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    Tokyo eating: Your ultimate food guide from street markets to sushi bars

    By Martina Lucchini

    August 1, 2023

    Tokyo eating: Your ultimate food guide from street mark

    Hey there, I'm Yunna! You might think of me as that friend who's always off to Tokyo and can't stop raving about it. No, I'm not a tour guide, but I've been back and forth enough to have some pretty tasty insider tips for your upcoming Tokyo tours.

    Now, let's talk food, shall we? In Japan, it's more than a necessity, it's a celebration. Food connects people, it weaves the social fabric. It's not just about what's on the plate, but the stories, the traditions, and the seasons that it represents.

    When it comes to Tokyo, you're in for a treat. Picture this: sushi bars that have been perfecting their craft for generations, bustling street markets offering exciting local flavors, and yes, world-class restaurants that would give a starry sky a run for its money. It's all here, waiting for you to explore.

    So, are you ready to join me on this exciting culinary journey? Tokyo's vibrant food scene is calling, and trust me, you're going to want to answer. Get ready for a flavorful adventure unlike any other.

    Key ingredients of Japanese cuisine

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    When you dive into the world of Japanese food, there's an exciting palette of flavors waiting to tantalize your taste buds, each shaped by a handful of key ingredients. From the humble miso soup served in the heart of Tokyo to the diverse regional cuisines, you'll notice recurring stars in this deliciously harmonious orchestra.

    Miso and soy sauce, both fermented soy products, bring the distinct umami characteristic of Japanese food. Whether it's a comforting bowl of miso soup at a café or the dipping sauce for your tempura at food stands, these two are truly the lifeblood of Japanese food. Then, we have sesame oil and green onions, adding a pop of flavor and a crunch to everything. Rice and potato flours are other unsung heroes, lending their charm to create crunchy fried foods.

    Mirin and sake, important elements in Japanese cuisine, are more than just condiments. Often used in cooking, they add depth to flavors.

    On the sweeter side of things, red bean paste and sweet potato are popular choices, finding their way into delightful desserts that perfectly balance the savory goodness. And let's not forget rice used for sushi, a key player that binds together ingredients in that popular roll at most restaurants in Tokyo, or supports a delicate piece of freshwater eel in many places you eat in Tokyo.

    When exploring food in Tokyo, it's essential to remember that these ingredients don't merely add flavor. They are the threads woven into the rich tapestry of Japanese customs and tradition. Whether you're munching on pan-fried hamburger patties from food stands or sipping on green tea, these key ingredients promise to make your Tokyo food experience distinctly Japanese and deliciously memorable.

    Seafood in Tokyo: Tsukiji Outer Market and beyond

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    In Tokyo, seafood is at the heart of Japanese meals, with fresh catches finding their way into sushi restaurants, local dishes, and takeout delights. Seafood is not just food here, it symbolizes Tokyo's strong bond with the sea. From Tokyo Bay's bounty of seasonal seafood to the city's bustling markets, seafood is a pivotal part of this metropolis's culinary culture.

    One spot that's synonymous with fresh seafood is Tsukiji Outer Market.

    Although the famous Tsukiji fish market has closed, the Outer Market is still a hub of aquatic abundance.

    Imagine wandering amidst stalls overflowing with everything from glistening tuna to sweet, tender shrimp. Picture yourself at a small sushi bar, a chef masterfully preparing a sushi roll with fresh seafood that practically leaps onto the rice. It's an essential stop on any Tokyo food itinerary, a feast for your senses, and a distinctly Tokyo experience that'll linger in your memory – and on your palate!

    Street food delights of Tokyo

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    Seeking an authentic culinary journey in Tokyo? The city's diverse food scene offers an extraordinary adventure for the senses. While certain popular areas like Shibuya and Shinjuku are known for their myriad dining options, to experience the true essence of Tokyo's street food, you need to venture a little further afield.

    While Omoide Yokocho (Piss Alley) in Shinjuku, known for its no-longer-hidden culinary gems from sizzling yakitori (grilled chicken skewers) to piping hot takoyaki (octopus balls), has become a well-trodden path for tourists, locals have started to seek alternatives. For those looking for an otaku guide to Tokyo to savor all the great food you've seen in anime, this is the area to start!

    As Omoide Yokocho gains popularity with tourists, it's time to venture off the beaten path. Enter Yurakucho's Gado-shita, a less explored yet equally vibrant destination under the train tracks of Yurakucho Station. This district boasts a labyrinth of izakayas and yakitori joints, where the clattering trains and clouds of savory smoke add to the unique ambience.

    From the enticing aroma of miso soup and okonomiyaki (savory pancakes) to the sweet delight of taiyaki (fish-shaped cakes) filled with creamy red bean paste, the street food in Tokyo is more than a meal; it's a narrative of the city's vibrant culinary culture. Explore, eat, and enjoy the authentic Tokyo!

    Ramen and noodle Soup: A staple of Tokyo cuisine

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    When it comes to Tokyo, ramen isn't just food - it's a way of life. Every corner of the city buzzes with inviting ramen stores, offering a comforting bowl of noodles steeped in flavorful broths. Take a seat at a counter in Central Tokyo or Koto City, and savor the ramen with its rich toppings, ranging from raw egg to fried chicken or even freshwater eel. Don't shy away from the diverse range of dipping sauces; they're the hidden flavor bombs that make each ramen experience unique.

    On the flip side, Tokyo also masters the art of other soul-warming noodle soups.

    Wander off to the Tokyo Station Ramen Street, a haven for noodle enthusiasts, or explore local restaurants scattered across the city, and you'll discover delights like hot pot dishes or refreshing bowls of cold udon.

    These eateries serve everything from udon paired with tempura to buckwheat noodles served chilled with savory sauces. Embrace this culinary journey and delve into the heart of Tokyo's vibrant noodle culture.

    Tokyo's comfort foods

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    Ever wondered what the locals in Tokyo crave after a long day? The city's comfort foods are a culinary hug that keeps the city buzzing, offering a hearty taste of home amidst the skyscrapers.

    First, let's talk about Japanese curry, a dish as common as it is adored.

    Far from the scorching Indian variety, Japanese curry is a mild, flavourful sauce filled with tender meat and vegetables.

    Served over a bed of steaming rice, it's a meal that's both humble and satisfying, making it a favorite in restaurants across Tokyo.

    Now, consider the Japanese hamburger patty, known locally as 'hambagu'. This isn't your average burger - instead, it's a juicy patty often served sans bun, accompanied by rice and a rich, tangy sauce.

    This Tokyo specialty has an unassuming charm that's won over hearts and stomachs alike. Then we have the quintessential Japanese hot pot, a one-pot wonder that transforms dining into a communal experience. Imagine a bubbling pot of broth filled with meat, vegetables, or seafood cooked right at your table. It's a taste of the tradition and camaraderie that's as central to Japanese culture as the food itself.

    Japan's fast food: A quick bite in Tokyo

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    In Tokyo, a city that thrums with relentless energy, fast food doesn't mean sacrificing flavor or authenticity. It's an essential part of the lifestyle, catering to locals and travelers who are on the go but still crave good, hearty Japanese food. Think of it as a tasty shortcut to fill your belly amidst a day of exploration or during a short lunch break.

    Places like Yoshinoya, Tenya, and CocoIchibanya are favorites for a reason. At Yoshinoya, you can tuck into a bowl of gyudon – a comforting combination of thinly sliced beef, onion, and rice. Tenya offers up the crunch and sizzle of tempura, a staple in the Japanese diet.

    Then there's CocoIchibanya, a haven for curry lovers, where you get to play chef and customize your very own curry rice dish.

    So, whether you're hustling through the Tokyo rush or leisurely exploring the city, know that a quick, delectable meal is just around the corner.

    Specialty restaurants and unique dining experiences

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    Let me let you in on a secret, Tokyo isn't just about eating great food, it's about immersing yourself in incredible food experiences that make each bite even more memorable. Take monjayaki, a Tokyo specialty.

    It's not just about the delicious, pancake-like dish, it's also about the joy of cooking it right at your table in the many monjayaki restaurants sprinkled across the city.

    Trust me, it's a food experience you can't miss!

    Then, there's sushi. Yes, the famed Tsukiji Fish Market may have closed, but fear not, sushi lovers! The Tsukiji Outer Market is still alive and kicking, serving up the freshest seafood Tokyo has to offer. Many of the sushi restaurants here even use a conveyor belt system, making your meal a visual treat before it becomes an actual one. Pick the tantalizing pieces that catch your eye and savor the freshness that Tokyo is known for. And let's not forget the heart-warming hot pot dishes like sukiyaki and shabu-shabu. It's not just about the rich flavors but also the communal dining experience, something that's truly Japanese.

    Here are some popular recommendations:

    Monja Street in Tsukishima

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    Oh, Tsukishima! Now, here's a place that has taken a special spot in my foodie heart.

    This little island in Tokyo Bay is famous for one thing and one thing only - monjayaki!

    Tsukishima's Monja Street is a monjayaki lover's paradise, lined with countless shops serving up this deliciously gooey pan-fried batter loaded with various ingredients. From the moment the aromatic mix hits the grill to the last delightful bite, you'll understand why locals in Tokyo can't get enough of it. Tsukishima has mastered the art of monjayaki, and once you've tried it here, you'll forever be dreaming of your next visit!

    Genki Sushi

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    If you're in the mood for sushi but want to keep things light on the wallet, then this popular conveyor belt sushi chain is your go-to spot.

    They're famous for their wide variety of sushi, from the familiar to the fanciful, all available at affordable prices. Trust me, your taste buds are in for a joy ride!

    The Uobei Shibuya Dogenzaka branch in Tokyo is particularly loved by travelers and locals alike. And why wouldn't it be? The fun of picking your sushi from a conveyor belt, the excitement of trying something new, and the satisfaction of enjoying delicious sushi in a vibrant sushi bar, it's all part of the Genki Sushi experience!


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    You might think that quality sushi always comes with a hefty price tag, but let me introduce you to Sushiro, a popular sushi-focused restaurant that's going to change that perception. This isn't your typical sushi bar - it's a bustling hub where the freshest sushi options, from tuna to salmon, parade before your eyes on a conveyor belt. At Sushiro, every plate picked is a delicious discovery without denting your wallet. It's proof that in Tokyo, great sushi experiences can be affordable and absolutely unforgettable!


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    If there's a sushi spot that's won over the hearts of locals in Tokyo, it's Hama-Zushi. This sushi restaurant has built quite the reputation for serving delicious, fresh sushi that won't break the bank. Imagine mouth-watering sushi that tastes like a million bucks but doesn't cost it!

    Plus, they've got English menus, which makes ordering a breeze, even if your Japanese is a bit rusty.

    It's these thoughtful touches that make Hama-Zushi a must-visit spot for any sushi lover roaming the streets of Tokyo!


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    If you're craving an exceptional sukiyaki experience in Tokyo, let me steer you toward Imahan, an absolute gem in the city's dining scene.

    Famed for its sukiyaki, this place presents its high-quality, succulent beef in the most exquisite manner.

    The atmosphere? Pure, traditional Japanese charm! You'll be sitting there, completely mesmerized by the entire experience. Plus, no worries if your Japanese is a bit rusty, as they have an English menu too. Dining at Imahan is not just about eating Japanese food, it's about celebrating Tokyo's specialties in a lovely setting. It's definitely one of those nice restaurants that you won't want to miss!

    Shabu Shabu Let Us

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    If you're on the hunt for a heart-warming meal in Tokyo, look no further than 'Shabu Shabu Let Us', tucked away in the bustling neighborhood of Shinjuku. This gem of a Japanese restaurant is a haven for all shabu-shabu lovers!

    Known for its top-notch meat and farm-fresh vegetables, it’s an all-you-can-eat extravaganza that guarantees to keep your taste buds dancing with joy.

    It's not just about the food, it's about the whole experience - dipping high-quality ingredients into a bubbling hot pot dish, watching them cook to perfection, and then savoring the complex flavors. A visit to 'Shabu Shabu Let Us' is more than just a meal. It's a food tour through the soulful culinary traditions of Japan.

    Exploring local eateries

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    Now, if you're like me and love to venture off the beaten path, exploring local eateries across Tokyo is an adventure in itself. It's like stepping into a culinary treasure map, where each restaurant is a gem waiting to be discovered. Tokyo's specialties are best experienced in these local haunts, from corner ramen stores to home-style izakayas. They represent the heart and soul of Japanese food culture, each one showcasing a different aspect of regional cuisine. It's not just about eating, it's about immersing yourself in Tokyo's vibrant food scene. Trust me, nothing beats the satisfaction of stumbling upon a local favorite, ordering from a menu filled with dishes beloved by Tokyo locals, and taking that first flavorful bite. So, grab your ultimate Tokyo food guide, and let's get ready to eat in Tokyo like never before!

    Tonki in Meguro

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    Now, if you want to talk about places that do one thing and do it oh-so-well, let's take a detour to Tonki in Meguro.

    This unassuming spot has been a haven for Tonkatsu lovers since 1939 - that's a lot of years perfecting a single dish!

    The setting is as straightforward as it gets, with its counter seats and uncomplicated dining room, but believe me when I say the Tonkatsu here is a game-changer. Think succulent pork cutlet covered in crunchy breadcrumbs, deep-fried to perfection, and served with a side of tangy dipping sauce. It's the stuff food dreams are made of. The menu may be limited, but with Tonkatsu this good, you won't miss the clutter of too many choices. So if you're wondering where to eat in Tokyo for the best Tonkatsu, look no further. Tonki has you covered!

    Yakitori Ton Ton in Yurakucho

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    If you're in Tokyo and a fan of yakitori (grilled chicken skewers), you simply must visit the Yakitori restaurant Ton Ton in Yurakucho.

    Located under the rumbling train tracks of Yurakucho Station, this little izakaya (Japanese pub) is a culinary gem.

    Their yakitori, brushed with a finger-licking good soy sauce and grilled to smoky perfection, is a real Tokyo specialty. But don't stop there! Yakitori Ton Ton also serves a delightful array of traditional Japanese dishes that change with the seasons. And even if you don't speak the language, no worries. They've got an English menu to help you navigate through their offerings. Amidst the many restaurants in Tokyo, this place stands out for its truly authentic vibe. So grab a skewer, sip some green tea, and let the ambiance of this unique dining room under the tracks immerse you in the heart of Tokyo's food scene.

    Tsuta in Sugamo

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    Now, let me introduce you to a place that's truly a gem amongst Tokyo's bustling food scene - Tsuta in Sugamo.

    This small, unassuming spot is actually the world's first Michelin-starred ramen shop. Can you believe it?

    But what makes Tsuta stand out in a city filled with ramen stores is their unique, delectable twist on this classic dish. Imagine a warm bowl of ramen but with the luxurious touch of truffle oil. It's like a high-end gourmet experience but in a cozy, welcoming atmosphere, making it a standout among Tokyo's abundant variety of restaurants. But don't let the Michelin star intimidate you, Tsuta remains an incredibly down-to-earth eatery.

    Sometaro Okonomiyaki in Asakusa

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    Ready to dive into a unique Tokyo specialty? Let me introduce you to Sometaro Okonomiyaki in Asakusa.

    This spot is a haven for okonomiyaki lovers, serving up sizzling Japanese savory pancakes packed full of a variety of ingredients.

    The atmosphere? Oh, it's wonderfully traditional and relaxed - you'll feel right at home! And it's not just the food that'll have you grinning; the sight of your okonomiyaki being expertly prepared right before your eyes is part of the magic. After a day exploring Asakusa, there's nothing quite like settling into Sometaro with a piping hot okonomiyaki and a soothing cup of green tea.

    Sushi Dai in Toyosu

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    If there's one place that always brings me back, it's Sushi Dai in Toyosu. This spot is renowned among locals and tourists alike and for a good reason. Nestled in the heart of Toyosu Fish Market, this sushi haven is where you can indulge in the freshest sushi you can imagine. From the moment you see the gleaming slices of sashimi perfectly perched atop a little mound of sushi rice, you know you're in for a treat. It's not just sushi; it's a celebration of the sea served on a plate!

    Tempura Fukamashi in Kyobashi

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    In the heart of Kyobashi lies a delightful little secret – Tempura Fukamashi. It's a cozy, lesser-known spot that we, frequent Tokyo explorers, love just as much as the locals do. But don't let its under-the-radar status fool you.

    This small eatery has earned a shining Michelin star for its outstanding tempura!

    Imagine lightly battered, crispy seafood and vegetables, each bite bursting with flavor yet surprisingly light. It's tempura like you've never had before. No tourist fanfare here, just genuine Tokyo dining magic that's truly worth discovering!

    Harmonica Yokocho in Kichijoji

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    Now, if you want to catch the city's rhythm and feel Tokyo's pulse, Harmonica Yokocho in Kichijoji is your go-to spot. It's like stepping into Tokyo's heartbeat, with a maze of cozy alleys brimming with izakayas, yakitori grills, bars, and food stands. There's an undeniable charm to the clinking of glasses, the mouth-watering aroma of grilled skewers wafting through the air, and the bustle of locals unwinding after a day's work. It's not just about the food, it's about the atmosphere - friendly, laid-back, and authentically Tokyo. Each corner has a story, and every stall has a new taste adventure. So, come get lost in the enchanting labyrinth that is Harmonica Yokocho; it's the city's vibrant spirit captured in an alleyway.

    Ramen Street in Tokyo Station

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    You know what's really cool? There's a secret hideaway under the hustle and bustle of Tokyo Station that'll make any ramen enthusiast's heart skip a beat - the Ramen Street! It's a cozy corridor tucked away from the world, housing an array of small ramen shops. Each shop tells its own delicious tale, with unique styles of ramen inspired by different regions of Japan. Slurp on a bowl of rich, pork-based tonkotsu in one shop, then nip next door to enjoy a lighter, soy-based shoyu ramen.

    Food tours in Tokyo


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    Now, if you're wondering how to get a taste of all these fantastic food experiences I've been chattering about, let me tell you, food tours in Tokyo are an absolute game changer! They're like your golden ticket to explore Tokyo's vibrant food landscape. One of my personal favorites is one of the many City Unscripted Tokyo tours. You're not just shuffled from one spot to another, but you're taken on an authentic, tailored journey through Tokyo's food scene. What I love about them is their focus on individual preferences. Whether you're a sushi savant or a takeout fanatic, they've got you covered! By engaging with local guides who share their insider knowledge and passion, you're not just tasting food, you're savoring stories, traditions, and the beautiful culture of Tokyo. Trust me, it's one of the best ways to sink your teeth into the city's gastronomic offerings!

    There we go! That's Tokyo's food scene in a nutshell - exciting, diverse, and always surprising! Whether it's flipping your own monjayaki on a hot grill, picking colorful sushi plates off a conveyor belt, or sharing a steaming hot pot with newfound friends, every meal here is a chance to step into Tokyo's culinary shoes. But remember, Tokyo's food is more than just ingredients and cooking techniques; it's a delicious window into the city's culture, lifestyle, and heart. So get out there, and let Tokyo's vibrant culinary scene whisk you away on an adventure you'll savor long after the last bite.

    Here's to delicious discoveries and unforgettable Tokyo memories!

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