From fries in bowls to ice cream dipped in shaved ice, they do things differently here.

We often talk about the convenience store chain 7-Eleven here, but people outside Japan might not be aware that it’s actually part a major conglomerate called Seven & i Holdings. They operate their own banking service and run Denny’s in Japan, which is vastly different from its American counterpart.

They also have their own fast food chain called Poppo. Although not nearly as widespread as competitors like McDonald’s or Burger King, Poppo has made a name for itself with doing things a little differently than the rest.

Mr. Sato doesn’t live near a Poppo but recently decided to take a trek out to an Ito-Yokado department store, which is also run by Seven & i, to sample some of the chain’s cuisine.

Poppos are usually found in the Ito-Yokado food courts, like this one at the department store in the Kiba area of Koto, Tokyo, but some stand-alone restaurants exist as well.

Their lineup is fairly standard Japanese food court fare; yakisoba, okonomiyaki, takoyaki, and imagawayaki. Foods designed to satisfy mid-shopping cravings were all for sale, and people were clearly responding as Mr. Sato had to wait in a lineup well before noon.

Our reporter ordered the Donburi Potato for 450 yen (US$3.36), which despite the name, has no rice. It’s simply a large bowl full of French fries. He also bought a Kakigori-don, which again only simulates a donburi rice bowl by putting a pile of shaved ice with flavored syrup (kakigori) into a big bowl. Poppo also plunges a soft serve ice cream cone in there for good measure, at a grand total of 350 yen ($2.62).

Conventional eating habits would suggest that Mr. Sato start with the fries, but it was so hot on this day that the Kakigori-don was not long for this world. So he decided to embrace his inner child and eat dessert first.

Speaking of which, a lot of items at Poppo have a certain child-like indulgence to them. Most kakigori in Japan use only one color of syrup, but at Poppo they pour on all the primary colors that run together and form a rainbow, before they dunk an entire ice cream cone in there.

Mr. Sato was all set to dig in when he realized he wasn’t given a spoon. Just as our reporter was about to get up to ask the staff, the voice of a child spoke to him inside his mind: “Do not try to ask for a spoon. That is impossible. Instead…only try to realize the truth.”

“What is the truth?” asked Mr. Sato.

“There is no spoon.” answered the boy.

That’s when it dawned on him that the straw he was given had a little spoon scoop at the end to eat the shaved ice with.

Mr. Sato: “There is no spoon.”

Mr. Sato: “Nom.”

It was very nice, but Mr. Sato suddenly realized that the ice cream was in a greater danger of melting, so he reached over to rescue it from such a fate.

But he was too late…

Mr. Sato: “Oh!”

Luckily, he could still recover the ice cream by scooping it back up with his cone. It tasted very nice with the little sweetened chunks of ice embedded in it.

Ten minutes later, our reporter found that he had hardly made a dent in his food. They certainly don’t play around with portions at Poppo.

He decided to start alternating between ice and french fries to keep his stomach at a balanced temperature. Bit by bit the end was in sight, and a strange microcosm was starting to form in his remaining kakigori.

It reminded him of elementary school, when everyone used to say that if you mix all the colors of paint together, you’ll get black. That wasn’t far off if this syrup-based experiment was any indication.

After 30 minutes, Mr. Sato finally finished off his two bowls. He rather enjoyed his meals and felt that Poppo was a pretty funky place. They even had takoyaki (octopus balls) without any octopus but with cheese, sausage, and corn.

He determined that it was an interesting place to go every once in a while that’s a little different for other fast food restaurants, and a lot different from 7-Eleven.

Related: Poppo
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