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Nathan's Famous


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I always was impressed with the many varieties of Sausages available that were actually made in Japan.

They even had a excellent Hot Dog that was made from Tuna that was comparable to a Hebrew National Frank that was used as the model at the Japanese owned Factory located in Taiwan. It was amazing how similar in taste and texture they tasted to compared to the real thing. Wonder if they are still available.


I don't say that I do. But don't let it get around that I don't.

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Be interesting to see if they will make it. There was an Ameican Style hot-dog chain in Tokyo a few years back (I think it was called Chicago ....) that closed after a couple of years. Burger King also closed in Japan, and all attempts at mexican fast food has also failed. The likelyhood of survival is propably dependent on their ability to localize the menu.

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Be interesting to see if they will make it. There was an Ameican Style hot-dog chain in Tokyo a few years back (I think it was called Chicago ....) that closed after a couple of years.

I wonder about that, as well. I remember reading an article in the Japan Times (or was is Asahi?) about hot dogs in Japan. Apparently they are marketed more towards children and are sweeter than US hot dogs. American-style hot dogs may not be suitable for Japanese tastes.

A related anecdote--one of the schools I worked at in Japan had an exchange program with a junior high in Winnipeg, which is my hometown (a coincidence). Every year, 20 Japanese students would arrive at the end of August and every year, they would be brought to eat at a popular hot dog place (the Winnipeg school's idea of a fun Canadian meal). Every year, I would ask students what their most favourite and least favourite experiences were. Every year, they would answer that the lunch at the hot dog place was their least favourite and they would often add sick-looking expressions and make "Ge!" sounds. If a bunch of 14 and 15 year olds didn't like hot dogs, what are the chances the rest of Japan will?

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You know, I always thought that on Maui, a Nathans or a REAL Jewish deli would get unbelieveably incredible business, particularly from the Japanese.

I predict within 2 ot 3 years Japan will be Nathan's biggest market outside of the US, and probably bigger in sales than most of the franchises in US states combined except for New York.

Jason: I would agree with you if the Menu was a Deli Menu.

The one they are showing on the site shows only Hot Dogs, Chicken Tenders and FROZEN Krinkle Cut French Fries [Not the Coney Island Cut].

There have been attempts on operating a NY style Deli in Japan.

There was also a attempt on Maui and several in Honolulu but since they weren't done by professionals no go. Several sort off's did succeed but not very exciting or even good.

I think a Papaya King would have a better chance in the long run since the type of drinks they serve would become very popular and the price, size and taste of their Hot Dogs would be attractive to repeat business.

Wonder how many are aware that Nathans first started serving Deli Sandwiches in 1956 when they added a small sit down closed area.

The New England and Manhatten Clam Chowders would also be attractive as would the Lobster Rolls and The Shellfish served on the Half Shells and Fried Clams in a Japanese Market.

Without the cushion of Variety to fall back on, i'm skeptable about them succeeding in such a fickle market like Japan where rents are higher then NYC unless the franchise has very deep pockets.

Irwin :unsure:

I don't say that I do. But don't let it get around that I don't.

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Well I should hope they have a stand in Japan. There is one guy there that could keep them in business, World Champion Hot Dog Eater Takeru Kobyashi can eat a pretty good pile of those delicious franks all by his lonesome. :laugh:

I am sort of wondering if they are counting on his popularity to help sell the hot dogs.

Hot dogs aren't huge sellers here and are normally erserved for kids , a quick snack, or breakfast :blink: , they have been a staple of the McDonald's breakfast menu for some time now. Not too long ago they were offering them all day long, but that didn't seem to do well and they are back to only at breakfast again.

A couple weeks ago I took the family to Odaiba and I had seen on the internet that one of the coffe shop style places had hot dogs and I told my 3 year old, who loves hotdogs, that I would get one for him. Well we get to the shop and they are no longer on the menu :angry: so we are wandering around a bit and I see this bright red neon sign in the shape of what I took to be a hotdog, I got excited and grabbed my son and with my two young daughjters trailing I start running to the shop, shouting to my husband " I found some, I found some". I get to the store and stop dead in my tracks, it wasn't a hot dog stand, it was a condom shop...........

I had a hard time explaining that one to the kids..... :wacko:

Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"


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I think they'll do really well in the short-term, much like Cinnabon did (they were wildly successful for about a year, with a dozen or so shops in key trendy areas always attracting long lines and lots of media coverage. After about a year the lines were gone and soon after that haf (or more?) of their stores shut down. Now they seem to be doing fairly modest business at their few remaining shops.). Don't know how well they'll do longterm though. Food fads come and go here.

The location is definately right. Harajuku is a trendy area full of young trendy people buying trendy clothes and eating trendy food. Fad foods seem to do very well here, especially ones that can be eaten on the street.

I don't see any problems with a highly specialized menu with only a few items, as opposed to a full deli menu. This is, after all, the land of tiny specialized restaurants that only serve one thing.

Will Japanese people like the hot dogs? If they're good, I'm pretty sure they will. I think Japanese people who have had bad hotdog experiences overseas were simply reacting to bad hotdogs, and probably had nothing against hot dogs in general.

Anyone who's ever been to a Japanese festival, or a ball game, or any event with yatai (outdoor street-stalls) knows that such an event wouldn't be complete without a 'Frankfurt' stall. Sure, it comes on a stick rather than on a bun, but at least that shows that hotdogs, or frankfurters, or whatever you want to call them, are already a familiar and favourite food.

Plus, I know several Japanese people who became Costco members more for the hotdogs than for the discounted merchandise!

I'm sure a trip to Nathan's is in our future, what with my husband's unfulfilled chilli-cheese-dog infatuation...

My eGullet foodblog: Spring in Tokyo

My regular blog: Blue Lotus

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I really wish Nathan's all the luck, but am pessimistic about their chances for survival. For them to be able to afford the Harajuku rent, they are going to need a nearly endless stream of customers.

One of the problems, I think, is that a lot of people over here are accustomed to seeing hotdogs everywhere, having things done to them that a hot dog was never meant for. Hot dogs weren't meant to be surrounded with a curry bun, with their shriveled ends poking out the end of the bread. Hot dogs weren't meant to be surrounded by rice, and made into a nori roll, (Lawson's carried them for a while). Hot dogs were NOT meant to be put on a roll, with corn, tuna, and mayo.

Secondly, there are absolutely no serious advertising yen going into introducing the kind of dogs that Nathan's sell. Moreover, there are no serious advertising yen going into promoting the name brand of Nathan's. A respected brand name that we take for granted, Nathan's is probably known to the majority of locals as the sponsor of "that contest". And lets face it, watching guys cram hot dogs into their mouths as fast as they can ain't gonna sell the local population on the quality of the product.

I was heartbroken last baseball season, going to a Swallow's game at Jingumae, and seeing that the Chicago Dog place, only a couple of blocks from the stadium, was no more. Great dogs, great location!?!

At least 4 other brand names that came, saw, and didn't last:

Burger King

Pret a Mange

Peets Coffee

Sbarro Pizza

To boost sales, selected Starbucks are starting to sell beer and wine. And McDonalds, last I heard, was negotiating with Krispy Kreme to sell KK donuts in various locations.

Even the Oscar Meyer guys, and the Johnsonville truck are no longer peddling on a regular basis in the parking lot of National Azabu Supermarket.

Next time I'm in Harajuku, I'll make sure to give them my patronage. Hope that they are still there.


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  • 6 months later...

Hummm, I just don't think so. Here's my 2 cents worth of observations on fast-food outlest and some casualties. There are several aspects to consider: price, variety, and conceptions.


Nathan's may be around for a limited time. To the average Japanese I don't think they'll rush on the trains to Harajuku for just a "hotto dogu". With such a limited menu, and with the Japanese thinking that all they'll get is a "pan" (snack-bread type thing), Nathan's has a hard challenge ahead here. Hot dogs are not considered a meal. At 270 a dog, let's hope Nathan's can sell them as fast as the Hot-dog-champ Shirota can eat them. I am almost sure the company will go to fast-food heaven and join Burger Kind, Pret, Sbarro's, etc.


McDonald's is struggling because it has too many of it's own outlets, plus is in deep price wars with the competition. Yet compared to Nathan's it does it have a wider variety of food, which in my opinion is far more appealing to kids and families. How many youngsters are going to want a Nathan's hot dog with chilli, which itself is a terribly disliked food item here to begin with. The whole concept of McDonald's has caught on here, and I am sure they will stay. The concept of eating at McDonald's is that you can, if you want, have an entire meal.


Coffee is big here, as it is in the States and elsewhere. The main problem with Starbucks is that it's not the coffee itself that is going out of fashion, it just too much overkill with Starbucks popping up on every corner, all eating into each other's business. This is in addition to competing with all the Escelsiors, Cafe de Pres, Doutor's, etc. that have sprouted up. The coffee-market pie is only so big, so each store's share gets cut into a smaller and smaller slice.

Burger King:

In Japan, Burger King didn't want to fight the 59-yen burger war with McDonalds, Lotteria, etc. so they just pulled out. Too bad, as I like Woppers.


I don't know what the story was with Sbarros. The only place I knew, the one in Harajuku, always seemed to be busy. But pasta maybe didn't pay the rent there. Let see if Nathan's hot dogs pay the Harajuku rent.

Pret a Manger:

It sounds funny to say in such an expensive place as Tokyo, but I think Pret A Manger was just too pricey for what in Japan amounted to 560 yen for bread, which is considered as a snack and not a meal item. First of all, the concept of a sandwich here is something that costs about 200 yen. To diverge a little, I'll tell a an incident I remember that happened many years ago when I was in Little Tokyo in Los Angeles at a Japanese coffee shop that had opened. I went there and didn't give a second thought to paying $2 for a cup of coffee. While there I saw two little ole ladies come in. When they looked at the menu and saw coffee priced at $2, they went into price shock and dashed out the door, commenting that coffee isn't something you pay two bucks for. I went back a couple of months later, and not surprising, the coffee shop had folded up.

In Tokyo at Pret, for 560 yen you could get 1 ruccola & smoke turkey sand. For that same 560 yen you could get either 2 Yoshinoya beef bowls or at least 8 McDonad's hamburgers. What do you think the poor and starving student would eat? I liked the sandwiches at Pret, but one alone never quite made a full meal. And to buy two, costing over 1,000 yen, was not a good deal, considering I could get a filling teishoku plate-meal for less than that.

Finally, the Sweeties:

I am wondering if overkill is hurting Krispy Kreme and Cinabon's in the US? I'm really curious about this. Does anybody know how are they doing there? Food fads there too fade, so it doesn't only happen in Japan. How many times has cherry Coke come and gone.

In the meantime I think I should plan a quick trip in a hurry to Harajuku while I can still get a decent hot dog.

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Nathan's has a history of putting their shops in strange locations. They even put one in Chicago a few years back that didn't last very long at all. In that case, either they didn't bother to realize that Chicago has its own hot dog joints, or they thought that New York hot dogs were better than Chicago hot dogs. In any case, Nathan's Chicago went belly-up.

Nathan's are great for Coney Island but without Coney Island around them they are just not very good. On second thought, maybe it's just the fries at Nathan's that are influencing my opinion, because their fries are the worst.

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