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EAT 





“A round of tempura comes next: a harvest moon of creamy pumpkin, a gold nugget of blowfish capped with a translucent daikon sauce, and finally a soft, custardy chunk of salmon liver, intensely fatty with a bitter edge, a flavor that I’ve never tasted before.”
-Matt Goulding, Rice, Fish, Noodle

A non-exhaustive list of things to eat in Tokyo.

︎ Also, here’s a map


Hakobune, Shimbashi


Bakery goods – a creative array of fusions like black sesame & cheese rolls, squid ink and nigella seed baguettes. Try: Tresparente, The Bread Lab’s network of craft bakeries, and as a chain you can’t go past Little Mermaid (get the little mochi buns filled with purple sweet potato paste or chocolate lava mochi cakes).

Bento Box - compartmentalised dining. Convenience stores, supermarkets and department store food halls will all have a solid selection.

B-Kyu Gourmet
- the category below sushi, kaiseki and the more upmarket traditional food - ramen, tonkatsu, okonomiyaki (or Tokyo’s version, monjayaki), yakisoba etc. 

Convenience store (combini) food – why come all the way to Japan and then eat from convenience stores? Because they’re cheap, delicious and a microcosm of Japanese culture. I can’t stress the importance of convenience store appreciation. 

Curry pan – donut dough filled with curry, rolled in panko crumbs and deep-fried. Available ubiquitously from bakery chains and convenience stores, but best purchased hot from Aoyama or Asakusa.

Depachikas – underground food wonderlands. Try: In Shibuya, Tokyu Food. In Shinjuku, Isetan (eat your goods up on level 9). In Ginza, Mitsukoshi and then go to level 9 to eat your bounty on the grassy level or take it to the Hamarikyu Gardens for a picnic.

EkibenEki = train, ben = bento box. These are bento boxes available from train stations for longer distance travel. Each region has a unique ekiben to showcase their local cuisine and meibutsu (specialty food). They come in array of decorative packages, from ceramic pots to plastic shinkansen replicas. Train travel in other countries will never be the same. If you’re not travelling long distance, you can visit the Ekiben Matsuri in Tokyo Station.

Famires – These are ‘family restaurant’ chains like Denny’s, Royal Host, Jonathon’s (diner-style)  and Saizeriya (Italian diner-style). The food is cheap and really decent. Plus a good insight into daily life in Japan.

Ice cream treats – I make a daily habit of perusing the ice cream section of any combini or supermarket I visit. Selections change regularly, are highly seasonal, and creativity and flavor combinations are seemingly boundless. Try: Seasonal gelato at Gelateria Marghera in Ebisu or Azabu, kakigori from street vendors in summer, Acquapazza in Hiroo, Premium Mario Gelateria in Shinjuku, Tida in koenji, salt soft serve at salt specialty shop Ma-suya in Azabu, and for tofu or hojicha soft serve visit amazake alley.

Kaiseki - multi-course dining so pretty it may bring tears to your eyes (and bank account).

Kappo-ryori -
counter dining. Lots of little dishes of food. Try Potsura Potsura in Shinsen or Tsuki in Nakameguro. 

Morning set – thick slabs of toasted shokupan (white bread), boiled egg & salad teamed with a coffee, this will set you just a few hundred yen. Find these at most cafes.

Otoshi
- these are the obligatory snacks that are served in bars and izakaya. Usually only around 300 yen, they’re a good way to take the edge off your hunger before starting eating/ drinking, try something you may not have otherwise ordered, and support the livelihood of these little joints. These may be anything from pickles to tofu topped with bonito flakes to jellied seaweed. 

Sake no sakana – ie. the ‘snacks of sake’, also known as otsumami. They may come in the form of chinmi (’delicacies’ like squid pickled in its own guts, or fermented sea cucumber entrails) at old-school izakaya. At any store, you’ll find a selection of ‘otsumami’ snacks by the booze - beans, dried squid, cheese, salami etc. 

Shioyaki-zakana - salt-grilled fish. Order it at izakayas and lunch-set places. 

Shojin-ryori - buddhist monk cuisine, originated in the temples grew in popularity with the spread of Zen Buddhism in Japan in the 13th century, and greatly influenced Japanese cuisine. Vegetarian, mostly plant-based and nutritious, it’s the OG clean eating. 

Shun
– this is the word for seasonal eating in Japan, a principle followed vehemently. Once I asked for a persimmon out of season and thought the supermarket staff were going to have me deported. This is for (obviously) eating things when they are their peak flavor, but also for (less obviously) for the nutrients needed for  particular season – umami-laden appetite stimulants in autumn, bitter digestives in spring. 

Sushi – it is Japan, after all. Standing sushi at Uogashi in Shibuya.

Soba – Everyone seems about the ramen but I’m about the soba. I like the earthy, nutty taste of it, and all the traditional attached. Toshi koshi soba are soba noodles eaten on NYE for good luck in the year to come. Hikkoshi soba are soba noodles eaten to christen a new house. Either eaten hot in a bowl of soup of cold on a seiro (bamboo basket) with a dipping sauce. Being served the “sobayu” (water your soba noodles were cooked in) to have after your meal is pretty special too. Try: Miyota, Omotesando; Matsuya, Kanda. Or any hole-in-the-wall joint.

Teishoku – meal sets based on the “ichi-ju san sai” (one soup, three sides) concept. Try: Ootoya. 

Tempura - nigh on impossible to make/ make well at home, one to make the most of in Tokyo . 

Traditional breakfast (or simplified version) – For a full traditional breakfast, you’ll need to stay at a ryokan, or visit an upmarket hotel like Aman or Park Hyatt, or modern teahouse Yakumo Saryo. Chain stores offer simplified versions, for around 420 yen.

Udon – standard udon are thick and chewy, but they can also come flat like fettuccine, or thin and wide like handkerchief pasta and served on ice in summer. Kamachiku (in beautiful Nezu part of town); Tsurutontan (Roppongi or Shinjuku) for fancier modern fusions.

Yakitori – grilled chicken on stick. Grilled vege, mochi-filled things, cheese-filled things on sticks will generally also be called yakitori. Grilled pork on sticks is called yakiton. 

Yakiniku – for that A4/A5 that marbled wagyu you grill yourself. 

Yakumi – medicinal condiments. Wasabi, myoga, umeboshi etc.

Yoshoku - Japanese-style Western food. Mentaiko pasta, rice burgers, shirasu pizzas etc. 

Washoku - The official word for authentic Japanese cuisine. Comprises soba, sushi, tempura, kaiseki and the like. Does not comprise wasabi-flavored Kit-Kats.

Wagashi – traditional Japanese sweets.Visit retailers Toraya (Tokyo Midtown) or Higashiya; For tea and sweets, try Yakumo Saryo (Jiyugaoka area) or Kuriya Kashi Kurogi, Kengo Kuma-designed cafe selling wagashi at Tokyo university campus in the Bunkyo area.





腹八分目い - Hara hachi bun mei.

Eat until 80 percent full.

Confucian teaching
“The fact is, that, except at a few hotels in popular resorts which are got up for foreingers, bread, butter, milk, poultry, coffee, wine, and beer, are unattainable, that fresh fish is rare, and that unless one can live on rice, tea, and eggs, with the addition now and then of some tasteless vegetables, food must be taken, as the fishy and vegetable abominations known as ‘Japanese food’ can only be swallowed by a few, and that after long practice.”
- Isabella Bird (1831-1904), nineteenth century English explorer on Japanese food
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日々旅にして旅を栖とす – 芭蕉
Each day is a journey, and the journey itself home – Basho