Tokyo’s Food Scenes
Tokyo is like nowhere else I have ever been. It is tidal wave of new experiences, bustle, hustle, noise and energy. It is an assault on the senses, nowhere more so than when it comes to the food offering.
For the discerning foodie, Tokyo offers you so much choice. From traditional Japanese cuisine, to western influenced burgers and artisan coffees, there is plenty to surprise and excite.
Start by wandering around the city taking everything in – you’ll probably find you make multiple pit stops to experience something that has caught your eye, for example watching a sushi chef at work.
To try some of the very best sushi and fresh Japanese produce, head to the Tsukiji Market where no visit is complete without a fishy breakfast. There are plenty of sushi counters here, but to find the best ones, you need to wind your way along busy streets to the restaurant area near the wholesale fruit and vegetable market. This is is just inside the main gate off Shin-ohashi street.
Of course, Tokyo isn’t just about sushi; you should also try green tea desserts, tofu in every variety, grasshoppers, sticky sweets, local biscuits, noodles and takoyaki (octopus dumplings). In addition, western-inspired cooking is emerging in cafés and restaurants across the city. You can find burgers, pancakes and coffee in a number of places. If you get time, definitely pop in to one of the capital’s cat cafés – these aren’t so much for eating and drinking in, but rather for petting rescue cats for up to an hour at a time.
Nighttime is when the city really comes alive. In every direction are flashing neon signs and lights appearing across the humungous Tokyo skyline. You have plenty of options to keep you busy, from popping into a traditional izakaya (like a pub), to a robot show where girls dressed as warriors will fight to music, or to one of the many karaoke bars. Here you can sit in a booth and sing cheesy songs until your voice goes croaky.
Did you know….
…that train travel can’t be booked outside of Japan – if you decide to travel out of Tokyo, buy a Japan Rail Pass and get discounted rail travel – this enables you to book all your rail travel in the airport when you arrive.
… that some traditional Japanese suppers consist of gottsui – like a kind of hash made with cabbage, a fried egg, cheese and anything else
… that even if you manage to get to the Tsukiji Market at 3am (which is recommended), there is still no guarantee you’ll get in for the tuna auction – only 60 people are permitted into the market at this time, with only 20-30 people allowed into the auction at once. Don’t worry, though, you can enjoy a good sushi breakfast in the outer market first and then head into the inner market around 8am after the auction. This means you get a lie in and can still experience the action of the market.
….the Japanese drink green tea all the time. We brought some special matcha green tea from Tsukiji market – but you can pick up cheaper varieties from most markets or even at the airport to bring home to your family.
…A robot show is one way to see Japan by night and you can buy a ticket for 5,000 YEN (which includes a rather unappetizing Bento Box for dinner – best to eat beforehand) and you will be led through a brightly coloured, neon-lit, mirrored corridor to where girls dressed as warriors will fight each other on giant robots to gain victory. (Robot Restaurant, B2F Shinjuku Robot Bldg, 1-7-1 Kabukicho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo)
Five things to do with the money you save when booking Flight+Hotel
Dine at Park Hyatt’s New York Grill. Dramatically perched on the 52nd floor with floor-to-ceiling glass windows, it offers incredible views over the city.
Take a trip by bullet train to Kyoto and spend a full day or more seeing what the city has to offer from ancient castles, sacred temples, and local speciality sweets. Finally, finish the day off at Men Baka Ichidai, a hard-to-find restaurant where the angry chef serves up a flaming-hot ramen by mixing hot green onion oil with negi ramen. Tip: bring a hair band.
Book a trip on the bullet train, one of Japan’s most iconic innovations. If you are travelling to Kyoto you can book one that goes via Mount Fuji – but make sure you book a ticket on the correct side of the train! Book yours at the JR travel centre at Narita Airport once you arrive in Tokyo.
For a taste of western-inspired food, try Burger Mania, rated one of the best burgers in Tokyo. Do go on an empty stomach as these are huge. Popular options include the quatro cheese, mango or Kobe beef burgers.
At the CupNoodles museum, you can find out everything you need to know about the original super noodle, followed by the option to make your own pot of them. Afterwards, eat a noodle from every country upstairs.
My top 5 things to do
See some latte art at the Streamer Coffee Company in Tokyo – owned by the former world latte champion, Hiroshi Sawada
If you have never been to a cat café, you absolutely must. At the Calico Cat Café in Shinjuku, you can pay for an hour’s session of petting, playing with and feeding the resident rescued cats. Masks are available for anyone to use.
Head to the Tsukiji Market to soak up the atmosphere – before enjoying a fresh sushi breakfast at Sushi Dai.
If you can, take a trip along the Tokyo Mono Rail – even the quickest of rides on this high train will show how much there is to explore here
Try some excellent sushi at the double Michelin starred Kyubey – personal favourites include raw prawn and mackerel