Oh, yes. The universal reason for travel, food. And our favorite cuisine is Japanese, so all the more to visit this country. The culture of perfection and attention to detail for food here is just absolutely mind-blowing. We've been to Tokyo 3 times but we've barely scratched the surface on what's awesome, but I can say that you really can't go wrong. Most of the time, the best places are the ones where even the locals are lining up for (Japanese people love lining up apparently), and where they focus on a specific type of food (i.e. ramen, or sushi, instead of all together).
Growing up, travelling used to be all about sight-seeing. But nowadays, I think it's all about food. Tokyo is a walking + transit city, and we could easily average 25,000-40,000 steps a day just from getting from one place to the other. It gives me an excuse to add meals to our day, lol!
This is probably one of the most important reasons why we go to Japan, because no other place makes it the same. Our absolutely favorite place is Fu-unji in Shinjuku. This is the place where C tasted his first tsukemen and never looked back. We've gone back and back and back again. We've tried lots, and they're all delicious too, but nothing beats this pile of noodles and broth and the flavor bomb. We always get the special - it's "Special Dipping Noodle" and at an awesome price of 1000 yen.
Fuunji 2-14-3, Yoyogi, Shinjuku, Tokyo
- We absolutely recommend this place. If you could only visit one of the restaurants on our list, this should be the one!
- You can choose to order medium (chu-mori) or large (oomori) size for the quantity of noodles. It's free to upgrade, so if you've got a huge appetite, do it!
- Even if there's a long line, just line up! The line moves really quickly.
Other Tsukemen places that we've tried and they're all pretty good, too!
- Rokurinsha at the Tokyo Station Ramen Street. It's the only one with the biggest line-up!
- Yasubee (they have a lot of branches) < I think they have the largest serving of noodles.
This one is tough as there's sushi literally everywhere. We've tried quite a variety already - from expensive Michelin Star sushi chef places, sushi bars, to behind the market stalls, to conveyor belt sushi, to convenience store sushi. Near the Tsukiji Market, you can easily eat tons of chirashi bowls that are of great value (don't eat at the market itself!), usually between 900Y-1500Y are the great deals!
One of the places we love is called Uoriki Kaisen Sushi and is actually inside a department store supermarket, called Tokyu Department Store's FoodShow. It's super cheap and so fresh, we love that it's typically not busy! It's right beside the Shibuya Station, too.
Uoriki Kaisen Sushi B1 Tokyu Department Store, 2-24-1 Shibuya
If you really love your seafood, I would definitely recommend to go to Hokkaido. It's a 1 hour flight from Tokyo, but Hokkaido's seafood is beyond this world. I thought Tokyo was amazing, then I tried uni and scallops from Hokkaido, where they're all from, and I think I went to sushi heaven.
Nemuro Hanamaru, Tokyo KITTE 5F. 2-7-2 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku
Speaking of Hokkaido, when we were there, we planned to go to this conveyor belt sushi place called Hanamaru, but the line up was over two hours. So we discovered they had one by Tokyo Station, so we went there instead. It's inside this mall called Kitte, and it's outside the Tokyo Station. We went there around 5ish so it wasn't so busy yet, and that's awesome. So, just like most conveyor belt sushi places, you can get whatever is on the conveyor belt or order directly to the chefs a la carte. However sometimes the conveyor belt sushi chefs don't speak English very well, so either ask for an English Menu, use Google Translate, or memorize your favorites!
Another conveyor belt sushi place we like is called Uobei/Genki Sushi, but the rice formation is really quite terrible there - but we love being able to order our own stuff using the tablet and the food coming through a little bullet train. It's really perfect if you don't speak Japanese.
If you'd like to spend a little bit more on your sushi, and try out a Michelin Star place, I would recommend Sushi Iwa (1 Michelin Star). It's in Ginza, and it's really reasonably priced for an amazing sushi chef. I would recommend to go during lunch time for a great price for amazing seafood (At the time we visited, it was 4750Y for 10 pcs). A lot of these sushi bars require reservations, and typically don't speak in English. But this chef can speak in English and we were able to make reservations with only a few weeks in advance. I'm not sure how busy they are now, but we were really happy to be able to go to one. The nice part is that there are now services like Gurunavi, which can make reservations for you for free - or ask your hotel concierge for help (only problem is that usually it's too late by that time!).
Sushi Iwa, 8-4-4, Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo, 104-0061
We're gonna admit - ever since we've fallen in love with tsukemen in Tokyo, we hardly have eaten a lot of ramen bowls. In our recent visit to Sapporo, we had tons of miso ramen, but tsukemen was a Tokyo thing, you know? So we definitely poured out our efforts in finding the best ones there.
But nonetheless, here are some of the places we've tried! Perhaps next time, we'll make a trek to Ikebukuro and line up at some of the best ramen places!
This past trip, I vowed that we would treat ourselves to a delicious sukiyaki meal - I love making sukiyaki at home, and could only imagine how much better it would be in Japan with all their delicious marbled meat. There's a lot especially in the Asakusa area, but we just used Gurunavi and picked one of the Imahan locations.
Imahan - Times Square Bldg 14F (Shinjuku Takashimaya), 5-24-2 Sendagaya Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
I would definitely recommend having it for lunch instead of dinner, lunch sets seem to be cheaper across the board! It was a delicious but expensive experience, something that I could only dream of!
At home, C & I frequently eat udon. It's such a fun noodle dish, and delicious. We just love the bite. Of course, we really enjoyed eating udon in Japan too. We don't really have a udon-specific place in Vancouver (anymore...) so we often make a point to visit one.
There's at least two kinds - the one where it's a little bit more self-serve, and one is a restaurant type.
The self-serve ones are awesome - you pick the style of udon you like, and then you grab the toppings you want and they charge you at the end of the line. There's tons of these restaurants scattered around Tokyo, typically with no names, even! The one we liked in Shinjuku was called Mentsu-dan. Another place that is quite popular is called Hanamaru udon, you can find that place all over town.
Mentsu-dan. 7-9-15 Nishishinjuku | 1F Daikan Plaza Business Kiyoda Bldg., Shinjuku 160-0023
As for the restaurant-type, we really like Tsurutontan. We stumbled into this one when we were walking around Tokyo Station. They had giant bowls, and tons of different flavors!
Tsurutontan 2-7-3 Marunouchi | B1f Tokia, Chiyoda 100-6490, Tokyo Prefecture
Food courts/Department stores/Depachika
Japan has seriously the best "food courts"! No matter what city we go to, there's always a floor full of awesome restaurants, typically at the top of each major building, or at the basement of the department stores, or train stations. There's really no shortage of food. There's restaurants, and then there's food halls. Food halls are great for picking up take-outs and one-of-a-kind pastries that come from all over Japan.
Our favorite ones are:
Ginza Six - this one is a little different because it's actually a sit-down place!
Japan loves their Bento Boxes, and so do tourists. Especially when they're about to head on the shinkansen (bullet train), they pick up one of these delicious boxes prepared fresh. Tokyo Station has the busiest bento boxes, with limited quantities, hence the crazy busy-ness! Most train stations sell them too, and convenience stores, but Tokyo and Ueno take the cake for me.
Convenience Stores / KONBINYA
Our breakfasts in Japan often involve some kind of 7-11, Lawson or Family Mart visit. C and I just can't get enough of the onigiris, sushi rolls, sandwiches, or little bowls of food that you can get for less than 300Y at these convenience stores. Recently we also discovered that chicken karaage from the konbinya's are amazing and they're only 100-150Y!
Our favorite place, hands-down is Gindaco. We just love their delicious combinations and just can't get enough of this fun snack! They are all around town so you can't miss them! The recent combo with the egg salad was like... mind blowingly good!
As expected, Japan also shines so well in all sorts of desserts - from ice cream to pastries, to frozen s'mores and cream puffs... take my money!
Silkream - 1F, Haimanten Jinnan Bldg. 1-19-3, Jinnan,Shibuya
This ice cream is available in a lot of places but this cafe has some unique creations that are just to die for. Their basic cone with the langue de chat biscuit and that delicious, soft serve ice cream is just to die for.
Blue Star Donuts: 13-1 Daikanyamacho, Log Road Daikanyama No.2, Shibuya
This place has the most delicious filled donuts I've ever had. Maybe it's also because the ingredients in Japan are amazing. This shop is originally from Portland.
Dominique Ansel Bakery: 5-7-14 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo
This place is also not originally from Japan, but seriously, it was amazing. Love that frozen s'more!
Ugh, I'm getting so hungry looking at all this food!
Now, I have to plan our next trip to Japan... there's just so much more to eat and experience! :) Can't wait to add more to this list! Our hope is that C will feel better soon so we could enjoy these fun activities soon.