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ARTICLE05

FOOD

Omoide Yokocho
True to its image as the capital of a thousand faces, Tokyo transports us to its rich and colorful culinary universe. From the minimalist and authentic taste of original products to new flavors born from encounters between several cultures, Tokyo cuisine is a journey of the senses.
It should be noted that the city of Tokyo also retains its title of city with the largest number of Michelin star establishments. Tokyo is far ahead of Paris, with 230 starred addresses in total, of which 13 are three stars against 10 for the French capital.
It’s not only Michelin star restaurants, sushi chefs and defenders of traditional cuisine who deserve a special mention in Tokyo. The variety of things to eat in this city will surprise you: from tonkatsu (deep-fried breaded pork) and soba (buckwheat noodles) to pizzas and steaks, you will find that even the modest dishes are made with meticulous perfection and harmony perfectly following the ‘shun’* philosophy.
*The Japanese philosophy that every food should be eaten only in its proper season, at the peak of its flavor.

Tokyo’s soul food experience

Monjayaki
This dish is a classic example of the phrase ‘looks can be deceiving’. Once you get your head around that you will be amazingly surprised by an explosion of tastes.
Monjayakiis a batter-based dish popular in Tokyo, which is often compared to the Okonomiyaki, originally from the Kansai region (around Osaka).
Monjayaki contains various ingredients similar to Okonomiyaki (chopped vegetables and seafood), but contains a much runnier batter mixture, combined with water and dashi (Japanese stock) broth.
It is said that in the Edo period, a teacher taught the letters of the Japanese alphabet to kids by writing them with flour mixed with water, on a hot metal plate. Thus, the name "monjayaki" derives from the expression ‘moji yaki’ (‘Moji’ means ‘letter’ and ‘yaki’ means ‘to cook’).
Though Monjayaki was originally associated with the common people’s culture of the “shitamachi” (literally, down-town) areas of Tokyo, it went through a cycle of transformations since its birth in the Edo period. As a shitamachi staple diet, it remains to be loved by adults and children alike.
There are several variations of monjayaki, including squid, octopus, shrimp, cod roe, cheese, mocha, curry, and so on. If you have never tried this dish either by choice or ignorance, there’s only one place to find out – in the street rightly namesTsukishima MonjaStreet.
Some restaurants offer monja of the season focusing on the fresh produce directly from the market.

Tsukiji: A seafood aficionado’s paradise

Tsukiji Outer Market
Tsukiji has appeared in literally every guidebook about Tokyo and is high on most visitors’ Tokyo bucket list.
Tokyo’s famous tuna auction and the fish market may have moved to Toyosu but at the original Tsukiji site, in an area of approximately 150 meters by 200 meters made up of narrow alleys and hundreds of small shops, you’ll still find many of the restaurants, small food stalls and open market selling produce and meat.
Jogai or theOuter marketis still a haven for foodies heading strong not just with the Tokyoites but also from visitors from all across the world, in spite of the decision to move the Tsukiji inner market toToyosu. The restaurant and shop owners do get their seasonal food materials, based on the previously established relationship with the sellers. Especially, winter (December through February) in Tokyo is the best time to try out the restaurants/ eateries serving seafood on the likes of crabs, oysters, lobsters, yellowtail (buri), blowfish (fugu); respecting the seasonal produce.
One has to mention that it’s not just food or fresh produce that you could find here but also the tools (sushi knives, utensils, spices etc.) to up your cooking game.
To avoid disappointment, we recommend you to arrive in the morning as most of the restaurants and food stalls close for the day by mid-afternoon.
Apart from the classic dishes like fresh sushi and seafood, Tsukiji is one of the best places where you get to discover most of the Tokyo street food in the same area. You could indulge yourself with a tamagoyaki (a rolled omelet), onigiri (rice balls filled with condiments), Takoyaki (octopus-based snack) or wagyu beef/ crab skewers. For your sweet tooth, you will find a special kind of maguroyaki a fish-shaped pastry filled with red bean paste.
Each and every shop or restaurant around Tsukiji is taking the covid-19 safety measures, based on the health and safety guideline provided by the National Food & Beverage Hygiene Federation. The general public is advised to continue with the social distancing measures; to avoid the propagation of the virus.

Ozawa Shuzou: High-end sake brewery on a riverside

Ozawashuzo
One cannot talk about Japanese gastronomy without including Sake (Nihonshu in Japan) in the equation.
The right Sake, contrary to the wine, cleans the palate and works wonders magnifying Umami (‘5th sense’) or softens the stronger flavors.
What best way than to visit a sake brewery and understand the intricacies of flavors from the specialists themselves.
Surrounded by lush verdant forests and close to hiking trails along the Tama River and Mitake Gorge,Ozawa Shuzouis one of the oldest sake breweries in Tokyo. Since its foundation in 1705, it has been brewing high-quality sake using selected rice and spring water of the Okutama Valley.
The brewery uses water from two wells containing physicochemical properties with the quality that has not changed for more than 300 years; to produce two different types of sake. One of the brewery’s flagship product ‘Sawanoi’ is inspired by the area’s name Sawai ‘mountain stream well’.
The first well located deep in a cave is connected to the underflow water which is naturally filtered by the Mt. Bukou limestones resulting into hard water (kosui), which is ideal for the multiplication of the traditional kimoto (‘a traditional and labor-intensive method of preparing the yeast starter’) and proper development of Koji (‘mold’). This tradition dates back to the Edo period into production of slightly dry and refreshing traditional sake.
The second well’s water is brought directly from within the mountain range, providing nansui (‘soft water’). The soft water results in producing an aromatic, gentle and flowery tasting sake, which seems to be quite popular nowadays.
Ozawashuzo
This is a classic dichotomy of the coexistence of new and old in Tokyo, where an old institution still respecting the 300-year-old tradition is reinventing itself to cater both traditional and modern-style sake to their customers
The large brewery has a sizable garden spreading along the riverside where a restaurant (Mamagotoya, a fantastic tofu eat-out), museum and souvenir shops are located. You could also enjoy the area for hours by hiking along the beautiful riverside, making it an ideal day trip – absolutely picturesque and wonderful.
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