Tokyo Foodie Tips

What can a foodie do to prepare for their trip to Tokyo? I get asked this question often and have put together a list of my recommendations here:

1. Pick up my book, Food Sake Tokyo, published by The Little Bookroom. The first half of the book covers the basics of Japanese food and beverages. From depachika, seasonal seafood, soy products, wagashi, sake, shochu, etiquette, and much more. The second half of the book lists shops and restaurants by major stations in Tokyo like Tsukiji Market, Kappabashi, Ginza, Kagurazaka, Nihonbashi, and more. I also include two itineraries for foodies to make the most of their time in Tokyo covering the popular foodie spots.

2. Refer to this blog. I update changes to the book as well as list current food events in the city and introduce restaurants and shops. I also include food items or beverages you may want to check out while in Tokyo.

3. Metropolis magazine is “Japan’s No. 1 English magazine”. Based in Tokyo it covers the food scene. Lots of restaurant reviews and interesting interviews with chefs and other food and beverage people in Japan.

4. Taste of Culture is Elizabeth Andoh’s great cooking school. I have taken several classes from pickle-making to seafood. I always learn so much and leave her classes more pumped up to study more. Check her calendar to see if she is offering a class during your visit.

5. Sake guru John Gauntner offers sake tasting classes from time to time. Check out his website, Sake World, for more details. There is also great information here about sake and where to go in the city for good sake.

6. My friend, Junko Nakahama, is a food and wine writer. She also does very interesting tours of Yanesen. Yanesen is a hip area with lots of old shops, many of them selling great food. Her site, Omiyage Concierge, gives more details.

7. Ivan Orkin is a Culinary Institute of America trained chef making some of the best ramen in Tokyo according to some of Japan’s toughest ramen judges. He has two shops and if you’re lucky he’ll be there when you visit and he can educate you on ramen. Ivan Ramen.

8. My hands down favorite restaurant for an authentic meal in Tokyo is Nihonbashi Yukari. 2002 Iron Chef champion Kimio Nonaga is behind the counter of the restaurant and loves to talk about Japanese cuisine. He doesn’t speak English so come with a Japanese friend. The evening kaiseki course starts at a reasonable price (10,500 JPY last time I checked). If you are on a budget he does set meals for lunch, or call ahead and order the upscale Yukari bento for 3,675 JPY. (Photo by Dr. Leslie Tay and amazing Singapore food blogger)

9. Depachika are the epicurean basement floors of department stores. I worked at Nihonbashi Takashimaya for two years and still could not stay on top of all of the different food that was sold there. My favorite depachika are listed here.

10. Tsukiji Market, the world’s largest seafood market. My husband was a buyer here. The outer market is open to the public and is filled with great restaurants and shops.

11. Robbie Swinnerton is the restaurant reviewer for The Japan Times. You’ll find his reviews here as well as other great information on food in Japan.

12. Shop at the local Japanese supermarket. Here is my list of local markets in the city. These are not farmer’s markets but local grocery stores. If you are looking for a big market with wide aisles that you can cruise around with a pushcart then head to Kiba to Ito Yokado. It’s a few stops from Tokyo station on the Tozai line.

13. Do a tour of Tokyo with a chef/guide who speaks Japanese and English. If I am not available I can introduce you to friends of mine. Popular areas to cover include Tsukiji Market, depachika, and Kappabashi. Other options include dining and drinking together and learning about sake, shochu, and Japanese cuisine. (photo by Laura O’Dell)

14. Here is a list of what and where to eat which includes the most popular foods and restaurants.

Kappabashi – Okuda Shouten Shiten for Bamboo Products

Okuda Shouten Shiten in Kappabashi

Okuda Shouten Shiten in Kappabashi

Okuda Shouten Shiten is on the rightside

This shop features bamboo products. Strainers, steamers, bamboo baskets for soba, tempura, or for large strainers, chopsticks,handai for making sushi rice, bento boxes, bowls for miso soup.

Okuda Shouten Shiten オクダ商店支店

Taito-ku, Nishi-Asakusa 1-5-10

Phone: 03-3844-4511

www.kappabashi.or.jp/shops/32.html (Japanese)

Japanese Knife Shops in Tokyo

Tsukiji Masamoto

Tsukiji Masamoto

There are several knife shops in the market. Some of them are friendlier than others. Fifth generation Tsukiji Masamoto (opened in 1891) has always been on the friendly side and has an English speaking staff on some days. This is where my husband and I have purchased knives in the past and we love the service here. It’s a very busy shop with not only tourists, but also with the fishmongers from Tsukiji. Presdient Hirano-san in the photo below is there most days. The staff that work there are very knowledgeable about knives. Hirano-san has said that when the market moves to its new location at Toyosu that his shop will remain in place in the outer market.

Tsukiji Masamoto

Hirano-san of Tsukiji Masamoto putting initials on a knife

Tsukiji Masamoto 築地正本

Chuo-ku, Tsukiji 4-9-9 中央区築地4-9-9

Tel. 03-3541-7155

www.tukijimasamoto.co.jp/ (Japanese)

Kiya Knife Shop 木屋 *Note – this is the NEW address for Kiya Nihonbashi

Nihonbashi-Muromachi 2-2-1 中央区日本橋室町 2-2-1

Chuo-Ku Tokyo Coredo-Muromachi. 1F

Tel 03-3241-0110

STORE HOURS
10am – 8pm seven days a week
Closed only on New Year’s Day.

www.kiya-hamono.co.jp/english/index.html (English)

The corner shop, opened in 1792, has a sign in English, “World’s Finest Cutlery” over the door. The compact shop displays a shining collection of knives, pots, pans, and many things for the kitchen. Here you will find graters, pepper grinders, tweezers for pulling bones out of fish, as well as scissors and gardening tools. The friendly staff is patient and will help you to find exactly what you are looking for.

Kamata in Kappabashi

Kamata in Kappabashi

Kamata Knives かまた

Taito-ku, Matsugaya 2-12-6 台東区松が谷2-12-6

Tel. 03-3841-4205

www.kap-kam.com/english/ (English)

Kamata has a large selection of Western and Japanese knives, Japanese wet stones for keeping your knives sharp, and other kitchen gadgets. They will also sharpen your knives here if you live in Tokyo.

Aritsugu 有次

Chuo-ku, Tsukiji 4-13-6 中央区築地4-13-6

Tel. 03-3541-6890

www.aritsugu.jp (Japanese)

Aritsugu has a much larger shop in Kyoto’s Nishiki Market. If you are going to Kyoto then you do not want to miss this store.

Be sure to read this short primer on Japanese knives:

Japanese Knives 101

Kappabashi Gotta Gets

Shochu Cups

Shochu Cups

I love these shochu cups in the winter when I drink shochu with hot water. These have the type of base ingredient written on the cup 芋 for imo jochu (sweet potato shochu) or 黒糖 for kokuto jochu (brown sugar shochu).

Teacups

Teacups

These teacups will get lots of use in any home. The cup on the far right has different types of sushi drawn on the cup. The second from the write, the white cup with blue calligraphy, has the popular types of fish written on it, as could be found at sushi restaurants.

Lacquer Bowls

Lacquer Bowls

These lacquer bowls are most often used for miso soup but we also love them for serving ice cream.

Natto Bowl and Chopsticks

Natto Bowl and Chopsticks

For natto (fermented soybean) lovers this bowl and chopsticks are indispensable. Natto is put into the bowl and stirred up with special chopsticks that bring out the slippery and slimy texture of the natto.

Kappabashi Gotta Gets

Refrigerator Magnets

Refrigerator Sushi Magnets

 

Kappabashi is filled with treasures, gadgets, and tools for anyone passionate about cooking. These refrigerator sushi magnets are always fun gifts.

Iron Tea Pots

Iron Tea Pots

Iron tea pots are said to soften the water that result in tea that is round on the palate. These sturdy pots retain heat and are gorgeous on any table. Some do rust easily so they are a little bit high maintenance but worth it for anyone who drinks a lot of tea.

Ceramic Rice Cookers - Donabe

Ceramic Rice Cookers - Donabe

I love the results of my ceramic rice cooker. The aroma of the rice is better than rice cooked in electric rice cookers. And, the best part is that if cooked properly, there is a lovely “okoge” or charred crust that develops on the bottom of each pot. Before you purchase ask about the sizes. The smallest ones cook two cups of rice which is good for one or two people, but if you are cooking for a larger group you will want to invest in a larger size pot.

Chopstick Rests - Hashioki

Chopstick Rests - Hashioki

These lovely chopstick rests (hashioki) brighten up any table. Sizes and shapes run the spectrum. Best of all, there are seasonal varieties which keep me coming back to see what I can add to my collection.

Kappabashi – Okuda Lacquer Shop 合羽橋のオクダ

Okuda

Okuda

Okuda

Okuda

Okuda Lacquer 漆器のオクダ商店

Taito-ku, Matsugaya 3-17-11 台東区松が谷3-17-11

Phone: 03-3844-1606

www.kappabashi.or.jp/shops/31.html (Japanese)

Lacquer shop including miso soup bowls, chopsticks and more as well as a nice selection of wooden products including manaita, wooden cutting boards that are very gentle on knives, steamers, and otoshibuta (drop lids) that are essential in any Japanese kitchen.

Kappabashi – Nishiyama for Lacquer

Nishiyama Lacquer

Nishiyama Lacquer

Nishiyama in Kappabashi has a wide array of lacquer dishes as well as affordable vessels for daily use. These red and black bowls in the left box are advertised as something that you can put in the microwave.

Nishiyama Lacquer

Nishiyama Lacquer

These wooden bowls are good for miso soup, but also great for ice cream.

Nishiyama Lacquer

Nishiyama Lacquer

Nishiyama also has a selection of bento boxes, trays, and much more.

Nishiyama Shikki 西山漆器

Nishi-Asakusa 3-24-3

03-3841-8831

www.shikki.jp/ (Japanese)

Kappabashi – Komatsuya for Pottery 合羽橋の小松屋

Komatsuya

Komatsuya

Komatsuya

Komatsuya

Komatsuya

Komatsuya

Komatsuya 小松屋

Nishi-Asakusa 2-21-6

03-3841-2368

www.tctv.ne.jp/members/moto/ (Japanese)

This may be the most photographed shop on the street. There is a wide selection of pottery, ramen bowls, teapots, serving dishes, nabe, sake cups, tokkuri. These are all durable and sturdy.

Kappabashi – Hashitou for Chopsticks 合羽橋のはしとう

Disposable Chopsticks at Hashitou

Disposable Chopsticks at Hashitou

Hashitou in Kappabashi

Hashitou in Kappabashi

Hashitou はし藤

Taito-ku, Nishi-Asakusa 2-6-2  台東区西浅草2-6-2

03-3844-0723

www.hashitou.co.jp/ (Japanese)

Hashitou specializes in chopsticks, including the disposable type if you entertain a lot at home. Naturally there is a selection of hashioki (chopstick rests). There is a nice selection of skewers and long picks that would brighten up any appetizer plate, as well as toothpicks.

Foodie’s Guide to Kappabashi 合羽橋

Sushi Refrigerator Magnets

Sushi Refrigerator Magnets

Kappabashi is a wonderland for chefs. Here you will find almost everything that one would need for cooking. While it is famous for its plastic food models, that is only a tiny part of what you will find in this area, very close to Asakusa, the popular tourist destination. It is a short walk from Asakusa so should not be missed.

This article, which first appeared in Metroplis magazine, highlights some of my favorite kitchen tools that can be found in Kappabashi.

http://archive.metropolis.co.jp/tokyo/608/localflavors.asp (text follows)

The walk up Nakamise Dori towards Sensoji in Asakusa is one of Tokyo’s classic tourist destinations (and, as the cheap trinkets on all sides attest, one of its primary tourist traps). However, Asakusa has an allure for another group as well: serious cooks.

The Kappabashi area of Asakusa has everything a budding chef could possibly want. It primarily caters to restaurateurs, but nonprofessionals will have just as much fun. Most shops specialize in one particular item, from chopsticks to chinaware via coffee and bamboo. Others, like Pro-Pack, resemble little department stores, with floors of crockery and cutlery, pots and pans, containers and food.

The selection changes throughout the year, which is the reason to keep coming back. This summer I picked up bamboo trays and glass bowls for cold somen noodles. Last week, with chillier weather approaching, stores were stocked with winter essentials, and I grabbed some packs of waribashi (disposable chopsticks) for nabe parties.

You will find it hard to leave empty-handed, especially given all the tempting “must-have” kitchen gadgets on the shelves. The more you become familiar with Japanese food, the more tools you recognize, and part of the fun is learning what each is for.

My top pick is a mandolin, which will cut vegetables paper thin (and your fingers too, so slice carefully). In second place is a handcrafted oroshigane for grating ginger, garlic and daikon.
Knives are also good things to buy in Kappabashi, but if you’re going to invest in a set, be sure to shop around. Some of my cooking friends get their knives sharpened at a store called Kamata, which can re-blade an edge even after years of neglect.

Remember that Kappabashi often (although not always) deals in quantity over quality. Personally, I think the best knives in the city are found at Kiya, a shop located not in Kappabashi but Nihonbashi. Likewise, for top quality pottery I would head to a major department store. However, for simple, sturdy plates and bowls, Kappabashi has a huge variety at low prices. Some shops will deliver, which is much better than having to drag your dishes through the subway.

Before you leave, stock up on presents: plastic food magnets make fun gifts, and for close friends pick up some lacquerware—light, elegant and easy to care for. But most of all, Kappabashi is the place to treat yourself and your kitchen. We are all “Iron Chefs” deep inside—we just need the tools to get there, and Kappabashi is where we can find them.

Gotta Gets
• Mandolin for cutting veggies
• Waribashi (disposable chopsticks)
• Bamboo skewers for hors d’oeuvres
• Hashioki chopstick rests
• Lacquerware for the table
• Plastic food magnets
• Noren curtains for your home
• Wrapping paper and containers

“Kappabashi Kitchenware Town” is halfway between Asakusa and Ueno. The closest stations are Inaricho and Tawaramachi on the Ginza Line and Iriya on the Hibiya Line. Many shops are closed on Sundays.