|Pizza from Seirinkan, the pizzeria known as|
being the first Neapolitan-style pizzeria in
Enter Neapolitan pizza.
Making artisan pizza, loyal to the one from Naples is booming in Japan. Like other European traditions such as whiskey making or flamenco dancing, Japan has embraced the tradition of pizza making with precision and diligence to recreate an identical experience in Japan to what you would find in Italy. Pizza Da Isa in Tokyo even keeps its restaurant uncomfortably warm to recreate the real dining experience of being in Naples (The Wall Street Journal).
|Honda "Soy Soy" Yutaro|
spinning pizza in Turin
I spoke with Honda "Soy Soy" Yutaro about pizza in Japan. He is a young Japanese pizza spinner who is dedicating his university studies to the life of Italian Immigrants and by extension, pizza. His studies in Italy introduced him to a world of pizzaiolos and pizza spinners who taught him how to make and spin dough. Soy Soy says he's eaten by now hundreds of Italian pizzas and that the Neapolitan pizzas in Japan are spot on.
In fact, Japan's pizza is so authentic, it is one of only 3 countries to have it's own VPN delegation outside of Italy (the others are the U.S. and Canada). VPN stands for Vera Pizza Napoletana (Genuine Neapolitan Pizza), the association which certifies pizzerias for making Neapolitan pizza which holds up to the official STG authenticity rules.
|Also from Seirinkan which means Hollywood|
in English. Photos by Honda Yuataro
The Wall Street Journal picks out these 4 Tokyo-based pizzerias as some of the more popular ones: Seirinkan, Frey's Famous Pizzeria,
Seirinkan is the one credited as being the first Neapolitan pizzeria in Japan. The owner, Susumu Kakinuma, began with Neapolitan pizzas in the mid 90s which have since become more and more popular.
Chain pizza pulling out the crazy stops
While Neapolitan pizzerias attract a sophisticated crowd, chain pizzerias like Domino's and Pizza Hut use plenty of shock value to keep their mainstream customers interested. Shortly after Domino's entered Japan in the 80s, they realized the need to keep their menu rotating with frequently new, more extreme toppings. This model went directly against the American model of consistency for a chain restaurant (Japan Eats).
Today at a Domino's in Japan you can buy a pizza with unusual toppings such as camembert cheese, asparagus, mayonnaise or even a pizza with a layer of meat sauce sandwiched between two layers of dough in the base if you're feeling "saucy."
CEO of McDonald's Japan is quoted saying it is the job of restaurants in Japan to "astonish" the customers to keep their business (3 bizarre marketing tactics from Japan). Pizza Hut's latest marketing campaign is a perfect example of how to "astonish." Pizza Hut made an extensive (4 minute!) commercial of cats dressed up as Pizza Hut employees doing nothing really but being cats.
Real taste costs real dough, but...
One of the biggest problems Japan faces however is the price of ingredients. Authentic Neapolitan pizzas are expensive. Even chain and fast-food pizza can cost a lot. A large specialty pizza at Dominos will cost you the equivalent of $30 U.S. dollars.
Amid expensive prices and a passion for pizza, the fast casual has come to Japan. A chain called Sempre Pizza specializes in simple, low-cost Neapolitan wood-fired pizzas. The chain is similar to Sbarro's new concept Cucinova, which delivers a high quality product quickly and affordably to its customers. Soy Soy says the pizzas are not bad, especially for the price which can be as low as $4 per pizza.
These quick service restaurants may be giving artisan Neapolitan places a run for their money. In any case, Japan's enthusiasm for the food continues to grow in several directions accommodating gourmet pizza purists, the easily amused and low-budget diners.