The Wishlist: A Foodie Guide to Tokyo

Uni don (sea urchin rice bowl), Tokyo
Uni don (sea urchin rice bowl), Tokyo | © gunnerl / Getty Images
Photo of Culture Trip Travel Team
9 September 2019

Culture Trip brings you The Wishlist – a ready collection of travel ideas inspired by what you love. Discover things to do, where to stay, and the best spots to eat and drink.

Home to sprawling fish markets and the spiciest ramen in existence, Tokyo is a veritable foodie wonderland.

Snag a seat at a sushi shop and indulge in omakase; soft, springy rectangles of tamago; and rice bowls brimming with the catch of the day. Sip sake from a list of over 100 labels in a dark, moody izakaya, then head to your hotel for a nightcap as you gaze out on Tokyo Bay.

If you’re looking to treat your taste buds while in Tokyo, seek out the best spots to visit with Culture Trip’s food bucket list.

Things to do in Tokyo

Discover traditional Tokyo treats

Historical Landmark
Map View
Seek out traditional Tokyo snacks
Seek out traditional Tokyo snacks | © Joanna Kalafatis / Alamy Stock Photo

On this tour of the Ningyocho and Nihonbashi neighbourhoods, you’ll be guided straight to some traditional snacks and treats not often sold in modern-day Japan. You’ll feast on candy, caramels, senbei (rice crackers), fish jerky, bean-paste snacks and seaweed, all while exploring the backstreets and alleys of the capital. Visit one of Ningyocho’s eight temples, an incense store that dates back to the 18th century, a shop selling shamisen (a traditional Japanese instrument) and a toothpick specialist, where each toothpick arrives folded up in a piece of paper scribbled with a poem.

Sample street food at Yanaka Ginza

Market, Architectural Landmark
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Yanaka Ginza is lined with shops, restaurants and food stalls
© Boaz Rottem / Alamy Stock Photo
If you’d prefer to explore the local landscape yourself, take a trip to the Yanaka Ginza shopping street, which has been around since the 1950s and is still very evocative of the time. A short walk from Nippori train station, the street is lined with shops that hawk everything from hunks of meat to haircuts and toys. There are also a range of restaurants and food stalls here, with the menchi-katsu – a long, crispy baton filled with mince and sold in white paper sacks – especially popular.

Stroll the streets of Shibuya

Architectural Landmark, Memorial
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Discover Shibuya’s burgeoning food scene
Discover Shibuya’s burgeoning food scene | © Get Your Guide

Back in Central Tokyo, you’ll find the colourful and vibrant district of Shibuya. Best known for the neon lights and giant billboards at its scramble crossing, Shibuya has also become beloved for its food scene. Take this walking tour to sample kobe beef skewers, Osaka takoyaki, Hiroshima okonomiyaki (a type of pancake), five kinds of sushi, Japanese desserts and more, before finishing up at Shibuya Depachika, an underground food market.

Yokohama Brewery, Yokohama-shi

Bar, Craft Ale Bar, Restaurant, Asian, Contemporary, Fusion
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Yokohama Brewery, a 30-minute drive from Tokyo, is the oldest craft brewery in Japan and has won several awards, including the coveted Mayor’s Award. Opened in 1995, it specialises in altbiers, weizens, pilsners and pale ales, among others, which can be sampled in flights or simply one glass at a time. The brewery also houses a restaurant that serves an array of Asian and Western dishes.

Food and drink in Tokyo

Classical dining at Ishikawa

Restaurant, Japanese, $$$
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For a high-end, traditional Japanese dining experience, head to the three-Michelin-star Ishikawa in Kagurazaka. A kaiseki (multi-course) restaurant, Ishikawa focusses on sushi and seafood, crafting luxurious fine dining (albeit with a high price tag). Expect the likes of grilled snapper, buttery and crisp, along with clay-pot rice crowded with coin-size scallops. While its award-winning cuisine means you’ll certainly need to make advance reservations, the secluded and intimate environment (with only seven seats at the counter and four private dining rooms) is anything but stuffy.

Catch of the day at Zauo Fishing Restaurant

Diner, Restaurant, Japanese, Seafood, $$$
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At Zauo Fishing Restaurant, dinner operates a little differently. Instead of the kitchen catching and preparing your food, you’ll eat your own catch of the day. Upon entering the boat-shaped dining area, you’re provided with a rod and bait to net your own meal from the tanks filled with rainbow trout, fluke and lobster (but don’t worry, you are welcome to order straight from the menu, too). Your catch will then be prepared to your preferences by the chef: grilled, simmered, tempura-battered, steamed or boiled. The rest of the menu is rounded out by shareable small plates such as devilled eggs, seaweed salad and sushi rolls.

Tickle your taste buds at Mouko Tanmen Ramen

Restaurant, Japanese, $$$
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Mouko Tanmen Nakamoto’s Makoto Shirane is a legend on Tokyo’s ramen scene
Mouko Tanmen Nakamoto’s Makoto Shirane is a legend on Tokyo’s ramen scene | © Deby Kartika Suchaeri / Culture Trip

For over 20 years Makoto Shirane, the owner of Mouko Tanmen Nakamoto, has led the way in the world of spicy ramen. He swirls his ramen, bobbing with curling noodles and bean sprouts, with a smattering of spices, crafting a red-hot bowl that is regarded as the city’s spiciest. The hottest version comes with 10/10 fire emojis, but you can slurp other versions that won’t leave your tongue as burned.

Nihonryori RyuGin

Restaurant, Japanese, $$$
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Candy mandarin at Tenku Ryu-Gin, the fine dining kaiseki restaurant of Seiji Yamamoto in Hong Kong. Mr Yamamoto is the chef of Nihonryori RyuGin in To
Candy mandarin, Nihonryori RyuGin | © Leisa Tyler / Alamy Stock Photo
Nihonryori RyuGin’s chef, Seiji Yamamoto, values creative cuisine that stimulates each of the senses, so much so he insists customers avoid wearing strong perfumes as it may interfere with the overall dining experience. Specialising in kaiseki cuisine, Nihonryori RyuGin is consistently named among the best restaurants in the world. Here, the menu consistently changes – depending on the seasons and what inspires Yamamoto – but you might find delicate slices of sashimi, fish grilled over charcoal, wild boar and domestic quail. The meal ends with a selection of desserts, plus a cup of steaming tea.

Sip sake at Akaoni

Bar, Restaurant, Japanese, $$$
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For an after-dinner nightcap, there’s no place better than Akaoni a classic sake bar and izakaya. Akaoni translates to Red Devil, and beginners must be careful the team here takes their sake very seriously! The menu features more than 100 varieties, including a seasonal option called namazake (raw, unpasteurised sake), along with a small scattering of plates to line your stomach: oysters of the half shell, platters of sashimi and tiny whole fish that is fried and drizzled with sweet and sour vinegar.

Where to stay in Tokyo

Luxury stay at Hotel Chinzanso

Luxury
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Opt for a superior room with impressive Tokyo skyline views, Hotel Chinzanso Tokyo
Hotel Chinzanso has a traditional feel | Courtesy of Hotel Chinzanso Tokyo

Home to nine excellent restaurants, Hotel Chinzanso is a gastronome’s dream. The star of the show, however, is Mokushundo, a small restaurant in the hotel’s garden that serves iron-kettle kaiseki cuisine atop lava rocks from Mount Fuji. The hotel is tucked away in a secluded environment of running streams, colourful bridges, a 600-year-old pagoda and a 100-year-old teahouse where you can take part in a traditional Japanese tea ceremony.

Everything you need to know

Innovation at Park Hotel

Boutique Hotel, Hotel
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The decor at Park Hotel Tokyo is inspired by Japanese culture
The decor at Park Hotel Tokyo is inspired by Japanese culture | Courtesy of Park Hotel Tokyo

Close to the Tsukiji Fish Market, you’ll find the stylish Park Hotel Tokyo. Each room here is impeccably designed, with some featuring striking murals. The hotel also houses The Society, an exclusive whisky bar that offers more than 100 types of savoury single malts, and a kaiseki restaurant that serves Japanese multi-course dinners with a side of sweeping city views.

Everything you need to know

Elegance at Andaz Tokyo Toranomon Hills

Boutique Hotel
Map View
The contemporary design sets the Andaz Tokyo Toranomon Hills apart
The contemporary design sets the Andaz Tokyo Toranomon Hills apart | Courtesy of Andaz Tokyo Toranomon Hills

The upscale high-rise Andaz Tokyo is a great choice for food lovers. For cocktails, head to the hotel’s terrace bar, which is perched on the top floor of the Toranomon Hills skyscraper complex. And when you get hungry, just saunter down to the in-house sushi restaurant, an eight-seat spot revered for its chef’s omakase (just make sure you reserve ahead). Guests here enjoy unparalleled views of the city, especially on the higher floors, as well as a large pool and a spa.

Everything you need to know

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These recommendations were updated on September 9, 2019 to keep your travel plans fresh.