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To the sounds of a saxophone and keyboard fanfare, Burger King officially re-entered the Japanese market Friday with the opening of its first outlet in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward.

Hundreds of customers waited outside the store in the early morning for the chance to buy the American chain’s trademark Whopper hamburgers, which are back after a six-year absence.

“This is a very important and exciting day for Burger King today,” Burger King Corp. Chief Executive Officer John Chidsey said at the opening ceremony. “Japan is a very important market for us, and one that we have great growth plans for in the future.”

Burger King first came to Japan in 1996 but was forced to pull out in 2001 after losing a price war with McDonald’s.

Burger King Japan Co., a joint venture between confectioner Lotte Co. and management consulting firm Revamp Corp., hopes to attract burger lovers in their 20s to 50s who are willing to pay for quality.

The Whopper features a 113-gram flame-grilled beef patty 13 cm in diameter.

A regular Whopper goes for 370 yen, and one with cheese 410 yen. A Double Whopper will set you back 520 yen. Standard sets are available for around 700 yen to 800 yen.

First on the scene Friday was Momoka Tanaka, 32, who showed up at 5 a.m. to claim the free gift Burger King Japan was giving away to the first 100 customers.

Tanaka, who lives in Suginami Ward, said she had long been looking forward to Burger King’s return. “I missed the taste of Burger King. Every time I traveled abroad, I looked for a Burger King.”

Burger King plans to open its next outlet in Ikebukuro, Toshima Ward, and six more in and around Tokyo by the end of March.

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