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Why Japan’s capital is the world’s greatest metropolis for meals

There is no higher place to eat on the earth than Tokyo. There is no such thing as a metropolis so stupendously massive, none so obsessive about culinary high quality, none so able to embrace such a spread of delicacies. There is no such thing as a competitors. Tokyo is the very best.

That is a giant name, I perceive, and one I’ve considered typically. So many different cities all over the world provide sheer brilliance for the travelling gourmand: New York, Paris, Bangkok, Melbourne, San Sebastian, Shanghai, Mexico Metropolis …

The record goes on, and on any given day you possibly can declare these because the best and it would not sound loopy. However Tokyo is one thing else fully.

This can be a metropolis by which you possibly can eat each meal for the remainder of your life and you’ll by no means develop bored.

It is a metropolis that has taken the idea of eating out and refined it, perfected it, given its complexity and dimension in the identical approach an amazing chef would construct flavour in a traditional dish.

It is a heady, intoxicating expertise to reach within the Japanese capital as a lover of excellent meals and start to wrap your head round simply how a lot there’s on provide on this place. Each chew right here, each mouthful, is a pleasure.

Tokyo is the meals capital of the world – and right here, on this information to consuming and ingesting within the Japanese capital, primarily based on my new e book, Neon Lights in Tokyo, I make the case for such a standing.


People crossing the famous Shibuya crossing in Tokyo at night. satnov19cover Tokyo Japan ultimate food city cover feature ; text by Ben Groundwatercr: iStock (reuse permitted, no syndication) 

The well-known Shibuya crossing. Photograph: iStock

Higher Tokyo has a inhabitants of virtually 40 million folks. That is practically twice as many individuals as Australia, in an space that is half the scale of Sydney.

Such numbers deliver a scale and variety to the Tokyo meals scene that simply cannot be matched anyplace else. Each conceivable type of delicacies – from dishes particular simply to Tokyo, to essentially the most obscure international thought – and each price-point has been lined in Tokyo a number of occasions over.

In the event you can eat it, you could find it within the Japanese capital. In the event you can drink it, you could find it right here. These 40 million folks all love meals, all of them like to dine out, and so they all have an expectation of high quality. It ends in one thing really wonderful.


Eating is greater than mere meals in Tokyo, and actually in all of Japan. It is theatre. It is efficiency. Most significantly, it is a deep sense of welcome and conviviality.

And it’s all of these items due to counter-culture: that’s, sitting at a broad picket counter in a restaurant that solely seats eight or 10 diners, the construction of so lots of Tokyo’s nice eateries.

At a Tokyo counter, diners have a front-row seat to witness the very best within the enterprise put together their meals, slicing and poaching and grilling and steaming, all whereas participating their clients in light-hearted chatter.

Cooks watch fastidiously as their diners eat; they choose their dishes’ successes, and make delicate tweaks to the remainder of the meal. And on the finish they usher their clients out to the road, bidding farewell from the door, the final word signal of heat and respect. There’s nothing else prefer it.


Pay scant consideration to the garments in a Tokyo division retailer, on the likes of Mitsukoshi (, Isetan and Takashimaya ( Stroll proper previous the fragrances. Do not even take into account the sneakers.

As a substitute, discover an escalator and head all the way down to the basement ranges, and put together to be dazzled by the unimaginable quantity of excellent meals there’s on provide. These division retailer meals halls are often called “depachika”, and they’re heaven on Earth for anybody who likes to eat.

In these sprawling subterranean areas you will discover every little thing from gourmand bento bins, to high-end recent produce, to French-style bread, to stunning sweets, to luxurious objects imported from all over the world, to native sake and whisky and way more. Deliver money, or bank cards, and put together to spend.


satnov19cover Tokyo Japan ultimate food city cover feature ; text by Ben Groundwater
Book Extract : Neon Lights in Tokyo 
(handout image supplied by HARDIE GRANT BOOKS <>, ONE TIME TRAVELLER USE ONLY, no syndication)
pic supplied by journalist please check for reuse

In any regular nation, any regular metropolis, you’d hardly set foot inside a comfort retailer in case you had been in search of one thing good and recent to eat. And but the meals in a Tokyo “konbini” is surprisingly scrumptious, and eminently reasonably priced.

You possibly can name right into a Lawson, a FamilyMart or perhaps a 7-Eleven, outlet merely to get your palms on considered one of their well-known “tamago sandos”, or egg salad sandwiches.

However you possibly can additionally seize an onigiri, or flavoured rice ball, a little bit bento field of, say, sushi or katsu and sides, a gyudon, or beef-and-rice bowl, and even soba noodles with dipping sauce. Pair these with a $3 konbini beer and you’ve got your self an exceptionally good, low-cost meal.


Everybody is aware of about Spanish tapas bars. However how many individuals realise that Japan has an identical tradition of small-plate eating, of meals designed to be paired with alcoholic drinks and good occasions?

That is the izakaya, an informal Japanese tavern, a comfy, pleasant place that’s all concerning the consumption of sake and beer with small parts of extraordinarily good meals.

Tokyo is totally awash with izakaya, with actually tens of hundreds strewn throughout its size and breadth, starting from the most cost effective “tachinomi”, or standing bar, to izakaya equivalent to Azabu Rokkaku that boast a Michelin star.


Clearly, the native Japanese delicacies in Tokyo is phenomenal. However one of many indicators that it is a metropolis of gourmands, of gifted cooks who take their craft uber-seriously, is that each nation’s delicacies is completed nicely in Tokyo.

In reality, within the case of French and even Italian, you possibly can argue that the Japanese do it higher than the unique. Simply attempt the Naples-style pizza on the likes of Pizza Studio Tamaki (, or the critically tasty Japanese-style “wafu” pasta at Kabe no Ana ( in Shibuya and inform me I am mistaken.

Or splash out on French delicacies in Tokyo that’s as high-end as high-end will get, on the three-Michelin-starred likes of Quintessence (, L’Effervescence ( and L’Osier ( Nobody does it higher.


TOKYO, JAPAN - FEBRUARY 28: A worker checks stock of fish with a colleague as he prepares to serve Sushi at the Tsukiji fish market on February 28, 2012 in Tokyo, Japan. Handling nearly 3000 tons of fish a day, the Tsukiji fish market located in central Tokyo is the biggest wholesale fish and seafood market in the world. The market is scheduled to close in 2012 and relocate to the seaside area of Toyosu due to the larger demand for land in central Tokyo.  (Photo by Daniel Berehulak /Getty Images) satnov19cover Tokyo Japan ultimate food city cover feature ; text by Ben Groundwater
cr: Getty Images (editorial subscription, reuse permitted, no syndication) 

A sushi restaurant in Tokyo. Photograph: Getty Photos

There are roughly three tiers of sushi eating places in Tokyo, and the additional up you go, the extra you may must concern your self with the next guidelines. For the most cost effective “kaitenzushi”, or conveyor belt sushi restaurant, it is an anything-goes environment.

On the fancier a la carte locations you will have to look at just a few niceties, and on the high-end, omakase-style eating places, bear in mind that the next etiquette guidelines are crucial.

E book a coveted seat at a high-end sushi restaurant in Tokyo and put together to be wowed by one thing that’s akin to efficiency artwork, a fastidiously choreographed present of slicing, moulding and putting, a tour de drive of the freshest and best seafood on the earth, paired with the very best seasoned rice.

A sushi “itamae”, or chef, is the centre of consideration at any good sushi restaurant, as diners huddle across the cypress-wood bar and watch as 20 or 30 programs of bite-sized perfection are ready and served. Each motion made has been practised or many years and each development all through the meal has been fastidiously thought-about. It is all mind-blowingly advanced, and but eminently pleasurable. Pattern this type of sushi at eating places equivalent to Kyubey (, and Sushi Rinda (


I’ll always remember the Tokyo Airbnb I stayed in as soon as, which included a folder full of restaurant suggestions within the native space. On the primary web page, the host had written: “Ramen, ramen, ramen – at all times on my thoughts.”

And she or he is unquestionably not alone in that obsession, as a result of it seems Tokyo as an entire has its thoughts on this final noodle soup dish, with its infinite chance for variation and deliciousness. There are so, so many ramen retailers in Tokyo. You’ll by no means finish your seek for good ramen.

There’s old-school and new-school, fancy and no-frills, Tokyo-style ramen, miso ramen, curry ramen, even vegan ramen on the likes to T’s Tantan (, and Vegan Ramen UZU Tokyo (

Tokyo’s ramen shops normally promote just one or two totally different types, which they’ve perfected over a few years and numerous hours. And most will price not more than $10-$15. Ramen, ramen, ramen – at all times on my thoughts.


satnov19cover Tokyo Japan ultimate food city cover feature ; text by Ben GroundwaterBook Extract : Neon Lights in Tokyo 
(handout image supplied by HARDIE GRANT BOOKS <>, ONE TIME TRAVELLER USE ONLY, no syndication)

This may occasionally simply be the most important benefit of a metropolis of 40 million: there is a restaurant of each type for each finances. Each area of interest of delicacies right here, from yakitori (grilled poultry) to yakiniku (grilled meat) to katsu (deep-fried pork cutlets) to sushi to tempura and plenty of extra, works on a sliding scale, from low-budget to high-end and all factors in between.

Take yakitori, for instance. If you’d like cheap-and-cheerful yakitori, grilled rooster skewers and beer with little fuss, you possibly can roll as much as any of the raucous eating places that sit beneath the prepare line in Yurakucho, close to Ginza.

Or, in case you needed the very best yakitori, a restaurant that elevates this delicacies to the really gourmand, you possibly can go to Torisawa (no web site), a famed yakitori den in Kameido. Or in case you needed someplace in the course of these choices, you possibly can attempt Fuku Yakitori ( in Yoyogi-Uehara; refined however accessible.

And you’ve got this vary to select from for each single type of Japanese (and normally international) delicacies. You’ll be able to spend precisely as a lot as you would like, and you’ll at all times get your cash’s value.


The Japanese are obsessive about hyper-local produce, with the specialities of a specific prefecture, an space of Japan that does, say, ice-cream higher than anybody. Or apples higher than anybody. Or rice higher than anybody.

To cater to this want, Tokyo boasts a sequence of “antenna shops”, retailers that specialise within the produce of a sure prefecture. Many of those will be present in Ginza and Yurakucho.

Highlights embody Hokkaido Dosanko Plaza, which is chock filled with Hokkaido’s well-known dairy and seafood; Ginza Nagano Store (, which does tastings of Nagano wine; Omotesando Niigatakan N’espace (, with Niigata rice and sake; and Nihonbashi Fukushimakan Midette (, with specialty sake and dried fruits from Fukushima.


Take a fast look at Tokyo and it’ll appear as if there is a headlong rush in direction of modernity, that every little thing must be new and sparkly to catch anybody’s consideration. However that is not true in any respect, significantly in the case of meals: there’s deep respect right here for custom, for the classics, for the pioneers.

A number of eating places on this metropolis have histories that stretch again greater than 100 years. Take Nihonbashi Iseju (, a sukiyaki specialist that has been in enterprise since 1869. Or Asakusa Sushisei (, which has served Edo-style sushi since 1891.

There’s additionally Namiki Yabusoba (, an Asakusa-based noodle restaurant in enterprise for greater than a century; Dote no Iseya (, which has been shelling out enormous tempura-don bowls since 1873; Tonki (no web site), which pioneered pork katsu again in 1939; and Harukiya (, one of many first wave of ramen eating places in 1949.


Tokyo’s espresso tradition has are available in waves – 4, at newest rely. The primary wave was the introduction of kissatens, conventional tea rooms that started serving primary coffee-with-milk again within the early twentieth century.

Subsequent got here the wave of American-style chain cafes, equivalent to Starbucks and Tully’s, and their native imposters, specifically Doutor and Excelsior Caffe, which, to be sincere, are pretty horrendous.

Extra lately, there’s been a 3rd wave of Japanese espresso within the type of unbiased cafes serving Italian-style (and Australian-style) espresso, which means you may get a wonderful flat white on the likes of Onibus in Nakameguro (, or Path in Tomigaya.

And now, you possibly can argue that Tokyo has a fourth wave of espresso snobbery: the American-style pour-over, taken to excessive ranges of greatness by native Japanese obsessives. Do this espresso at Come up Espresso Roasters in Kiyosumi (, or Coronary heart’s Gentle Espresso in Shibuya (

This story is an extract from the creator’s new e book, Neon Lights in Tokyo. It is a complete perception into the passions of a metropolis and its 40 million residents, offering a window into Tokyo eating and ingesting in addition to style, design, historical past and extra. It is obtainable now at bookstores RRP $32.99. See



Most high-end Tokyo eating places require reserving a number of weeks prematurely with many solely accepting telephone reserving with little web site performance. Make izakaya and restaurant bookings both utilizing the foreigner-friendly TableAll ( or Pocket Concierge ( web sites. In the event you’re staying in a lodge, ask the concierge to make a telephone reserving for you.


Sure, it is actually value reserving in an evening or two at one of many Japanese capital’s bucket-list eating places, however you must also depart loads of area for spontaneity. Tokyo has so many nice locations to eat, so many fantastic venues to come upon, that it might be a disgrace to lock your self in for too many meals.


Caught for someplace to eat? Simply desire a restaurant that permits walk-ins, that caters to households, and that can serve meals that’s reliably scrumptious however not too costly? Then go to a division retailer. Just about all Tokyo shops dedicate their prime two ranges to eating, and the eating places in these areas are all reasonably priced, approachable, various and scrumptious.


The majority of Tokyo’s residents eat at pretty strict occasions, and it’ll pay to look at these occasions if you wish to get pleasure from the very best meals. Plan to eat lunch earlier than 1pm, and dinner earlier than 8pm. For late-night eats, attempt ramen bars and izakaya, which have a tendency to remain open till about 11pm. And keep in mind that breakfast and brunch choices are restricted.


This is a significant piece of data for these eating in Tokyo: the town’s high-end eating places are likely to cost much less for lunch than they do for dinner. Similar meals, similar stage of service, decrease costs. If you wish to pattern Tokyo fine-dining however are attempting to maintain your finances beneath management, e book lunch, not dinner.



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