Tokyo, Japan’s mega city, should be on the radar for anyone who loves food.
It’s often considered the one of the world’s capitals of dining, and far outdoes any other city in the world when it comes to the number of official registered restaurants in the city – the staggering number, 160,000 restaurants (source) – is way more than enough to keep your stomach happily exploring for years (or at least, however many days you have in Tokyo).
So how do you travel to the world’s biggest city, with a choice of over 160,000 restaurants, and begin to tackle the amazing array of Japanese food that’s at your fingertips, waiting to be eaten?
Keep reading this Tokyo travel guide for food lovers, and I’m going to share everything I learned, where I stayed, what I did, and most importantly, where I ate during my 2 week visit to this incredible city.
Here’s what’s included in this travel guide for Tokyo:
- Arriving and Leaving
- What to do in Tokyo
- Where to stay in Tokyo
- Transportation in Tokyo
- Food in Tokyo
- Tokyo street food
- Best Restaurants
- How much money you’ll need
Let’s get started!
Are you looking for a great place to stay in Tokyo? My wife and I stayed at Oak Hotel and booked our accommodation here.
Arriving and Leaving
Narita International Airport is the main international airport that caters to Tokyo.
If you arrive on a big international flight, you’ll likely fly into Narita. The airport is about 1 hour by train away from the center of the city, but the good news is, you have plenty of different options on how to get to where you need to go.
After getting your baggage at Narita you’ll walk out of customs and before heading downstairs there’s a series of stalls where you can purchase your train ticket. The staff seem to be very helpful, and when I was there, one lady gave me all the options of which trains to take to where I was going.
I had already done some research and since my hotel was very near to Asakusa, I decided to take Access Limited Express at a cost of 1,240 JPY ($12.20).
Here are other options:
- Skyliner (Keisei Electric Railway) which goes to Nippori and Ueno – 2,400 JPY (details)
- Keisei Main Line, also goes to Nippori and Ueno – 1,000 JPY
- Tokyo Shuttle Bus – 900 JPY
- Taxi – that could set you back around 20,000 – 30,000 JPY!!
Haneda Airport is Tokyo’s second main airport, and while they do handle international flights, most of the flights in and out of Haneda are domestic. Haneda Airport is connected to the Monorail and Keikyu Line. Here’s all the access information.
What to do in Tokyo
In a city the size of Tokyo, there are literally endless possibilities of what to do and see.
Depending on your interests, paired with how much time you have in Tokyo, should determine the things that you prioritize.
Also, since you and I love food so much (this is after-all, a Tokyo guide for food lovers), I know for sure eating delicious food is our MAIN goal.
However, we’ve got to stretch our legs a little in between meals, so I’ll just mention a few of the most enjoyable things I did when I was visiting Tokyo (in between eating).
- Tsukiji fish market: When it comes to a fresh market full of all things imaginable from the sea, Tsukiji is the best place on earth. The famous tuna auction takes place from around 5 am – 6 am, and the wholesale market area is open from 9 am – 2 pm to the public. I was amazed at the quality and quantity of seafood available and the care put into the high sashimi grades of fish. The outer Tsukiji market is also a wonderful area to explore and eat some street food snacks.
- Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden: At first I didn’t like the thought of having to pay a small entrance fee to enter a park, but after walking around Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden, I realized it was worth it. There’s a Japanese garden, a French garden, an English landscape garden, and the highlight for myself personally – the most amazing green house I’ve ever seen! Entrance fee – 200 JPY ($1.97)
- Meiji Shrine: Located near Harajuku and next to Yoyogi Park is Meiji Shrine, an imperial shrine dedicated to the spirits of Emperor Meiji. You pass through a series of torii gates, which lead to the shrine, which is surrounded by forest. It’s a peaceful and quiet place in the middle of the center of Tokyo.
- Sensoji Temple (Sensō-ji): One of the most well known religious attractions in Tokyo is the Buddhist Sensoji Temple. Founded in 628, it’s also the oldest temple in Tokyo. Around the outskirts of Sensoji you’ll find shops selling all sorts of religious items, as well as a few famous food stalls selling things like Japanese sweet bread or taiyaki (more below).
- Imperial Palace: Built on the site of the ancient Edo castle is the Imperial Palace, the home of the Emperor of Japan. In order to go inside the gates, you have to book a tour online. If you don’t book a tour, you can just walk around the park area and see a view from outside the gates with a view of Nijubashi Bridge.
- Edo-Tokyo Museum: I’ll admit, it looks a little more like a UFO than a museum, but it’s actually designed to look like a warehouse that’s elevated on stilts. The museum is dedicated to preserving the history of Edo-Tokyo, Edo being the former name of the city of Tokyo. Inside is truly an impressive amount of life sized city displays, models, and artifacts, showing the history of Tokyo. Entrance fee – 600 JPY ($5.90)
- Tokyo Skytree: As of now, Tokyo Skytree is supposedly Tokyo’s biggest tourist attraction. It’s basically a gigantic communications tower, with a big classic Tokyo style mall on the bottom, and with multiple viewing decks within the tower. I didn’t actually pay the money to go to the top, but I did explore the bottom levels.
- Ryogoku Sumo Town: In the neighborhood of Ryogoku, located in the Sumida area of Tokyo, is the the Sumo area of town. Unfortunately, sumo wrestling tournaments only take place in Tokyo normally in May and September (schedule here), but even if you can’t see a tournament, you can still go to the free sumo museum located at the stadium, and walk around the area of town to eat a Japanese sumo dish known as chanko – it’s incredibly delicious!
- Onsen (Japanese bathhouse): An onsen is a traditional Japanese public bathing facility, and they are a major part of Japanese culture. There are many different types of onsens to choose from, some are luxury facilities with a variety of spas and hot tubs, others are more everyday type of places. I went to a local neighborhood everyday onsen. You first pay the entrance fee, then strip down to nothing (yup, no clothes allowed), and proceed to sit in a hot tub outdoors or indoors. It was an interesting and relaxing experience. Entrance fee – 450 JPY ($4.43, public onsen)
- Mount Takao: About 50 km from central Tokyo, but still within the city limits, is Mount Takao. Apparently, as I read, it’s the world’s busiest mountain, and it probably is especially on the weekends or holidays, but when I went on a weekday morning, it wasn’t too bad. There are a number of different trails to climb up the mountain, and it takes about 1.5 hours or so to reach the top. Nothing goes better together than eating and exercise.
For more ideas of what you can do in Tokyo, be sure to watch my video, featuring 25 of the best things to do (and don’t worry, lots of food is included too).
25 Things To Do in Tokyo (VIDEO)
(Or you can watch it on YouTube here: http://youtu.be/lDoLLhswOwY)
Most of these places are plotted on my Tokyo map.
Where to stay in Tokyo
*Where I stayed when I was in Tokyo
Tokyo is a huge and sprawling city, so the first step to deciding where to stay when you’re in Tokyo, is to decide which area of town you would like to be in.
I won’t list every area of town here in my Tokyo travel guide as that could probably take a full book, but I’ll just share a few of the main areas and places I think are good choices.
- Shinjuku: Shinjuku could sort of be considered the downtown of Tokyo, it’s one of the city’s main business districts, always crowded, and full of high rise buildings. Some of the major high end hotels are located in Shinjuku like the Park Hyatt and the Hilton Tokyo. For a budget option in Shinjuku, you could check out Nishi-Shinjuku Hotel.
- Shibuya: Famous shopping, restaurants, cafes, fashion, nightlife, and big crowds, are what you’ll find in Shibuya – there are always plenty of things going on. You’ll find hotels like the Westin Tokyo and the nicely designed Claska. For budget, check out the Weekly Dormy Inn Meguro Aobodai.
- Ginza / Tokyo Station: Ginza is just a short walk from Tokyo Station, and the upscale area is home to plenty of high end shopping malls and restaurants. Along with the high end area of town, there are some super high end hotels like the amazing Peninsula Tokyo or the famous Imperial Hotel. For budget try APA Hotel Shintomicho-Ekimae.
- *Ueno – For most of my visit to Tokyo, I stayed in the Ueno area. Connected to the Tokyo Metro, the JR Line, and also with easy train access to Narita Airport, I thought Ueno was a wonderful area to stay in. There’s also some great restaurants, lots of shopping, the giant Ameyakocho street market, and the huge Ueno park. Ueno is one of my favorite areas of Tokyo to stay in – but keep in mind that it’s not the high end area – its more local style. You can try Centurion Hotel Ueno, Mitsui Garden Hotel, or for budget try Oak Hotel – where I stayed, and it’s pretty nice and quiet, and in a good local location.
- *Asakusa – For my first few nights in Tokyo I stayed in Asakusa (very close to Ueno). Connected to the Ginza metro line, it’s in a good location, and it has a nice local neighborhood feel to it. There are plenty of small stores, supermarkets, and budget restaurants in the area. Also, Sensoji temple is just a 5 minute walk away. Asakusa is a great option for budget hotels, guest houses, and hostels. I stayed at Agora Place Hotel, a nice friendly modern hotel mid price ranged, but you can also check out the highly rated Super Hotel Asakusa or a dorm bed at Khaosan World.
Here’s about how much you’re going to pay for accommodation in Tokyo:
- Hostel dorm bed: $30 – $40
- Capsule hotel: $40 (my friend stayed in one)
- *Budget double room: $70 – $80 (we stayed in this range most of our visit)
- Mid-range double room: $100 – $200
- Nice hotel: $200 – as much as you want to pay
Where did I stay?
*Agora Place Hotel – Located in Asakusa, my wife and I stayed our first few nights in a double room at Agora Place Hotel. I love the location, and the local Japanese neighborhood. The rooms are small, but clean, extremely comfortable beds, and rooms are outfitted with everything you need – fridge, safe deposit box, water boiler, private bathroom. We really liked this place and paid about $100 for a double per night.
*Oak Hotel – After Agora Place, we moved over to Oak Hotel in Ueno, just a 10 minute walk away. It’s a simple place, but friendly, in a good location, and the room rates are pretty affordable for Tokyo standards. We stayed in a Japanese style room, which was small (like all budget hotels in Tokyo), and it included a private bathroom, for around $80 per night for a double.
For more hotels in Tokyo, click here.
Transportation in Tokyo
I’ll admit, navigating the Tokyo public transit system for the first time is a challenge.
But as long as you take your time, and don’t put yourself in a hurry to get somewhere, you’ll find that there are plenty of clear signs (in English), and I was really impressed by the good quality maps at every train / metro station exit.
Just to let you know, you could take a bus or taxi getting around in Tokyo, but for my entire 2 week stay in the city, we only used the JR Line and the Tokyo Metro. So for this Tokyo travel guide, I’ll just be covering Tokyo train transportation, because it’s really all you likely need to use.
I’ll do my best to explain the extensive Tokyo public transportation network, and try to do it as simple as possible.
Of all the train lines that are mentioned here, during my time in Tokyo while going to all 25 attractions and eating my way through the city, 98% of the time I only needed the Yamanote Line and the Tokyo Metro (took the monorail just once to Odaiba).
JR (Japan Rail)
- *Yamanote Line: The green Yamanote line is one of the most used lines in Tokyo, and it covers a circuit loop around many of the major hubs of the city; Ueno, Tokyo Station, Yurakucho (Ginza), Shibuya, Shinjuku, and Ikebukuro to name a few. It’s really convenient to use and is above ground so you get to see the city when riding.
- Chuo Line: While the Yamanote line is a loop, the JR Chuo line cuts across the circle from Shinjuku to Tokyo Station.
- Keihin-Tohoku Line, Saikyo Line, Shinkansen Line: These are other lines that JR (Japan Rail) runs in metro Tokyo, but to be honest you should really only need the Yamanote Line.
- *Tokyo Metro Line: This is the most extensive network of subway lines, including 9 different lines, and it covers quite a few areas.
- Toei Line: There are just 4 different lines in the Toei Line, and there are frequent junctions with the Tokyo Metro lines.
- Toden Arakawa Line, Nippori-Toneri Liner: I never actually had to use these lines when I was in Tokyo, so if you stay in central Tokyo you probably won’t either.
Single Ticket – A single journey ticket around central Tokyo will normally cost from 160 – 190 JPY ($1.56 – $1.87, really long journeys can cost 200 – 300 JPY), but it can only be used if you stay within the Tokyo Metro Line or the Toei Line. If you have to take a train first from the Tokyo Metro Line and then transfer to the Toei Line, you have to pay again. Likewise, the same goes for transferring from the Metro to the JR Line.
PASMO – If you’re in Tokyo for a while you might want to purchase a PASMO card where you can load however much money so you don’t have to buy a ticket every ride. It’s convenient, mainly because you can get through traffic faster, and not need to calculate the cost of your ride. You have to pay a 500 JPY ($4.92) deposit, and when you cash out, you’ll get your 500 JPY back but have to pay 210 JPY ($2.07) for the processing fee.
If you plan to do a lot of sightseeing in a day, you might want to grab a One Day Pass. To use both of the Tokyo Metro lines it’s 1,000 JPY ($9.84), but for a Tokyo Combination which includes the Metro lines and Tokyo city JR lines, it costs 1,580 JPY ($15.55) per day.
This free Tokyo Metro Guide is actually extremely useful, you should check it out.
Tokyo Monorail (Private company)
Though it’s not overly extensive, when visiting a place like Odaiba, the main option is taking the monorail. The Monorail is a bit on the expensive side at around 300 JPY for one ride ($2.95), but it does provide some cool views of the city and the river.
All of this being said, it’s also worth mentioning that Tokyo is one of the best big cities I’ve been to for walking.
The sidewalks are extremely wide and when you cross a street you have a clear green walk signal (plus you’ll likely be crossing the street with many other pedestrians). Anyway, some distances are long, so it’s easy to catch the metro, but do consider doing some walking. Tokyo is a great city for walking!
Food in Tokyo – Get Ready to Eat!
Ok, now that we got some of the logistics of traveling in Tokyo out of the way, it’s time to get into the much more important aspect of your visit: FOOD!
When it comes to eating in Japan (and Tokyo), I’ve honestly never seen such beautiful looking meals, not to mention the intensive care that is put into, not only the flavors and freshness of the cuisine, but the way it’s presented and the way food looks.
First, read these tips and thoughts about eating in Tokyo:
- Lunch: Lunch at restaurants is often MUCH cheaper than dinner, so when I was visiting Tokyo, I made it my priority to have lunch be our main meal – sometimes I even ate two or three lunches – and then had a budget dinner.
- Lines: Lines outside of restaurants are typical, something you’ll quickly discover is the norm in Tokyo. Some restaurants have a line no matter what time you go there, others just have a line during meal rush hours. To avoid lines, I would often show up at a restaurant about 15 – 30 minutes before the restaurant would open. For lunch, most restaurants in Tokyo open at 11 am or 11:30 am, and you better be sure, I was in line 15 minutes before opening. After all, food is the reason I travel!
- Bar Seating: Many Japanese restaurants include bar seating, some even have only bar seating. It’s a great wary for a restaurant to use a limited amount of space, and it also provides a pretty cool dining experience – being able to watch the chef at work, and being served directly from the chef. I have never had such limited dining space as in Tokyo, which was very cool and enjoyed it, but I’ll admit, due to lack of space, it was challenging to film food videos.
- Prices: There’s an extreme diverse price range of restaurants in Tokyo – everything from quick $5 meals to luxurious $300 meals. Budget restaurants, which I cover in the “Eating on a Budget” section, usually have the same price for lunch or dinner – and you’ll often get dishes like ramen, rice topped with some pork and egg, or donburis (rice bowls). For nicer sit down restaurants, as I mentioned above, lunch is much cheaper than dinner. You can find some pretty good deals at restaurants in Tokyo at lunchtime. One example is at the Ginza Sushi restaurant where I had a plate of sushi, which included about 20 pieces for just over $12 – for high quality sushi, I think that was a great deal – and remember, no tips ever necessary either. However, for dinner you’ve got to expect to pay $20 – $50 per person in the low range.
- Tips: You don’t need to leave a tip when you eat at a restaurant in Tokyo. In fact, in Japanese culture it’s even considered rude to leave a tip – so don’t do it. I think it’s a pretty win-win situation, at least for us!
- Drinking Water: I read in a number of places that the water in Tokyo from the sink was potable. Hotel rooms also standardly come with a hot water boiler, so most of the time I would boil water from the sink to drink, just to make sure it was safe. Also, when I was in Tokyo, it was winter, so I was constantly just drinking boiled water in tea.
- Names of restaurants: One thing that’s tough with finding restaurants in Tokyo is that most places only have signs written in Japanese (even though they might have an English menu). So if you’re out to hunt for a restaurant, make sure you find the outside picture and take a good mental note or it (or I sometimes even take a photo of my computer screen with my phone).
These are just a few of the things I noticed when eating in Tokyo, now let’s get into the real food guide…
Eating on a Budget
Yes, Tokyo is one of the most expensive cities I’ve traveled to, but at the same time, there are some great deals to find, and there are some affordable restaurants to eat at.
Like I mentioned above, making lunch your main meal, is a great way to eat well and not spend nearly as much as you would if you made dinner your main meal.
Here are a few more tips:
Like in every city I’ve ever visited, food prices are higher when you’re in the center of the city, or in popular busy districts.
If you walk around and explore some of the neighborhoods of Tokyo, you’ll immediately notice the prices of food at restaurants are noticeably cheaper. A bowl of ramen on a busy street might cost 800 – 1,000 JPY ($7.88 – $9.84), but in the neighborhood you might find a good bowl for 500 – 800 JPY ($4.92 – $7.88).
I ate this piece of saba fish (mackerel, pictured), for a few meals during my time in Tokyo, which came with a bowl of rice, miso soup, and a piece of tofu all for 590 JPY ($5.74) – not a bad deal!
Vending machine restaurants
If you’re like me, and love rice, there are some decent restaurants in Tokyo where you pay into a vending machine, get a ticket, give your ticket to the server, and your food will be served to you.
They are normally Japanese fast food kind of restaurants, some open 24 hours a day, and nearly always busy with customers.
I enjoyed quite a few bowls of rice topped with pork, and a perfectly cooked poached egg on top for around 400 – 600 JPY ($3.94 – $5.91). They’re not the best quality of food, but the meals are pretty tasty, and affordable.
I went to some vending machine restaurants with names only written in Japanese, so sometimes it’s a little bit of a toss up what you’ll get, but they often have little thumbnail photos. Some chains that you’ll find all over Tokyo include Yoshinoya and Sukiya.
Underground department store food (Depachika)
Known as depachika in Japanese, department stores seem to be everywhere you turn in Tokyo (and at least connected to most train stations).
While they are normally full of luxurious clothes on the top floors, the basements are usually reserved for an array of takeaway food that will blow your mind.
The quantities of delicious things are out of control, just about every kind of Japanese food you can imagine all in one place for your pure culinary enjoyment.
The best department stores I found in Tokyo were Isetan in Shinjuku, Shinjuku Takashimaya, and the bottom floor of a mall right next to Shibuya station. Here’s a great article about more.
The food is not always budget at these department stores, there are often some high end foods as well, but you can also find some great deals and eat pretty well for under 1,000 JPY ($9.84).
Tokyo Street Food
My wife first noticed it in Harajuku. We ordered one of the famous crepes filled with ice cream… and everyone seemed to order it, then stand on the side of the sidewalk while eating.
In Thailand, we always order street food and eat while walking.
I looked it up online when we got back to our hotel, to find that it’s considered impolite to eat while walking in Japanese culture, ahah!
So street food in Tokyo is not all that common like it is where I normally am, but there are a few things that I did see and try along the streets of Tokyo.
Here are a few of the top street foods to eat when you’re in Tokyo – and some of them are not really completely street – as in not served from a street cart – but rather served from a building facing the street with standing room, or street-side seating.
Also known as octopus balls or pancake balls, these little golf ball sized snacks are the absolute hype of savory street food snacks in Japan (originally popularized in Osaka).
The pancake batter is cooked in rounded metal trays, with a piece of octopus added into the middle of the batter. The final step is to whisk the batter into a ball shape as it cooks. The result is a gooey batter inside with a crispy outside.
Takoyaki is often placed on a canoe shaped plate, and seasoned with Japanese mayo and a teriyaki like sauce.
Price: Anywhere from 260 – 600 JPY ($2.56 – $5.91) for 6 takoyaki balls
Taiyaki (鯛焼き fish shaped waffles)
Along with takoyaki, taiyaki is another craze street food snack in Japan.
Cooked in the shape of a fish, the outside is similar to pancake or waffle batter, and they are commonly filled with red azuki beans, custard, sweet potato, or even chocolate.
Price: Around 120 – 150 JPY ($1.18 – $1.48)
Although literally translated as grilled chicken skewers, yakitori now refers to a variety of different grilled meats on skewers.
Eating yakitori is one of the favorite Japanese things to eat along with a beer or sake, and is available at occasional street food stalls and also at small hole in the wall Yakitori-ya or Izakayas.
The juicy skewers in the picture, came from a small place called Yakitori Ton Ton in the Yūrakuchō area.
Price: About 150 – 200 JPY ($1.47 – $1.97) per stick
Mitarashi dango (みたらし団子)
You’ll see these little fish ball looking skewers all over the streets of Tokyo.
I had no idea what it was until I got one and tried it.
Known as mitarashi dango, they are rice flour mochi balls covered in a sweet teriyaki soy sauce glaze. To be honest, wasn’t my favorite, but if you’re looking for unique street food snacks, give it a try.
Price: 110 JPY ($1.08)
In Japan you’ll not only find rice and noodles, but bread is a pretty big favorite too.
In both bread shops and at small street food stall in the neighborhoods you can find Japanese sweet bread, a light and airy bun that has little patches, like a soccer ball, on the outside.
Price: 170 JPY ($1.67)
Harajuku is one of the most interesting and unique areas of Tokyo. Takeshita Dori street is a well known walking street that especially caters to young people, fashion, and it’s where a lot of the famous Japanese cosplay takes place. Walk around for a few minutes and you’ll see some pretty interesting costumes.
But Harajuku is also on the map of Tokyo for its crepes, which are extremely famous.
There are a number of different crepe stores (I ate at Marion Crepes). There are both sweet and savory crepes to choose from. They are cooked thin, wrapped up into a cone shape and stuffed with whatever the ingredients you choose. Ours was filled with sweet azuki beans, ice cream, and strawberries.
Price: 450 JPY ($4.43) – a little expensive if you ask me, but if you have a sweet tooth, I think you’ll enjoy this one
3 Tokyo street food restaurants
1. Chuka Soba Inoue
Walking to Tsukiji fish market one day, I could not help noticing a stall along the busy sidewalk, that had a continual line of customers, an awesome looking chef blanching yellow noodles while spooning in ladles steaming hot soup, and customers slurping their bowls down from standing tables on the sidewalk.
It was one of those instant restaurants I had to eat at, no matter what the status of my stomach was.
At Chuka Soba Inoue they serve wonderful classic bowls of shoyu ramen that include a good pile of yellow ramen noodles, four slices of pork, with some leek and sprouts to garnish. Add your own scoop of raw minced garlic on top, and you’ve got a hot bowl of ramen that is sure to satisfy your belly.
The atmosphere, along the busy sidewalk, is superb as well. It’s one of the few street food stalls where you can eat an entire meal in Tokyo.
Open hours: 5 am – 1:30 pm (closed Sundays)
Address: 4-9-16 Tsukiji, Chuo-ku, Tokyo, Japan
Price: 650 JPY ($6.40)
2. Memory Lane (Piss Alley)
Just a 1 minute walk from the bustling Shinjuku station, you can find yourself on the small walking only Memory Lane, also commonly referred to as Piss Alley for the frequent men who used to relieve themselves after a few too many beverages (don’t worry, it’s not common now, I didn’t see anyone urinating while I was there!).
Anyway, this little alley, lit up with red Izakaya lights, is home to a bunch of little tiny closet sized local Japanese bars and yakitori restaurants.
I chose one very near the front of the lane, and had a great yakitori set that included a 5 skewer mixture of chicken and pork grilled to deliciousness. It’s sort of like indoor street food.
Open hours: Afternoon / Night
Price: 750 JPY ($7.38 for this 5 piece set I had)
3. Yakitori Ton Ton (登運とん)
Looking for a hole-in-the-wall style Japanese drinking joint with great skewers of yakitori (skewers of chicken) and yakiton (skewers of pork)?
There are probably thousands of options in Tokyo, and Yakitori Ton Ton, which actually specializes in grilled skewers of all thing pig, is a decent option.
The tiny little stall under the railroad track near Yurakucho, is sheltered by a tent and serves up beer on tap, along with succulent skewers of chicken and pork. Service is friendly, the beer on tap is refreshing, and the skewers of meat are cooked juicy with good quality meat.
More details here.
Open hours: 11:30 am – 11 pm
Address: 2-1-10, Yurakucho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
Price: About 150 – 180 JPY per skewer ($1.47 – $1.77), beer on tap 450 JPY ($4.43)
10 Tokyo restaurants I loved (and I think you will too)
Again, like I’ve mentioned, with 160,000 restaurants in Tokyo, it’s quite literally impossible to eat at every restaurant in the city during your visit.
So listed below are a few of the restaurants that I really enjoyed eating at.
If you have other suggestions, or if you ate somewhere great in Tokyo, if would be great if you left a comment at the end of this guide to let us all know!
For all these restaurants, be sure to click on the link that I provide so you can see more photos. Since many restaurants in Tokyo don’t have English names written on the outside, it can be a challenge to find them, so be sure to click the links to see more photos of a restaurant you want to eat at.
Again, keep in mind, I ate at juts about all these restaurant for lunch.
1. Sushi in Ginza
One of the best ways to find great restaurants when traveling is to just look for a place that’s busy with lots of locals eating.
Walking through Ginza one day just before lunch, I noticed a few people congregated outside a sushi restaurant.
I took a look at the menu and it looked amazing, and they had some wonderful sushi lunch specials – I immediately got in line.
A few minutes later, they opened, and we were ushered in, where I chose to sit at the sushi bar and proceeded to order a pretty good sized plate of sushi for a good deal. It was amazing sushi, and the price was right.
This restaurant doesn’t even have a name outside, but you’ll find it on my Tokyo Map and you can read more details in my full post here. It was a wonderful place for lunchtime sushi, and if you’re in Ginza, I would highly recommend it.
Open hours: 11:30 am for lunch
Address: See map
Price: 1,280 JPY
2. Nakaya (仲家)
One of the most famous thing to do in Tokyo is visit and walk around the Tsukiji fish market, and equally famous is having sushi for breakfast.
Sushi Dai is the most famous of them all, and they have an everlasting line of customers that wraps onto the road and often takes hours to get through. I didn’t have time to wait in line on this trip to Tokyo, so I chose another famous restaurant, with less of a line, known as Nakaya.
They make donburis, rice bowls topped with sashimi and other fresh seafoods. The wait only took 15 minutes and the donburi I had was fantastic. Service wasn’t the friendliest, but I was happy with the food.
Open hours: 5 am – 2 pm (closed on Sunday and market holidays)
Address: 5-2-1 Tsukiji, Chuo-ku, Tokyo, Japan
Price: 1,500 – 2,000 JPY (Mine cost 1,800 JPY – $17.72)
3. Chanko Tomoegata (巴潟)
Walking around the sumo wrestling area of town in Tokyo is a great thing to do, and stopping to eat some sumo food is a must.
Just by luck, I chose Chanko Tomoegata (巴潟), and though it looked quiet from the outside, the inside of the restaurant was packed with local Japanese slurping down insanely good pots of chanko – a hot pot type of meat and vegetable stew.
I ordered the lunch special (Sumoheyafu Higawari Chanko), including chanko, sashimi, rice, a few salads, and a deep fried croquette.
Price: 1,890 JPY ($18.60), but without the sashimi it was 1,260 JPY ($12.40)
4. Uoriki Kaisen Sushi
On my first day in Tokyo, I decided to find a restaurant for sushi.
I was near Shibuya station and saw the recommendation for Uoriki Kaisen Sushi from Lady Iron Chef. The small restaurant is located on the basement floor of Tokyu Department Store, which is connected to the Shibuya station.
I had to ask the information counter where Uoriki Kaisen Sushi was located, and information was happy to show me where it was. I took a seat at the bar counter, and ordered the chirashi don, and Ying had the mixed sushi plate. The chirashi don was excellent, and the atmosphere, quietly tucked off the side of the busy department store food floor, was great.
Open hours: 10 am – 9 pm daily
Address: Basement of Tokyu Department Store, Shibuya Station, Tokyo
Price: Chirashi don – 1,690 JPY ($16.64), sushi plate – 1,090 JPY ($10.73)
5. Ramen Street – Tokyo Station
Ramen is an obsession for many in Tokyo, and you’ll find ramen shops scattered throughout the city.
Ramen Jiro, as I’ve read, is quite the experience, and had I had more time in Tokyo, I would have gone there. But another good experience is Ramen Street, a cluster of ramen shops on the basement floor of Tokyo Station.
During development, 8 of the best and most famous Japanese ramen shops from around the country were asked to open a branch on Ramen Street in Tokyo Station.
Each serves a somewhat different type of ramen, so it’s nice to be able to choose if you want that creamy tonkotsu type, or a lighter shoyu broth. At lunch, the lines can be quite long, but they move fast as everyone slurps down a bowl quickly and moves on.
I chose to eat at Oneshiki Jun (俺式 純) for the thick creamy tonkotsu ramen, but it was really quite a big decision, and finally I just had to choose one. The most famous of them all is Rokurinsha Tokyo, and there’s always a line.
Open hours: 11 am – 10 pm daily
Address: B1F Yaesu South Exit, Tokyo Station, 1-9-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku (http://www.tokyoeki-1bangai.co.jp/street/ramen (Free PDF in English)
Price: 800 – 1,200 JPY ($7.88 – $11.81)
Yukari from Food Sake Tokyo recommended I go to eat lunch one day at Tenmatsu, saying their tempura was excellent and they had a great lunch special at the Nihonbashi branch (the main branch is in Shibuya).
You can bet, I was there at 10:30 am for lunch, and managed to make it first in line – and good thing too – because a few people got in line behind me just after we arrived.
Anyway, Tenmatsu does awesome tempura in a lovely environment and for a great deal.
I had the combination tempura plus a side bowl of rice topped with beautiful slices of akami sashimi (the deep red pieces).
Our tempura was served piece by piece from the chef and was awesome quality. My set of tempura plus sashimi bowl cost just 1,280 JPY ($12.60) – great deal for that kind of quality and service.
Open hours: 11 am – 2 pm Monday – Friday, 11 am – 2:30 pm weekends and holidays, 5 pm – 9 pm for dinner
Address: 1-8-2 Muromachi, Nihonbashi, Chuo-ku, Tokyo
Price: 900 – 1,280 JPY ($12.60) for lunch sets
7. Narutomi Soba (手打ち蕎麦 成冨)
When I was in Tokyo, I was interested in eating an authentic, and high quality soba meal, and Narutomi Soba, listed as one of the top restaurants in Tokyo on Chowzter.com, is what I chose.
I went for lunch, showed up about 15 minutes before opening and sat at a table this time (though there are a few bar seating where you can watch the chefs at work).
At Narutomi Soba they serve wonderfully hand-made (teuchi), 100% buckwheat noodles.
You can order soba noodles in soup, or get the seiro soba, cold noodles in a basket served with a dipping sauce on the side (my preferred method).
Narutomi also makes delicious tempura served with a side of dipping salt. Portion was a little small, but good quality and delicious.
Open hours: 11:30 am – 2:30 pm and 6 pm – 8:45 pm Monday – Friday, 11 am – 3 pm on Saturday, closed on Sunday
Address: Futaba Bldg. 1F, 8-18-6 Ginza, Chuo-ku,Tokyo
Price: Soba was 840 JPY ($7.87), plates of tempura were around 1,000 JPY ($9.84). It’s not the cheapest food in Tokyo, but it’s definitely high quality and a great experience for noodle lovers.
8. Yoshihashi Sukiyaki (よしはし)
I really wanted to eat a good Japanese sukiyaki when I was in Tokyo, and I was debating between a number of different choices.
When I read about Yoshihashi in the Japan Times, and read how exclusive and high class it was, I decided it was a must to search this place out for lunch one day.
Tucked in-between buildings, and clearly off the beaten path, Yoshihashi remains highly exclusive.
We got in for lunch and ordered the house sukiyaki which came in a piping hot copper pan. A good quantity of thinly sliced high grade beef, chrysanthemum greens, mushrooms, onions, leeks, and some noodles were cooked in a delicate blend of sweet soy sauce and mirin.
The sukiyaki was not only amazing, but the setting and exclusivity of Yoshihashi was unforgettable.
Lunch special was 2,100 JPY ($20.67), but if you go for dinner, you might pay $200 – $300.
Open hours: 11:30 am – 2 pm and 5:30 pm – 9 pm Monday – Saturday, closed on Sunday
Address: 1-5-25 Moto-Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Price: 2,100 JPY ($20.67) for lunch special sukiyaki
9. Sometaro Okonomiyaki (染太郎)
Okonomiyaki (お好み焼き) is somewhat of a craze junk food in Japan, it’s sort of like a Japanese pizza or pancake.
A mixture of tempura batter (just like pancake batter), cabbage, octopus, and a variety of other ingredients are mixed up, then cooked on a hot griddle in front of you in the shape of a big pancake.
When your okonomiyaki is done cooking, it’s decorated with mayonnaise, a sauce that tastes similar to teriyaki, and seaweed flakes.
I went to Sometaro Okonomiyaki in Asakusa. Housed in an antique building with old photos and posters scattered on the walls, the atmosphere was great. I’m personally not the biggest fan of okonomiyaki, I like rice and meat / fish better, but the okoomiyaki here was pretty good.
Open hours: 12 noon – 10:30 pm daily
Address: 2-2-2 Nishiasakusa, Taitō, Tokyo 〒111-0035, Japan (http://www.sometaro.com/)
Price: Not bad prices here, we had two okonomiyakis for around 1,400 JPY ($13.78)
Officially rated as the 2nd best restaurant in Asia (in the top 20 of the world), Narisawa is always one of the highest regarded restaurants in Tokyo.
The chef is an absolute creative genius in the kitchen, specializing in using natural and local Japanese ingredients, while cooking French style.
I had the privilege to be sponsored for a meal at Narisawa from Chowzter.com, and it was a true treat of a meal.
The menu is only omakase, meaning the chef decides what’s served, so the menu changes frequently. Some of our courses included the chef’s famous soil soup, langoustine from Suruga Bay, forest salad, and the true highlight, a hunk of “Sumi 2009” Kobe beef – the best piece of beef I’ve ever had in my life.
Open hours: 12 pm noon for lunch, 6:30 pm for dinner, closed on Sunday
Address: Minami, Ayoyama 2-6-15, Minato-ku, Tokyo (http://www.narisawa-yoshihiro.com/)
Price: 12,000 JPY ($118) for lunch, 20,000 JPY ($197) for dinner
*Note: At most of these nicer restaurants I only ate there during lunch because prices are drastically cheaper. For dinner I often ate at restaurants mentioned in the “Eating on a Budget” section of this guide – those restaurants keep the same affordable prices both lunch and dinner. So if you are looking to same some money while in Tokyo, I would really recommend you take advantage of lunch if you can.
How much money will you need in Tokyo?
Tokyo is not the cheapest city in the world, in fact it’s one of the most expensive. But that being said, it’s an absolutely amazing city to visit, and if you can afford it, it’s a wonderful place to experience.
My wife Ying and I stayed in Tokyo for 15 days (14 nights), here’s how much we spent.
Before I breakdown our expenses, here are a few things to keep in mind about our budget (because the reality of visiting Tokyo is that you could really spend as much money as you want – there’s is no limit).
- This budget is on the very low side of things
- My wife and I are quite careful with our spending
- For transportation we walked a lot, especially to avoid paying for 2 tickets on the metro (we normally tried to just take one ticket, not transfer – so we did a lot of walking)
- Nice restaurants we ate at lunch time, for dinner we mostly ate at budget restaurants or ate bentos from supermarkets.
- Overall, I prefer to spend my money on food rather than attractions, so some expensive attractions like the Tokyo Skytree and the Mori Art Museum, we didn’t go inside – for the most part we took advantage of free attractions like Sensoji Temple, Meiji Shrine, walking around sumo town, etc.
Now that you got that, here’s the breakdown of our expenses:
- Accommodation: $1,158 USD (14 nights in budget room hotels)
- Transportation: 16,520 JPY ($160.64)
- Attractions: 4,810 JPY ($46.78) – luckily there are plenty of things you can do for free in Tokyo
- Food: 60,361 JPY ($586.94)
You can clearly see where my priority is (hint: eating).
Grand Total for 15 days (14 nights) in Tokyo for 2 people: $1,952.36 (including accommodation, transportation, food, attractions, everything for 2 of us for 14 days)
Average per day expenses for 2 people: $139.45
Average per person per day expenses in Tokyo: $69.73
Accommodation was our biggest expense in Tokyo and being a couple, we spent about the cheapest amount possible while having a double room. Hostel beds or capsule beds are still pricey.
If you can avoid accommodation fees by staying with a friend, or even couchsurfing, your expenses will really decrease.
Tokyo is rated as one of the best food cities in the entire world, and I can vouch to say it won’t let you down.
Not only does Japanese food in Tokyo taste so amazing, but the quality and care that goes into each morsel of cuisine, not to mention the acute attention that’s given to details like atmosphere and presentation, makes the entire eating experience in Tokyo so remarkable.
From luxury fine dining where you’re treated like royalty, to freshly grilled skewers of yakitori from a closet sized food stall, you’ll fall in love with the culture of eating in Tokyo.
Now it’s up to you to get yourself to Tokyo, Japan, to discover it for yourself… one bite at a time!
Are you a food lover who has already been to Tokyo?
What did you love about it? Any restaurant recommendations. Please leave a comment.