Cost: 260 yen
Found At: “For Passengers” Kiosk at Nagoya Shinkansen Station
This is how the other half lives – this is the Tokaido Shinkansen Exclusive. These are not the haphazard, basic chips of the Lawson’s or the Family Mart or the 7-11, these are the Mercedes of chips, made for the businessman commuting from Nagoya to Tokyo and back again. These are the chips of the Japanese business-tripper, selling his new product to the Asian market. These are the chips of the American tourist with one week of vacation who needs to make it count. These are not the chips of the have-nots, but the chip of the haves, and as such can only be bought in the stations along the expensive Tokaido Shinkansen line.
Packaged with the care and elegance of a Japanese stereotype, these chips go above and beyond in their insistence that they are a luxury. The package is ornately embellished with designs from traditional washi paper, sprinkled with images of traditional Japanese scenes and the silhouettes of robust cattle. This is, after all, not just flavored with any old beef but with Matsusaka beef, one of the “three big beefs” in Japan along with Kobe and Omi beef. Only 2,500 Matsusaka beef cattle are slaughtered each year in Mie prefecture, and the rich fatty beef can cost upwards of $500 a steak. So, it is with this in mind that the chips have been enshrined in an unusually sturdy, black and gold chip tube, and then carefully sealed inside a silver bag. Not a chip is broken or out of place when you finally claw open the packaging, but they sit ready to be admired and cherished.
The packaging describes these chips as being “made with Mie prefecture soy sauce and flavored with the deliciousness of beef,” and I believe it. The warm melty flavor of the red meat is sweetened with hints of BBQ sauce and a ton of salt. It’s a crispy, savory, salty, sweet, wonderful conveyer of the “essence of beef.” I can’t decide if it’s genuinely delicious, or if the chip is more MSG than potato, but either way, it is a taste sensation – and well worth the nearly 300yen price tag.