The Best Cities for Food Around the World: Tokyo

Tokyo, Japan

By Mariam Bulin-Diarra and Alannah Mcdermott

Tokyo walking tour with gourmet local food

Ah, the charming and exciting streets of Tokyo.  Here at TourMega, we looooove Tokyo! Last week we were featuring some great places to eat in Paris (read the article). Today, we are taking you to Tokyo, the world’s capital for Michelin starred restaurants and fun themed dining experiences. We can assure you that after a gastronomic trip to Japan’s capital, you will never truly enjoy eating at your local Japanese restaurant ever again.

Tokyo: The World’s number 1 for Michelin Star restaurants!

For over a century, Michelin Guide has been giving their prestigious stars to exceptional restaurants. Gaining one of these stars can skyrocket a restaurants success and is regarded as one of the highest awards in the food industry.  Did you know that Tokyo is the city with the most Michelin star restaurants in the world? 12 three stars (highest honor), 56 at two stars and 166 at one star.  Tokyo should be on your bucket list if you consider yourself a food lover and avid traveler.  Many celebrity chefs such as Gordon Ramsay, Anthony Bourdain, and Ming Tsai all trained in Japan or went there for inspiration.   Alain Ducasse,  one of the most famous French Chefs, owns a few restaurants in Tokyo where he combines French and Japanese cuisines to create amazing and tasteful new savors. One is the Beige restaurant, which is located in Chanel Building.  

One of the biggest challenges that travelers encounter is the language barrier.  A lot of restaurants don’t have websites or staff members who speak a language other than Japanese, so here is a handy-dandy article that gives you over 50 common Japanese phrases!  Practice your pronunciation and you might just fool a local into thinking you’re fluent! (You probably will not, but they are a friendly bunch and won’t give you a hard time about it.). You can also use Google Translate application available on Google Play for Android and ITunes for  IOS devices that you can download for free.

Former US president Barrack Obama enjoyed sushi at Sukiyabashi Jiro Restaurant with Japan’s PM Shinzo Abe.’

If you bank with American Express and are a Platinum and Centurion card members, you can take advantage of their concierge service. But no worries if you don’t have an American Express card.  As a leading travel startup, TourMega offers restaurant booking services for people visiting Japan. Starting from $29, the team can help you to book restaurants or join a food tour with a local guide.  Remember those delicious Michelin star restaurants we talked about earlier? TourMega features 114 of those in Tokyo to choose from! Among them are Hirosaku, Seika Kobayashi, Ginya, Shinjuku Kappo Nakajima, Sushi Saito, and  Ginza Ibuki.  We must give a quick shoutout to Sushi Saito.  It is our most popular restaurant booking request on our site, and for good reason!  Boasting of Michelin’s highest honor (3 stars), Chef Takashi Saito starts his art at Tsukiji Fish Market, the biggest fish and seafood market in the world, where he carefully buys the finest fish from trusted wholesalers who have worked with him for years.  (TourMega has over 45 tours of this popular market!) “His restaurant is pretty much booked for the rest of his life” is what travel and food bloggers Simon and Martina said while spending the day in the sought-after restaurant.  If you want to learn more about this iconic restaurant, check out their entire video!

On the budget or bigger groups?

A typical izakaya alley in Tokyo

Japan is known for being expensive, On a budget or simply interested in a more casual vacation?  Tokyo has thousands of fantastic casual dining places and themed restaurants, and TourMega offers hundreds of sushi tours for you to choose from.  You probably have never heard about izakayas, but we guarantee you’ve seen them in either movies, animations, documentaries, travel blogs or vlogs. Izakayas are informal Japanese pubs, where people go to eat and drink after work. After a long day wandering in Tokyo’s streets, you just have to seat at a countertop whenever a spot is available. You will always be greeted by  Irasshaimase!” and bowed by the staff.” Some Izakaya bars offer all you can eat sushi at a fixed price or if you more into liquid diet some bars offer 100 sakes tastings and all you can drink for just $29 formula.  You most likely will make a new friend at this lively place.  It’s not rare to be invited by a random stranger at an izakaya to enjoy a drink of sakes, Japanese whiskey, and beers.  If you are lucky, you might receive an invitation to dine at a Japanese home. Therefore, you must learn important etiquette basics.  Some are removing your shoes before entering someone’s home, greeting your hosts, being familiar with the seating placement, properly eating and drinking, and the farewell.  

For Japanese animation lovers

One Piece restaurant and fun house, at One Piece Tower, Tokyo

Themed restaurants are something to experience while visiting Tokyo. Unlike izakayas, themed restaurants can accommodate big groups, and have English speaking staff. From a Sumo experience to a robot and laser show,  we guarantee you a memorable time; not only will you be entertained but also enjoy Japanese cuisines at an affordable price.  If you are obsessed with mangas, animes, and otaku subculture, we recommend Studio Ghibli cafe at Studio Ghibli Museum,  J-World,  One Piece Tower nearby The Tokyo tower.  Most of them are family friendly and sometimes free for toddlers and infants. 

The beloved tea ceremony

Tea.  It’s the one tradition you must take part of if you are there to have an authentic, rich, and historical Japanese experience.  In Japan, tea time is a detailed and symbolic ceremony called “Chanoyu”. Chanoyu is a performance more than it is a time to simply drink tea.  It is about the meticulous preparation of utensils, the gestures and hand movements of all those involved, the atmosphere of the room, and the interaction between everything and everyone.  

Traditional tea ceremony, in Japan.

Everything from the way the tea is prepared to how it is poured and the conversations that ensue are all precisely choreographed. In fact, this tea ceremony is so detailed and important that hosts are usually required to go through YEARS of training and hosting for powerful individuals to be considered a “tea master”.  This is an amazing experience to take part of, not only because of the fellowship that takes place but because you get to step inside the history of a tradition historians and professors around the world are fascinated by. So now you that you know the cultural significance of this timeless event, you’re probably wondering…why?  Although versions of tea ceremonies were spread throughout Japan since the 4th century, the Chanoyu we know today started in the 15th century by Murata Shukou. A monk who trained for years in the art of Zen Buddhism, he instilled the intimacy, spirit, and etiquette that serves as the backbone of Chanoyu. The tea ceremony is a time to exit the restlessness and mundane of the outside world and enter into an atmosphere of tranquility.  Don’t worry, you don’t need to be a prominent Japanese official to take a part of Chanoyu. Here is a list of just a few of the tea ceremonies that we recommend:

And before you go, read up on Japanese tea ceremony etiquette in this article!

We hope this helps you have a fulfilling and event-filled time in Tokyo!  Still haven’t found the tour or experience you’re looking for?  Visit today TourMega.com where you can find 2,064 things to do in Tokyo. 

Next week, we will take you to San Francisco. Stay tuned!

 


About TourMega

TourMega is the first and largest platform in the world dedicated to tours and activities. From Tokyo to San Francisco, passing by Paris, TourMega features on its website more than 110 000 tours, activities, museums, restaurants and transportation services. In just a few clicks, travelers can book unique experiences from their computers and mobile devices. For more information please visit www.tourmega.com or contact us at [email protected]

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