I often get asked by readers and friends where and what to eat in Japan when they visit. It’s a really tough and challenging question for me to answer since there are simply too many choices. The right restaurant recommendation really depends on the person’s preference, what type of food they are looking for, budget, distance from hotel, etc.
The second reason why it’s difficult to recommend a great restaurant is because there are simply too many of them, even just in the Tokyo area. For one of my favorite food – Yakiniku (Japanese BBQ), there are close to 4,000 just in Tokyo. Another example are the Michelin restaurants; there are over 400 Michelin Starred restaurants in Tokyo. How do you select which ones to go to? And there are a lot of restaurants which are just as good, and didn’t make the list.
However I do have some good news, at every major station around Tokyo (and major cities across Japan), there are numerous restaurants options covering choices from sushi, yakitori, izakaya, to steak houses, and many of them are really good.
So how do I look up my restaurant choices? What I find really helpful for restaurant reviews when I visit Japan is to use Tabelog (食べログ).
You can easily look up restaurant options based on the location where you’re at or the type of food you want to eat. The site is only available in Japanese but Google translate does a pretty decent job. If you are in Japan and looking for food recommendation, I highly recommend using Tabelog. Here are the basics:
1. You can search by location or food type. I highly recommend location since it’ll suggest restaurants all over Japan if you select food type on the homepage.
2. If you scroll down, you can also find the top 100 restaurant for the area you have selected.
3. After selecting a location, then choose your food type.
5. When you find the restaurant you’re interested, click to see detail.
Based on my own experience, restaurant with over 3.5 rating are quite delicious, and for a quick bite you really can’t go wrong with any restaurant over 3. You might think a 3 out of 5 is quite low, but the Japanese are quite critical with their food ranking. You might have heard of すきやばし 次郎 (Sukiyabashi Jiro), featured in Jiro Dreams of Sushi and considered one of the best sushi restaurants in the world. Well, they received a rating of 4.1 out of 5, and for day ranking they received 3.65/5.
I hope this short intro to Tabelog will help you find delicious restaurants while you’re traveling in Japan. To make reservations at a restaurant you found, you can usually ask the hotel concierge to make the reservation for you. Be sure to show up for your reservation on time as the Japanese take punctuality seriously and you might lose your spot if you’re late.
Just a quick note, if you are on your mobile device and try to use Tabelog, they’ll require you to pay if you want to use the “restaurant around me feature”. However you can still browse for the restaurant by area for free. I’ll cover how to use Tabelog on mobile devices in a future post.
Update: Each month 20% of proceeds from selling my eBook will go to charity. For October, I donated to Susan G Komen (Breast Cancer Foundation) and for November I donated to International Rescue Committie (for Ebola Crisis). Thank you for those who purchased the eCookbook!