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Given that Japan has so few cultural stigmas about alcohol, it’s not surprising that once the drinking starts, it can easily go on into the wee hours of the morning. Of course, it’s only natural to start feeling hungry if it’s been several hours since dinner, and even if part of you knows that stuffing your face at 1 in the morning isn’t the healthiest decision, alcohol and willpower seem to occupy the same space in the human bloodstream, and the former usually makes room for itself by pushing the latter out.

Thus Japan the proud culinary tradition of the shime, the post-drinking meal before staggers home and falls asleep. Ramen is by far the most popular shime choice, but on a recent trip to Kobe we found something at least as good: a freshly grilled hot dog with ham and bacon.

While a nice steak may be the city’s most iconic meal, after several beers in the Sannomiya entertainment district, Kobe beef wasn’t in the budget. What was, though, was a hot dog from Harukazedo.

You’re most likely to find the mobile food stand parked under the arch of the Higashimongai shopping street. That’s where we came across the hot dog dispensing van and its owner, who’s been serving passersby with a craving for a triple helping of pork for years.

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While a regular hot dog costs 350 yen (US$3.40), we decided to splurge by upgrading to the 450-yen special dog, which comes with thick-cut ham and bacon. Harukazedo’s owner grills each hot dog to order, and as he cooked ours we asked if we could snap a few pictures. “Sure thing, just make me look good!” he told us in his central-Japanese accent, punctuating his sentences with ya.

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After about a five-minute wait, he handed over our piping hot special dog, which we took back to our hotel to enjoy. With our mouths watering from the smell, we unwrapped it, and the way it looked only made us want to chow down on it all the faster.

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Seasoned with a mix of ketchup and barbecue sauce, it tasted every bit as good as we’d expected, and reminded us once again why one of our favorite parts of traveling is the chance it gives us to eat like the locals. Unfortunately, even though Harukazedo is run out of a van, its range of operations is limited to Kobe, with no jaunts up to Tokyo. Then again, that might be a good thing, since if the mobile kitchen was cruising the streets of Shinjuku outside our office every night, we’re not sure we’d ever eat anything else.

Photos: RocketNews24
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