio of beef. With these rules in the mix, it’s surprising how authentic these burgers can taste.Photo by TAKA@P.P.R.S
There are multiple restaurants that offer these tasty burgers, but one stands out among the rest. “Tsunami,” named for its surfing and beach theme, has a complete menu of different American burgers you can choose from. They serve a George Washington Burger that’s 580g of beef plus bacon, as well as classics like the Cheeseburger, and original inventions like the Chili Beans Cheeseburger.
At Tsunami, you can also find an assortment of their own style of Mexican food, famous Yokosuka Curry, and a full bar upstairs. It’s a great place to hang out and shoot pool or play darts, too, and the wait staff has great English. Tsunami represents a true image of what Yokosuka eateries are trying to portray as they bond with their American counterparts over food.
So, if you’re missing that taste of home and need to get out a little, try out one of the many restaurants offering “Yokosuka Burgers.” Great food with great host country friends will not leave you disappointed.
From Tokyo station to Yokosuka Chuo station, ¥810, 61 minutes
Exit Yokosuka Chuo station, turn left onto “blue street” (Odakicho). Walk about 550m, take the last left before the traffic light. It will be on your right in “the Honch” (honcho) about 200m ahead.