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    Best sushi in Tokyo: A local's ultimate guide

    By Kenji Kitabayasho

    August 10, 2023

    Best sushi in Tokyo: A local's ultimate guide

    Hey there, I'm Kenji! I'm a local host with City Unscripted, but today I'm not here to promote one of the many Tokyo tours available. No, I've been a Tokyo resident for over two decades, and let me tell you - I've got stories and sushi recommendations to share! I'm all about Tokyo life: the vibrant culture, the bustling streets, and the endless sushi rolls that make your taste buds dance.

    Ready to ditch the guidebooks and see Tokyo through the eyes of a local?

    Let's embark on an unforgettable culinary adventure together.

    • Why Tokyo is the sushi capital
    • What makes sushi in Tokyo unique?
    • Sushi and Tokyo, Japan: A history
    • Guide to the best sushi in Tokyo, Japan
    • Sukiyabashi Jiro: The most famous sushi place in Japan
    • The famous sushi market in Tokyo, Japan: Toyosu Market
    • Understanding sushi prices in Tokyo
    • Finding good sushi in Tokyo
    • Featuring noteworthy sushi chefs
    • Sushi dining etiquette in Japan
    Sushi restaurants in Japan are the best

    Now, you might be wondering: "Is Tokyo known for sushi?" Let me tell you, the answer is a resounding "Yes!". Tokyo isn't just known for sushi – it's the sushi capital of the world! And there's no doubt about why. Walking around the city, you'll find everything from humble sushi joints to high-end sushi restaurants, each offering a unique take on this famous Japanese cuisine.

    The best sushi restaurants in Tokyo – and there are a lot of them – are where magic happens. It's not just about eating sushi; it's about experiencing an art form.

    You'll see chefs like Hiroyuki Sato and Kimura masterfully preparing sushi rice with red or white vinegar and handling everything from crab meat to tuna and sea urchins with precision.

    The secret? Each piece of sushi, whether it's made with fresh or aged fish, is crafted with meticulous care. Dipped into just the right amount of soy sauce, every bite is a culinary masterpiece.

    So, whether you're looking for a quick bite for lunch, a great meal for dinner, or an exploration of unique dishes at one of Tokyo's many Michelin-starred restaurants, you're in for a treat.

    What makes sushi in Tokyo unique?

    Sushi chef preparing sushi in Tokyo

    What sets sushi in Tokyo apart from anywhere else in the world, you ask? Well, it's a mix of ingredients, preparation, and presentation, all sprinkled with a bit of Tokyo magic! Walking into any sushi restaurant here, you can expect the freshest seafood sourced straight from the local markets. The fatty tuna might be thick slabs of velvety richness, the sea urchin an indulgent treat, and even the vinegared sushi rice is something to marvel at. Each bite is a testament to the Japanese dedication to quality and taste, making even a decent sushi place in Tokyo a great meal anywhere else!

    But what truly makes Tokyo's sushi scene unique is the chefs.

    From seasoned masters at high-end sushi restaurants to skilled female sushi chefs breaking through the sushi world's glass ceiling, each has its unique style.

    They're artists, really, shaping sushi rice, adorning it with raw fish or crab meat, and drizzling just the right amount of soy sauce. You might see them working over a hot plate, deftly preparing your chef's choice sushi in their own restaurant. And as you taste their creations with the perfect balance of white or mild red vinegar, it's like meeting an old Japanese friend – comforting, familiar, yet constantly surprising.

    Sushi at Toyosu Fish Market, Tokyo

    Sushi and Tokyo, Japan: A history

    If you trace sushi's journey in Tokyo, it's a tale steeped in history and evolution. Sushi, in its earliest form, was all about preserving fish in fermented rice.

    But Tokyo, with its bustling Toyosu Fish Market, unique cultural perspective, and love for fine food, took this concept and ran with it. They transformed this method of preservation into an experience, a culinary art form that became the backbone of Japanese cuisine.

    From street food stalls to top-tier restaurants, sushi permeates every level of Tokyo's dining scene. As sushi evolved, Tokyo wasn't just along for the ride; it was leading the charge. The city's chefs became sushi masters, innovating while respecting tradition. Their restaurants, whether Michelin-starred establishments or cozy sushi joints reflect that duality. At spots like Sushi Saito or Sushi Aoki, you'll find a blend of time-honored techniques and creative flair.

    That's why sushi is so popular in Tokyo – it's not just a meal, it's a connection to history, a testament to culinary evolution, and an utterly delicious dining experience.

    Guide to the best sushi in Tokyo, Japan

    Sushi chef preparing sushi in Tokyo, Japan

    If you're in Tokyo and wondering where to find the best sushi, buckle up because I've got the inside scoop for you! Start with Sushi Saito, an iconic spot in Roppongi Hills renowned for its exceptional chef's choice sushi. Then there's Sushi Sho, where every dish is a burst of flavor and innovation. It's a bit of a challenge to walk in without a reservation but believe me, it's worth it.

    Next on our sushi tour is Sushi Yoshitake, another Michelin-starred gem hidden in the city's bustling heart. Here, every piece of sushi, from the fatty tuna to the sea urchin, is an absolute delight. And don't miss out on Sushi Aoki, a great value choice with English-speaking staff, perfect for both lunch and dinner. Lastly, if you're looking for a top-notch experience without breaking the bank, Sushi Ishiyama is your spot. Their à la carte options are just as remarkable as the high-end places, truly capturing the essence of the sushi experience.

    Sushi chef in Tokyo, Japan

    Sukiyabashi Jiro: The most famous sushi place in Japan

    Nestled in the heart of Tokyo, you'll find Sukiyabashi Jiro, arguably the most famous sushi restaurant in the world.

    It's not just a sushi restaurant, it's a cultural institution, a place where raw fish and vinegared rice become edible masterpieces. Walking into Sukiyabashi Jiro, it's not a large space, just an eight-seat counter, but the atmosphere is palpable with a sense of reverence for the sushi craft.

    Behind this counter, you'll find Jiro Ono, the man who turned this small joint into an iconic spot that sushi enthusiasts dream about.

    Jiro-san, with his decades of sushi-making experience, is something of a sushi sorcerer. He's perfected the art of sushi, transforming simple ingredients like rice, soy sauce, and fresh fish into something extraordinary. Each piece of sushi here is a sensory delight, bursting with umami flavors that will have you reassessing everything you knew about sushi. Be it lunch or dinner, each meal is an exquisite procession of sushi delights, served one by one over the course of the meal. It's a Michelin three-star dining experience unlike any other in the sushi world.

    Tuna sushi from Toyosu market, Tokyo

    The famous sushi market in Tokyo, Japan: Toyosu Market

    Welcome to the heart of Tokyo's sushi scene - the Toyosu Fish Market.

    This bustling hub is the largest seafood market in the world and an absolute must-visit if you're after that unbeatable freshness in your sushi.

    Here, the seafood is so fresh it practically leaps onto your plate. What's more, Toyosu isn't just a market, it's a full-blown foodie wonderland, teeming with some of the best sushi restaurants in Tokyo. They get the pick of the catch, meaning the sushi you'll eat here is about as fresh as it gets.

    When you're navigating the labyrinth of Toyosu Market, two names will come up time and time again: Sushi Dai and Daiwa Sushi. These are not your run-of-the-mill sushi joints - they're institutions, and rightfully so. These spots serve up fantastic sushi at a good value, attracting locals and tourists alike who don't mind queuing for the promise of an awesome meal. Grab a seat at the sushi bar, watch the chefs as they deftly shape vinegared rice and thick slabs of uncooked fish into little pieces of art, and take in the vibrant atmosphere of the market around you.

    You'll soon see why a visit to Toyosu Market is a Tokyo experience like no other, an absolute feast for your senses and your belly! So, when in Tokyo, make sure to rise early, join the walk-in queue, and embark on a sushi adventure that'll be hard to top. Trust me, you'll be glad you did.

    Local host and travelers enjoying sushi in Tokyo

    Understanding sushi prices in Tokyo

    Getting to grips with sushi prices in Tokyo can be a bit of a rollercoaster ride. You can find options that suit all kinds of budgets, from the wallet-friendly conveyor belt sushi joints to the high-end, fine dining experiences that'll make you feel like royalty. Take Kura Sushi, for example, a popular sushi chain where you can enjoy decent sushi without breaking the bank. It's perfect for a quick snack or a fun, budget-friendly dinner. Conveyor belt sushi is a great way to eat your fill without emptying your pockets, and it's an experience in itself!

    On the flip side, if you're looking to splurge, there are plenty of high-end sushi restaurants to choose from.

    One of them is the much-lauded Sushi Aoki, where you'll get to indulge in some of the best sushi the city has to offer.

    It's a different ball game altogether - think Michelin stars, expert chefs, and a dining experience to remember. The price points here are higher, but every piece of sushi, from the sea urchin to the fatty tuna, is a testament to the chef's craft. The red vinegar-infused sushi rice, the precise balance of soy sauce and seafood, the ambiance of the small space - it's all part of the package. And while it might require digging a bit deeper into your pockets, the experience is well worth the splurge.

    Finding good sushi in Tokyo

    Assortment of sushi being prepared in Tokyo, Japan

    Discovering great sushi in Tokyo is a tantalizing adventure in itself. Sure, there are Michelin-starred names and well-known sushi joints, but sometimes, the magic lies off the beaten path. Don't be afraid to venture into small, lesser-known spots, and you might find some of the best sushi in Tokyo. One of these hidden gems is Sushi Shimizu in Minato. Don't let the small space fool you - this place is a haven for sushi lovers, serving up everything from the finest tuna to the most delectable sea urchin. Their sushi rice, flavored with mild red vinegar, forms a beautiful harmony with the fresh seafood, making every bite an exciting journey.

    Then there's Sushi Kimura in Setagaya, a testament to the passion and commitment of the chef. Each piece of sushi here is a work of art. Just imagine: thick slabs of the freshest fish atop perfectly vinegared rice served in a quaint sushi joint that feels like a secret only you know.

    The quality of sushi here can rival even the most high-end sushi restaurants in Tokyo but at a good value for money.

    These places might not be as famous as Sukiyabashi Jiro or the top restaurants at the Toyosu Fish Market, but they certainly deliver when it comes to authentic, quality sushi.

    Sushi being prepared in Tokyo, Japan

    Featuring noteworthy sushi chefs

    A sushi experience is as much about the chefs as it is about the food, and Tokyo has no shortage of sushi maestros who have honed their craft to perfection. Let's zoom in on one such artist: Chef Hiroyuki Sato. A luminary in Tokyo's sushi scene, Sato crafts sushi that can be best described as a harmonious symphony of taste and texture at his high-end sushi restaurant, Hakkoku.

    Known for his discerning eye for the freshest seafood and mastery of vinegared rice, his sushi has a unique depth of flavor that will have you thinking about it long after you leave.

    His hands are like an artist's brushes, carefully shaping thick slabs of raw fish over the perfect bed of rice, presenting not just a meal but a masterpiece.

    However, Tokyo's sushi scene isn't just about the well-established chefs. The city's sushi world is seeing a rise in female sushi chefs who are challenging the status quo. One to watch is Chef Kimura, who brings a refreshing perspective to this traditional Japanese cuisine. Her approach to sushi combines classical techniques with innovative twists. Whether it's a subtly different way of preparing the sushi rice or using an unexpected ingredient in the miso soup, dining at her sushi joint is like a delightful treasure hunt.

    These noteworthy chefs, with their passion, creativity, and dedication, are continually pushing the boundaries of what sushi can be, ensuring that the sushi scene in Tokyo remains vibrant and exciting.

    Travelers enjoying sushi in Tokyo, Japan

    Sushi dining etiquette in Japan

    Let's dive into the deep end of sushi dining etiquette in Japan because, let's be honest, sushi isn't just a food—it's an experience. Dining in sushi restaurants, especially in places like the intimate eight-seat restaurant of Sushi Sho, is an immersive culinary adventure where knowing the do's and don'ts can elevate the experience.

    First off, you'll want to appreciate the sushi presentation. Chefs take great pride in their work, and a moment of admiration goes a long way.

    Remember, sushi is usually served as the chef's choice, or 'omakase', and it's a nod to the chef's skill and knowledge to trust them to choose for you.

    When you eat sushi, use your fingers for nigiri (the fish on rice) and chopsticks for sashimi (just the fish). Contrary to popular belief, it's completely fine and even preferable to enjoy your sushi this way! When dipping your sushi in soy sauce, make sure to dip it fish side down. This keeps the rice from soaking up too much sauce and falling apart.

    Finally, try to eat the sushi piece in one bite to fully enjoy the harmony of flavors designed by the chef. Whether you're tucking into a sushi lunch at Tokyo's outer market or settling into the new location of your favorite sushi spot, following these guidelines will help you fit right in and make the most out of your sushi dreams in Japan. Remember, the goal is not just to eat but to savor every moment of the sushi experience.

    The ultimate sushi experience in Tokyo

    Travelers about to enjoy sushi with a local host in Tok

    So there you have it, folks! Our sushi-soaked journey through Tokyo shows why this city is a shining star in the sushi universe. From the meticulously crafted morsels at Sukiyabashi Jiro to the early-morning delights at Toyosu Market's Sushi Dai and Daiwa Sushi, Tokyo's variety and quality are simply unmatched. And whether you're exploring hidden gems like Sushi Shimizu in Minato or being inspired by innovative chefs like Hiroyuki Sato of Hakkoku, every sushi experience in Tokyo offers a unique taste of this incredible cuisine.

    Don't forget, Tokyo isn't just about the food—it's about the whole package, the experience, the atmosphere, and the etiquette that turns a meal into a memory.

    So whether you're dipping your toes into sushi for the first time or you're a seasoned sushi fan looking to dive deeper, Tokyo's sushi scene is ready to welcome you with open arms. Enjoy the adventure, take in the sights, sounds, and tastes, and remember, every piece of sushi is a story waiting to be told.

    Wishing you many unforgettable sushi escapades in Tokyo!

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