Goddamn It, Japan, You’re Doing It Wrong: Shakey’s Pizza

“Wait how could it be worse than The Pizza Little Party Pizzeria? Oh shit, it’s a BUFFET? Goddamn it, Japan.”

~AFFotD’s Food Critic


Pizza is a lot like sex. When it’s good it’s REALLY good. And when Japan does it, um, you’re about to experience something definitely weird and probably unsettling.

Speaking of Japan, while it’s been a few years since we’ve had to complain about the culinary choices of Japan (especially when they attempt to serve American-style food), we do have a rich history of asking Japan what, exactly, do they think they’re doing. So naturally, it is our solemn duty to inform you of another classic American institution that’s been co-opted and warped in terrifying ways by our friends in the East. Yes, it’s pizza again. But this time…it’s Shakey’s pizza.

We literally haven’t thought about a Shakey’s pizza since that one South Park episode where Cartman makes one out of stem cells, but after seeing Japan’s version of Shakey’s, we could remain silent no longer. So let’s take a deep breath and shout to the heavens…

Goddamn It, Japan, You’re Doing It Wrong: Shakey’s Pizza

shakey's 1

The horror…the horror…(photo courtesy of Travelin’ Boots)

When we think of pizza chains in America that could potentially be ruined, Shakey’s isn’t really the one that comes to mind. Like, we would expect that to happen to say, Pizza Hut (because it already has), but Shakey’s? Japan has tried to ruin McDonald’s, and that makes sense, but it would be weird if they tried to import, like, Culver’s or Umami Burger, right?  Yet somehow, they’ve decided that Shakey’s is something worth bastardizing. Through, if you look at Shakey’s history, it starts to make a little more sense.

When Shakey’s burst on the scene in 1954, they were the first pizza franchise in the United States. By 1968, they had over 340 locations, but since then they have been outpaced by the Domino’s and Pizza Huts and pre-2018 Papa John’s of the world. Coming out of Sacramento, California, they were named after co-founder Sherwood Johnson’s nickname, which of course was “Shakey.”

You’d think that Shakey was some cute take on the name Sherwood, but you’d be horrifically wrong—they called him Shakey because he suffered nerve damage after contracting malaria during World War II, so the dude was constantly shaking. Which, holy shit, that might be the darkest origin story for a Fast Food chain’s name that we’ve ever seen.

shakeys logo

If you love debilitating neurological issues, you’ll love our beer and pizza at “The War Took Everything From Me”

At one point in the 70s there were over 500 stores in the United States, and the chain was sold in 1974, 1984, 1989 and finally again in 2004 to a California company. They didn’t really fare well during this stretch, and currently only 51 locations remain in America, and all but three of them can be found in California. However, Shakey’s does have a large international presence, with 450 locations, including a large number of franchisees in the Philippines.

But we’re not here to talk about what Shakey’s is like in most countries. We’re here to talk about what Shakey’s is like in Japan. And, um, holy shit. Like, one thing we’ll say is…it’s a great bargain? But the pizza is…terrifying.

In Japan, Shakey’s offers you an all-you-can-eat buffet of pasta, salads, and pizza. Now, keep in mind, Shakey’s did not start off as a buffet. It’s never been known as an all-you-can-eat pizzeria. That literally only happens in a Japanese Shakey’s. The buffet sets you back about twenty REAL AMERICAN dollars for 90 minutes of unlimited pizza, and for another $12 or so you can get all-you-can-drink beer. Which, you know, credit where credit’s due, that might be the best thing we’ve ever seen Japan do. Unlimited food and unlimited beers is something all Japanese places should do. Hell, all American places should do that!

Unfortunately though, this is still Japan. So again, join us in a rousing “goddamn it” as we list off a partial lists of the kinds of pizza you can choose from.

Corn and Mayonnaise Pizza

elote pizza

So the video that we stole this graphic from describes this pizza as an elote pizza which is not entirely true (they like, put some hot sauce on it and were like “good enough”) but it does succeed in making the pizza sound less gross than it is. But let’s try to really take you through the process in play here.

One of their standby pizza options starts off with pizza crust, which in itself is a relatively harmless food item that, in the right hands, can end up as something delicious. The right hands would, say, put tomato sauce, cheese, and sensible toppings on said crust. Insane hands, however, might do something gross and weird like piling a bunch of mayonnaise and corn on there. Only insane hands work at a Japanese Shakey’s. Mind you, this is just our launching off point. It’s going to get a lot worse.

Cuttlefish and Olive Pizza

cuttlefish pizza

Cuttlefish and olive pizza is, yes, a thing that exists, because Japan fears not our puny God. You can find if you really want to telegraph a cry for help into the world.

Just look at that plate of horrors. The only 100% normal looking slice on that plate is the sausage piece on the right, but even there all the sausages are sliding down the front as if they’re running away in terror.

But if you look closely at the second slice from the right, you can see cuttlefish and a few sad olives, which serves as photographic proof that our staff didn’t lounge around asking, “What’s the grossest fucking thing you could put on a pizza? Like, seafood on pizza is iffy, but what would make even that seem foul? Like, okay, what has no chef ever combined with cuttlefish in culinary history? Olives right? Let’s do that.”

We did not do that, even though we understand why you would think that. Shakey’s pizza did that and it wasn’t done out of duress of anything! They just put a bunch of cuttlefish and olives on a pizza, and said, “Well this pizza is ruined, but it’s also free at least?” Holy shit.

Egg and Shrimp Pizza

egg and shrimp pizza

Speaking of putting multiple ingredients you’d never want on your pizza on the same damn pizza, if you like seafood, breakfast, and have lost all sense of taste after that demonic possession last year, then the egg and shrimp pizza is for you! Listen there are a lot of seafood pizzas on this list, and they’re not gonna get any better.

Sigh. Squid Ink Pizza

squid ink pizza

Have you ever seen perfect pitch black? Not just the blackness you see when you close your eyes, we’re talking about such an absence of light that you start to question the existence of your limbs. You reach out your hand but there is nothing there.

It’s somewhat terrifying. Like this darkness was looking for you all this time, and now that it has you in its clutches it will never let you go. And then just as you start to panic, the lights turn on in a painful blast and you’re back among the living.

Anyway, here’s a picture of a squid ink pizza with broccoli, onion, and calamari on it. The darkness is real and it has found us once again.

Lotus Root and Sausage Pizza

lotus root pizza

We don’t really know what lotus root tastes like, so it’s very judgmental of us to put this pizza on the list, given that sausage is actually the only sensible ingredient we’ve seen on a Shakey’s pizza so far. That said, look at that pizza. What the fuck? Is the sausage raw? Guys, this is a promotional picture. This is what they want this pizza to look like in ideal conditions.

Fuck, man.

Green Tea and Bean Paste Pizza

green tee pizza

You know, even though Japan uses green tea flavors for everything (including Kit Kats), we honestly thought that pizza would be the one item that Japan would manage to not put green tea on. Oh how we were wrong. There’s really nothing that Shakey’s could do at this point that would surprise us. They could put motor oil on a pizza and we’d just shrug it off.

Korean Pancake Style Pizza in Kimchi Mayo Sauce

korean pancack

God, just that name reads like a clown car crash. And what is it with Japan and the fucking mayo? Kimchi on pizza is a questionable idea in the first place, why are we adding mayo to the equation? This is a pizza that started off sounding not very appetizing, and then became more disgusting with each word added. We’re thankful they at least stopped at “kimchi mayo sauce” because if they kept trying to put more toppings on this pizza we’re honestly concerned at how far they’d take it.

We reached out to a Shakey’s representative (our lawyers inform us we have to say that this is a joke, and that we actually didn’t) and they told us, “Well, actually, it was originally going to be Korean Pancake Style Pizza in Kimchi Mayo Sauce And Oh Also Sorry We Chopped Up Your Parents They’re A Pizza Topping Too, but we couldn’t get the proper permits for that.” We mean, that’s pretty fucked up of you, Shakey’s, but damn.

Miso and Salmon Pizza

miso and salmon

Did they forget to list “despair” as the primary ingredient of this pizza, or is it assumed we’d infer that once we saw “miso” and “salmon” next to the word “pizza”?

Jesus, Seriously? Okay, Potato and Cod Roe Mayonnaise Pizza

potato and cod

The process to making a seasonal recommended pizza at Shakey’s is simple. First, you throw a three darts at a list of every single possible ingredient that has not ever been put on a pizza before.

Then, when you land on three ingredients that actually might work, you ignore the results and offer a vial of your blood to a dark wizard, who tells you, “I don’t know, man, like, can you make mayonnaise that has fish eggs in it? Just do that. Oh, with potatoes. Naturally.”

Now, you may have noticed that there seems to be a pizza on this ad that has fruit on it. Your eyes are not deceiving you. Because the last terrible pizza we will talk about is not a single pizza. It’s a whole category of pizzas.

Shakey’s Dessert Pizzas

dessert pizzas

Listen, you might disagree with our opinion that sweet pizzas are an abomination, and we respect your brave choice to live your life in the most incorrect way possible. But we stand by it.

The very concept of dessert pizza is disgusting, and if those slices of pizzas with withering marshmallows aren’t enough to get you to fall in line with that opinion, we don’t think we can save you. Shakey’s offers literally dozens of sweet pizzas, ranging from berry medleys to banana chocolate to honey and all of them are affronts to nature.

We know that America is a free country, so naturally we’re not going to stop you from eating a, say, cinnamon apple pizza from Shakey’s. But that has nothing to do with freedom, we just weren’t fast enough to get to you in time.

Because freedom or no, do not eat dessert pizza from Shakey’s. Actually, don’t eat any pizza from Japanese Shakey’s. As much as we love an all-you-can-eat and all-you-can-drink experience, the psychological cost is just too high. If you really must go to an American chain, go to some place like Wendy’s. They couldn’t fuck up Wendy’s, could they? Oh…oh no.


4 responses to “Goddamn It, Japan, You’re Doing It Wrong: Shakey’s Pizza

  1. I lived in Tokyo as a kid, and Shakey’s Pizza was next to Kiddy Land ( a big toy shop ) in Harajuku. it was also almost across the street from Yoyogi park…and Harajuku was a cool neighbourhood.
    Even in the 1980 it was a buffet ( in Japan ), but back then you paid for your plate and mug, and basically you could stay as long as you liked. It was set up like a bizarre beer hall, with bench tables, and faux wooden walls.
    We would get a plate, and literally spend all day eating pizza.
    Sadly, they must have got wise ( and pretty annoyed ) at us glutinous gaijins wallowing in cheese, and they imposed the time limit ( sorry…not sorry. )

    I kind of admire the insane pizza combinations…. you are somewhere different, expand your horizons.
    If you just wanna eat pepperoni…there’s a 100 places back in the states you can do that.
    I was back in Tokyo in 2019, and in fact made a pilgrimage to a Shakey’s. the original place on Jingumae is sadly gone… and the quality has really suffered ( as you mentioned they were bought out half a dozen times. )
    I still love the fact there is this reminant of my childhood, unbuckled by changed, and at completely at odds with modern tastes. Viva la Shakey’s Tokyo! Banzai!

    • We were honestly expecting this to be a kneejerk “you made jokes about this place and I’m mad” comment, so thank you for an actually informative, informed and relevant comment.

    • I also lived in Japan in the 1980s and early 90s. My mum took me to Shakey’s in Harajuku occasionally as a treat. Only went there a couple times (I had Domino’s Pizza at home far more often), but have fond childhood memories of the unlimited pizzas in a beer hall atmosphere.

      Haven’t been to Japan since 2004 when my father was retired, and don’t plan to go back there. I would rather keep my childhood memories intact.

      Yes, the pizzas were really good back then. Perhaps Fun Fact should try them, rather than slagging them off!

  2. I ate a Shakey’s as a kid in my hometown in the US over a span of ten years. The setup of the location was a buffet of pizza, a game room, two movie rooms showing kids cartoons and a large dining room. I am not sure where you got the idea that it should not be buffet – that is what the business was for many years. I also got the chance to eat at a japanese Shakey’s all you can eat (and all you can drink!) buffet in Osaka. I thought it rocked. Some of the pizzas you list in the article might be offensive to some people, but they are alongside western style pizzas, so no big deal for me. I would like to try the miso-salmon!

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