On 15 December 2006, Krispy Kreme, the U.S. doughnut chain, opened its first Japanese store a couple of hundred yards from the south exit of the JR Shinku Station and became an instant smash hit. For over a year, day and night, in every clime and weather, the line of customers would fold back and forth on the storefront patio originally intended for outdoor tables and chairs, then snake halfway or more across a conveniently adjacent land bridge that spans the twenty or so sets of JR railroad tracks. The waiting time at the end of the line would be somewhere between 75 minutes and 115 minutes. The figure would be posted on signboards like a Disneyland ride, one freestanding and another carried by one of a pair of Krispy Kreme ushers, and dutifully updated.
No one waits well over an hour just to grab a doughnut and a cup of joe or to use the bathroom. (Besides, unlike Manhattan, where residents routinely commit to memory the location of every Starbucks and Barnes and Noble, Shinjuku, indeed much of Metropolitan Tokyo, is stocked with publicly accessible toilets, as long as you do not look and smell like a homeless derelict, who have to make do with the less-well-maintained, truly public toilets in the parks.) Instead, they would purchase at least one large box-full, often more, to later share with family and friends.
The wave has crested. In recent weeks, the waiting line has shrunk back to the Krispy Kreme patio, and the signboards are posting 25-, 35-minute waits. The now lone usher no longer needs to carry toteboards. As early as this spring, the waiting time had begun dipping near the one-hour threshold. Still, it’s only recently that the land bridge has reverted completely to the public domain. It was a great run while it lasted. And most customers still carry away large boxes, each containing a dozen or so of the delectable hydrocarbon macro-rings.
I have never seen a food fad of this scale in my lifetime, and I do not expect to see such a one again. The year-long streak of hour-and-a-half waiting lines is a feat never to be repeated, like Ted Williams hitting 400 for the season, or Wilt Chamberlain scoring 100 points in a game. Thus, it deserves to be recorded, on this, the blog of record.