Japanese Pizza vs Western Pizza: What’s The Difference?

Japanese Pizza vs Western Pizza: What’s The Difference?-Japanese Taste
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    Japanese pizza is a lot like Western pizza. A lot of the toppings, textures and crusts are the same. It comes out of the oven hot and cheesy, and it can be delivered to your door - just like in the West. But, there are definitely some differences - and some unusual types of Japanese pizza, too.

    One major difference is that pizza in Japan is not as big as pizza in the West. In fact, if you compare a large Domino’s pizza in the West to a large Domino’s pizza in Japan, you’ll notice that the Japanese pizza can be as much as 2.5cm smaller in diameter. Another difference is that Japanese pizza is a bit on the expensive side (usually around €5-10 EUR more expensive). 

    Perhaps the most interesting difference between Western and Japanese pizza, though, is the many pizza toppings and styles you can choose. Have you ever heard of a seafood pizza? How about a pizza topped with teriyaki chicken and mayo? These aren't the typical pizzas you’d see in the West, but they’re popular in Japan. This article will tell you all about the differences between Japanese and Western pizza - including pizza sizes, calorie counts, different types of crusts and more.

    What Is Japanese Pizza?

    Japanese pizza topped with Nori seaweed

    Japanese pizza is pretty similar to pizza you would eat in the West. It’s mostly based on American pizza, but Italian-style pizza (aka “neapolitan” or “Naples” style pizza) has also gained popularity in Japan. The real differences between Japanese and Western pizza are in the size, price, and toppings. 

    Japanese Pizza History

    How did pizza come to Japan in the first place? According to the Association for Asian Studies, pizza first showed up in Japan in the 1950s. These first pizza-serving restaurants were located in Tokyo, and they were almost all serving American-style pizza. 

    Pizza kept growing in popularity, and in the 1970s came the big pizza companies like Domino’s and Pizza Hut. Soon pizza was available all over Japan, and you could buy it in person or have it delivered. More recently, authentic Italian-style pizza has become quite popular, too.

    Why Do Japanese People Eat Pizza?

    Well, why not? It’s delicious! Most people in the world would agree, right? It’s the same in Japan - pizza just tastes good. However, one thing to note is that many Japanese people like pizza for more than just its taste. It’s also the image of eating pizza - it’s like a way to take part in Western culture. Maybe you could compare it to eating Japanese food in the West. Yes, many Westerners enjoy eating Japanese food for its flavor, but it’s also a way to experience Japanese culture - and perhaps feel “cool” about doing so.

    Most Popular Pizza Shops in Japan

    Japanese pizza chain

    According to a survey done by Japanese blog, Macaroni, the most popular place to buy pizza in Japan is Domino’s. The second most popular shop is called Pizza-La. Pizza-La doesn’t have an international presence, but they make a pizza much like the other popular pizza chains in Japan. And, third place goes to (drum roll) Pizza Hut. All of these are Western-style pizza companies with pizza a lot like what you’d get in the West - apart from the sizes, toppings, and prices. 

    How to Order Pizza in Japan 

    Ordering pizza in Japan is about as simple as ordering pizza in the West. For example, you can order pizza using an app or a website. You can use the pizza shop’s website or app, or you can use something like Uber Eats. Of course, which stores have apps and websites depends on the company. Larger companies like Domino’s and Pizza Hut have these options, but smaller shops may only be available via Uber Eats or just good, old-fashioned going to the physical location.

    Japanese Pizza Toppings

    Japanese pizza with various toppings

    The main thing that makes Japanese Pizza unique is its toppings. Japan uses quite a few of the same toppings as other countries (pepperoni, ham, etc.), but they also have some more unusual ones. For example, corn. Yes, corn is great, but have you ever eaten corn on pizza? It may seem a little odd to Westerners, but it’s practically the norm in Japan. Japanese pizza toppings get a lot more out-of-the-box than corn, though. Here are some other “weird” toppings you can find.

    • Mayonnaise - Yes, really. In Japan this is a pretty popular pizza topping. This is also popular on okonomiyaki (the pizza-like - but not pizza - dish of Japan). Have you ever put mayo on pizza? 
    • Seafood - Popular toppings include shrimp, squid, scallops, lobster, salmon, cod roe (mentaiko) and clams. 
    • Mochi - You may have tried mochi before, but have you ever tried it on pizza? 
    • Pork Sausage - These are small sausage links cut up into slices. 
    • Broccoli - Really? Don’t knock it ‘til you try it, they say.
    • Camembert cheese - Popular cheeses for pizza usually include mozzarella, cheddar, and others, but in Japan camembert cheese is very popular
    • Seaweed (nori) - An excellent topping for certain types of pizza. 
    • Natto - This isn’t a very common topping on pizza, but you do see it from time to time.

    Japanese Pizza Styles

    Japanese pizza with mayo

    In the West there are all kinds of pizzas - from “Meat Feast” pizza to “Ham & Pineapple” to plain old pepperoni. Well, Japan has many styles of pizzas, too. And, according to a poll by Nifty a little while back, the most popular style of pizza in Japan is the simple margherita (tomato, cheese, and basil). But Japanese people like a lot of other pizza styles, too - many that we don’t usually eat in the West. Here are some of the more unusual types of pizza you can find in Japan.

    • Squid Ink Pizza - This pizza is actually black in color because of the squid ink - quite strange to most foreigners. Check out what it actually looks like on YouTube.
    • Bulgogi - Get your Korean on!
    • Seafood Pizza - A very popular choice in Japan.
    • Natto Pizza - Do you like fermented beans on your pizza? This one is not too common, but it is available from time to time.
    • Teriyaki Mayo Chicken - People love teriyaki chicken pizza - and why not - chicken and teriyaki sauce are delicious! With mayo! 
    • Shrimp Avocado - It’s great in sushi, so why not on pizza?
    • Cream Cheese Bacon - Two things that taste great individually - how about together…on a pizza?
    • Asparagus Corn - Eat your pizza and get your green and yellow veggies, too!
    • Potato Mayo - Potatoes and mayo may seem like an unlikely duo (okay, maybe mayo and french fries), but this is a popular topping combination in Japan. 
    • Tuna Mayo - Like tuna sandwiches? Well, how about tuna mayo pizza? If you’ve tried tuna crepes, it’s not that far of a stretch.
    • Cheese & Honey - Believe it or not, cheese and honey on a pizza is amazing!

    Pizza Crust

    Pizza crust

    There are many styles of pizza crust available in Japan - several that will be very familiar to Westerners. However, there are a few types of crusts that you may not have heard of before. Japanese pizza crust types vary by pizza shop, but to give you an idea, here are some popular crusts at Domino’s Pizza Japan.

    • Hand-Tossed - The classic hand-tossed pizza crust - tender and chewy.
    • Pan Pizza - This crust is fluffier than hand-tossed - and a bit crispy.
    • Cheese‘n’ Roll - This is a cheese-filled crust.
    • Mille-Feuille - Two thin layers of crust with cheese in between.
    • Ultra Crispy - As the name implies - it’s very crispy!
    • Sesame Garlic Crust - Sesame and garlic are sprinkled on it.
    • Rice pizza - Okay, this one is from Pizza Hut Japan, actually, but it deserves a mention. It’s sort of like a crust, but it’s actually crispy, baked rice topped with regular pizza toppings. Find out more about it in this Japan Today article

    Japanese Pizza Sizes

    Japanese small pizza

    A very notable difference between pizza in the West and Japan is its size. If you’re used to Western sizes, you might be a little disappointed when you first see your “large” pizza arrive at your door. All pizza sizes in Japan are just a bit smaller than most of their Western counterparts. Here’s a comparison based on Domino’s Pizza US and Domino’s Japan. Note: All sizes are for the diameter of the pizza (the length across the middle). 

    • Small - Japan: 23 cm US: 25.4cm
    • Medium - Japan: 27cm  US: 30.5 cm
    • Large - Japan: 32 cm US: 35.6 cm
    • Extra Large - Japan: 40 cm US: 41 cm

    Note: The Extra Large is called “New Yorker Size” at Domino’s Japan, but this size is not available at all pizza restaurants.

    Japanese Pizza Prices

    As you probably know, prices of pizza in the US are not too high, especially if you’re buying from one of the popular pizza chains. In Japan, however, pizza is quite a bit more expensive than in America (especially when you take the smaller Japanese sizes into account). In Europe, sometimes the prices of pizza actually exceed Japan. 

    This article shows prices of pizza around the world with a nice little map, too. And here are some price comparisons for a simple pepperoni hand-tossed pizza from Domino’s Pizza in Tokyo and San Francisco

    • Small - Japan: ¥2400 (€16 EUR) US: $12 USD (€11 EUR)
    • Medium - Japan: ¥3000 (€20 EUR) US: $15 USD (€14 EUR)
    • Large - Japan: ¥3500 (€23 EUR) US: $18 USD (€17 EUR)
    • Extra Large - Japan: ¥4200 (€28 EUR) US: $21 USD (€28 EUR)

    Note: This pizza is called the “New Yorker Size” in Japan, and is not available in hand-tossed crust at Domino’s US - “Brooklyn Style” crust is used.

    Calories in Japanese Pizza

    On average, Western pizza has more calories than Japanese pizza per slice. However, it’s important to remember that Japanese pizza is smaller than Western pizza in general. This is something to keep in mind when taking a look at these calorie counts.

    Calories will vary from country to country, but here is a calorie count comparison for one single slice of basic pepperoni hand-tossed pizza at Domino’s Pizza in Tokyo and San Francisco

    • Small Slice - Japan: 148 calories US: 205 calories (individual slices in small pizzas are larger than individual slices in medium pizzas, thus the higher calories)
    • Medium Slice - Japan: 111 calories US: 200 calories
    • Large Slice - Japan: 136 calories US: 290 calories
    • Extra Large Slice - Japan: 299 calories US: 370 calories

    Note: This pizza is called the “New Yorker Size” in Japan, and is not available in hand-tossed crust at Domino’s US - “Brooklyn Style” crust is used. 

    Deep Dish (Chicago Style) Pizza in Japan

    deep dish pizza

    There are quite a few pizza restaurants in Japan that sell deep-dish pizza - and it’s delicious (if you know where to go). Westerners have a pretty specific idea of what a Chicago-style (or deep dish) pizza is - it’s got a thick, high crust - it’s moist, cheesy, and full of toppings. Japan seems to have a more flexible definition, though, as you can see in Jalan’s article about “deep dish pizza.” 

    Some pizzas that Japan calls “deep dish” look more like a regular pizza with tons and tons of cheese on top. This is great if you want to experience a Japanese interpretation of deep-dish pizza; however, if you want that truly American-style deep-dish pizza, you need to know where to go. An excellent choice is a shop called DevilCraft in Tokyo. The taste and texture are just like what you would expect from a Chicago-style pizza in the West. 

    Neapolitan Pizza in Japan

    Neapolitan Pizza in Japan

    Not all pizza in Japan is American-style. There’s also real Italian pizza - also known as neapolitan pizza or Naples-style pizza. It’s been getting more and more popular lately, so if you’re a “pizza snob” - and all of these American-style pizza shop chains aren’t your thing - you might prefer some more authentic, Italian-style pizza. If that’s what you’re looking for, check out Time Out’s recent article about 11 Tokyo neapolitan pizza shops that rank highest in the Asia Pacific region for their Italian pizza. 

    Pizza Flavored Snacks

    Calbee Pizza Potato Chips

    So, maybe you love pizza so much that you don’t only want pizza, but you want pizza-flavored snacks, too! Well, don’t worry, because there are a few snack foods out there that have pizza flavoring - mainly potato chips and pretzels. Calbee Pizza Potato Chips are a popular choice - and great for accompanying a nice, cool Japanese beer. 

    Wait, Isn’t Okonomiyaki Actually Japanese Pizza?

    Okonomiyaki Japanese pizza

    Well, some people call okonomiyaki the pizza of Japan, and that makes sense. It’s got the bread, meat, and veggies - and it’s circular, too - but it’s not exactly like pizza. Okonomiyaki dough is more like a batter. You mix that batter with cabbage and other ingredients of your choice (octopus, pork, etc.), pour it onto a pan (or grill), cook it and then add sauce and toppings. It’s absolutely delicious, and pizza lovers would likely love eating okonomiyaki, too. However, pizza is distinctly different. Pizza has a crust, tomato sauce, and even a different baking method than okonomiyaki. If you’re interested in trying okonomiyaki, though, try it when you’re next in Japan - or try making it at home


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