I know I am very late in talking about Air Yakiniku  (エア焼肉), which is already over the hill as far as fads go, but here’s my take on it anyway. Unless you don’t know what Air Yakiniku is, it’s a Japanese virtual game that simulates the making eating of yakiniku (table-grilled meat, usually though not always referring to Korean style table-top ‘barbeque’). Here’s the mock-serious how-to video:
Basically, you play the game by making ready a real bowl of rice and a saucer of yakiniku sauce (which is in the same family of sauces as Bulldog/tonkatsu/okonomiyaki sauce in case you’re wondering). The video instructs you to pre-mix some of that sauce into the rice before you start. You then pretend to grill juicy pieces of meat until they’re done on-screen. When your virtual meat piece is done, you pretend to pop it in your mouth, then rapidly put some of that sauce/rice mix into your (real) mouth and close your eyes. It promises to give you the feeling of eating real yakiniku, without the expense!
Yes I know, those wacky Japanese eh. And it is stupid and funny. (And possibly some kind of viral ad campaign - more about that later.) It is humor with a good dose of sarcasm and a tinge of tragedy to it though. In Japan, there’s a long tradition of depicting a meal of penury as being a plain bowl of rice, and nothing else. It’s the equivalent of bread and water in European culture. If you are lucky, you might be able to afford some soy sauce or something to flavor your rice with (if you’re really lucky you can afford to mix in a raw egg). But if you can only afford a plain, unflavored bowl of rice, you can pretend that you have more food by looking at a picture or some delicious food or something sour and saliva-inducing like umeboshi , or even just imagining it in your mind. The Hans Christien Andersen  story The Little Match Girl  is probably the most popular one of his fairytales in Japan.
So Air Yakiniku is a continuation of this kind of satiric humor. It’s published by a company called Recruit, who operate, among many other things, major job search portal sites , a job-search/employment magazine, and more. The Japanese economy has been just as hard as other economies, which has resulted in many people who are Recruit’s audience, especially temp/contract workers (haken shain 派遣社員), who are mostly in their 40s and younger, losing their jobs. Many temp agencies have gone out of business in recent months, some leaving their contractors unpaid. It’s a pretty dire time, especially since Japan never really shook off the malaise of the bubble economy of the late ’80s. So, while Air Yakiniku is weird and funny, it’s also quite cruel. But I guess you could say that about the most memorable comedy, and may account for its popularity, especially in Japan where that mix of wacked out humor and deep pathos is part of the national psyche.