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Japan Fun Fact #8: Japanese Bacon

January 22nd, 2005

JbaconWhatever it is, whatever has been done to it, it sure isn’t like the bacon back home. For some reason, bacon in Japan doesn’t cook anything like it’s supposed to, at least by American standards. Instead of cooking up crispy and juicy, the Japanese stuff cooks up flat and relatively dry. Imagine taking thinly-sliced ham and trying to fry it–kind of like that.

the only thing I can figure is that it’s pre-cooked or otherwise treated before it’s sold. From my first year in Japan, I noted that a lot of bacon here is barely cooked when served–often times you get it pink and (pardon the expression) limp, so much so that I initially feared food poisoning. That would explain why it cooks so badly. Anyone have any information on this?

American-style bacon is pretty much impossible to find here. Costco had it for a while, up to maybe 8 months or so ago, but then they stopped carrying it. When I called them up, they said that they had stopped carrying it because–and yes, I couldn’t believe it either–of mad cow disease. Which is just as bogus a reason to deny pork imports as it is to deny beef from America, considering that only one confirmed case of mad cow has been reported in the U.S., and that was from a Canadian cow, and it did not enter the food supply; additionally, despite thorough testing of 140,000 high-risk cattle, no new cases have emerged in the U.S. for more than a year. Meanwhile, Japan has found no fewer than 15 cases in the past four years, including the first one where the carcass was actually sent to be turned into cattle meal after the disease was detected. See more on that here.

It also doesn’t explain why bacon isn’t imported from Australia or other countries without even a single case of mad cow–or why Costco continues to stock pork sausage from the U.S. (pretty bad sausage, alas).

UPDATE: I tried asking a meat counter guy at the supermarket about the bacon today. He seemed unsure about how the bacon was prepared, but he did know one thing: he held up a package of bacon and told me I could eat it as-is, right out of the package, without cooking it. Yech. But it does mean they’re sure doing something to it….

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  1. January 31st, 2005 at 00:31 | #1

    Re the update from the meat counter chap. You’d trust his comments on being able to eat it right out of the packet when he hails from a country that doesn’t deep fry their fish but just bat them on the head to stop them flipping off the plate when served at meal time?

  2. Luis
    January 31st, 2005 at 00:37 | #2

    Not to worry, I have no intention of eating it out of the package–yech! But the fiash is actually pretty good here–they don’t eat it if it ain’t fresh, and they’re good at serving it fresh. I see fish in the U.S., even in the SF Bay Area, near fishing areas, but all too often it looks far too gone for eating raw…

  3. January 31st, 2005 at 17:10 | #3


  4. January 31st, 2005 at 19:50 | #4

    Japanese bacon tastes like cardboard because:
    1. The pigs are poorly fed since feed is expensive.
    2. The bacon is not smoked.
    3. And WORST problem is Japanese bacon has up to 30% sugar injected into it and when it is cooked the sugar carmelizes making Japanese bacon like sticky carboard.

    taro-in-tokyo, 5th-generation pig farmer

  5. Kenta
    October 19th, 2009 at 11:15 | #5

    I know that this post is already ancient and prehistoric but I find it very interesting. Actually, the meat counter guy is right. We can eat the bacon directly out of the package because our bacon is meant to be eaten raw. But I know you’ve already figured that out by now. So bye and hope you’re doing fine (^o^)/

  6. Luis
    October 19th, 2009 at 14:30 | #6

    Kenta: Yeah, that was what I figured and found out. Frankly, I really don’t like the Japanese strip-style bacon–it’s tasteless to me, and makes me feel like I am eating soggy cardboard with a slight bacon flavor to it. For me, bacon has to be crisp, crunchy, and greasy to be really good–but I’m an American, and bacon varies by nation.

    American-style bacon is available at places like Costco. Otherwise, just the buta-bara can stand in for bacon–it is not smoked or cured, but when cooked right, has a similar taste and consistency to American bacon. Also, some pizza delivery businesses offer “kari-kari” bacon as a topping, which is usually the U.S. style of bacon.

  7. February 26th, 2013 at 15:25 | #7

    I read somewhere that real American crispy bacon is illegal in Japan. At Nissin supermarket in Azabu they sell American bacon, but it has been pre-cooked (weird) frozen.

    I think the Japanese government is worried about people, especially elderly people, eating American bacon raw as it is sliced like sashimi. When my wife and I go back to the US we always eat loads of real American bacon. A BLT with a real American “crispy” bacon is just not something you can enjoy in Japan…at least not easily and cost-effectively.

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