Ready for a bite to eat? Then you’ve come to the right place, we’ve got all the info you need to help you satisfy your cravings. And if you’re not hungry now, you will be by the end.
Japanese FoodWhen in Japan… Well you know how it goes. You can’t possibly visit a place without trying at least some of the local food, and we’ve got you covered with everything you need to know. First up, let’s start with the favorites (so popular we gave them their own pages): here.
If you’re looking for a soul-warming, belly-filling meal, hot pots are definitely the way to go. It’s exactly what you imagine it to be: in most cases a bubbling pot of one or more types of broth comes to your table, and you simply add ingredients — like meat, veg, tofu — to your heart’s content. Hot pots are not all created equal though — take your pick from the very delicious, but very different stylings of nabe, oden, shabu-shabu and even chanko-nabe (responsible for bulking up those sumo wrestlers), just to name a few.
There’s no Japanese equivalent to the notorious hot dog cart to be found in Tokyo, but there are some definite street treats that are just too good to pass up. Yokocho are small streets and alleys packed with tiny — usually standing-room only — restaurants serving up quick bites like yakitori (chicken pieces on a skewer cooked over coal). Usually festivals come complete with yatai (or food stalls) serving up an array of favorites like okonomiyaki, yakisoba (fried noodles) and takoyaki (octopus balls) — all must-try dishes. Follow those with some sweets like chocobanana (bananas dipped in chocolate) or taiyaki (the cute fish-shaped pastries). If you happen to be in Tokyo for the colder months, keep those eyes peeled for yakiimo carts selling roasted sweet potato (culture bonus: some yakiimo vendors sing a traditional song about said sweet potatoes).
You might need to be reserved on the train (and just about everywhere else in Tokyo), but an izakaya is this place to let loose, laugh and chat as merrily as you like. This Japanese pub-like establishment is great for sharing, socialising, drinking in copious amounts, and as stated in our beginner’s guide to izakaya, it’s a quintessential Japanese experience. You can find an izakaya just about anywhere, but keep an eye out for Hanbey, a budget-friendly chain.
Had your fill of Japanese food for the time being? Pining for pasta? Itching for Indian? International cuisine is a huge part of the Tokyo food scene and you can satisfy just about any foreign craving you might have here. Go right ahead and chow down on some of the most authentic pizza you’ve ever had, bite into a (non-McDonald’s) juicy burger, or maybe you just want brunch. One thing to note though is that while international options abound, and many can be as authentic tasting as they are in their respective motherland, many dishes have been adapted to Japanese taste, which isn’t a bad thing, just different — so keep an open mind!Head here for a more detailed break down of international cuisine in Tokyo.
Fine dining doesn’t have to come with exorbitant price tags. Tokyo, the city with the most Michelin-star restaurants in the world, offers the best chance at eating some of the most delectable, refined food you’ve ever tasted. The trick is to visit these restaurants during lunch hours where they typically prepare the same offerings as dinner for only a fraction of the price. Follow this simple piece of advice and you could be dining pretty at places like Kyourakutei (famous for soba and tempura) or at Lugdunum Bouchon Lyonnais (our personal French fav).
When you think of Tokyo cafes, more than just plain ol’ java joints should come to mind. Tokyo is home to renowned craft coffee shops and green tea speciality cafes (harder to find in Tokyo than you think!). And of course there are the (in)famous themed maid or animal cafes, which are more for experience and ambiance than a place to order up a quality beverage.
Read more about cafes in Tokyo here.
Sweets come in many forms in Japan. You can indulge your sweet tooth by season (kakigōri — shaved ice — in the summer, chestnut-flavored anything in autumn) or you can try a bunch all at once at an all-you-can-desserts restaurant. You and your taste buds can also jump on trends like the Harajuku crepe or gourmet popcorn (counts as a sweet if you get the caramel-flavored kind) which were unjustifiably popular years back, but continue to attract locals and tourists alike.
And don’t forget the elusive and alluring weird Kit Kats flavors (like wasabi or strawberry cheese cake) — the harder to find them, the sweeter they taste.More on sweets in Tokyo here.
Trying to maintain a meatless diet can be daunting in a country where there’s pork in just about everything. Luckily the cheapo team is dietarily diverse, so we’ve got the scoop on spots that are not just suitable to dine at, but ones that offer up dishes so delicious you want to dine at. Check out this article to get your started.
This country sure does love their alcohol, and you can tell by the various ways there are to procure and enjoy it: at an izakaya, at a craft beer bar, from literally any convenience store, at festivals, and even just straight up from a vending machine on the street (or atop mountain). Too cheap to buy your own beer or sake? Get a free tour and tasting at a breweries like the Yebisu Beer Factory or the Sawanoi sake brewery.
For more on drinking in Japan head here.