4 Major Japanese pizza chains compared
Oh the hardships, the ordeals I endure for the sake of this blog. But someone had to do it, someone had to stomach 5 whole pizzas in the course of researching a completely legitimate, informative blog post.
(Translation: Lloyd used his blog as an excuse to order delivery pizza 5 times in one month.)
Anyway, let’s start with the unique way that Japan handles its delivery pizza business…
By delivery only
In Japan, you can’t really go out for pizza. If you try to track down your local pizza place by address… you’ll find a site something like you see in this picture of a Pizza-la in Nagoya (Osu), and it will probably be in a more residential area than a commercial one. Inside, there’s a little space for you to stand and pay money (for takeout), but no place to sit down. Japanese pizza chains are pizza factories in the very literal sense of the word.
Delivery itself is handled by a mostly-young, mostly-male team of delivery staff, who speed around their store’s designated territory delivering pizzas that were ordered online or over the phone.
Because young adults in Japan typically do not have their own vehicles to use to deliver, the dispatch of hot pizzas to hungry customers is done on motor-bikes like the one above. I’d love to have one of those to zip back and forth to work… They’re like scooters but they’re better because they have a place to hold something and you’re protected from the rain.
Yummy Japanese Pizza!
How would you like a “Crab and Shrimp Mayo King” pizza? no? how does “Potato & Curry with Tartar Sauce” sound? I could really go for a “Berauma Omochi Chicken” pizza, myself. Japanese pizza has some of the most unique combinations imaginable, and even if they sound strange they usually are actually really tasty. Yes, you can find almost anything on a pizza here in Japan. …almost
Who doesn’t like Hawaiian pizza?
The Japanese don’t like Hawaiian pizza, that’s who! Even though they’re perfectly fine putting a sunny-side-up egg or a full unsliced sausage on a pizza, for some reason they think pineapple is weird because it’s “sweet” and “a fruit.” Psh! Tsk! Bah!
Hawaiian pizza is thoroughly discriminated against, too… If it’s to be found at all, it’s near the bottom of the menu. Pizza-la includes it only in their “Children’s menu” section. Pizza Hut, which is otherwise a bastion of American-style pizza arrangement, doesn’t even offer it. RAAAAGGGGEEEE!!!!
In contrast, Japanese have a strange fascination with adding corn to their pizza, of all things. Even the little instant pizzas that you get from 100 yen stores always come with a few pieces of corn (I’ll guess it’s partly there for aesthetic). It puzzles me a little bit but… well, whatever… it’s not bad, I guess.
5 Pizza Reviews
Over the new year while I hid myself away in my apartment and became one with Final Fantasy XIII, and during that time I ordered out for pizza 3 times (that’s in a span of 6 days), and I had another pizza about a week later and another after that with a coupon a friend gave me. In the order that I devoured these, here’s what I got and what I thought.
The Pizza: Large Half-and-Half Giga Meat + Chiki-Teri (Chicken Teriyaki)
Yes, that’s broccoli on the pizza. No, I’m not kidding, seriously: broccoli. Oh, and the white stuff? That’s mayonnaise (Japanese mayo, mind you, not that white paste that gets passed off as mayonnaise in America… but that’s another blog post). Yep, this is the kind of perverted stuff that Japanese like to do to pizza. Strange? a little. Delicious? Hell yeah!
The pizza: Medium Hawaiian Delight
Although they push it down to the kids menu, Pizza-la provides expatriates the only real Hawaiian pizza on this island. It was so delicious I forgot to take pictures before I dove in…
The pizza: Large UFO (4-mix), Berauma Omochi Chiken x Spicy Tuna x Hawaiian x Super combo with sausage crust.
Aoki’s is the most exotic of the major pizza chains in Japan. They have the most unique menu, and they’re the only place that will allow you to mix and match 4 pizzas from their regular menu with their “UFO” deal (other pizza chains only let you do half and half). Aoki’s is great if you’re looking for a delicious pizza that is also kind of an adventure.
One interesting tidbit about Aoki’s: they don’t cut the pizza all the way to the edge of the crust on purpose, to hold the pizza together for delivery. However, I think they should cut it… Domino’s, and Pizza Hut and Pizza-la all managed to deliver the pizza just fine with the slices.
Some of Aoki’s seasonal or regional specialties and limited edition pizzas don’t even resemble pizza…
The pizza: Large half-and-half Super Korean Purukogi + Bacon Mushroom with cheesy roll crust.
Japanese Pizza Hut is probably the most “American”-style pizza out of this bunch. Their menu has some Japanese favorites like seafood and mayonnaise, but nothing too outrageous. Pizza hut is also the most generous with their tomato sauce (other pizza places tend to be a little lacking).
I highly recommend checking out their Super Korean Purukogi, by the way. My local pizza hut has a half price day every month (on some of their menu, take-out only), and I always get the Purukogi.
The pizza: Large Seafood Italiana
Yeah, I know I’ve already tried a Pizza-la pizza, but a friend of mine gave me a coupon for Pizza-la so I decided to get a second opinion. This seafood pizza comes with shrimp, shellfish and squid, among other things.
Ordering Pizza Online
I could have called in my orders, but for this blog I decided to do everything online. All four of these pizza delivery chains allow you to order online.
Screenshots (Feb 12, 2010)
Domino’s (left) – Pizza-La (right)
Pizza Hut (left) – Aoki’s (right)
Although Aoki’s pizza’s online ordering system was down yesterday when I went to take a screenshot, it was working over New Year’s holiday when I made my order. Even then, though their order system was outsourced to a pretty primitive looking 3rd party website. I hope Aoki’s gets their online act together soon.
As for the others, they all offer pretty much the same ordering experience. You locate which store you need to order into by searching your postal code, then select and order your pizza and you’re done. Domino’s takes credit cards but none of the sites require payment before delivery.
Here’s a quick table I’ve compiled to compare these 4 chains and their sites…
|Requires Registration to order?||no||yes||no||n/a (site wasn’t working)|
|Large pizza size?||31cm / 10 slices||36cm / 12 slices||36cm / 12 slices||35cm / 12 slices|
|Medium pizza size?||25cm / 8 slices||25cm / 8 slices||25cm / 8 slices||25cm / 8 slices|
|Mix and match?||Half & Half only||Half & Half only||Half & Half only||Half & Half or 4-way (UFO)|
|Online deal||Free drinks (tea)||5% discount*||Free side dish||Free drink or side dish|
|Menu in English?||Pizza names only||Downloadable||Yes (link)||No|
|Hawaiian???!||No||Yes, with corn.||Yes!!!||Yes, but HUGE pineapple chunks|
|Overall online order experience||★★★★||★★★★★||★★★||★|
|Overall pizza satisfaction
||Adequate pizza sauce||Style and selection||Scratch card game||Epic Japanese pizza|
||Large size is small||A little pricey||Poor selection||Crappy website|
* Domino’s also offers a free 1-liter coca-cola coupon on their site and you can win other coupons that you can use right away by playing their flash games.
Which do I recommend?
Now that I’ve tried all four, I can see that they all have their strengths and weaknesses. Which one I recommend depends on what the pizza objective is:
- Exotic and delicious? = Aoki’s
- All around, Aoki’s offers a superb pizza with excellent options, and out of the box they are absolutely beautiful works of art.
- I WANT MEEEEEAAAAT!!! = Domino’s
- Domino’s also offers a wonderful pizza and is the most generous with their toppings.
- Hawaiian = Pizza-La
- Something about Pizza-La’s menu items just don’t appeal to me. They all look good, but when I actually go to order I feel like there’s only a couple I would really pay for. But, they offer a good Hawaiian pizza with no surprises.
- Half-price day pizza = Pizza Hut
- In terms of pizza, Pizza Hut doesn’t have much to say in their defense other than that they use more sauce. But if you’re in Japan and your local Pizza Hut offers a half-price day (not all do), then plan ahead and get yourself one of their Purukogi pizzas!
Pizza in Japan is very expensive by western standards. A medium pizza typically runs 2000 to 2500 yen ($22-27 USD), a large pizza will cost 2900-3600 and up. Dominos has a reputation as the most expensive and certainly their top end is higher (Large Prime Seafood = 3950 yen) than other chains, but most of the pizzas on their menu don’t vary much when compared to other chains.
In Japan, you don’t need to tip the driver.
Japan Blog Matsuri!
Let’s all celebrate this month’s Matsuri with a delicious pizza!