Eikichi Matsuda opened Yoshinoya in 1899, in a fish market outside Edo Castle in Chuoku, Tokyo. Over the following century or so, the company expanded well beyond fish markets in Japan and, starting this month, its presence will extend to the skies. From now until May 31, Yoshinoya will offer its signature beef bowls on select Japan Airlines flights between Tokyo and major international cities, including Los Angeles.
“Air Yoshinoya” includes the ginger, pickles and shichimi spice that are found at every Yoshinoya location. The company, however, had to modify the recipe slightly to accommodate the logistics of a sky-high setting. The beef and rice are served separately, for example, to be mixed together by passengers at their cramped seats, and extra sauce is included to compensate for the cabin's low humidity.
The bowl will be the second meal in economy-class cabins, served right before arriving at the destination. Passengers flying first and executive class have the luxury of choice and can ask for the beef bowl anytime after the first meal is served.
Japan Airlines partnered with Yoshinoya as part of its new strategy to offer passengers “more delight in meal choices.” Yoshinoya, for its part, is executing its business philosophy and raison d'etre: “Companies only exist to serve the needs of society and to contribute to the greater happiness of mankind.” It might not be our favorite fast-food joint in town, but almost anything beyond standard stale airline fare would make us very, very happy on a 12-hour-plus flight.