Back in the day, Mexico really was the country that seemed so exotic and amazing to this Primary School kid thanks to a school project on the country but mainly down to the Mexico ’86 World Cup being my first tournament. Even now, it’s still a place that interests me and even though I’ve been very near I’ve never (properly *) been to this ecologically mega-diverse country.
The Day of the Dead Festival (Día de Muertos) is arguably Mexico’s most famous festival, and two fairly recent films have featured it in some way. Firstly, ‘Spectre‘ (2015) starts off in Mexico City and the festival provides the backdrop for the movie’s epic 13 minute pre-titles opening sequence.
It’s very exciting stuff and the rest of the film is enjoyable enough but it was ultimately a tad disappointing for me when compared to its predecessor ‘Skyfall‘ (2012) which is one of my favourite ever 007 films.
Two years after ‘Spectre‘ came the excellent ‘Coco‘ (2017) which I absolutely loved. It really is a marvellous, colourful and fun animation which took me on an emotional and educational journey relating to the Day of the Dead Festival which I still knew very little about beforehand.
The word Corona is sadly thought of these days as the disease but before that came along Corona beer was always the drink of choice for Dominic Toretto & Co. in the ‘Fast & The Furious‘ movies. I couldn’t resist getting a few bottles and, alongside some taco-flavoured Doritos (with melted cheese on top), I had a very lame Mexican-themed night at home during Tokyo’s “soft” lockdown more commonly referred to as a State of Emergency.
* Although I have been to Mexico, it was only a day trip to border town Tijuanain May 2002 which is around 30 kilometres south of San Diego in the States. I don’t think it really counts as having been to the real Mexico does it? I have no idea why I had this photo (below) taken as I don’t know what the building in the background is! Maybe it was because photographic images were limited or was it just because there was a Mexican flag on show!
I’m a little embarrassed to say that I loved eating Taco Bell when I was in California and Texas in 2011 but had never had it in Japan until earlier this year when I stumped up ¥880 for the Bell Box. The contents were a triple cheese burrito, a cheese roll up, nacho chips, cinnamon twists and unlimited fizzy drinks. The burrito was great but the other contents weren’t much cop to be honest.
That didn’t stop me returning a month later though and this time I just had a single (soft) taco as I wanted to see what they were like. Greasy as hell but very tasty was my verdict. Oh and I couldn’t resist getting a cheesy beef burrito too!
Of course none of that is “real” Mexican food but hopefully El Torito Ikebukuro is a little bit more authentic. The sign outside says “the original” and indeed, this was the original go-to chain for Mexican food in Tokyo.
We actually went to this spacious restaurant one lunchtime in the Summer of 2018. At that time I had rarely eaten much Mexican cuisine (I still wouldn’t say I have but I’ve eaten a bit more since then) so just went for the macho combo as, with the biggest price, it seemed to contain the most variety of food items. There was a taco, an enchilada, a burrito and a quesadilla plus soup too. My wife opted for cheese chicken and garlic rice.
Japan’s first-ever home-grown hamburger chain was Dom Dom Burger which started up in 1970. They have a limited number of restaurants around the country and the closest to me is about 12 kilometres away in Oizumigakuen. Amidst stormy conditions in August I cycled there just to try the Stinging Mexican Chilli Burger (¥450). Consisting of a sesame bun, chicken burger, cheese, lettuce, onions, fried chilli peppers and bright red spicy sauce (based on Mexican salsa), it has to be said that it was really delicious. As ever in Japan though, the level of spice was much lower than expected. I really should know better by now in this country!
Mexican-Japanese fusion dish taco rice deserves a mention. This Okinawan dish, adjusted for American taste in parts, is one which I have a great fondness for and one that brings back memories of the first meal my wife ever cooked for me. Taco Smile is a tiny take-away place in Oyama and the taco rice I bought was really nice. The picture is not exactly food-porn as it just likes a tray of cabbage! I promise you there is some other, far more interesting food matter underneath it!
The final food-related product in this post relates to the Mexican Tacos flavour of Pringles which were out in the Summer. Like pretty much any flavour of the stackable crisps, they did the job but maybe they wouldn’t be something I’d buy again. No such chance of that anyway given the high turnaround of seasonal and limited edition snacks in Japan!
Think of Mexico and my first thought these days is not food but the smallest breed of dog; the Chihuaha.
The track jacket which our dog is on above is a Mexico 1970 one. That World Cup was before my time but, thanks to video clips every World Cup, it evokes memories of Banks’ save from Pele, THAT tackle by Bobby Moore, Carlos Alberto’s goal in the final, and the colours and sounds which had, at that time, never really been imported into peoples homes in the UK.
16 years on and the FIFA World Cup returned to Mexico, and it was my first ever experience of the big tournament and I absolutely loved it absorbing as much of it as I possibly could. As well as the action, the sticker album, guide book, wall-chart and the mascot Piquet all left a lasting impression on me.
These were different times when football on TV was still rare so to be able to see a month of regular live games was something else. Sadly, half of the games, including all three England group matches, kicked off past my bedtime but thankfully their knock-out rounds were on at more convenient times. Mexico will again host the FIFA World Cup ( jointly with Canada and the USA) in 2026 and I look forward to experiencing even more about the country.
Bonus: A couple of random pictures from yesteryear vaguely relating to Mexican places in Tokyo. My friend Mostyn and I went to Salsa Cabana Bar in Yotsuya in 2011 or 2012 and it featured in a compilation post at the end of 2012 called ‘Dining Out: Around The World…In Tokyo! Pt II‘.
Click here to read ‘Puppy Love: A Big Welcome To Our Little Addition To The Family!’
Click here to read ‘Discovering Some Local Delights During Tokyo’s “Soft” Lockdown’
Click here to read ‘Dining Out: Around The World…In Tokyo! Pt II’
Click here to read ‘TF Flashback – San Diego (2002)’