Food Sake Tokyo Tours with Taste of Culture

Tsukiji Market, Ningyocho, depachika, and Kappabashi are four of my favorite places in Tokyo to explore the food culture of Japan. I have the honor of conducting tours with Elizabeth Andoh’s Taste of Culture this November.

The tour includes a copy of my book, Food Sake Tokyo, part of The Terroir Guides published by The Little Bookroom.

Elizabeth will have a Tohoku-Style Osechi tasting program on December 1. I will participate with a discussion and tasting of Tohoku sake.

Please see the Taste of Culture website for more details.

Food Sake Tokyo reviewed by the ACCJ

Food Sake Tokyo

Food Sake Tokyo

If the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, a glimpse into a city’s soul is no doubt through her cuisine. Chef, sommelier and Japan-certified shochu advisor Yukari Sakamoto’s book, “Food·Sake·Tokyo,” offers a tasteful insight into Tokyo’s gastronomic galaxy that is sometimes hard to navigate even for locals. Released last month and written from the perspective of an America-based Japanese person, “Food·Sake·Tokyo” will heighten the culinary sensitivities of any tourist in Japan, making for a more full-flavored visit.

Extensive lists of seasonal fruits, vegetables and fish are recommended—with a special section on the best catch of the season for sushi. In the “Food” section the author offers instruction on sushi etiquette: Making a slush out of your soy sauce and wasabi will inadvertently cause it to lose its aroma, while at the same time insult the chef, explains Sakamoto—yet it is not too uncommon to see born and bred Japanese do just that.

“Food·Sake·Tokyo” gives pithy and up-to-date introductions to the essence of over a dozen districts of historical and culinary significance in Tokyo, with a sprinkling of useful tips and interesting observations from the author’s own dining experiences. (For example: Don’t ask what you’re eating at a naizo ryori/horumon, or offal cuisine, establishment until after you’ve savored and swallowed the tasty morsel!)

Even long-term foreign residents of Japan will find the lexicons of food categories and dining etiquette in the book extremely handy. For any expat who has ever wondered what the proper name is for your favorite choice of oden, this book lists them all, from age boru (ball-shaped deep fried fish cakes) to yaki chikuwa (fish paste shaped into a cylinder and grilled).

Foreigners can also impress the locals by applying the appropriate onomatopoeic description of food sensations—from atsu atsu ramen, neba neba natto to puru puru tofu—a list of which is thoughtfully provided.

Sakamoto’s sommelier and shochu advisory acumen sparkles in the excellent “Beverages” section with vivid descriptions of the tastes and textures of various teas, sake and shochu, as well as tips on which areas produce the best types of each. A helpful list of antenna shops, or shops selling regional goods, allows tourists and Tokyoites alike to purchase products usually distinct to a particular region.

Rounding up the easily digestible tome, peppered with delightful food photography, Sakamoto recommends a couple of culinary itineraries within Tokyo, day trips from Tokyo and culinary souvenirs to reminisce about the flavors of Japan.

“Food·Sake·Tokyo,” published by Little Bookroom (, is available on
Amazon Japan for 2,608 yen via this web link:

This review by Ching-Li Tor first appeared in the American Chamber of Commerce Journal:

Chef Seiji Yamamoto of Nihonryori Ryugin 日本料理龍吟の山本征治

Chef Seiji Yamamoto photo by Jun Takagi

Chef Seiji Yamamoto photo by Jun Takagi

Avant-gardist Seiji Yamamoto of Nihonryori Ryugin once silk-screened bar codes onto plates with squid ink. His latest shocker: He’s embracing Japanese classics, as in his rice steamed with shamo (chicken).


Minato-ku, Roppongi 7-17-24, Side Roppongi Bldg, 1st Floor

03-3423-8006 (English)

Food & Wine 2010 Tokyo Go List

Here’s a piece I wrote on chef Yamamoto for The Japan Times.

Food Sake Tokyo Reviewed in The Japan Times

Food Sake Tokyo

If ever a city cried out for a specialist guide to the way it eats, it is Tokyo. It has countless thousands of restaurants, traditional food stores and gourmet boutiques, not to mention the fish market by which all others are measured. Accessing them, though, is another matter — especially for those short on time and language skills.

Where to eat sushi in Tsukiji if you don’t want to wait in line? How to find the finest wagashiconfections, sake or shochu, handmade rice crackers or croissants to rival the best in Paris? These conundrums and plenty more are answered in Yukari Sakamoto’s “Food Sake Tokyo,” the first proper English-language guide devoted specifically to eating and drinking in the megalopolis.

Sakamoto has filled her little volume with all the intelligence she has gleaned over many years living and working in the city. She lists favorite food stores and restaurants — not just the high-end places feted by the name-brand guides but also plenty of humbler, local eateries — tying them in to specific neighborhoods and suggesting itineraries.

She covers Ginza, Asakusa and Tsukiji, of course, but she also leads the way to less mainstream corners such as Tsukishima and Tsukudajima. The best depachika (department store basement food halls) are noted, as is Kappabashi, which is famous for its kitchen supplies and wax food models.

This is a guide designed to be carried around in your pocket or day pack, so it would have helped if the font were rather more readable in the half-light of a traditional restaurant. But your time and wallet (and pocket) are likely to give out well before you exhaust all of the eating and drinking options that Tokyo has to offer.

“Food Sake Tokyo” by Yukari Sakamoto is published by The Little Bookroom. (Reviewed by Robbie Swinnerton.)