Sushi on Sunday in Tokyo

*** updated 2016 November

As Tsukiji Market is closed on Sundays many sushi restaurants also take the opportunity to give the staff a day off. That doesn’t mean that sushi isn’t eaten on Sundays in Tokyo.

There are several places to look to for sushi on Sunday and national holidays. Check out hotels, department stores, and large train stations. Here is a shortlist of where to go on Sunday for sushi in Tokyo.

すきやばし次郎 Sukiyabashi Jiro at Nihonbashi Takashimaya is a branch of the famous Michelin 3-star Sukiyabashi Jiro in Ginza. Nigiri or chirashi sets start at 3,150 JPY – a bargain compared to what you will pay in Ginza.

Chuo-ku, Nihonbashi 2-4-1, Nihonbashi Takashimaya Honkan (Main Bldg.) 4F

03-3211-4111

11:00 – 19:00 (last order at 18:30)

Sukiyabashi Jiro is also at Roppongi Hills.

築地青空三代目 Tsukiji Aozora Sandaime at Ginza Mitsukoshi is a branch of a third generation restaurant from Tsukiji’s outer market.

Chuo-ku, Ginza 4-6-16, Ginza Mitsukoshi 11F

03-3561-7021

11:00 – 23:00 (last order 22:30)

魯山 Rozan at Shinjuku Isetan

Shinjuku-ku, Shinjuku 3-14-1, Shinjuku Isetan 7F

03-3226-0115

11:00 – 16:00; 17:00 – 22:00 (last order 21:15)

Call ahead to make sure these restaurants are open. This was posted in 2012.

Updates (2016 Nov 3)

Seamon is a sushiya with branches in Ginza and in Nihonbashi that is also open on Sunday. I haven’t been, but several clients have and say they like the sushi here. Details in English here:

http://www.eok.jp/restaurants-bars/fine-dining/japanese/seamon/

On national holidays and Sundays, we sometimes go to the cheap chains. They are often popular with families, so best to allow time to wait in line if you go at peak meal times – 12 noon for lunch and 6 p.m. for dinner.

Sushi Zanmai with branches throughout the city.

http://www.kiyomura.co.jp/

Midori Sushi with branches throughout the city.

http://www.sushinomidori.co.jp/tenpo_e.html

Top Ten Depachika in Tokyo 東京のデパ地下

Working at the sake section of the depachika in  Nihonbashi Takashimaya was loads of fun. As a sommelier it was my job to sell wine but my responsibilities also included selling sake, shochu, and other spirits. Who wouldn’t love to be surrounded by amazing food all day long? My breaks were spent carefully perusing the floor for new items. I would plot all morning what to have for lunch that day. The food was constantly changing and Takashimaya often held special food events on the top floor of the department store. Here I would learn about regional food, sake and shochu, and meet the purveyors who enthusiastically shared cooking suggestions and what makes their products unique.

Here are my favorite depachika in the city. It is best to pick a location based on what is convenient for you. Most of the depachika are similar. However, if I have to pick some favorites they would be Nihonbashi Takashimaya, Shinjuku Takashimaya, Shinjuku Isetan, Ginza Mitsukoshi, and Ikebukuro Tobu.

Inquire at the concierge if there are any special food events going on in the store as they may be held on an upper floor and not in the basement.

Shinjuku Takashimaya

Shinjuku Takashimaya

1. Shinjuku Takashimaya, Shibuya-ku, Sendagaya 5-24-2

The restaurant floor here is great – several floors of tempting restaurants. I love Katsukura for tonkatsu. Better yet, pick up a bento and a beer in the depachika and head to the rooftop picnic area. Next door to Takashimaya is a huge Tokyu Hands for great shopping for kitchenware, tableware, stationary, and much, much more.

Nihonbashi Takashimaya

Nihonbashi Takashimaya

2. Nihonbashi Takashimaya, Chuo-ku, Nihonbashi 2-4-1

There is a branch of Taiwan’s Din Tai Fun in the basement 2 and the sake department often does weekly tastings of small sake and shochu producers from around Japan. The rooftop garden is a great place to have a bento. Also, do not miss the white-gloved elevator girls (rarely seen now) and the historic elevators.

3. Shinjuku Isetan, Shinjuku-ku, Shinjuku 3-14-1

Aged sake (koshu) in a special cellar and a manicured rooftop garden for enjoying your bento. Pierre Herme and Jean-Paul Hevin are popular with the locals but I love the wagashi (Japanese confectionaries).

4. Ginza Mitsukoshi, Chuo-ku, Ginza 4-6-16

A recent renovation has made this a depachika you don’t want to miss. The restaurant floor includes a branch of the famous Hakone Akatsukian soba shop, formerly in Hiroo. Time it right and watch as the soba noodles are rolled out into thin sheets and cut with the large soba bocho (soba knife).

5. Ikebukuro Tobu, Toshima-ku, Nishi-Ikebukuro 1-1-25

Japan’s largest depachika. Spend hours here and still not see it all. Also, several restaurants on the restaurant floors including a branch of Chinese iron chef, Chin Kenichi.

6. Ginza Matsuya, Chuo-ku, Ginza 3-8-1

The French bakery Maison Kayser is here.

7. Shibuya Tokyu Toyoko-ten, Shibuya-ku, Shibuya 2-24-1

Located just under the Shibuya station I love the affordable sushi at Uoriki, a sushi counter located near the fresh seafood section. The sake department here also does interesting tastings of small sake and shochu brands.

8. Shinjuku Odakyu, Shinjuku-ku, Nishi-Shinjuku 1-1-3

Divided up between two buildings it may be tricky to see all of it but worth checking out. The breads at the Trois Gros bakery are tempting. There is also a Bic Camera for electronics located above the Odakyu annex.

9. Shinjuku Keio, Shinjuku-ku, Nishi-Shinjuku, 1-1-4

A branch of the French bakery Paul is here and the store often does interesting food shows on the upper floor with themes such as ekiben (famous bento boxes from local train stations around Japan) and regional food promotions.

10. Ikebukuro Seibu, Toshima-ku, Minami-Ikebukuro 1-28-1

In the Seibu department store is a branch of Loft, a shop filled with housewares.

OK, 11 best depachika in Tokyo!

11. Nihonbashi Mitsukoshi, Chuo-ku, Nihonbashi Muromachi 1-4-1

An Insider’s Guide to Depachika

Peko-chanThis is the first article I wrote for Metropolis magazine and it is one of my favorites to this day. It is based on my experience working at Takashimaya’s depachika in Nihonbashi.

http://archive.metropolis.co.jp/tokyo/535/dining.asp (text follows)

It goes without saying that Japan is a paradise for any foodie. This is the country where cows are indulged with beer and massages. Fruit is fondled and coddled like a newborn. Bread from Poilane is flown in weekly from France and handmade wagashi from Kyoto is whisked to Tokyo via shinkansen.

This outright obsession with food is perhaps nowhere more evident than in Tokyo’s department-store food floors, or depachika. Working as the sommelier at Takashimaya’s Nihonbashi depachika, I am surrounded by the familiar, such as background music from the Carpenters, and the not-so-familiar, like the endless variety of fish. My workplace is constantly evolving, and so massive that I feel I will never fully understand its intricacies. Nevertheless, the depachika is one of the greatest places for anyone who is passionate or slightly curious about food to get a taste of Japanese cuisine and culture-and to begin to unlock their many secrets.

Location, location, location
The first place you may want to check out is not the basement, but the top floor of the depaato. It’s often the site of weekly special events where you can find vendors from all over the country offering their regional specialties. Temporary eat-in restaurants are also set up and this may be your only chance to get a seat in a famous shop. Often the special events are not limited to food products, but you will find cooking-related items.

If you come at a time when there is not a special event going on upstairs, then head to the basement, where most depachika will have dedicated “event space” offering local products not always available in Tokyo. Depending on your language skills, you can get the real scoop on how the makers harvest and produce their goods. Consider it Slow Food on a local level. When purchasing a material I have not cooked with before, most producers will enthusiastically offer recipe suggestions.

Another favorite area of mine is the meibutsu (regional specialty) section, which displays popular items from around the country. Mitsukoshi in Ginza will rotate artisans who proudly create their food in front of customers. If you forgot omiyage from your trip to Kyoto, the meibutsu store is the place to go and pick up an extra box of yatsu-hashi (cinnamon-flavored sweets) for your neighbor. Another highlight is the tasting areas. Takashimaya in Nihonbashi, for example, brings in jizake producers weekly, offering a great opportunity to get your hands on hard-to-find sake.

Bargains can also be had in the depachika, especially if you time it right. Later in the afternoon, some, but not all, of the bakeries will offer a “morning set” grab-bag of breads, often at a discounted price. In the fresh market, discount stickers start to appear around 5pm. The truly savvy penny-pincher will come late in the day to visit the vendors who are ending their one-week stint, both on the top floor and in the basement.

Another place to be on the look out for is the “sale” stand in the dry goods or fresh produce area. These are often small tables pushed into an out-of-the-way corner. I myself am guilty of pushing and shoving like an obatarian to get my hands on slightly damaged but highly discounted produce.

Eye openers
If there’s one thing that’s unique to the whole depaato experience, it’s the opening of the store in the morning. In a country where the consumer is king, the respect shown at this morning ritual is a reminder of how wonderful it is to shop in Japan. Receiving bows in every aisle and riding with the sharply dressed elevator girls are more nods to this notion.

Once you arrive at the depachika, be sure to check the production schedules at the bakeries. Housewives use this information to line up at Fauchon for their fresh-baked bread. Peck also offers great ciabatta and foccacia while Maison Kayser has some of the best croissants in the world (so say the French). If you’re a fan of mentaiko, don’t miss the French-style baguette smeared with mentaiko and then baked.

If you must go to depachika on the weekends, I advise either early in the morning or late in the evening-it can be packed from 5 to about 7 pm. And as much as I love meandering through the food floor, I avoid it at all costs before Valentine’s Day and White Day.

As the holiday crowds can attest, the tradition of gift-giving is a key part of the depachika phenomena. Everything is offered at certain price points. Some gifts you may want to consider are kohaku wine sets, which are gift sets of a bottle each of white and red wine, and beer ken (vouchers for beer). For non-drinking friends, there are Haagen-Dazs ice cream ken that can be purchased in the sake uriba.

Now, what to do with all of your purchases? Have them shipped home. At Takashimaya, a case of wine can be delivered for as little as ¥300. In the summer, this jumps to ¥650 as the wine must be sent “cool,” in a refrigerated truck. If you plan on doing a lot of shopping, have your packages held for you. They will be sent to a holding area and you can collect them you leave.

Each day I learn something new about this mysterious underground world. Just the other day, my friend, a cashier, looked at me and said, “Yukari, it’s raining.” But how, in this windowless workplace, could she know that?

“Can you hear the music? This song is played whenever it starts to rain.” Yes, I could hear-it was “Singing in the Rain.”