And if you don’t wait two hours, it might be months until you get another chance to try it.

Every spring, the United States’ Yokota Air Base, located in west Tokyo, holds a Friendship Festival where a portion of the facility is opened up to the general public and the local civilian community is welcomed. This year’s festival took place on May 18 and 19, and our Japanese-language Tasuku Egawa was among those who attended.

Aside from aircraft displays, the Friendship Festival has a lot of what you’d see at a county fair in America, with live musical performances and a whole lot of food booths. Walking through the food area, Tasuku spotted decadently sweet American desserts, pizza, steak, and, of course, a whole lot of hamburgers. There was one hamburger stand, though, that stood out from the rest because of its massive line.

▼ The end of the line (最後尾) on the left, and the booth on the right

So why was the line so long? Because this is the only booth where you can get the Gaijin Burger, or “Foreigner Burger.”

▼ Oh, sorry, we misspoke. The Gaijin Burger booth didn’t have an unbelievably long line. It had two unbelievably long lines, both of which were so long you could hardly even see the booth from the back of them.

In Japan, it’s common foodie knowledge that the longer the line, the better the food. What was even more impressive about the length of the lines was that the Gaijin Burger wasn’t cheap – they were charging 1,900 yen for it.

▼ Though with an alternate price of US$12, it feels less expensive to those getting paid in U.S. dollars in the current weak-yen economy.

Tasuku was curious as to just what makes the Gaijin Burger gaijin-y. The food stands at the Friendship Festival are run by the base’s personnel and other residents, so Tasuku’s Gaijin Burger would, ostensibly, be cooked by a foreigner, but might there be something else to the name too?

Tasuku had plenty of time to ponder this question, since it was going to take him a long time to get to the front of the line. After about 40 minutes of waiting, his thoughts began drifting away from the Gaijin Burger’s linguistic rationale and more to the fact that he was baking standing around in the sun on this unseasonably hot spring afternoon.

Luckily, a vendor came by with a cooler full of cold drinks, so Tasuku got a bottle of water and another of Gatorade.

Gatorade itself is hard enough to find at regular stores in Japan, and the iconic-in-America Lemon Lime flavor is virtually nonexistent, so this was a rare treat. After finishing the sports drink, Tasuku felt refreshed as he entered his second hour of waiting in line, inching ever closer to the order counter.

Finally, after roughly two hours of waiting, Tasuku made it to the front of the line, where friendly staff were waiting to take orders in either English or Japanese, though with “Gaijin Burger” being itself a mix of English and Japanese, there didn’t seem to be much of a language barrier.

While he waited for his order to be filled, Tasuku looked back behind the tent and saw the cooks working over the hot grill.

And then he finally had the Gaijin Burger in his hand.

▼ He also got an “I survived the line” sticker bearing the name of the Eagle Airlifters, a.k.a. the 36th Airlift Squadron, which was running the booth.

Wrapped in foil, even before Tasuku could see the Gaijiin Burger he knew he was in for a massively meaty meal, judging from how tremendously heavy it was.

Unwrapping it, Tasuku saw not one, not two, but three thick patties sandwiched inside the bun, all of them covered in cheese.

It’s not just the size, or the cook, that makes the Gaijin Burger gaijin-y, though, as Tasuku discovered when he took a bite. See, though he was born, and now lives in, Japan, Tasuku has lived in multiple places overseas in his life, including the west coast of the U.S.A., and biting into the Gaijin Burger instantly took him back to his days in the States.

Remember when we said there are three patties and three slices of cheese in the Gaijin Burger? That’s all there is – no pesky vegetables, fancy sauce, or offbeat accent ingredients. It’s just meat, cheese, and bread. It’s exactly the sort of thing you’d get at an American backyard barbecue, provided your friend who’s doing the cooking really knows their way around a grill and invested in some nice-quality beef. The booth has bottles of ketchup and mustard that you can squirt on to suit your preferences, but other than that the Gaijin Burger is a straightforward, traditional celebration of the succulent sensations of expertly grilled beef and gooey cheese.

Chowing down on the Gaijin Burger in the open-air, with the scent of the next batch of burgers being cooked carried on the breeze, it was everything Tasuku could ask for in a burger at that moment, and while 1,900 yen and two hours in line are both intimidating numbers, in the end he doesn’t regret spending them at all.

Photos ©SoraNews24
● Want to hear about SoraNews24’s latest articles as soon as they’re published? Follow us on Facebook and Twitter!
[ Read in Japanese ]