Japan often gets ripped for its astronomical restaurant prices. Sometimes this is unwarranted, more often there is rightful cause. This usually isn’t the case with Japanese foods(soba, ramen,ect), but when it comes to western dishes consumers tend to get the short end of the stick. Amazingly, many Japanese people remain blithely unaware of how long that stick should be.
Case in point, the other day my wife and I ventured into one of the numerous small-chain cafes inside Futako-Tamagawa station. (On the border with Kanagawa Prefecture). The cafe we chose was based almost entirely on the fact that it had available seating, and not wanting to wait more than a half hour for a crammed stool somewhere else we quickly settled into a comfortable booth. The menu was pricy to say the least, anywhere between 400-700 yen for standard coffees and lattes (no grande sizes here). Other assorted sandwiches and sundries carried similar price tags.
Expensive, but entirely expected. There was an “Afternoon Tea Set” on offer that looked like it might defray some cost and provide sufficient sustenance. The pictures on the menu showed a nice salmon sandwich, another featuring ham and cheese, several scones, a piece of cheese cake, quiche, a potato soup, and a cup of coffee. Based on the price tag of 1,370 Yen(more than 15 US Dollars), the delicious looking pictures, and the variety of the food in the set, we thought we found a somewhat reasonable deal. Boy were we duped!
What came out of the kitchen in an elaborate 3 tiered plate holding contraption was an absolute mockery of respectable portion size. As you can see by the pictures I took with my non-zoom lens, the sandwiches were finger-size, the cheese cake could be eaten in one bite, and the coffee took less than a few minutes to consume. It reminded me of the scene from “Zoolander” where Ben Stiller looks at small scale architectural model of a school and exclaims, “What is this? A center for ants?” Now I was looking at another small scale model of food… only this wasn’t a model. It was expected to be eaten! Was this food for gnomes? Do the Japanese have different metabolisms? Am I really a giant?
Mind you, this is not the first, nor the last time I will make regrettable food purchase in Japan. And the issue is never about the quality of the food. Even in this particular case the tiny sandwiches tasted fine (or, I think they did, not enough molecules were present to sufficiently react with my taste buds). It is the miniaturization (while keeping the same price-tag as normal sized food) that I find fault with. Even worse, it pains my ears when I hear exclamations of “Sugoi!” and “Oishii!” (Really? “amazing”, “delicious” seems a bit over exuberant) from my fellow Japanese patrons every time one of these petite dishes is placed in front of them. Will no one take a stand? Rise up and demand your fair share of the pie (quite literally)! Our dignity as eaters is at stake.