The packet came, with its unmistakeably Japanese garishness, its jarring colours, fonts, slashes and squiggles. Inside it lay the Kracie Happy Kitchen powdered hamburger meal: a new and unsettling miniature. Six foil sachets filled with powders, some plastic cutlery and plastic tubs. You open the box, slice along dotted lines, cut out the plastic tubs, get some water, mix the powders separately, spread stuff, microwave stuff, and gradually assemble a fast food lunch, or what such a lunch might look like if it was designed by an alien working to a five-year-old’s drawing of a Happy Meal.
I was in Japan recently for the first time, and experienced one the most refined and elegant cuisines in the world. But much of it isn’t half strange. This is the country where someone – or, more likely, a group of people – decided that the best image with which to decorate a packet of Doritos was two men in wetsuits kicking each other in the balls.
This is the land of tinned bread, 80 different KitKat flavours, octopus ball crisps, candied squid on sticks, food that moves, and cuboid watermelons. There’s a lot of rote and ritual around food, and there’s a love of small things – tiny fish eggs, little bowls of ozony sea-stuff. People obsess over presentation. And you can see these aspects in the powdered hamburger. Assembling it took me the best part of an hour. I couldn’t read the instructions, so I copied a YouTube video.