Not too long ago I had a chance to shrink a gap in cultural understanding. A regular customer had brought his young grandchild in to eat one afternoon, and he was eager to have the talkative boy engage me in conversation.

The exchange was mostly a series of questions about what they have and don't have in the United States. Then from specific foods the questions turned to include restaurants and stores. Two of the most obviously Japanese establishments — in this young child's mind — were 7-Eleven and McDonald's.

I assured him that we had both, but refrained from admitting that the West was to blame for inventing the fast-food and convenience store genres. The questions then turned to what 7-Eleven and McDonald's could possibly sell in the U.S. Instead of onigiri and oden, 7-Eleven in the U.S. carries chili cheese dogs, frozen burritos and Big Gulps, I explained. I went on to say that McDonald's has a bigger breakfast selection in the States, and no McFrankburger (a simple hot dog), tsukimi burger (a burger topped with a fried egg) or teriyaki burgers.