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.