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Japanese food, gourmet food, traditional food


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Japanese Traditional Food
Sashimi boat plate, Japanese traditional food
Family seal, Kamon
Ramen noodle


I, like many other Japanese people, have a passion and obsession with good food. I guarantee that a most extraordinary gastronomic journey awaits no matter in what season you visit Japan.


My ealiest memory of eating outside of home is night markets during festivals in shrimes and temples. You see small red lanters on the side of the street leadindg you to the market in the dark streets. Wearing a Yukata, cotton kimono for summer and wooden Geta shoes, you cannot walk fast but it’s perfect because you want to catch a glimpse of fireworks in the sky.  And suddenly you’re surrounded by all the bright lights of food vendors with the sounds of cooking, rapid beats of Taiko drums, and kid’s laughters, all mixed toegether. You can smell everything from soy sauce flavored grilled calamari to sweet candies shaped like a gold fish. 


When I visit Japan, I have a food wish list for my trip. Sushi and Unagi always come on top. You may have pieces of fresh water eel in a sushi restaurant but there are Unagi specialty restaurants throughout Japan. It’s pricy but I highly recommend to get wild Japanese unagi. When it’s cooked perfectly, it’s rich and light at the same time, and melts in your month. The sensation is similar to quality Wagyu beef. It’s rich and light at the same time, and melts in your month. There is full of flavor without any greasiness.


Where Should I Go to Eat? 

That is a million-dollar question. There are over 83,000 restaurants and bars in Tokyo alone. For this city, I recommend you check out Maiko & Paolo's Tokyo Zebra and Chris Rowthorn's “Truly Tokyo” Tokyo restaurant guides. These resources also cover Kyoto, Osaka, and other areas. Both of their websites are well-researched and are very informative.


Below I have compiled my personal favorite restaurants as well as many who are well-known and/or accredited with awards and accolades for their craft. With so many food options, you may want to plan your “must try” restaurants ahead of time.

Fine Dining

Michelin Stars

This year’s Tokyo Guide is the 16th edition of the Michelin Guide Tokyo  since its publication in 2007. It introduces a total of 422 recommended restaurants and eateries, including two new two-star restaurants, 16 one-star restaurants, and 38 Bib Gourmands. Tokyo was again the city with the most stars in the world this year: Tokyo 2023.


Michelin also gave stars for sustainability. See some of the Michelin Green Starred restaurants: 


Afternoon Tea

European-style cakes and pastries are popular in Japan: mini savory sandwiches to tiny cakes with fresh fruits on top Why not have some tea with beautifully decorated, delicious sweets in an elegant tearoom? Most major upscale western hotel chains offer excellent afternoon tea services. Timeout has a good list of locations to explore afternoon tea options.


If you would like to try Japanese sweets, here are the top ranking spots by Japanese websites:

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Fine Dining
Café Culture

Café Culture

Cafés are a big part of business and socializing in Japan. In many metropolitan areas, you can enjoy high-end specialty coffee with tasty cakes, gorgeous seasonal fruit parfaits, Japanese sweets like mochi with hot azuki beans.

Recommended Resources

Major casual coffee chains:

  • Starbucks - Japan has unique Starbucks like nowhere else. Starbucks Reserve where you find the beautiful 55 feet tall coper coffee cask. The building is designed by renowned architect, Kengo Kuma. At another Starbucks, the ceiling is filled with blooming flower hanging baskets. You can even sit by the 26 feet long aquarium, and sip your coffee with a view of colorful tropical fish swimming by.

  • Tulley's

  • Seattle's Best

  • Ueshima Coffee

  • Doutor

  • Blue Bottle


Smaller and more upscale chains:


Traditional Japanese cafes:

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Here are some of the unique cafes I've visited in Tokyo:



This café was founded 360 years ago. Originally a goldfish wholesaler, they added the café about 20 years ago to attract more people and allow people to learn about the beauty of goldfish. You can see about 50,000 goldfish of 40 different varieties in the tanks outside the café section. If you decide to stop at this unique fixture, I also highly recommend you check out their famously tasty black curry with rice.


2D Café

This Instagram-worthy café is a new and unique experience that is as much of a feast for the eyes as it is for your taste buds. When you enter the 2D café, you will notice that everything looks two-dimensional, making you feel like you’re inside the pages of a storybook! They serve all types of sweets and have become an incredibly popular destination.


Stationary Café 

This one-of-a-kind café is in the trendy Omote Sando area. The first 20 customers each day recieve a special menu item available to only them: a dessert decorated with stationery items. You will find lots of cute stationery on the shelves that are free to try before purchasing. 


Shiawaseno Pancakes (Happy Pancakes), Bills, and Flippers are all famous for their soufflé pancakes. These fluffy treats are deliciously soft and melt on your tongue.


Café at Hara Museum

If you love art and sweets, treat yourself to a beautiful "image cake." It matches the theme of the current exhibit and is quite literally edible art.

Regional Food

Regional Food

Did you know that Japan is smaller than the state of California? Despite its size, there are many distinct regional cultures throughout Japan that make for an incredibly diverse range of culinary experiences.

Tofugu, Tsunagu Japan, and Taberukoto depict regional dishes from each prefecture. There are many specialty dishes from each region. You'll never run out of food to try. 


Ramen: The birthplace of Ramen is China, but after Chinese migrants brought it to Japan in the 1800s, it became a popular dish. Each region developed its flavors, such as Shio (salt), Shoyu (soy sauce), Miso, Tonkotsu (pork broth), seafood broth, and a unique blend of all these broths. Taberukoto has a Ramen map of Japan. 


You also find varieties of Udon and Soba noodles in each region. Udon has a more extended history than Soba, but both became today’s style during the Edo period. When you visit a new place, be sure to ask the locals for their unique Udon or Soba. 


Antenna shops

If you don't have time to visit Hokkaido but want to try their regional food? You're in luck! There is a type of store called Antenna Shops where you can purchase or eat specialty food from various regions. They are primarily located in big cities. Those shops promote their regional food, craft, and culture and encourage tourism to the areas.

Recommended Resources

List of Antenna shops:

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Antenna shops are also great places to shop for noodles. Each region has unique noodles, including ramen. Japan offers over 1,500 different brands of instant ramen noodles. Japanese Ramen producers make 5,723,500,000 instant ramen noodles per year and export 99,110,000 of them to over 50 countries worldwide. You find popular brands in supermarkets and unique regional noodles in antenna shops. 


Looking for more ways to maximize your regional food experience?

In addition to Antenna Shops, you can find regional foods at a very popular Food Hall in Tokyo. The recently renovated 1500 person Miyashita Park hosts an impressive dining center offering soul food from various regions of Japan. In the retro atmosphere, you can enjoy live entertainment as you try regional rice bowls and noodle dishes. For more regional offerings, check out Shibuya Yokocho as well.


Michi no Eki

Have you heard of Michi no Eki? It means "Road Station." Why do we have stations on the road? Well, they offer a place to take a break from your driving and enjoy tasty regional food. They're generally located in remote areas as their target customers are long-distance drivers. Some Michu no Eki even offer shuttle services from the nearest train stations. You find kids' playgrounds, clean restrooms, gourmet food, and local farmers markets. Whether you're renting a car or traveling by bike or motorcycle, Michu no Eki are worth the stop and can be a great way to experience local cuisine and culture.

Recommended Resources

Ask your hotel clerk to find the nearest Michi no Eki with this search engine in the home page of National Michi no Eki Association.

Here are the top-ranking Michi no Eki by a Japanese website: 

  1. Okinawa Itoman

  2. Awaji

  3. Shodoshima Olive Park

  4. Eki no Michi Yufuin

  5. Senza Kitchen Yamaguchi

  6. Uzushio

  7. Kisarazu Umakuta

  8. Hota Shogakko

  9. Yonezawa

  10. Denen Plaza

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Markets/Food Halls


Department store basements: Depachika    

Depachika means “department store basement level” in Japanese. In a typical Depachika you will find food halls with delicious, ready-to-eat food, and beautiful food gifts. Almost all major department stores have these food halls. Eater and Vogue have great articles on Depachika.


Grand Food Hall

The Grand Food Hall is a unique store located in Hyogo and Tokyo. The owner and her staff travel around Japan to source the best of everything, stocking only the best brand of each item at their Food Hall. For example, if you want to buy miso, the Grand Food Hall will have only miso from one miso maker considered to be the best in Japan. Many of the makers are small family-run companies and don't mass manufacture or distribute their products nationwide. You can buy a wide variety of prepared food using the ingredients available in the store. It's a must-stop if you love food.


Toyosu Market is the central wholesale market that handles seafood, vegetables, and fruits. The rest of the notable markets listed here are traditional shopping arcades for the general public. The streets are filled with a wide variety of shops, restaurants, and cafés. These stands are usually developed along roads leading to training stations, important shrines, and temples. It's a great way to see old Japan and immerse yourself in Japanese culture.

Check out the website of Shijou MetroToyosu Market is a new central market in Tokyo. You can take a tour to see the wide variety of seafood and fresh produce traded in this market. I'd suggest that you check out the tuna auction in the early morning. It's simply amazing. In the market complex, you will find great sushi & seafood restaurants to taste the freshest seafood from the market. Check out the website for more information and great tips. 


Tsukiji Outer Market

Tsukiji is a historic town where Tokyo's seafood market used to be. Considered to be much livelier than Toyosu Market, here you can explore many shops and restaurants that have been doing business there for generations. There are specialty shops like kelp stores, bonito flakes shops, egg stores, and so much more. The town’s many shops serve many things, from grilled scallops to steamed crabs. Now that the fish market has moved to Toyosu, the town of Tsukiji relies on tourists like you to survive and keep hundreds of years of traditions alive. Please consider visiting Tsukiji and supporting the amazing community. 


These markets below are smaller compared to Toyosu and Tsukiji but they’re just as lively and exciting. You won’t run into too many tourists and can mingle with the locals. You find many great restaurants using the fresh ingredients directory from the markets and offer the best prices. Be sure to check out your nearest market.


Adachi Seafood Market

The Adachi Market is the 2nd largest wholesale market after Toyosu in Tokyo, but it is not as well known by tourists. The market is truly a hidden gem, and is a great place to shop and enjoy a fresh, tasty lunch. Adachi is open only on the 2nd Saturday of odd months. If you happen to be in Tokyo on that day, the Adachi Seafood Market is a great place to visit and to see how locals buy and sell local seafood. You can learn more about the market in this article by JW-Web Magazine.


Kuromon Ichiba Market is Osaka's kitchen. Mark Weins' migrationology and Just One Cook Book has a good Kuromon guide.


Nishiki Ichiba is a 400-year-old Kyoto kitchen. Japan Cheapo has an excellent market guide.


Omiya Ichiba in Saitama,  Japanese Only

This market has two sections: Seafood and vegetables/fruits. Ask your hotel clerk for directions.



Smaller markets are called Shotengai. There are numerous Shotenai throughout Japan. Check out Go Tokyo’s Shotengai guide website here.

Cheap Eats

Cheap Eats

Convenience Stores/Konbini

Konbini is Japanese for Convenience stores. Throughout Japan, foods at Konbini stores like 7-11Family Mart, and Lawsons are good, cheap, and convenient. You may be surprised to find warm food like fried chicken or steamed buns in addition to onigiri (rice balls), sandwiches, bento, and deserts. Egg salad sandwiches, melon pan, and curry pan are popular choices among international tourists. There is even a vegan konbini in Asakusa. Check out Matcha’s article on it.



Do you want to keep your food choices economical, but don't have a kitchen in your hotel? No worries. All supermarkets in Japan have inexpensive prepared meals. The portions are usually small, so you can try many things! Insider, and Japan Switch have good supermarket guides.


Food truck/kitchen car/Farmer's Market

Food trucks offer friendly prices without compromising on quality. In Japan’s big cities, food trucks are gaining in popularity and number. Below I’ve put together a list of areas in Tokyo where you can find food trucks. Each location’s schedule is planned so you can experience different food trucks every day. 


Food truck locations:

Farmers Market at United Nation University Campus


Street Food

Generally speaking, there are three categories of street food based on where you can find them:


1.Traditional Shopping Areas: In Shotengai, generally developed around train stations, you see many mom-and-pop shops that serve takeout food like Yakitori (grilled chicken on a stick) and Korokke (breaded fried mash potato with ground meat, similar to Indian samosa).  


2. Trendy Tourist Spots: In Harajuku, for example, you'll find many local sweets, crepes, soft serve, rainbow-colored grilled cheese, gigantic bright-colored cotton candy, and more. These spots are very popular for younger tourists looking for the perfect “Instagramable moment.” 


3. Festivals in Shrines and Temples: The atmosphere of these festivals are similar to a State Fair or carnival. Although these foods may not be sophisticated, they're mostly affordable, fun, and tasty! 


For additional resources on Japanese street food, check out Culture Trip and Japan Talk’s articles on street food. Paolo's Tokyo Zebra has an article that tells you where you can find different kinds of street foods.

Cooking Classes

Cooking Classes

Are you looking for a great way to enjoy Japanese food besides eating? You can experience Japanese culture by learning to cook their world famous cuisines! From Ramen to Sushi, Japanese cooking classes are available in English throughout the country. Buddha Bellies Cooking School Tokyo and Tsukiji Cooking are very popular options. Buddha Bellies also offers vegetarian, vegan and halal menus. 


To explore more unique Japanese food experiences, you can check out these resources. Cookly, Eat Osaka JW Web Magazine, Michelin all have great articles that list more cooking class options. If you’re looking for a more intimate experience, I recommend AirKitchen. The concept is similar to AirB&B, where local people open their homes and teach you how to prepare authentic meals. It's a great way to meet locals and experience Japanese culture through cooking. The service also can connect you with professionals to learn from. 


Are you serious about learning Japanese cuisine? Perhaps you're thinking of opening up a Ramen shop in your town? You can learn everything from broth-making to restaurant management in just 6 days at the Yamato Noodle School in Kagawa Prefecture. If you prefer a one-on-one or a smaller class size, you can attend a Ramen Dream Academy class in Osaka or Miyajima Ramen School in Tokyo.


Dining with Locals and Other Travelers

I love meeting other travelers to share experiences and to compare notes. But what if you don't necessarily want to take a cooking class or craft-making class and just want to eat with locals and other travelers? For this experience, I recommend you try Izakaya (drinking places) with communal tables. Japanese are usually formal, but at Izakaya places, they are more friendly and are easy to mingle with.  If you're not a drinker or don't like bar scenes, you can participate in dining programs like these:  Nagomi Visit and Eat With. With these  programs, you can enjoy food tours or have authentic meals in the home of locals. 

Dining with locals


One of the unique experiences in Japan is Izakaya dining. Whether you love hot sake or an ice-cold beer, you'll love the Izakaya experience. If you've never been to one, there are a few things you should know. Tokyo Cheapo has two good pages on Izakaya, A Beginner's Guide and an Izakaya recommendation list. There are many Izakaya alleys. Some of my favorite fun spots are "The Nonbei Yokocho." in Shibuya and "Omoide Yokocho" in Shinjuku. A popular way to enjoy Izakaya’s are to do "Hashigo" bar hopping all night long. If you are interested in visiting beer/sake breweries, you can check out my "Culture & Experience" page.


Here are the 10 top rated Izakaya alleys:

1.Omoide Yokocho: Shinjuku station

2.Nonbei Yokocho Shibuya station

3.Ameyoko: Ueno station

4.Kameido Yokocho: JR Sobu line Kameido station North

5.Yurakucho underpass: JR Tokyo Metro Yurakucho station

6.Koenji Shotengai: JR Koenji station

7.Asagaya Kitaguchi station: Asagaya North Star Road

8.Nakano Renga Shotengai: Nakano station South

9.Oicho Azumakoji: Oisho station

10.Tokiwa Dori: North Kitasenju station

Special Needs in Food

Special Needs in Food


Halal is getting more recognition nowadays in Japan. You can check out these websites where you search for Halal restaurants and Mosque/Masjid near you. You can also find the vegetarian/vegan websites below.

Recommended Resources

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Food Allergy/Intolerance

If you have specific food allergies, check out the resource links I’ve placed below. They have helpful information and practical tips for traveling to Japan with a food allergy. One of the most important travel tips is to carry a card explaining your food allergies in Japanese wherever you go. You can find bilingual cards on those websites. Not every restaurant can accommodate your request, but you can find places willing to be flexible.

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Gluten-free & Celiac

In Japan, gluten sensitivities and Celiac’s disease awareness isn't very high. Even still, you can find some restaurants that serve gluten-free menus. If you like sushi, you can bring a non-soy-based sauce called Tamari. If you love bread, you can go to bakeries that use rice powder instead of wheat. Check out Jodi Ettenberg's Legal Nomads. Her blog about gluten-free offerings in Japan is fantastic. She shares her own experience and offers you lots of great tips and advice. Between Chris Rowthorn's list in Gluten-Free Tokyo, Gluten-Free Kyoto, and Japan Forward, you'll find plenty of great places to go!  

Activities & Interests

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Torii, Japanese traditional gate, arch in shrines and temples
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