Food Sake Tokyo

With Alton Brown in Ginza

Three years ago today I had the pleasure of taking Alton Brown on a tour in Tokyo. We did a book exchange at the end, he gave me a copy of this newest cookbook and I gave him Food Sake Tokyo. It was such a pleasure to meet him and help him find knives at Tsukiji Market and chopsticks at a chopstick specialty shop.

It’s crazy the times we are now in. Japan has not been affected too much by the coronavirus, not like in the US. But we are behind on the vaccines. Hoping I can get vaccinated in July. Also looking forward to the day when the border reopens and I can return to bringing clients to the food markets of Tokyo.

Food Sake Tokyo Update

Food Sake Tokyo

Yukari & Shinji Sakamoto – photo by Gary Stollar

It is the middle of the rainy season. We have been enjoying katsuo (skipjack tuna or bonito) as sashimi, much fatter than usual this time of year as the fish are swimming up north. In the fall when they return south is when they will be really rich in fat. As ume (Japanese apricots, Prunus mume) are in the market we are busy making pickled umeboshi, ume jam, and sweet umeshu for an aperitif later this year.

Izakaya Sakamoto

Katsuo Sashimi

We have had some changes at our company Food Sake Tokyo, named after the book published by The Little Bookroom. The focus of our business is our market visits to Tsukiji Market, depachika, Nihonbashi, Kappabashi, and supermarkets. We really enjoying meeting new people and helping them to explore and better understand Japanese cuisine. We are thankful for their recommendations as we are starting to see friends of former clients as well as clients returning.

We would like to open a cooking school next year. To prepare for that Shinji is taking the next year off from giving tours and is studying Japanese cuisine at Tsuji Culinary School. We are not offering the evening izakaya tours for the time being.

There will be some changes to this blog as we start to include more recipes and tips for cooking at home along with our usual posts on where to eat and shop in Tokyo. Shinji’s studies will finish next March. Once we have found a kitchen to offer classes, we will update it here on our blog.

Thanks for following Food Sake Tokyo and we look forward to someday welcoming you to our kitchen. The plan is to continue offering market visits and to supplement that with cooking classes.

Ginza New Castle Curry

New Castle1

New Castle Curry in Ginza was a great little spot for a bowl of spicy curry topped with an over-easy egg. When I last went, while researching my book, Food Sake Tokyo, it was a second-generation shop in an old, wooden building in the glamorous Ginza district. While shiny new buildings were built up around it, New Castle was a treasured spot for many. Only one type of curry was served here, but at different portion sizes, with or without the egg. Each dish was named after a station on the Keihin-Tohoku line like Kamata or Shinagawa. I was so excited to include it in Food Sake Tokyo, as it was that unique little mom-and-pop shop with really good, simple food.

Sadly New Castle closed down two years ago. I would walk by in mourning, sad that I didn’t make it in one last time. I wasn’t the only one. I often saw others stop and stand in front of the shuttered shop, almost offering up a prayer, or perhaps reliving the spicy curry. So, imagine my thrill when I heard that the third-generation has opened up a New Castle Curry, still in Ginza, a few blocks away from the old location.

New Castle was packed when I came in recently for lunch. Many of the customers were obviously regulars as they didn’t even have to call out a station name like “Omori”, but just said that they’ll have the usual. I started off with a green salad and had the Kamata (photo above) for 740 JPY. For Japanese curries it is on the spicy side. The menu suggests first trying just the curry, then some curry with rice, and finally with the egg.

This new spot can not be compared to the old spot as it had so much charm and character, developed over 66 years in one spot. It was a dark restaurant and even the lights felt as if they were covered in dust, giving off only a faint light. The new spot is a long counter overlooking an open kitchen with a few seats off to the side. The back wall of the kitchen is a bright red color. Some bottles of whisky lined the back wall. No one ordered whisky at lunch, but I imagine at dinnertime a few glasses are shared amongst friends.

The family is very warm and welcoming and it’s a great bowl of curry. The location is not as convenient as the old one, which was closer to Yurakucho. The new one is closer to Showa Dori. But, it’s only a few blocks off of Chuo Dori, the main drag of Ginza. The third-generation oversees the kitchen while his father greets the customers and manages the cash register.

The curry is just as I remember it. Spicy, savory, and satisfying. Welcome back New Castle. You have been missed. The shop was closed for about a year before this reincarnation opened last year. Restaurants like this is what makes Tokyo such a great dining city. Great food that has been passed down for generations. The energy in the new spot is very different from the last one. It feels as it has new life and a renewed spirit.

In this Japanese blogpost, you’ll find a lovely photo of the second- and third-generations, as well as photos of the outside of the shop so it is easy to find.

Ginza New Castle

Chuo-ku, Ginza 2-11-1, Ginza Land Building B1


Tuesday – Friday 11:30 – 20:00

Saturday and Sunday 11:30 – 17:00

closed Monday and holidays

Tokyo Food Guide


photo by Olen Peterson

We can demystify Tsukiji Market, the world’s largest seafood market,


and introduce you to a new sushi neta, like kinmedai (splendid alfonsino) that is pink, slightly sweet, and is succulent.


Introduce you to a wide variety of Japanese pickles.


Lead you to a special bar where cocktails are made with seasonal fruit and vegetables,


or to a bar serving craft beer and sweet potato chips.


Explore the unique izakaya culture from smoky grilled meat joints

to saké specialty restaurants and discover the subtle nuances of saké through flights of saké,


or through the native distilled spirit, shōchū. Yukari was the first non-Japanese to pass the shōchū advisor exam.

DSCN5688Explore street food on the side streets of Tokyo,
depachika sugar grapesphoto by Nancy Matsumoto

or to my old stomping grounds, Takashimaya depachika, to discover sugar-coated muscat grapes and

depachika sashimi matsumoto

photo by Nancy Matsumoto

seasonal sashimi.

Food Sake Tokyo guides are a chef and Japanese fishmonger. We are Tokyo’s food guides. Please contact us here for more information on our market tours.


MetPod photo 201302

Kamasami Kong, Tommy Aoki, and Yukari Sakamoto

I had the great pleasure of doing a MetPod with Kamasami Kong to share information about our new company, Food Sake Tokyo. Click on the link below

Here is Tommy Aoki’s MetPod. He talks about the United Tastes of America competition.


Suji's Pastrami


Suji’s pastrami sandwich. A taste of New York City in Tokyo. Suji’s is the sponsor for the MetPod.  Minato-ku, Azabudai 3-1-5

Food Sake Tokyo Tours

Food Sake Tokyo

Food Sake Tokyo conducts private guided field trips to Tokyo’s popular food destinations that is led by food professionals. Yukari Sakamoto is a chef, sommelier, shōchū advisor, and author of Food Sake Tokyo. Shinji Sakamoto is a fishmonger and former buyer at Tsukiji Market. Popular topics include market visits, saké or shōchū tastings, or shopping at local supermarkets. The customized tours are suited to your needs and include itinerary planning for your trip.

From time to time we will offer guided field trips that are open to the general public. These will be posted on this blog.

What makes Food Sake Tokyo different from other food tour companies is that we are food professionals ourselves. We offer a unique insight to the food culture of Japan. Many of our clients are professional chefs, restaurateurs, beverage specialists, food retailers, and food journalists.

Other services we provide include:

  • Tokyo food tours led by a chef, sommelier, shōchū advisor, and a Japanese fishmonger.
  • Interpreting from Japanese to English for food related events, market tours, cookbooks, websites.
  • Interpreting services for English speaking food professionals (retail and restaurants) visiting Japan.
  • Depachika tours that deconstruct the massive food halls by Yukari, a former employee of one of Tokyo’s most famous depachika.
  • Supermarket tours to learn about Japanese ingredients.
  • Fixer for food and saké travel programs and interpreting services for food and beverage journalists.
  • Organize business trips to Japan for food professionals.
  • Shinji does private tours of Tsukiji Market.
  • Learn about seasonal Japanese seafood by dining together with Shinji at a sushi restaurant.
  • Shinji does sashimi classes in client’s homes (we are currently looking for a kitchen).
  • Shinji does supermarket tours focusing on the seafood section introducing not only fresh, seasonal seafood, but also frozen, canned, dried, and other products unique to Japan.
  • Shinji does consulting for Japanese seafood companies looking to expand overseas.
  • Private catering of seafood dishes paired with saké or shōchū.
Tsukiji Tour
Tsukiji Tour

Tsukiji Tour photo by Jun Takagi from Budget Travel

Praise of our tours:

Travel & Leisure: World’s Greatest Tour Guides

Budget Travel

Rick Bayless

” I can’t thank you enough – I wish I had done this 4 months ago!” regarding supermarket tour – AK, Kamakura

“Shinji is terrific, patient, knowledgeable and wonderful. There wasn’t a question that he could not answer.” – JS, California

“We love the sushi lunch as well and thought that the explanations and pictures of the different seafood were extremely helpful. For the first time in our life, we could at least visualize the seafood we were eating. Shinji’s insightful knowledge of seafood brought the tour of Tsujiki Market alive.” TK, Singapore

“Your knowledge shines through and your friendly and professional manner to your guests and the shopkeepers alike puts everyone at ease.” WL, Sydney

“Wanted to thank you again for such an awesome tour! It was really a highlight of our vacation.” CM, United States of America

“…especially to Shinji for a very enjoyable and informative tour of Tsukiji and environs, and a delicious sushi lunch. Our morning visit was one of the real highlights of our time in Japan!” BH, United States of America

“After reading the wonderfully informative and gorgeously illustrated “Food Sake Tokyo,” I knew I had to take a food tour with Yukari Sakamoto.  During a two-hour guided stroll through the depachika in Takashimaya’s flagship store, I learned more than I could have ever imagined about Japanese food, history and culture.  Of all the experiences I managed to squeeze in during my first trip to Japan, my tour with Yukari was easily the best.”  EL, New York

“Shinji was a wonderful guide–informative, friendly, and full of enthusiasm for the market.  We felt that we gained a real understanding of the market itself and learned about some products we can use in our own cooking at home–just what we wanted.” SK, New York City

Praise for Food Sake Tokyo:

“I just returned from my first trip to Japan with my family and friends of ours. My wife bought your book, and we loved it so much that we bought a copy for the family with whom we traveled (they are both food-industry veterans). The 8 of us (4 adults, 4 kids) were found all over Tokyo, huddled up with our two copies of your book in hand.” JS, United States of America

Yukari & Shinji

Born in Tokyo and raised on the shores of Lake Wobegon, Yukari Sakamoto trained as a chef and baker at the French Culinary Institute. Following that she trained as a sommelier at The American Sommelier Association and worked as a sommelier at the New York Bar and Grill in the Park Hyatt Tokyo. She also worked at Takashimaya’s flagship store in Nihonbashi as a sommelier in the saké department of the depachika. While at Takashimaya she passed the exam to be a shōchū advisor. Shōchū is a distilled spirit native to Japan. Yukari apprenticed at Coco Farm and Winery in Ashikaga, Tochigi.  Yukari also offers market tours with Elizabeth Andoh’s Taste of Culture.

Shinji photo

Yukari is married to Shinji Sakamoto, a former buyer at Tsukiji Market. Shinji has ten years’ retail experience in Japan selling seasonal seafood directly to customers. He would make cooking recommendations and cut up seasonal fish as the customer needed. He also has three years’ experience selling seasonal Japanese seafood and frozen seafood in both New York City and Singapore.

Yukari’s first book, Food Sake Tokyo, is published by The Little Bookroom as a part of the Terroir Guides. It is a food lover’s guide to Japanese food and beverages and introduces restaurants and food shops in Tokyo. There is also a chapter on Kyoto’s Nishiki Market. The first half of the book focuses on the food and beverages of Japan. The second half selects some of Tokyo’s popular destinations by station and suggests shops not to be missed in that area.

Any changes to information in Food Sake Tokyo, that I am aware of, will be posted on this blog. Please search under “updates” for the most recent PDF that you can print out.

Our other blog focuses on cooking Japanese food at home.

I am represented by Lisa Ekus.

Yukari’s twitter account

We can be reached at yukari dot shinji dot sakamoto at gmail dot com.

GENERAL CANCELLATION POLICY: Should Food Sake Tokyo need to cancel any or all segments of a program, every effort will be made to re-schedule sessions at a mutually convenient time. If that is not possible, a full refund will be made promptly for sessions canceled by Food Sake Tokyo.

If an individual or group is unable to attend a Food Sake Tokyo program for which they have already enrolled, that person or group may designate a substitute for him/her/them. No additional fees are charged to the participant (substitute attendee). Any financial arrangements made between the original participant and his/her/their substitute is at the discretion of the person originally enrolled. All requests to have a substitute attend a program, however, must be received by phone or e-mail at least 24 hours prior to the scheduled class meeting. When making such a request, please provide the full name and (local, Tokyo) contact phone number and e-mail address of each person who will be taking the place of the originally enrolled individual or group.

LIMITATIONS on LIABILITY: Every possible precaution is taken to ensure your personal safety and the safety of those in your group. However, registration for, and attendance at, all programs is subject to the following condition: the director and staff of Food Sake Tokyo, are released from, and specifically disclaim, all responsibilities for injuries or illness incurred traveling to and from sessions, during sessions, or resulting from food prepared at, or according to recipes distributed during, cooking & tasting sessions, market tours or other field trips, including restaurant meals.

NOTE: Tuition fees for cooking workshops, market tours, and other field trips conducted by Food Sake Tokyo do NOT INCLUDE food & beverage not specifically mentioned in the program description. Tuition does NOT include the cost of local transportation. Any purchases made by participants during class, market tours or field trips are at the discretion of each participant. Participants in all programs are responsible for making arrangements for, and making payment for, their airfare, lodgings, and transportation to/from/within Japan. Participants are also responsible for obtaining and paying for any travel/trip/health insurance coverage they would like to have.

Tsukiji Tour

Tsukiji Market is the world’s largest seafood market. This tour explores the outer market and the many different food, knives, kitchenware, tableware, and more at the market. Above is my favorite tamagoyaki shop, Shouro.

While Tsukiji is famous for its seafood, the outer market has many stalls with produce, pickles, kombu, katsuobushi, nori, and much more. This is fresh wasabi.

In autumn, aromatic matsutake, the king of mushrooms in Japan, are for sale.

Fall is also the time of year when ginkgo trees drop their nuts. We love these ginnan simply grilled as a small bite with sake or shochu. It’s also lovely in a savory, hot egg custard, chawanmushi.

Kibun’s stall has a wide variety of deep-fried fish cakes, perfect for oden, or for grilling in the toaster oven and having as a snack.

Here are some of the Satsuma-age deep-fried fish cakes from Kibun. The long ones on the right are gobo (burdock). Other flavors include onion, octopus, squid, shirasu, and more.

This Food Sake Tokyo tour is being offered through Elizabeth Andoh’s Taste of Culture on Tuesday, November 13th.

Ningyocho Tour

Kappabashi Tour

Depachika Tour – There will also be a tour of a depachika, the epicurean gourmet food halls in the department stores. I worked at Nihonbashi Takashimaya for two years and will share many things that you may miss while visiting on your own. The depachika tour will look at all of the areas including sake, confectionaries (both Western and Japanese), osouzai (prepared foods including bento), meat, seafood, bakeries, and the supermarket area.

Ningyocho Tour

Ningyocho is a lovely district of Tokyo that is filled with many shops, some with artisans at work like this sembei shop. You’ll also discover a popular taiyaki stall as well as several sweets shops with azuki stuffed ningyoyaki cakes and much more.

There are always surprising delights in the area, including these crackers with the face of the prime minister, Noda-san.

One of my favorite shops is Futaba Tofu, of course for its tofu, but also for soy milk doughnuts.

I will be guiding a tour of Ningyocho on Tuesday, November 13th. The tour includes a copy of my book, Food Sake Tokyo. Please register at Elizabeth Andoh’s Taste of Culture website.

Tsukiji Tour

Kappabashi Tour

Depachika Tour – There will also be a tour of a depachika, the epicurean gourmet food halls in the department stores. I worked at Nihonbashi Takashimaya for two years and will share many things that you may miss while visiting on your own. The depachika tour will look at all of the areas including sake, confectionaries (both Western and Japanese), osouzai (prepared foods including bento), meat, seafood, bakeries, and the supermarket area.

Kappabashi Tour

Kappabashi is where chefs and restaurateurs come to get everything they need to set up shop. I will be guiding a group through Kappabashi with Elizabeth Andoh’s Taste of Culture on Friday, November 16th.

Colorful hashioki for resting your chopsticks.

Plastic food samples is perhaps what Kappabashi is most famous for. These frosty mugs of beer are some of my favorite.

I also can not resist lacquer for soup, rice and side dishes.

This tour will explore the many shops of Kappabashi. The tour includes a copy of my book, Food Sake Tokyo. Register for the tour at Elizabeth Andoh’s Taste of Culture website.

Tsukiji Tour

Ningyocho Tour

Depachika Tour – There will also be a tour of a depachika, the epicurean gourmet food halls in the department stores. I worked at Nihonbashi Takashimaya for two years and will share many things that you may miss while visiting on your own. The depachika tour will look at all of the areas including sake, confectionaries (both Western and Japanese), osouzai (prepared foods including bento), meat, seafood, bakeries, and the supermarket area.