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Autumn Lantern Festival
Sunday, 15th October

Have a look see at my photo adventures from the lantern festival that swept through town not too long ago.

Part III
 

Shinjuku Subway
Saturday, 7th October

Subway Sandwiches International have well and truly penetrated Japan. According to their website, there are over 122 stores in Japan, which equates to about one store for every million people. However, this penetration is deep, rather than well spread out. The majority of Japan's Subway restaurants are situated in Tokyo and Osaka. As such, the entire prefecture of Fukushima has no Subway, or even a decent alternative. As a frequent consumer of Subway sandwiches and a card-carrying member of now-defunct two-foot sub club, I was dying to sink my teeth into the foot long, oven-roasted buns of a Subway-style fresh sandwich as soon as I touched down in Tokyo. With the help of Subway's helpful restaurant locator, I tracked down (what I foolishly assumed to be) the easiest subway to get to: the one located on Cultural Centre Road, Shinjuku. The fact that this was the first on the list that I could read had a big deal with why I chose this particular restaurant.
My oddysey started, coincidentally, at the Shinjuku train subway. The friendly woman at the information counter told me exit A would be the most convenient way to get to Cultural Centure Road. Shinjuku subway would have to be one of the longest train stations in the world. Even on a pushbike it would take a good ten minutes from one side to the other. You could run marathons in that bastard.
As I progressed, the walls got narrower, and even the roof got lower. I believe there were renovations going on. This was not too dissimiliar to that scene in the original (superior) version of Charlie And The Chocolate Factory where the room gets smaller and smaller, concluding with a tiny door. My exhaustive trek ended with a tiny esculator instead. Refreshments were in order, so I procured a bottle of the finest vending machine water available, and replenished my warrior spirit for the expedition that lay before me.

 
A pulsing throng gathers around the glorious facade of Shinjuku Subway

Some time later, I arrived.
The decor was nothing too dissimiliar to what you find in Australia. True to the Subways in Brisbane's CBD, the employees (or 'Sandwich Artists') were mostly Asian students. Also present was the familiar Subway smell of baking bread and bleached tile floors. One interesting facet of the menu, however, was that it was decimilized: there was no '6-inch' and 'foot-long' but rather an M (15cm) and an L (30cm).
On the bus to Tokyo, I had fantasized about what sandwich I would order. A steak and cheese? Satay chicken? The ever-reliable turkey? Or, perhaps, what if... there was a promotional sandwich?
Well, there was. And it was by no means some flash-in-the-pan, hastily thought up piece of crap like the ill-received "Aussie Sub" that sickend so many in the year two-naught-o-five. No, ladies and gentlemen, the geniuses at Subway Japan had come up with a sub to rule all subs: The Prawn and Avocado sub.
I know what you're thinking. Prawns are nice, but don't work well in the context of mass-produced fast food. I had the same reservations. But, heck, I'll let the photos speak for themselves.

 
Looks promising from here. Let's zoom in for a closer look.

 
The glistening brown sauce you see on the onions is a special soy/wasabi sauce. Strictly for those who like to live on the edge.

The prawns were healthy, fresh, and of a decent size. None of these tinned shrimp you find for two bucks a tin. None of that. We're talking quality here.
With my usual salad toppings of lettuce, tomato, onion, capsicum, olives, pickles and jalapenos (not that I would have asked for them, but there was no carrot or beetroot. Such atrocities are not tolerated in Japanese sandwiches), I was surely in for a treat.

And the taste. All in all, it was a star performer. Though sadly, I was a little let down with the bread. I'm sure I went there at the wrong time in the 'bread cycle', and missed out on some soft, freshly-baked, warm bread. The type of stuff mamma never used to make. Still, I was happy enough to be eating a sandwich. And with prawns, no less!

-Judgement-

Food: 8/10. The canned vegetables were all quality. I found the onions and tomatoes to be particularly fresh, however the lettuce was a little less than perfect - though not yet wilting. As previously noted, the bread was merely adequate. The prawns, avocado and soy/wasabi sauce combined to form some sort of magical flavour explosion. Simply devine.
Service: 10/10. Once again, Japan is arguably the world leader in customer service. The factory-line aspect of sandwich production works well within the Japanese work ethic.
Atmosphere: 8/10. One of the few places in Japan with an outdoor seating area. Otherwise, the store was quite large, and opted for the Corinthian-style Subway decor, as opposed to the bright yellow booths. Most definately a popular lunch-spot for nearby workers.
Total: 8.6/10.

Bonus fact: In addition to cookies, Subway Japan also sells soup and hot potato wedges.
Bonus picture: Subway Japan substitutes the unclear "Eat Fresh!" slogan with their own, more verbose creation.

 

Subway Japan

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Images (most of them anyway) and words Matthew Strain 2006.
Additional translation by Shitagi Dorobo