"Hamburger shops are a dime a dozen in Tokyo these days, but there are very few places doing barbecue," said Lauren Shannon, owner of Bulldog Barbeque (www.bulldogbbq.jp).

By barbecue, Shannon doesn't mean any old thing thrown on a grill, but rather the tradition of the American South of slow-cooked, smoked meats. If you don't know it, you're missing out on some seriously good, authentically American food. If you do know it, you've probably lamented that it is so hard to come by in Tokyo.

"It's the exact opposite of fast food. It takes days of salt rubs, hours of smoking. It takes a lot of love," Shannon said, as a way of explaining why barbecue is having a moment in the United States right now.