Baikingu is a buffet that has been a staple of Japanese hotels since the 1950s. If you’re enjoying a baikingu, you’re likely eating a variety of meats, salads and other all-you-can-eat fare. Read on to find out more about this unique tradition, including where you can try it for yourself.
Where Did It Come From?
The Japanese word baikingu translates to “Viking,” but it is not to be confused with the Norse voyagers. Instead, it was a name chosen by a restaurant manager at Tokyo’s Imperial Hotel. He was inspired by a journey to Sweden, where he discovered the joy of the smörgåsbord. The opulence of a table filled with a variety of tasty, fresh food was certainly appealing, especially in the climate of the time. World War II had only come to an end about a decade before, and Japan’s economy was booming. Therefore, it was receptive to a lavish, all-you-can-eat experience. Taking the name from a popular film of the time, the manager created the first baikingu at his hotel. He fittingly named the restaurant itself “Imperial Viking.” The rest, as they say, is history!
What Foods Can You Find in a Baikingu?
When it comes to Japanese buffets, there are a seemingly infinite number of varieties. A baikingu could consist of salads and cold meats, as in the original inception. It could be a barbecue (yakiniku) theme buffet or even tables filled with different types of sushi. That said, a baikingu isn’t just for lunch and dinner foods! A baikingu could also come in the form of a brunch vikings or even a cake and dessert buffet.
There are a few etiquette rules to keep in mind if you are enjoying a baikingu meal. First, finish everything on your plate before going back for more. Second, try small amounts of many different foods, as opposed to large heaps of a single dish. Finally, mind your time — it is rude to spend too long at a baikingu, as other diners may be waiting!
Where Can You Find It?
These days, it seems baikingu are everywhere! After its inception in 1957, it spread all throughout Japan. By the 1960s, hotels throughout the country started offering baikingu buffet. Travelers to Japan will likely find these types of restaurants when staying locally. However, if you’re looking to enjoy an authentic Japanese buffet in the states, you’re in luck! Many Japanese-American restaurants serve food in this style under the name baikingu or tabehoudai (all you can eat). You may also find dessert-specific vikings at Japanese restaurants serving an array of sweet treats.
You can receive a truly authentic experience if you travel to Japan — the Imperial Hotel Tokyo (and Imperial Viking restaurant) are still operational today. Or, for something more accessible, why not try creating your own baikingu spread? If you are interested in Japanese cooking and cuisine, you could invite your friends over for a fun and casual baikingu meal with homemade sushi, salads, meats and more!