Taco Bell Returns To Japan After Decades-Long Absence, People Go Nuts

04/23/2015 02:49 pm ET
Chris McGrath via Getty Images

Taco Bell opened its first Japanese location in decades on Tuesday -- and the area's residents ate it up.

Hundreds of people lined up at the entrance of the restaurant, in Tokyo's hip Shibuya neighborhood, before the opening. Some of them reportedly got there the night before to be among the first to order. Taco Bell first opened restaurants in Japan in the 1980s, but then-owner PepsiCo closed all the locations after just a few years because sales were lower than expected, Reuters reports.

Yum! Brands, the current owner of Taco Bell, has high hopes the chain will find more enduring success this time around. Though the company now derives the majority of its sales from locations outside North America, with KFC and Pizza Hut in China alone bringing in almost $7 billion of the company's $13.3 billion in revenues last year, Taco Bell remains a mostly American business. The Tokyo outpost of the chain is now just one of 26 locations outside North America. Even Canada only has 29 Taco Bells.

But the huge crowds of people that greeted this Japanese store could be a sign that customers outside the United States are ready for Taco Bell. Getty Images photographer Chris McGrath was on hand to document the bonanza.

Here's what he found:

  • There were long lines.
    Chris McGrath via Getty Images
    About 150 people lined up in front of the restaurant before it even opened.
  • For their troubles, though, the queuers got some swag.
    Chris McGrath via Getty Images
    The first 100 people in line got free T-shirts!
  • People liked these T-shirts.
    Chris McGrath via Getty Images
    Who doesn't like free T-shirts?
  • A Taco Bell employee shook diners' hands as they got to the front of the line.
    Chris McGrath via Getty Images
    No word on whether the store also gave out any of those snazzy Taco Bell purple ties at the opening.
  • Once inside, people thronged behind the counter to order.
    Chris McGrath via Getty Images
    They saw lots more Taco Bell purple. That tie was only the beginning.
  • Because the whole thing was new to a lot of customers, the staff had to explain the menu.
    Chris McGrath via Getty Images
    That's what happens when a fast food chain leaves a country for over 20 years. People forget.
  • Then they got their food.
    Chris McGrath via Getty Images
    Is it just us, or does this employee kind of look like he doesn't want to hand over the bag?
  • Everybody had worked up quite an appetite waiting in line, so they eagerly devoured tacos.
    Chris McGrath via Getty Images
    The moment of truth was at hand. Or at mouth, we guess.
  • Even people who look like businessmen!
    Chris McGrath via Getty Images
    The menu at the Japanese outpost of the chain isn't completely identical to the menu in America. It includes fries and avocado shrimp burritos. Score one for Japan.
  • Even the mascot was having a good time.
    Chris McGrath via Getty Images
    But let's be honest: There was probably someone who became so famished after waiting in line for hours that they tried to eat him.

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