Written by: @cazadordelomejor
Japan is the ultimate foodie experience. Being one of the biggest food-experience seekers there is, I knew my next big trip had to be somewhere far, somewhere different and somewhere with a strong food culture. One step into Narita International Airport and I was already dreaming of what I’d be having for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Tokyo is a city with a huge food palette. You can scour the various neighborhoods and alleyways for the tastiest Ramen, Yakitori, Izakaya, Sushi, Tempura, Udon, Okonomiyaki, and Soba. You’ll find that many restaurants specialize on only one type of dish – it’s perfected from generation to generation.
Here is my breakdown of Tokyo’s six main districts and the food that can be devoured in each:
Tsukiji & Ginza
Home to the renowned Tsukiji Fish Market, you cannot leave this area without enjoying a traditional sushi omakase at Sushi Daiwa. This hole in the wall sushi joint opens up at 5:30 AM, get there early to get a seat. Then head to the inner market at Tsukiji which opens up to the public at 10:00 AM and navigate the enormous halls of the biggest seafood market in the world.
Sushi Omakase at Sushi Daiwa
Lunch menu at Sushi Tokami
Tori Paitan with an Egg at Kagari Soba
Japanese Confectionaries at Higashiya
House Blend at Cafe de L’Ambre
Seasonal Cocktail at Ginza Music Bar
Yakitori at BirdLand
Harajuku & Aoyama
Bursting with restaurants, coffee spots, shops, boutiques and vintage stores, it is one of the best neighborhoods to get your shopping and eating game on. Stroll along Omotesandō Street and see shops converted into architectural destinations. There’s something special about Aoyama that kept me going back every other day – to sample a dessert at the newly renovated Pierre Hermé, try out the Mr. Roboto pastry sold exclusively at Dominique Ansel Bakery in Japan, or enjoy a cold brew at Blue Bottle.
Order the entire menu at Harajuku Gyoza (a few doors down from Harajuku Gyoza is a small takeout window serving one of the best Chicken Karaage I’ve ever tried)
Raspberry-Rose Madeleine at Pierre Hermé
Mr. Roboto and a Seasonal Cronut at Dominique Ansel Bakery Japan
Salmon-Avocado Pancakes at Rainbow Pancake
Cold Brew at Blue Bottle Coffee
A calm neighborhood where Buddhist temples are nestled between streets full of tempura restaurants. Its main attraction is the Senso-Ji Buddhist temple, an architectural beauty that is best to be visited when there is absolutely no one around, early in the morning or right at sundown to snap some National Geographic worthy shots.
Exactly what you imagine Tokyo to be. Tall skyscrapers, colorful billboards, enormous crosswalks, and futuristic department stores with incredible underground food halls (Depachika) that must be visited. One of the highlights of my trip was drinks and live jazz at the New York Bar, high above Tokyo. Get a table right in front of the stage to create an unforgettable experience. A contrasting part of Shinjuku that makes it so special is Golden Gai, a small and cozy nightlife district where you’ll stumble across tiny bars, each with its own charm.
New York Bar, Park Hyatt Hotel
Cocktail Omakase at Gen Yamamoto (Minato Area)
Multi-Course menu at Narisawa (Minato Area)
Tsukemen at Rokurinsha (Tokyo Station)
A trip to Japan involves a lot of eating, walking, discovering, interacting with locals (they love foreigners), and will leave you wanting to move there as soon as possible, or at least that’s what happened to me. If you’re flying out of Narita, don’t forget to grab a farewell sushi at Kyotatsu.
Tips for first-time travelers to Japan:
- Pocket Concierge is a great platform that will help you secure reservations for Michelin starred restaurants
- Be sure to pick up a Suica Transit Card upon arrival at the airport to navigate local public transit
- If you plan on travelling outside of Tokyo, be sure to purchase a Japan Railway Pass, it provides bullet train transportation at a great price
- Pocket Wi-Fi is a necessity in order to use Google maps and make navigating around Japan easy, these can be rented at the airport
Follow along on my food experiences @cazadordelomejor on Instagram – Boston is up next!