Eating in Japan: Tokyo Chapter

The food scene in Tokyo and beyond varies so much. It ranges from mobile food stands to centuries-old ryōtei to expensive traditional Japanese restaurant that only accepts customers by referral and often features entertainment by geisha. Here in this post, Eating in Japan: Tokyo chapter I recount my experiences

There are plenty of Michelin star restaurants, atmospheric tiny drinking places, cheap and cheerful restaurants chains and unique themed establishments with robots, ninjas and sumo.

Some restaurants exclusively serve one single type of dish that is done to perfection, while others offer a variety of dishes.

A wander around Tsukiji Market in Tokyo (auction part relocated)

The Tsukiji Market where the tuna auction used to take place relocated to nearby Toyosu waterfront in October 2018. Some shops have moved to the new location while others closed down for good, ending decades of traditional family trade.

How to get there: The closest subway station is Shijo-mae Station, located on the Yurikamome Line with direct access to the market.

See this post for more info: Tokyo Fish Market

Rice is big in Japan

Rice is a primary staple food in the Japanese diet. It’s so important that in the past was used as currency. There are many types of rice in Japan – short grain to brown rice (genmai) unpolished rice to multigrain rice. Other grains and seeds may be added to white rice to add flavour and nutrients. There’s also glutinous rice (also known as mochi rice or sticky rice) is the second most common variety of Japanese rice.

gyudon, eating in Japan

A bowl of cooked rice is the focal point of a traditional Japanese meal. It’s served at Japanese breakfast or set meal (teishoku) the other dishes are considered accompaniments to the rice.

Rice is frequently served with miso soup and pickles. This grain is also used to make vinegar used in dressings, pickles, marinades and for preparing sushi rice; alcohol (Sake) and flours.

Donburi tekkadon tuna

Some other rice recipes to try in Japan

Kare Raisu (curry rice) is plain cooked rice with a Japanese curry sauce (sweeter than Asian curry) served with additional toppings such as tonkatsu (katsu curry- pork). Curry is not a native Japanese spice, but it has been used in Japan for over a century.

beto box

Rice Cakes (Mochi or omochi) are traditionally made from steamed and pounded glutinous rice filled with sweet red bean paste. Onigiri is triangularly shaped cakes made of cooked rice and is wrapped in nori seaweed. Nowadays, they have a hybrid version sandwich and onigiri filled with Japanese and Western ingredients.

Mochi in Sakura leaves
Strawberry Mochi

A great snack is the rice crackers (Senbei) are baked or grilled wafer made from rice flour. Tamago Kake Gohan is a typical breakfast dish consisting of a raw egg mix into a bowl of rice; often it is seasoned with a bit of soy sauce. Kayu or okayu (Japanese congee) is thick rice porridge made by slowly cooking rice in lots of water.

making Tamagoyaki
making Tamagoyaki
Amazake - fermented rice drink
Amazake – fermented rice drink

Sushi recommendation: Sushi no Midori at 107-6302 Tokyo, Shibuya, Dogenzaka

Sushi no Midori
Sushi no Midori

More Delicious Food to try in Tokyo

Another well-liked dish in Japan and abroad is tempura; there are many restaurants around town serving it. An excellent place to taste this delightful dish is the exceptional value and quality, Kaneko Hannosuke at Nihonbashimuromachi, Chūō, Tokyo 103-0022. Their tempura is lightly golden and crisp served as tendon rice bowls dressed with moreish tentsuyu sauce and accompanied by miso soup.

Tempura, miso and pickles

Tofu is made of curdled soymilk, pressed into blocks in a process similar to making cheese. An excellent source of protein and a staple of Japanese cuisine and an essential ingredient in vegetarian Buddhist temple cuisine (shojin ryori).

Tofu topped with spring onions and katsuobushi

Noodle dishes are served both hot and cold depending on the season. There are a considerable amount of varieties of noodles and recipes. Soba being a native noodle made of buckwheat flour or a mixture of buckwheat and wheat flour. It looks like very thick spaghetti. Udon again Japanese noodle made of wheat flour, they are thicker than soba.

Ramen is Chinese style noodles prepared with a slow-cooked broth with various toppings. This dish was originally from China, and it’s been ‘Japanised’ over the years. Somen are thin Japanese noodles made of wheat flour. They are mainly eaten cold during the summer.


Yakisoba is a fried or grilled Chinese style noodle with pieces of meat, cabbage, carrots, or other vegetables, and garnished with red ginger. It is a favourite festival food.

Japanese hot pot or Nabe is usually cooked at the table, individually or large bowl, often made of clay. Recipes vary from region to region and personal tastes.

individual nabe

Meat has been eaten in Japan in more substantial amounts since the second half of the 19th century. Nowadays there are a variety of favourite Japanese meat dishes, including the famous wagyu beef found all over Tokyo.

wagyu beef and Japanese red wine

Yakitori is a must-try, skewered grilled chicken pieces seasoned with salt or sauce. Roughly all the chicken is used for yakitori including the white and dark meat, gizzards, skin, and other organs, vegetable skewers can be found too.

In Tokyo near JR Yurakucho Station is an area known as ‘Yakitori corner’, just under the arches – lots of places to try this dish and experience Izakaya dining, an informal Japanese dining pub.

A place to enjoy Izakaya and yakitori is the friendly Teppei in Chiyoda (no website!), Yurakucho, 1 Chome−29, TSビル1・2F and it opens in the evenings. Another suggestion to try Yakitori in Tokyo: Nanbantei at 4-5-6 Roppongi, Minato 106-0032, Tokyo Prefecture

Making Yakitori in Teppei

Tonkatsu is deep-fried pork cutlets accompanied by shredded cabbage or on top of cooked rice. It is also a standard addition to Japanese style curry rice (katsu curry). Yakiniku means “grilled meat” bite-size beef and pork are cooked on a grill at the table.
Nikujaga is a well-loved homemade stew style cooking made of sweet stewed meat (niku) and potatoes (jagaimo).

Teppanyaki, where meat, seafood and vegetables are prepared on a large iron griddle (teppan) around which the diners are seated. The chef artfully prepares the dishes in front of his customers.

Monjayaki is a local pancake of Tsukishima area of Tokyo, a pan-fried batter with various ingredients, which are similar to Okonomiyaki but a lot runnier. It’s very filling and a fun way to cook in a group.

making Monjayaki

Izakaya is a type of casual Japanese bar for after-work drinking and sharing plates. Izakaya dining offered a wide variety of dishes and served at a slow pace. Beer is the drink of choice, but plum wine, sake, Japanese wine and other beverages are also available.

Kaiseki, Fine dining Japanese style

Kaiseki is a meticulously prepared meal presented initially to the royal and noble classes. This haute cuisine, kaiseki is the embodiment of “omotenashi,” which means sincere hospitality. Its central principle is to convey respect, making guests feel special and at ease. The chef strives for excellence in every detail.

Traditionally served at a tatami-matted ryokan -Japanese inn – the experience culminates with dessert and a matcha tea ceremony.

There are many options around town. A fantastic place for seasonal Kaiseki that won’t break the bank is Yukuri at Niwa Hotel
1-1-16 Kandamisaki-cho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, 101-0061

Desserts and sweets in Tokyo

Traditional Japanese sweets, known as “wagashi”, are also made with care, seasonally and exceptional presentation principles in mind. The sweets are seasonal, and each has a specific name according to each design.

Wagashi originated as small morsels for the Japanese imperial family and nobility to enjoy with a cup of bitter matcha green tea. Over time, the treats evolved into a variety of intricately crafted works of edible art and shaped from nature, such as flowers, fruit and leaves, and include seasonal ingredients, such as cherry blossom leaves in the springtime and chestnuts in the fall.
Although sweet, they are less sugary than western desserts, they have a gentle sweetness and flavour that pairs well with green tea.

white bean sweet and matcha

There are many types of wagashi. Here are some of the confectionaries found in Tokyo, Dorayaki – bite size two pancakes filled with red bean paste. Dorayaki with Purin, the same with custard filling. Taiyaki are fish-shaped snacks filled with red bean paste.


Mochi are balls made of glutinous rice with different fillings that can be served either savoury or sweet. Yokan is a traditional jellied confectionery of red or white beans.

Koganeimo sweet potato and cinnamon cake

Street Food

onigiri: filled with Japanese and Western ingredients

Street food in Tokyo is no longer limited to takoyaki, yakitori and yakisoba stalls pitched at festivals, street corners and small eateries. An excellent place to try street food in Tokyo is United Nations University Farmers’ Market every weekend 10 am – 4 pm.

Food themes parks and themes restaurants in Tokyo

Food theme park typically features different variations of a specific food such as ramen or gyoza – I went to Ikebukuro Gyoza Stadium everyday10am- 10pm (see below all the food eaten!)

They are usually indoors and much like a food court but offering variations and regional types of the same recipe. Some food theme parks to check it out Tokyo includes the Namja Gyoza Stadium in Ikebukuro, the Jiyugaoka Sweets Forest, and a ramen theme park in Aquacity on Odaiba.

Themed restaurants are popular in Tokyo, the Ninja Restaurant, the Robot Restaurant, The Lock Up and Alcatraz ER have their public. They look like an amusement park with themed menus that follows the overall theme and staff who dressed in costumes. There’s something for everybody!

Fried Dumpling filled with cheese
Baked Dumpling eating in Japan- Tokyo
Baked Dumpling eating in Japan- Tokyo
Dumpling soup

Breakfast in Tokyo

Japanese Breakfast

As a tourist, the most accessible place to try a Japanese-style breakfast is luxury hotels, offering Japanese breakfast set meals or buffets with both Japanese and Western dishes. Another option is Gyudon restaurants, which often provide basic Japanese breakfast sets at low prices.

The Japanese passion for food is apparent everywhere you go. It’s a fantastic place to discover and explore food – life is never the same after a trip to Japan!

Restaurant reservations: Pocket Concierge – online high-class reservation service. Or your 5-start Hotel concierge

View more here: @Rosana_McPhee

To discover and explore Tokyo like a local: Urban Adventures Japan
Their tour: Tokyo after 5 and Japan Cultural Curiosities are highly recommended.

Disclosure: I visited Japan on a personal holiday.