Surely there must be something different, right? 

It’s been eight years since American burger joint Shake Shack opened its first branch in Japan on Tokyo’s Gaien Gingko Avenue. Since then, 13 branches have opened across the country, leading it to become one of Japan’s most popular burger shops. But our Japanese-language reporter and Shake Shack fan P.K. Sanjun has always wondered…Do Shake Shack Japan’s burgers taste the same as Shake Shack America’s? Or have they adapted their menu to appeal to Japanese palates? After all, they do have some Japan only items

Luckily, this summer P.K. had the opportunity to visit New York City, the home of Shake Shack, so he decided to try it out. After some thorough research, he learned that the island of Manhattan alone has 12 branches, but he decided the best way to compare was to visit the original branch in Madison Square Garden.

Madison Square Garden is about a 20-minute walk south of Times Square, which is considered to be the center of New York City, and P.K.’s first impression of it was that it was popular with younger people. At the very least, it felt very different from the highly diverse, bustling Times Square.

At the very least, the place was a snapshot of New York. There were people who looked like celebrities letting their dogs loose in a dog park, couples in tank tops going for run, and a general air of affluence, all while the homeless lined the streets just outside the park.

The Madison Square Garden Shake Shack, as you might guess, occupied a corner of the park, and though it was in a literal shack–a small building with no inside seating–it was reported to be very busy.

▼ Apparently, it was previously a hot dog stand.

P.K. played it safe and arrived before the restaurant opened at 11 a.m., but there was not a single customer in sight. He did learn later that during the day it gets pretty busy, and it’s not uncommon to wait 30 minutes for your order, so this turned out to be a smart decision.

He ordered the standard “Shack Burger” for $7.59 (1,133 yen), and for his drink, the Lemonade ($4.38), though apparently a lot of people order shakes in New York. It didn’t take long for the burger to arrive, and finally, he was face-to-face with an original New York Shake Shack burger.

It didn’t look any different from the ones he’d eaten in Japan, but the secret might be in the flavor. Excited, P.K. lifted the burger, took a bite, and…

…it was exactly the same. 

Like, completely the same; he didn’t taste a single different thing about the burger. It was the same umami-filled, rich, juicy patty and fluffy bun. On the contrary, P.K. was impressed at how well the Tokyo International Forum branch, where he usually gets his Shake Shack, replicated this flavor. The New York burger was really good, of course, but…wow!

Perhaps that’s what makes Shake Shack so popular in Japan. They accurately–and completely–replicate the original flavor all the way from New York. So if you’re a New York native but haven’t stopped by a Shake Shack in Japan for fear that they won’t get it right, fear not. You can take our burger-loving foodie reporter‘s word that the flavor is exactly the same.

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