By Cathy Cawood
When the President of the United States craves a hamburger, his motorcade can whisk him from the White House to his favorite Arlington burger joint in five minutes. When the Prime Minister of Japan gets a similar urge, he faces a longer journey: he has to go all the way to Moose Hills Burger in Kawaguchi-ko, Yamanashi.
The owner, a refugee from Tokyo who came in search of open spaces where his dogs could run free and he could work on his golf game, spent a year in Canada and set out to create a “little Canada” in the foothills of Mt. Fuji. The cozy interior, with woodstove and First Nations artwork, certainly creates a welcoming atmosphere for homesick North Americans. In addition to heads of state, the restaurant gets frequent visits from embassy staff and other expatriates, who don’t find the trip to Yamanashi too long for an authentic taste of home.
Prices range from ￥950 for a plain burger to ￥2000 for the signature Deluxe Burger: two beef patties, two strips of bacon, egg, avocado, and cheese. The Prime Minister apparently favors the avocado cheese burger (￥1300). As for me, I couldn’t pass up the special smoked bacon burger (￥1550). It came with two thick slices of home-smoked bacon, one of which I felt compelled to extract from the leaning tower of a burger and sample on its own. The flavor of the sakura-wood smoke, coupled with the proprietor’s own blend of spices, was so subtle that I feared it might be wasted on a hamburger – but my first bite of the whole ensemble, smoky bacon and juicy burger, lay that fear to rest. When I finished, my American stomach was well satisfied, but still had room in a separate compartment for a superb fondant chocolat.
Those without chauffeured motorcades can find Moose Hills Burger on Route 139, six traffic lights away from the Kawaguchi-ko interchange on the Chuo Expressway, on the left side heading towards Narusawa. Opening hours: 11:00 am to 8:00 pm (weekdays) or 9:00 pm (weekends and holidays). English-speaking staff are available four days a week, including weekends. Dogs, even those not in the Secret Service K-9 unit, are welcome.
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I first came to Japan as a student, and haven't been able to stay away since. 15 years and counting, first in the Kansai region, then three frozen years in Aomori prefecture, and the rest in Kanagawa. I enjoy writing, exploring hidden corners of Japan, and combining the two!