The concept of being a vegetarian in Japan is illogical unless you are a Buddhist monk. I have done a lot of thinking about why Japanese people aren't vegetarians, and I think it is because they originally do not have many meat products in their diet, with the exception of fish. Dairy is also very uncommon in everyday Japanese cooking. Fats and proteins are mainly acquired from fish and soy. So to become a vegetarian in Japan, for health reasons, is outlandish. The Japanese diet is about as healthy as you can get (Robert Atkins might disagree).
My Japanese family treated meat almost like dessert. It was a luxury and it was served only on occasion, for occasions. My mom, who cooked Japanese food everyday for us in Cupertino, California, would make a huge deal when we were having steak. Steak was something that was put on the table three or four times a year. She would use the nice silverware and the fancy place mats and the whole family felt indulgent.
When my sister hit her rebellious teen years, she announced to everyone that she was going to be a vegetarian. My parents did not understand, my grandmother had no concept or what my sister was talking about and they all treated it like a joke. They questioned it as if one would ask "Why on earth wouldn't you drink that fine, expensive wine that is available once every two years?" I realize now the misunderstandings that the two generations had regarding vegetarianism.
So it makes sense that the evolution of veggie burgers in Japan is still very nascent. Veggie burgers are a contemporary idea that would only make sense if you are a vegetarian and were eating burgers a few times a week.
But the other day, I passed by a Freshness Burger to find a huge poster and a gajillion other promotional materials adorning their walls, windows and employees advertising a "Vegetable Burger." Feeling risky, I popped in to try this so-called "Vegetable Burger."
I sat outside to enjoy the clear sky. In prompt Tokyo service style, my burger was brought to me by a cheery employee.
My first impression was "Mmmm! This looks great!"
I took a bite and it was pretty much tasteless. The veggie burger was literally a slab of lightly grilled tofu. The tofu itself, was still white all over with a few pathetic grill marks on the outside. I could tell they were trying with the avocado and all, but there just wasn't any flavor. The blandness combined with the confused and mushy variety of textures, made for a pretty puny burger.
I ended up going to the condiments table and grabbing anything I could find. The burger was mildly detected by my tastebuds only after I drowned it in two kinds of hot sauce and gobs of ketchup.
Americans invented the burger. They also invented vegetarians who eat veggie burgers. Japan's veggie burger has no market, so the Japanese veggie burger is confused and without meaning or substance, trying not to offend anyone with its attractive blandness. I vote "no!" on veggie burgers, Made In Japan.