Thursday, November 7, 2013

Chow Time: OCM Sandwich Factory

There is, culinarily speaking, so much to love about Japan - in particular the tradition of placing menu offerings in restaurant windows.  For one thing, one need not be fluent in Japanese to determine if the restaurant is suited to one's taste.  For another, all of this food is fantastically fake!!!  Fashioned out of plastic, these displays are exact replicas of the genuine articles, right down to the tiny veins on the shrimp.  While the quality of craftsmanship varies, as a rule the artistry is incredible.  Where does one begin in the effort to duplicate the gelatinous properties of a poached egg?  I can only assume that it is some prestigious, private university dedicated exclusively to the fine-food arts.

This is but a small fraction of the faux food we saw in Tokyo alone.
I was wont to photograph every window we passed but it became clear, on several occasions, that
I was holding everyone up with my attempt to document this food phenomenon for the folks at home.
Mary, with what I deemed an inappropriate overuse of air quotes, kept reminding me that nothing makes
a travelogue more fascinating than a never-ending slideshow of plastic food.  Seriously though,
outside of Los Angeles' Little Tokyo and a smattering of Japanese-market food courts, this can be
filed under things you just don't see in Southern California.  It was an exciting moment of cultural awareness!

While this is definitely more a novelty than a food reproduction, 
it had me falling in love with Japanese noodle-ry.  What is not to 
love about this levitating pair of ramen-laden chopsticks?  I ask you!

Most of the food replicas look really real and really good enough to eat.  Frankly, because I am such a scaredy-cat when it comes to exotic food adventures, I think I would rather eat the wax/plastic/foam rubber offerings than their more intentionally-digestible counterparts.

Quiz Time: Which one of these is the real food?

Trick question!  They're both real, but would you
actually want to ingest the contents of either tray?
Count me out!

In the face of many insistent pronouncements that McDonald's in Japan outshines its international peers, as staunch abstainers, we saw absolutely no reason to patronize the establishment that we so ably avoid at home.  Luckily (or perhaps unluckily - I was hoping to return home a few pounds lighter than when I left as the result of a self-induced starvation diet), there is no dearth of variety and accessibility to tasty fare in Japan, making McDonald's no more than a moot point.  Bound and determined to master the use of chopsticks and eat where the locals ate, we ate our fair share of traditional Japanese cuisine but every once in awhile, we got a hankering for something with more familiarity and much less roe.

Following in the tiny footsteps of our fearless tour guide and Japanese sister, we found our way to the first "American" (a term I place quite advisedly between quotation marks) food outlet of our trip.

OCM Sandwich Factory - Kokura, Japan

As it turns out, American sandwich bread is not a staple of the Japanese diet; the result is a disheartening absence of sandwiches.  Sure, there are a couple of Subway sandwich franchises in the airport terminals but you could spend a good deal of time convincing yourself that your growling stomach was actually saying the words "I hate you! Why are you doing this to me," before finding a proper sandwich after you've gone through Customs.

It is especially sad for me because I have had a lifelong love affair with sandwiches!  Honestly, with enough mayonnaise, you could pretty much put anything between two slices of bread and I am liable to make like Shaggy and Scooby and eat the whole thing in one bite.  Whenever we play the "If you could only have one food for the rest of your life" game I always choose sandwiches because it is broad enough category to incorporate a bevy of options.  At OCM Sandwich Factory, options are not a problem.

I think the staff of OCM was a little intimidated to see a couple of giant Americans
test the validity of their American-style sandwich claims.  I'm not complaining
but I did wonder when the last time the proprietors enjoyed an American sandwich;
some of the options were delicious but unusual - squash relish???

Instead of mayonnaise, OCM spreads on the Americana very thickly with vintage food tins, toys, and collectibles.

At any moment during our meal, I felt like I could make a local call home.

As much as we appreciated the attention to decor detail, we wanted a sammich!

Nami and Mary both got grilled chicken and, by the look of things, they were pretty excited.
We were all excited by the bill; sandwiches were only a few dollars apiece!

I ordered egg salad and hashbrowns!

Almost positive that Nami doesn't read this blog, I can finally let the cat out of the bag.
Knowing that I would be presented with all kinds of food that I wouldn't eat even
under extreme duress, and not wanting to be rude by turning my nose up at local
delicacies, I explained before my arrival that I had converted to strict vegetarianism
(eggs being an exception).  I even learned to say "Watashi-wa bejitarian dess (I am
a vegetarian)."  I missed out on a few carnivorous opportunities but actually
ended up loving my egg salad and hashbrown sandwich.

I know a few people who add fries to their burgers.  Clever.  Cliff Huxtable always snuck a few potato chips onto his hoagies.  Good thinking.  While putting a slab of crispy hashbrowns on a sandwich might not be American, it is pure genius

There may be an absence of fake food in their window, but OCM Sandwich Factory is a feather in the culinary cap of Japan.  If we ever make it back to those golden shores, OCM will be a definite item on our itinerary!  What do you like on your sandwich?  Do you have a sandwich shop near you that is the very best (let me know, I will travel pretty far for a good sandwich)?

OCM Sandwich Factory
2F Kondo Building #3-6
Senbamachi, Kokurakita-ku


Mr. Tiny


  1. Loved this post! It makes me want to go to Japan even more! I think I am pretty adventurous with my food, although I'm sure there is a lot of Japanese cuisine that would not take my fancy. I just LOVE that you told everyone you were vegetarian!!!!! Heheheh! Hash brown in a sandwich sounds delish - who doesn't love carbs on carbs?! It reminds me that when I was a teenager I used to eat potato waffle sandwiches (do you have potato waffles in the USA?) - a potato waffle with a little ketchup and mayo between two slices of bread. YUM-O! Another classic frozen food filling for British sandwiches is fish fingers (fish sticks in American), again with mayo and ketchup. Sounds gross, tastes yummy!

    1. You must go; I have a feeling you would love it! I go way back with carbs on carbs on carbs. I pretty much invented the mashed potato sandwich, believe it or not. I think we have potato waffles but e just call them waffle fries or "criss cuts." Now I want a potato waffle sandwich and I'm not even 100% sure what that is! Mmmmm!

  2. I love the fake display foods. The Mistsuwa in Costa Mesa has these and I love looking at them. It really gives you an idea of what the food looks like. I'm one of those people that as long as it looks good I will try it. I do love trying new foods. I am a HUGE Asian food buff. If I could eat it every day I would.

    1. Yes, that is the very fake food that I had in mind. You are a much braver person than I could ever hope to be! I am afraid of every strange food; I accidentally ate a chicken liver in Japan!!! It didn't taste bad but I knew something wasn't right. Of all the Asian food I have eaten, I am rather partial to Thai food.

  3. i love those photos of all the fake food! and that lower picture of the really pink mass on the noodles is terrifying!

    1. Isn't it weird?!! If I was presented with a plate of the fake food and a plate of the pink stuff; I would have put money on it that the pink was fake. It was for sale in the convenience store - pink spaghetti with butter and a cherry (or something) on top...