Every now and then, we revisit a part of history that some companies would rather be kept swept under the rug. This story comes from the Japanese entrepreneur and self-made billionaire that brought the first McDonald’s to Japan, Den Fujita.
Fujita fell in love with McDonald’s the first time he ate it in 1967 — he was amazed by how popular and efficient the burger chain was. When he saw the opportunity to bring the franchise to Japan, he opened the first Japanese McDonald’s in a Mitsukoshi department store in the Ginza district of Tokyo in 1971. It was an instant success, particularly because of their Japanese-styled Teriyaki McBurger and Chicken Tatsuta.
But perhaps Fujita’s love for the American burger chain extended beyond just the burgers. On his strategy for selling McDonald’s to Japanese people, Fujita is credited as saying:
“The reason Japanese people are so short and have yellow skins is because they have eaten nothing but fish and rice for two thousand years … If we eat McDonald’s hamburgers and potatoes for a thousand years we will become taller, our skin become white, and our hair blonde.”
Does McDonald’s food secretly hold the key to creating a master race? I guess we won’t find out until the year 2971.
It was Fujita’s dream to see 10,000 McDonald’s in Japan by 2010 — as of 2013, there were only 3,164 McDonald’s in Japan, the second most popular country for the fast-food chain after the U.S.
Den Fujita retired in 2003 and died of heart failure in April of 2004 at the age of 78, two days after McDonald’s then-CEO Jim Cantalupo died of a sudden heart attack at the age of 60. It is unknown whether McDonald’s food played a contributing factor in their deaths.