Traditional recipes

Japanese Chef Wows Twitter With Daikon Radish Chain

Japanese Chef Wows Twitter With Daikon Radish Chain

The chef appeared to defy the laws of physics by cutting a single radish into a linked chain

A Japanese chef wowed Twitter by cutting a single radish into a chain of linked rings.

A Japanese chef wowed Twitter this week when he posted a photo of a single large daikon radish carved into a chain of radish links, casually appearing to defy all logic.

A Twitter user going by Zoe_Aishiteru posted a photo of the radish chain, and said the head chef had cut the radish into a chain because he had some spare time on his hands.

“The head chef gave me this daikon he cut up for fun because he was bored lol,” Zoe_Aishiteru wrote.

Twitter users were shocked and wondered whether the chef had maybe just carved rings out of the daikon and somehow linked them together so subtly that the connections couldn’t be seen. But, no — he really did carve it all in one piece out of one large daikon, Rocket News 24 reported.

It turns out it’s a pretty old technique, too. Three years ago, Rocket News 24 found instructions for a daikon chain in an eighteenth century cookbook called The Complete Box of 100 Secrets for Preparing Daikon Radish. It’s called a wachigai, or “linked ring daikon.” Though it looks like magic, it’s actually just some really good knife skills at work.


JAPAN | 10 things you must eat in Tokyo

I can&rsquot imagine there is any one single resource that lists all the places to get food in Tokyo. If it did, it would break the internet. And if it didn&rsquot break the internet, it would break the human resolve, because reading it would be like counting the population of China in that you would never reach the end. Perhaps this should be the modern-day definition of infinity &ndash the number of restaurants in Tokyo (incidentally, I have just Googled &lsquohow many restaurants are there in Tokyo?&rsquo and estimations say 80k compared to 15k in New York and 6k in London. So like I said, infinite).

Tokyo&rsquos topography is like a psychedelic 3D game of Tetris. It&rsquos a city made from a bazillion building blocks stacked on top of each other with that efficiency the Japanese are so good at. It rises up and out, as well as below (there are vast subterranean floors running beneath stations) to create a mind-boggling, multi-layered, three dimensional environment able to satisfy every want ever conceived.

Every door, every window, every protruding neon sign or hanging banner, every alleyway, every floor in every single building, the top and bottom (and middle) of every flight of stairs, every nondescript frontage, every unassuming flicker of light, every gap between two planks of wood &ndash is yet another dining establishment ready to serve. They range from standing-only holes-in-the-wall, thresholds marked by a simple curtain and able to accommodate no more than five pairs of feet, to yawning cafés for long languorous lunches. A lifetime might provide enough meals to eat your way across seven of its buildings.

In a city like this, deciding where to eat by throwing a chopstick into the air (don&rsquot actually do this &ndash very rude), heading half a kilometre in the direction its pointing towards when it lands, spinning round with your eyes closed five times, and eating wherever is closest to the point where your vision stops dancing, will more often than not land you a very good meal. After all, this is a country where the quality of the most ordinary food offering is often on a par with the part of London&rsquos dining scene we would call &lsquopretty decent&rsquo.

If you are reading this post, I can safely assume that you, intrepid explorer and/or fellow food-nut, are quite like me, in that you like to do a bit of pre-holiday eating research. You want the best food for the best price, you want to make sure you&rsquore not &lsquosettling&rsquo when there is a superstar restaurant around the corner, you want to indulge in the finest eating your finite time and budget can possibly allow, and this requires some forward planning &ndash I get that.

Mika from Tokyo Food Tour

But my advice to you is, when it comes to Tokyo, don&rsquot get bogged down in this. Because almost all of it is great. Even though the restaurant you ate at yesterday fed you &ldquothe best sushi you&rsquove ever had&rdquo, you can&rsquot possibly know if the place seven doors down is better because, when a country consistently churns out excellence, what&rsquos &ldquobetter&rdquo just becomes arbitrary. I mean, it&rsquos just all good &ndash you know?

But because you are (still) reading this, you probably are like me, and demand some level of guidance, a list to follow, pointers about where to even begin. It&rsquos understandable, so I&rsquove created a little something.

What&rsquos good about this list is firstly, it covers a respectable portion of Japan&rsquos vast cuisine. Secondly, it&rsquos not comprised by me alone &ndash who still knows next to nothing about Tokyo despite spending five days there &ndash but by people who do.

One main source is Mika Takaki from Tokyo Food Tour who showed us a few great places around Ginza one evening. She&rsquos a cook and caterer, lived and worked in San Francisco for a few years, and is able to personalise food tours to whatever it is you&rsquore interested in Mika doesn&rsquot come cheap, but does come highly recommended.

The other is Japanese chef, author, sommelier and shochu advisor Yukari Sakomoto. I came across a short interview in a travel magazine about her favourite spots in Tokyo and visited a few. I have then added a couple of cheap-and-cheerful entries I pre-holiday-researched myself when I was under the misguided impression that these would be lifesavers, as Tokyo was the most expensive city in the universe. Which I quickly realised after landing, is a massive misconception.

My final bit of advice when visiting Tokyo: surrender your senses to the onslaught of stimuli and just go with it, whatever &lsquoit&rsquo turns out to be for you.

10 Things to Eat in Tokyo

What: aka kushiage &ndash lightly breaded and fried skewers of &ndash well, anything

Where: 3-16-10 Shinbashi, Minato-ku, Tokyo Map
Hours: Mon &ndash Fri 11:30 &ndash 14:00 / 16:30 &ndash 23:30 Sat &ndash Sun 12:00 &ndash 23:30
Price: the below plus one large beer = ¥2100 (appx. £12 / $20)

Give a good kushikatsu chef an old leather belt and he could probably breadcrumb and fry it up into something you would want to put into your mouth.

Very fine crumbs are used in this coating, and the fry is quick and hot resulting in a crisp shell concealing briefly cooked ingredients beneath.

We worked our way through a mixture of meat and vegetable skewers: pickled ginger, lotus root, smelt fish, shrimp, mochi (glutinous rice balls), onion, small green peppers (like Padron peppers), and a second round of pickled ginger because it was deep pink and gorgeous. As well as a plate of pork tripe cooked in a sweet viscous miso sauce and furnished with spring onions &ndash why not.

The dipping sauce for the skewers is dark, sweet and shared &ndash you submerge them whole, before biting only. The sign above it roughly translates to &ldquodouble-dip and prepare to be skewered&rdquo. Rightly so.

The menu is fully Japanese so I would advise pointing at the glass counter at what you fancy, learning the words for ingredients you particularly enjoy, or using that very useful phrase &ndash &lsquonani ga osusume des ka?&lsquo (what do you recommend?).

What: thinly carved and spanking fresh raw meat (usually seafood)

Where: 2-19-7 Shinbashi, Minato-ku, Tokyo (1 min walk East of Shinbashi Station) Map

Hours: Only open in the evenings, 17.00 &ndash 11.30

Price: the below plus two glasses of sake = ¥3000 (appx. £17 / $29)

Uokin has a few outlets in Tokyo and we were informed by Mika that it&rsquos very much an izagaya (casual eatery) of-the-moment. Its specialities lie within seafood (hence the sign) and either has a bar at which to stand and eat at ground level, or you can go up a floor for table seating.

It&rsquos the first I&rsquove been on my feet whilst having my dinner in a restaurant (a common occurrence in Tokyo &ndash good for space-saving I suspect) and you know, I barely noticed. It was probably all that sake.

An okomase (chef&rsquos selection of the best seafood of that day) sashimi platter presented us with some glistening produce: tairagai (like a giant scallop) with an iridescent shell oysters with spring onions, daikon (Japanese radish) and a touch of chilli paste sawara (Spanish mackerel) tai (snapper) shime saba (cured mackerel) aji (horse mackerel) and maguro (tuna).

Before bar-hopping to the next place, we finished with a soup (as Japanese cuisine so often dictates &ndash contrary to the the west which generally starts with it) &ndash of seaweed with tofu. Warm and comforting, full of calcium and righteousness.

Again, a fully Japanese menu. &ldquoOkomase sashimi, kudasai?&rdquo will get you a platter similar to what we had.

What: seafood or vegetables battered and deep fried

Where: 3-9-4 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo Map

Hours: Mon &ndash Sun 11.00 &ndash 23.30

Price: the below two set meals with an extra side = ¥1600 (appx. £9 / $29)

If you haven&rsquot already noticed, the Japanese quite like deep-frying things. Probably the most internationally recognised of this genre is tempura. If you want to &ndash particularly in the upmarket district of Ginza &ndash you can spend upwards of £150 a head for what is essentially a very simple concept (the best ones always are though, aren&rsquot they).

But don&rsquot let that simplicity fool you. Good tempura should start with quality ingredients destined for the plunge, have a light and crisp batter, and not be greasy &ndash I suspect it&rsquos more difficult than it sounds.

Tendon Tenya is a respectable and exedingly good value chain that manages to achieve this, and much-loved by locals. The menu is full of set meals (also available in English), with a choice of carbs to help bulk it out including rice and (hot or cold) udon, along with a range of extra toppings or additional sides, including a tasty little octopus and seaweed salad.

Filling the bellies of two big-eaters with good food for under a tenner in one of the poshest parts of town &ndash credit where it&rsquos due.

What: things that are skewered and grilled over coals &ndash aka yakitori (usually when it&rsquos chicken)

Where: 3-19-6, Shinbashi, Minato-ku, Tokyo (2 min walk from Shinbashi station) Map

Hours: Mon &ndash Fri 17:00 &ndash 23:00, Sat 17:00 &ndash 22:00, Closed Sundays

Price: the below plus some tea = ¥3000 (appx. £17 / $29)

If you&rsquore the sort of person that is quite into the bits of the animal so often cast aside as waste, this is the place for you. Even if you&rsquore not, I urge you to try it.

Mitsumasa is a casual but well turned out offering that heaves with uniformly black-suited salary man kicking back after a long day in the office, with row after row of meaty skewers straight from the coals &ndash and a beer, or four. The uncooked meat is displayed in the glass cabinet and is an ode to all things pig, for it is this animal they specialise in.

We had pig skin (yum), pig tongue (ok then), pig heart (aren&rsquot these going to be put into humans soon?), the less conquered parts of a chicken&rsquos anatomy including the gizzard (crunchy) and knuckle (as pleasant as I assume chewing through a baby&rsquos finger to be), chicken meatballs (phew), pickles with boiled pig intestine (go on then), and pig liver (strong, bitter, iron). I am generally pretty ok with tripe from sheep and cows and chickens, but when it comes to eating the organs of something else that eats meat, I wince a little.

But it&rsquos a firm favourite with the Japanese and if you truly want to embrace the cuisine in it&rsquos fullest form, I would give it a go.

What: Japan&rsquos national social lubricant &ndash a clear and alcoholic beverage made from fermented rice

Where: Tony Building, 2F, 6-4-15 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo Map

Hours: Mon &ndash Thu 18:00 &ndash 03:00, Fri 18:00 &ndash 03:30, Sat 18:00 &ndash 00:30, closed Sun and every third Sat

Price: three tastings and some nibbles = ¥1000 (appx. £6 / $10)

For those prepared to knock elbows on the hunt for some of the country&rsquos best sake, Kuri is a bar specialising in just that, with a weekly changing menu of over 150 varieties behind the counter.

The offering here is junmai meaning made solely with rice and water, without any additional distilled alcohol. They range from the freshest, just-pressed, unfiltered namazake (unpasteurised sake &ndash kept refrigerated) to aged bottles from all over the country. The patterns at the bottom of the cups are designed to induce coos over the clarity of the tipple.

Before I sampled these, I thought I didn&rsquot like sake. Turns out, I do like sake &ndash I in fact love it. Forget anything you&rsquove had outside Japan &ndash you won&rsquot have had access to true namazake as its lack of pasteurisation means it doesn&rsquot last long enough to reach overseas in a saleable condition. And let me tell you, it&rsquos a taste revelation.

Go for a flight of three tasters with some nibbles, perhaps opening with &lsquonani ga osusume des ka?&lsquo (what do you recommend?). If the response is the Japanese for &lsquowhat do you like?&rsquo, I&rsquom afraid you&rsquore on your own. But I&rsquom sure you&rsquoll be fine.


6) Japanese Breakfast

What: a combination of things you&rsquove probably not come across before

Restaurant: I have no idea of the name

Where: close to Yarakucho Station &ndash look out for railway arches Map

Hours: they seemed to start packing away the breakfast items around 10 &ndash 10.30

Price: natto, rice, miso, nori, egg and tea for two = ¥550 (appx. £3 / $5)

There is something to be said for a nation of people who can think of few better ways to start their day than with a stringy, stinking mess of natto &ndash fermented soya bean. Pick some up with your chopsticks and marvel at the mucus-like stretchiness, with sticky strings that float suspended in mid-air still attached to your utensils the need to bat them away after every mouthful can look like a violent tick to the uninitiated.

Into this, stir raw egg and chopped spring onions, mix with a bowl of rice, add some sheets of nori (seaweed), accompany with dried fish and life-affirming miso and you have the makings of a rather splendid breakfast.

There is no presence of this restaurant on the internet, and I usefully didn&rsquot take a picture of its front. We found it by asking the Tourist Information office behind Yarakucho Station where we could enjoy a traditional Japanese breakfast &ndash this would be a good place to start. What I can tell you is that it&rsquos small, and for the remainder of the day is a conveyor belt sushi restaurant.

The main point of this point is that you should experience a traditional Japanese breakfast in Tokyo, whether it&rsquos here or somewhere else.

(The other half is convinced he recalls its precise location, which is what&rsquos displayed on the map link above &ndash I do think he&rsquos pretty close if not spot on. Good luck.)

What: the most internationally recognised part of Japanese cuisine

Where: 7-6, Ginza 8-chome, Chuo-ku, Tokyo Map

Hours: Mon &ndash Sat 11:30 &ndash 14:00 / 17:00 &ndash 22:00, closed Sun and public holidays

Price: two omakase lunches with tea = ¥11,800 (appx. £68 / $115)

Yes, you can eat a sushi breakfast in Tsukiji Market at six in the morning, the real crowd-pullers being Sushi Dai and Daiwa Sushi. And arguably, it probably is some of the freshest in the world, considering the meat has travelled a matter of yards from wholesale (mere hours before) to chopstick.

But can that level of freshness really be so different from a quality sushi restaurant just a 15 minute walk away? The answer to that is of course, no. So forgo the three hour queues of tourists (no one wants too many of them first thing in the morning), and enjoy sushi at the countless number of other great restaurants in the area, nay, the city.

Kyubey is one of these. Round the corner from Tsukiji (almost), you can marvel at the deft manipulation of rice and the precise preparation of seafood by the itamae (chefs), from the counter seating.

And you want fresh? The legs of the prawns were moving and their mouths foaming little bubbles moments before their heads were ripped off and entrails removed before our very eyes. What theatre.

We grinned maniacally through the following (from top left): buttery salmon, spotted mackerel, squid with salt and a momentary touch of lime, velvety sea urchin (my first time &ndash I loved it), those prawns (crunchy), scallop, otoro (the fattiest part of tuna belly &ndash picture missing), bonito with fresh ginger and the tiniest scrape of raw garlic (look at that colour), cooked and coated unagi (eel), thin and crisp daikon and shiso (perilla leaf) sandwiches, sweet egg custard, vegetable maki, and miso.

&lsquoGo chi so sama&rsquo, indeed &ndash it was glorious nothing in this country has come close.

Recommended by Yukari.

What: Chinese-style wheat noodles served in a meat or fish based broth, often flavoured with soy or miso, topped with all manner of tasty treats

Where: Toshiba Build. B2, 5-2-1, Ginza (Shinbashi station&rsquos underground shopping centre) Map
Hours: Mon &ndash Fri 11:00 &ndash 23:00, Sat &ndash Sun and holidays 11:00 &ndash 22:00
Price: two bowls of ramen and some gyoza = ¥1990 (appx. £12 / $20)

Whilst the best we can hope for in the UK is a Boots meal deal where they still have Innocent on the shelf, or if we&rsquore lucky, a Pret, station-eating in Japan is nothing to be scoffed at it&rsquos synonymous with quality meals of excellent value.

The train stations in Tokyo have vast malls beneath, ready to breach the surface with the volume of shops and restaurants on offer (if ever in doubt in this city, head below ground or up some stairs and you&rsquore sure to stumble across something great) Naokyu is one of these. Established around 100 years ago (one of the oldest in Tokyo, they claim), it serves traditional ramen in pork and chicken broths in a typically casual noodle-joint environment.

The tantan-men (a dish originating from Sichuan cuisine) was hot and spicy, a gathering of ground pork cooked in miso with sesame and some greens. It did wonders at blasting away the cold I was suffering from. Koku-uma ramen, with slices of pork belly, bamboo shoots, thin noodles and seasoned with soy was also very good, but the tamago (egg) should have had a runny yolk.

Dining on noodles tends to be a quick-fix affair in Tokyo &ndash there are endless vending machine restaurants densely packed around station exits to &ndash very speedily and cheaply &ndash fill the bellies of salary-men (more often than not, inhaling their noodles whilst standing at a bar) on their way home. Naokyu is a good option to slow it down a bit &ndash take a seat and savour the meal.

Our bowls of bone-warming elixir were very well-received the cacophony of sucking and slurping from the fully Japanese clientèle around us hinted towards the same.

What: Tokyo has a lot of boulangeries and patisseries, and they&rsquore really good at them

Where: Tokia Building, 1F, 2-7-3 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo (near Tokyo station) Map
Hours: Mon &ndash Sun: Bakery 10:00 &ndash 21:00, Bar 10:00 &ndash 23:00, Brasserie Lunch 11:30 &ndash 14:00, Dinner 18:00 &ndash 23:30. Closed 1st Jan and holidays
Price: the below = ¥3510 (appx. £20 / $35)

The Japanese don&rsquot half love their bread. More often than not, it will be pristine white and highly processed, rather than the rustic, malty loaves dusted with oats and speckled with seeds we&rsquore so good at producing here.

But there are quite a few skilled bakeries turning out all sorts of French pastries, boules and brioche with an expert hand. Viron is one of these, with a glass cabinet creaking under it&rsquos own weight of stuffed rolls and sticks, pastries and patisseries able to add a kilo to muffin-tops through a hard stare alone. They import flour from France (where they also have a presence) to make Viron&rsquos signature baguette, of which they&rsquove won awards for.

We had an entirely brown but very good breakfast of coffee, two chocolate studded viennoise, a big pain au chocolate, a crunchy and sweet Kouing Aman (originally from Brittany &ndash crisp caramelised shell with soft buttery layers within), and a sundried tomato fougasse. Pass the fibre bar.

There&rsquos outdoor seating and a lot of space inside, and it doubles up as a brasserie open for lunch and dinner if you fancy adding a bit more colour to your plate. Located right next to Tokyo station, it&rsquos a prime spot for a morning pick-me-up before heading on the Shinkansen (bullet train).

Word of warning, coffee that isn&rsquot standard filter or drip (always served with a pot of cream) is something that is a little pricey in Japan &ndash a cappuccino and a latte came in at close to £8.

Recommended by Yukari.

10) Department Store Food Halls

What: the basement food halls of Tokyo&rsquos department stores have a global reputation for a reason

Where: 1-4-1 Nihonbashimuromachi, Chūō, Tokyo Map
Hours: Daily 10&ndash7, basements until 8
Price: varies considerably

This this branch of Tokyo&rsquos first depato (department store), also called hyakkaten (hundred-kinds-of-goods emporium), is the HQ of the international Mitsukoshi chain, and it&rsquos impressive.

Descend to the basement food hall and prepare to become disorientated by the scale, diversity and sheer sensory onslaught of nearly half an acre of the world&rsquos choicest comestibles. The space is filled with the noise from the drawn-out Japanese trader battle cries of &lsquoIRRASHAIMASEEEEE!&rsquo (welcome!) and there are free samples of absolutely everything. From German wursts and confectionary moulded into chrysanthemums, to white triangle sandwiches filled with whipped cream and sliced strawberries and £120 muskmelons &ndash if it can be consumed, you will find it here.

Grab some things to eat &ndash perhaps a bento box followed by a decadent dessert &ndash and enjoy up a few floors in the Mitsukoshi roof garden.


Dining observations I made in Tokyo

  • A lot of restaurants are smoking, but ventilation systems tend to be so good that it&rsquos easy not to notice. Many have designated no-smoking areas.
  • Your bill is often brought to the table with the food (or when you ask for it) and payment is usually made at the till they&rsquoll have near the entrance. It&rsquos rare the payment is made at the table.
  • When you do go to pay (both in restaurants or any shop), there will usually be a small tray at the cash desk. You are to put your payment (cash or card) on this tray, but the change will usually be given to you directly.
  • If you want to grab the attention of the waiter, use sumimasen (excuse me).
  • There is no tipping in Japan &ndash pay what&rsquos on the bill and nothing more.
  • You will usually be given an oshibori (moist towel &ndash often hot) once you&rsquore seated &ndash use this to wipe your hands and as a serviette for your meal &ndash a lot of restaurants seem to not have any on the table.
  • It&rsquos good etiquette to pour a drink for your companion and not yourself.
  • Never leave your chopsticks sticking out of a bowl of rice.
  • It is perfectly acceptable &ndash in fact encouraged &ndash to slurp your noodles very noisily &ndash it translates as you enjoying your food.
  • If you&rsquore cool, you eat sushi with your fingers. Turn it upside down and only dip the topping into the soy, not the rice. Sashimi is with chopsticks though.
  • People don&rsquot really eat while walking around in Japan &ndash so street-food isn&rsquot common. If you&rsquove purchased something on the go, it&rsquos more polite to remain stationary or find somewhere to perch until you&rsquove finished it.

&ldquoIf I had to eat one city&rsquos food for the rest of my life, every day, it would have to be Tokyo. And I think the majority of chefs you ask that question to would answer the same way&rdquo &ndash Anthony Bourdain.

Check out www.japan-experience.com for all your Japan travel related needs, from rail passes and car rental, to hotel booking and tours.

Spending most of my time either eating or travelling. Constantly in awe of nature and on a mission to seek the joy in every moment. Please feel free to leave a comment below, I love hearing from you all!


JAPAN | 10 things you must eat in Tokyo

I can&rsquot imagine there is any one single resource that lists all the places to get food in Tokyo. If it did, it would break the internet. And if it didn&rsquot break the internet, it would break the human resolve, because reading it would be like counting the population of China in that you would never reach the end. Perhaps this should be the modern-day definition of infinity &ndash the number of restaurants in Tokyo (incidentally, I have just Googled &lsquohow many restaurants are there in Tokyo?&rsquo and estimations say 80k compared to 15k in New York and 6k in London. So like I said, infinite).

Tokyo&rsquos topography is like a psychedelic 3D game of Tetris. It&rsquos a city made from a bazillion building blocks stacked on top of each other with that efficiency the Japanese are so good at. It rises up and out, as well as below (there are vast subterranean floors running beneath stations) to create a mind-boggling, multi-layered, three dimensional environment able to satisfy every want ever conceived.

Every door, every window, every protruding neon sign or hanging banner, every alleyway, every floor in every single building, the top and bottom (and middle) of every flight of stairs, every nondescript frontage, every unassuming flicker of light, every gap between two planks of wood &ndash is yet another dining establishment ready to serve. They range from standing-only holes-in-the-wall, thresholds marked by a simple curtain and able to accommodate no more than five pairs of feet, to yawning cafés for long languorous lunches. A lifetime might provide enough meals to eat your way across seven of its buildings.

In a city like this, deciding where to eat by throwing a chopstick into the air (don&rsquot actually do this &ndash very rude), heading half a kilometre in the direction its pointing towards when it lands, spinning round with your eyes closed five times, and eating wherever is closest to the point where your vision stops dancing, will more often than not land you a very good meal. After all, this is a country where the quality of the most ordinary food offering is often on a par with the part of London&rsquos dining scene we would call &lsquopretty decent&rsquo.

If you are reading this post, I can safely assume that you, intrepid explorer and/or fellow food-nut, are quite like me, in that you like to do a bit of pre-holiday eating research. You want the best food for the best price, you want to make sure you&rsquore not &lsquosettling&rsquo when there is a superstar restaurant around the corner, you want to indulge in the finest eating your finite time and budget can possibly allow, and this requires some forward planning &ndash I get that.

Mika from Tokyo Food Tour

But my advice to you is, when it comes to Tokyo, don&rsquot get bogged down in this. Because almost all of it is great. Even though the restaurant you ate at yesterday fed you &ldquothe best sushi you&rsquove ever had&rdquo, you can&rsquot possibly know if the place seven doors down is better because, when a country consistently churns out excellence, what&rsquos &ldquobetter&rdquo just becomes arbitrary. I mean, it&rsquos just all good &ndash you know?

But because you are (still) reading this, you probably are like me, and demand some level of guidance, a list to follow, pointers about where to even begin. It&rsquos understandable, so I&rsquove created a little something.

What&rsquos good about this list is firstly, it covers a respectable portion of Japan&rsquos vast cuisine. Secondly, it&rsquos not comprised by me alone &ndash who still knows next to nothing about Tokyo despite spending five days there &ndash but by people who do.

One main source is Mika Takaki from Tokyo Food Tour who showed us a few great places around Ginza one evening. She&rsquos a cook and caterer, lived and worked in San Francisco for a few years, and is able to personalise food tours to whatever it is you&rsquore interested in Mika doesn&rsquot come cheap, but does come highly recommended.

The other is Japanese chef, author, sommelier and shochu advisor Yukari Sakomoto. I came across a short interview in a travel magazine about her favourite spots in Tokyo and visited a few. I have then added a couple of cheap-and-cheerful entries I pre-holiday-researched myself when I was under the misguided impression that these would be lifesavers, as Tokyo was the most expensive city in the universe. Which I quickly realised after landing, is a massive misconception.

My final bit of advice when visiting Tokyo: surrender your senses to the onslaught of stimuli and just go with it, whatever &lsquoit&rsquo turns out to be for you.

10 Things to Eat in Tokyo

What: aka kushiage &ndash lightly breaded and fried skewers of &ndash well, anything

Where: 3-16-10 Shinbashi, Minato-ku, Tokyo Map
Hours: Mon &ndash Fri 11:30 &ndash 14:00 / 16:30 &ndash 23:30 Sat &ndash Sun 12:00 &ndash 23:30
Price: the below plus one large beer = ¥2100 (appx. £12 / $20)

Give a good kushikatsu chef an old leather belt and he could probably breadcrumb and fry it up into something you would want to put into your mouth.

Very fine crumbs are used in this coating, and the fry is quick and hot resulting in a crisp shell concealing briefly cooked ingredients beneath.

We worked our way through a mixture of meat and vegetable skewers: pickled ginger, lotus root, smelt fish, shrimp, mochi (glutinous rice balls), onion, small green peppers (like Padron peppers), and a second round of pickled ginger because it was deep pink and gorgeous. As well as a plate of pork tripe cooked in a sweet viscous miso sauce and furnished with spring onions &ndash why not.

The dipping sauce for the skewers is dark, sweet and shared &ndash you submerge them whole, before biting only. The sign above it roughly translates to &ldquodouble-dip and prepare to be skewered&rdquo. Rightly so.

The menu is fully Japanese so I would advise pointing at the glass counter at what you fancy, learning the words for ingredients you particularly enjoy, or using that very useful phrase &ndash &lsquonani ga osusume des ka?&lsquo (what do you recommend?).

What: thinly carved and spanking fresh raw meat (usually seafood)

Where: 2-19-7 Shinbashi, Minato-ku, Tokyo (1 min walk East of Shinbashi Station) Map

Hours: Only open in the evenings, 17.00 &ndash 11.30

Price: the below plus two glasses of sake = ¥3000 (appx. £17 / $29)

Uokin has a few outlets in Tokyo and we were informed by Mika that it&rsquos very much an izagaya (casual eatery) of-the-moment. Its specialities lie within seafood (hence the sign) and either has a bar at which to stand and eat at ground level, or you can go up a floor for table seating.

It&rsquos the first I&rsquove been on my feet whilst having my dinner in a restaurant (a common occurrence in Tokyo &ndash good for space-saving I suspect) and you know, I barely noticed. It was probably all that sake.

An okomase (chef&rsquos selection of the best seafood of that day) sashimi platter presented us with some glistening produce: tairagai (like a giant scallop) with an iridescent shell oysters with spring onions, daikon (Japanese radish) and a touch of chilli paste sawara (Spanish mackerel) tai (snapper) shime saba (cured mackerel) aji (horse mackerel) and maguro (tuna).

Before bar-hopping to the next place, we finished with a soup (as Japanese cuisine so often dictates &ndash contrary to the the west which generally starts with it) &ndash of seaweed with tofu. Warm and comforting, full of calcium and righteousness.

Again, a fully Japanese menu. &ldquoOkomase sashimi, kudasai?&rdquo will get you a platter similar to what we had.

What: seafood or vegetables battered and deep fried

Where: 3-9-4 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo Map

Hours: Mon &ndash Sun 11.00 &ndash 23.30

Price: the below two set meals with an extra side = ¥1600 (appx. £9 / $29)

If you haven&rsquot already noticed, the Japanese quite like deep-frying things. Probably the most internationally recognised of this genre is tempura. If you want to &ndash particularly in the upmarket district of Ginza &ndash you can spend upwards of £150 a head for what is essentially a very simple concept (the best ones always are though, aren&rsquot they).

But don&rsquot let that simplicity fool you. Good tempura should start with quality ingredients destined for the plunge, have a light and crisp batter, and not be greasy &ndash I suspect it&rsquos more difficult than it sounds.

Tendon Tenya is a respectable and exedingly good value chain that manages to achieve this, and much-loved by locals. The menu is full of set meals (also available in English), with a choice of carbs to help bulk it out including rice and (hot or cold) udon, along with a range of extra toppings or additional sides, including a tasty little octopus and seaweed salad.

Filling the bellies of two big-eaters with good food for under a tenner in one of the poshest parts of town &ndash credit where it&rsquos due.

What: things that are skewered and grilled over coals &ndash aka yakitori (usually when it&rsquos chicken)

Where: 3-19-6, Shinbashi, Minato-ku, Tokyo (2 min walk from Shinbashi station) Map

Hours: Mon &ndash Fri 17:00 &ndash 23:00, Sat 17:00 &ndash 22:00, Closed Sundays

Price: the below plus some tea = ¥3000 (appx. £17 / $29)

If you&rsquore the sort of person that is quite into the bits of the animal so often cast aside as waste, this is the place for you. Even if you&rsquore not, I urge you to try it.

Mitsumasa is a casual but well turned out offering that heaves with uniformly black-suited salary man kicking back after a long day in the office, with row after row of meaty skewers straight from the coals &ndash and a beer, or four. The uncooked meat is displayed in the glass cabinet and is an ode to all things pig, for it is this animal they specialise in.

We had pig skin (yum), pig tongue (ok then), pig heart (aren&rsquot these going to be put into humans soon?), the less conquered parts of a chicken&rsquos anatomy including the gizzard (crunchy) and knuckle (as pleasant as I assume chewing through a baby&rsquos finger to be), chicken meatballs (phew), pickles with boiled pig intestine (go on then), and pig liver (strong, bitter, iron). I am generally pretty ok with tripe from sheep and cows and chickens, but when it comes to eating the organs of something else that eats meat, I wince a little.

But it&rsquos a firm favourite with the Japanese and if you truly want to embrace the cuisine in it&rsquos fullest form, I would give it a go.

What: Japan&rsquos national social lubricant &ndash a clear and alcoholic beverage made from fermented rice

Where: Tony Building, 2F, 6-4-15 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo Map

Hours: Mon &ndash Thu 18:00 &ndash 03:00, Fri 18:00 &ndash 03:30, Sat 18:00 &ndash 00:30, closed Sun and every third Sat

Price: three tastings and some nibbles = ¥1000 (appx. £6 / $10)

For those prepared to knock elbows on the hunt for some of the country&rsquos best sake, Kuri is a bar specialising in just that, with a weekly changing menu of over 150 varieties behind the counter.

The offering here is junmai meaning made solely with rice and water, without any additional distilled alcohol. They range from the freshest, just-pressed, unfiltered namazake (unpasteurised sake &ndash kept refrigerated) to aged bottles from all over the country. The patterns at the bottom of the cups are designed to induce coos over the clarity of the tipple.

Before I sampled these, I thought I didn&rsquot like sake. Turns out, I do like sake &ndash I in fact love it. Forget anything you&rsquove had outside Japan &ndash you won&rsquot have had access to true namazake as its lack of pasteurisation means it doesn&rsquot last long enough to reach overseas in a saleable condition. And let me tell you, it&rsquos a taste revelation.

Go for a flight of three tasters with some nibbles, perhaps opening with &lsquonani ga osusume des ka?&lsquo (what do you recommend?). If the response is the Japanese for &lsquowhat do you like?&rsquo, I&rsquom afraid you&rsquore on your own. But I&rsquom sure you&rsquoll be fine.


6) Japanese Breakfast

What: a combination of things you&rsquove probably not come across before

Restaurant: I have no idea of the name

Where: close to Yarakucho Station &ndash look out for railway arches Map

Hours: they seemed to start packing away the breakfast items around 10 &ndash 10.30

Price: natto, rice, miso, nori, egg and tea for two = ¥550 (appx. £3 / $5)

There is something to be said for a nation of people who can think of few better ways to start their day than with a stringy, stinking mess of natto &ndash fermented soya bean. Pick some up with your chopsticks and marvel at the mucus-like stretchiness, with sticky strings that float suspended in mid-air still attached to your utensils the need to bat them away after every mouthful can look like a violent tick to the uninitiated.

Into this, stir raw egg and chopped spring onions, mix with a bowl of rice, add some sheets of nori (seaweed), accompany with dried fish and life-affirming miso and you have the makings of a rather splendid breakfast.

There is no presence of this restaurant on the internet, and I usefully didn&rsquot take a picture of its front. We found it by asking the Tourist Information office behind Yarakucho Station where we could enjoy a traditional Japanese breakfast &ndash this would be a good place to start. What I can tell you is that it&rsquos small, and for the remainder of the day is a conveyor belt sushi restaurant.

The main point of this point is that you should experience a traditional Japanese breakfast in Tokyo, whether it&rsquos here or somewhere else.

(The other half is convinced he recalls its precise location, which is what&rsquos displayed on the map link above &ndash I do think he&rsquos pretty close if not spot on. Good luck.)

What: the most internationally recognised part of Japanese cuisine

Where: 7-6, Ginza 8-chome, Chuo-ku, Tokyo Map

Hours: Mon &ndash Sat 11:30 &ndash 14:00 / 17:00 &ndash 22:00, closed Sun and public holidays

Price: two omakase lunches with tea = ¥11,800 (appx. £68 / $115)

Yes, you can eat a sushi breakfast in Tsukiji Market at six in the morning, the real crowd-pullers being Sushi Dai and Daiwa Sushi. And arguably, it probably is some of the freshest in the world, considering the meat has travelled a matter of yards from wholesale (mere hours before) to chopstick.

But can that level of freshness really be so different from a quality sushi restaurant just a 15 minute walk away? The answer to that is of course, no. So forgo the three hour queues of tourists (no one wants too many of them first thing in the morning), and enjoy sushi at the countless number of other great restaurants in the area, nay, the city.

Kyubey is one of these. Round the corner from Tsukiji (almost), you can marvel at the deft manipulation of rice and the precise preparation of seafood by the itamae (chefs), from the counter seating.

And you want fresh? The legs of the prawns were moving and their mouths foaming little bubbles moments before their heads were ripped off and entrails removed before our very eyes. What theatre.

We grinned maniacally through the following (from top left): buttery salmon, spotted mackerel, squid with salt and a momentary touch of lime, velvety sea urchin (my first time &ndash I loved it), those prawns (crunchy), scallop, otoro (the fattiest part of tuna belly &ndash picture missing), bonito with fresh ginger and the tiniest scrape of raw garlic (look at that colour), cooked and coated unagi (eel), thin and crisp daikon and shiso (perilla leaf) sandwiches, sweet egg custard, vegetable maki, and miso.

&lsquoGo chi so sama&rsquo, indeed &ndash it was glorious nothing in this country has come close.

Recommended by Yukari.

What: Chinese-style wheat noodles served in a meat or fish based broth, often flavoured with soy or miso, topped with all manner of tasty treats

Where: Toshiba Build. B2, 5-2-1, Ginza (Shinbashi station&rsquos underground shopping centre) Map
Hours: Mon &ndash Fri 11:00 &ndash 23:00, Sat &ndash Sun and holidays 11:00 &ndash 22:00
Price: two bowls of ramen and some gyoza = ¥1990 (appx. £12 / $20)

Whilst the best we can hope for in the UK is a Boots meal deal where they still have Innocent on the shelf, or if we&rsquore lucky, a Pret, station-eating in Japan is nothing to be scoffed at it&rsquos synonymous with quality meals of excellent value.

The train stations in Tokyo have vast malls beneath, ready to breach the surface with the volume of shops and restaurants on offer (if ever in doubt in this city, head below ground or up some stairs and you&rsquore sure to stumble across something great) Naokyu is one of these. Established around 100 years ago (one of the oldest in Tokyo, they claim), it serves traditional ramen in pork and chicken broths in a typically casual noodle-joint environment.

The tantan-men (a dish originating from Sichuan cuisine) was hot and spicy, a gathering of ground pork cooked in miso with sesame and some greens. It did wonders at blasting away the cold I was suffering from. Koku-uma ramen, with slices of pork belly, bamboo shoots, thin noodles and seasoned with soy was also very good, but the tamago (egg) should have had a runny yolk.

Dining on noodles tends to be a quick-fix affair in Tokyo &ndash there are endless vending machine restaurants densely packed around station exits to &ndash very speedily and cheaply &ndash fill the bellies of salary-men (more often than not, inhaling their noodles whilst standing at a bar) on their way home. Naokyu is a good option to slow it down a bit &ndash take a seat and savour the meal.

Our bowls of bone-warming elixir were very well-received the cacophony of sucking and slurping from the fully Japanese clientèle around us hinted towards the same.

What: Tokyo has a lot of boulangeries and patisseries, and they&rsquore really good at them

Where: Tokia Building, 1F, 2-7-3 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo (near Tokyo station) Map
Hours: Mon &ndash Sun: Bakery 10:00 &ndash 21:00, Bar 10:00 &ndash 23:00, Brasserie Lunch 11:30 &ndash 14:00, Dinner 18:00 &ndash 23:30. Closed 1st Jan and holidays
Price: the below = ¥3510 (appx. £20 / $35)

The Japanese don&rsquot half love their bread. More often than not, it will be pristine white and highly processed, rather than the rustic, malty loaves dusted with oats and speckled with seeds we&rsquore so good at producing here.

But there are quite a few skilled bakeries turning out all sorts of French pastries, boules and brioche with an expert hand. Viron is one of these, with a glass cabinet creaking under it&rsquos own weight of stuffed rolls and sticks, pastries and patisseries able to add a kilo to muffin-tops through a hard stare alone. They import flour from France (where they also have a presence) to make Viron&rsquos signature baguette, of which they&rsquove won awards for.

We had an entirely brown but very good breakfast of coffee, two chocolate studded viennoise, a big pain au chocolate, a crunchy and sweet Kouing Aman (originally from Brittany &ndash crisp caramelised shell with soft buttery layers within), and a sundried tomato fougasse. Pass the fibre bar.

There&rsquos outdoor seating and a lot of space inside, and it doubles up as a brasserie open for lunch and dinner if you fancy adding a bit more colour to your plate. Located right next to Tokyo station, it&rsquos a prime spot for a morning pick-me-up before heading on the Shinkansen (bullet train).

Word of warning, coffee that isn&rsquot standard filter or drip (always served with a pot of cream) is something that is a little pricey in Japan &ndash a cappuccino and a latte came in at close to £8.

Recommended by Yukari.

10) Department Store Food Halls

What: the basement food halls of Tokyo&rsquos department stores have a global reputation for a reason

Where: 1-4-1 Nihonbashimuromachi, Chūō, Tokyo Map
Hours: Daily 10&ndash7, basements until 8
Price: varies considerably

This this branch of Tokyo&rsquos first depato (department store), also called hyakkaten (hundred-kinds-of-goods emporium), is the HQ of the international Mitsukoshi chain, and it&rsquos impressive.

Descend to the basement food hall and prepare to become disorientated by the scale, diversity and sheer sensory onslaught of nearly half an acre of the world&rsquos choicest comestibles. The space is filled with the noise from the drawn-out Japanese trader battle cries of &lsquoIRRASHAIMASEEEEE!&rsquo (welcome!) and there are free samples of absolutely everything. From German wursts and confectionary moulded into chrysanthemums, to white triangle sandwiches filled with whipped cream and sliced strawberries and £120 muskmelons &ndash if it can be consumed, you will find it here.

Grab some things to eat &ndash perhaps a bento box followed by a decadent dessert &ndash and enjoy up a few floors in the Mitsukoshi roof garden.


Dining observations I made in Tokyo

  • A lot of restaurants are smoking, but ventilation systems tend to be so good that it&rsquos easy not to notice. Many have designated no-smoking areas.
  • Your bill is often brought to the table with the food (or when you ask for it) and payment is usually made at the till they&rsquoll have near the entrance. It&rsquos rare the payment is made at the table.
  • When you do go to pay (both in restaurants or any shop), there will usually be a small tray at the cash desk. You are to put your payment (cash or card) on this tray, but the change will usually be given to you directly.
  • If you want to grab the attention of the waiter, use sumimasen (excuse me).
  • There is no tipping in Japan &ndash pay what&rsquos on the bill and nothing more.
  • You will usually be given an oshibori (moist towel &ndash often hot) once you&rsquore seated &ndash use this to wipe your hands and as a serviette for your meal &ndash a lot of restaurants seem to not have any on the table.
  • It&rsquos good etiquette to pour a drink for your companion and not yourself.
  • Never leave your chopsticks sticking out of a bowl of rice.
  • It is perfectly acceptable &ndash in fact encouraged &ndash to slurp your noodles very noisily &ndash it translates as you enjoying your food.
  • If you&rsquore cool, you eat sushi with your fingers. Turn it upside down and only dip the topping into the soy, not the rice. Sashimi is with chopsticks though.
  • People don&rsquot really eat while walking around in Japan &ndash so street-food isn&rsquot common. If you&rsquove purchased something on the go, it&rsquos more polite to remain stationary or find somewhere to perch until you&rsquove finished it.

&ldquoIf I had to eat one city&rsquos food for the rest of my life, every day, it would have to be Tokyo. And I think the majority of chefs you ask that question to would answer the same way&rdquo &ndash Anthony Bourdain.

Check out www.japan-experience.com for all your Japan travel related needs, from rail passes and car rental, to hotel booking and tours.

Spending most of my time either eating or travelling. Constantly in awe of nature and on a mission to seek the joy in every moment. Please feel free to leave a comment below, I love hearing from you all!


JAPAN | 10 things you must eat in Tokyo

I can&rsquot imagine there is any one single resource that lists all the places to get food in Tokyo. If it did, it would break the internet. And if it didn&rsquot break the internet, it would break the human resolve, because reading it would be like counting the population of China in that you would never reach the end. Perhaps this should be the modern-day definition of infinity &ndash the number of restaurants in Tokyo (incidentally, I have just Googled &lsquohow many restaurants are there in Tokyo?&rsquo and estimations say 80k compared to 15k in New York and 6k in London. So like I said, infinite).

Tokyo&rsquos topography is like a psychedelic 3D game of Tetris. It&rsquos a city made from a bazillion building blocks stacked on top of each other with that efficiency the Japanese are so good at. It rises up and out, as well as below (there are vast subterranean floors running beneath stations) to create a mind-boggling, multi-layered, three dimensional environment able to satisfy every want ever conceived.

Every door, every window, every protruding neon sign or hanging banner, every alleyway, every floor in every single building, the top and bottom (and middle) of every flight of stairs, every nondescript frontage, every unassuming flicker of light, every gap between two planks of wood &ndash is yet another dining establishment ready to serve. They range from standing-only holes-in-the-wall, thresholds marked by a simple curtain and able to accommodate no more than five pairs of feet, to yawning cafés for long languorous lunches. A lifetime might provide enough meals to eat your way across seven of its buildings.

In a city like this, deciding where to eat by throwing a chopstick into the air (don&rsquot actually do this &ndash very rude), heading half a kilometre in the direction its pointing towards when it lands, spinning round with your eyes closed five times, and eating wherever is closest to the point where your vision stops dancing, will more often than not land you a very good meal. After all, this is a country where the quality of the most ordinary food offering is often on a par with the part of London&rsquos dining scene we would call &lsquopretty decent&rsquo.

If you are reading this post, I can safely assume that you, intrepid explorer and/or fellow food-nut, are quite like me, in that you like to do a bit of pre-holiday eating research. You want the best food for the best price, you want to make sure you&rsquore not &lsquosettling&rsquo when there is a superstar restaurant around the corner, you want to indulge in the finest eating your finite time and budget can possibly allow, and this requires some forward planning &ndash I get that.

Mika from Tokyo Food Tour

But my advice to you is, when it comes to Tokyo, don&rsquot get bogged down in this. Because almost all of it is great. Even though the restaurant you ate at yesterday fed you &ldquothe best sushi you&rsquove ever had&rdquo, you can&rsquot possibly know if the place seven doors down is better because, when a country consistently churns out excellence, what&rsquos &ldquobetter&rdquo just becomes arbitrary. I mean, it&rsquos just all good &ndash you know?

But because you are (still) reading this, you probably are like me, and demand some level of guidance, a list to follow, pointers about where to even begin. It&rsquos understandable, so I&rsquove created a little something.

What&rsquos good about this list is firstly, it covers a respectable portion of Japan&rsquos vast cuisine. Secondly, it&rsquos not comprised by me alone &ndash who still knows next to nothing about Tokyo despite spending five days there &ndash but by people who do.

One main source is Mika Takaki from Tokyo Food Tour who showed us a few great places around Ginza one evening. She&rsquos a cook and caterer, lived and worked in San Francisco for a few years, and is able to personalise food tours to whatever it is you&rsquore interested in Mika doesn&rsquot come cheap, but does come highly recommended.

The other is Japanese chef, author, sommelier and shochu advisor Yukari Sakomoto. I came across a short interview in a travel magazine about her favourite spots in Tokyo and visited a few. I have then added a couple of cheap-and-cheerful entries I pre-holiday-researched myself when I was under the misguided impression that these would be lifesavers, as Tokyo was the most expensive city in the universe. Which I quickly realised after landing, is a massive misconception.

My final bit of advice when visiting Tokyo: surrender your senses to the onslaught of stimuli and just go with it, whatever &lsquoit&rsquo turns out to be for you.

10 Things to Eat in Tokyo

What: aka kushiage &ndash lightly breaded and fried skewers of &ndash well, anything

Where: 3-16-10 Shinbashi, Minato-ku, Tokyo Map
Hours: Mon &ndash Fri 11:30 &ndash 14:00 / 16:30 &ndash 23:30 Sat &ndash Sun 12:00 &ndash 23:30
Price: the below plus one large beer = ¥2100 (appx. £12 / $20)

Give a good kushikatsu chef an old leather belt and he could probably breadcrumb and fry it up into something you would want to put into your mouth.

Very fine crumbs are used in this coating, and the fry is quick and hot resulting in a crisp shell concealing briefly cooked ingredients beneath.

We worked our way through a mixture of meat and vegetable skewers: pickled ginger, lotus root, smelt fish, shrimp, mochi (glutinous rice balls), onion, small green peppers (like Padron peppers), and a second round of pickled ginger because it was deep pink and gorgeous. As well as a plate of pork tripe cooked in a sweet viscous miso sauce and furnished with spring onions &ndash why not.

The dipping sauce for the skewers is dark, sweet and shared &ndash you submerge them whole, before biting only. The sign above it roughly translates to &ldquodouble-dip and prepare to be skewered&rdquo. Rightly so.

The menu is fully Japanese so I would advise pointing at the glass counter at what you fancy, learning the words for ingredients you particularly enjoy, or using that very useful phrase &ndash &lsquonani ga osusume des ka?&lsquo (what do you recommend?).

What: thinly carved and spanking fresh raw meat (usually seafood)

Where: 2-19-7 Shinbashi, Minato-ku, Tokyo (1 min walk East of Shinbashi Station) Map

Hours: Only open in the evenings, 17.00 &ndash 11.30

Price: the below plus two glasses of sake = ¥3000 (appx. £17 / $29)

Uokin has a few outlets in Tokyo and we were informed by Mika that it&rsquos very much an izagaya (casual eatery) of-the-moment. Its specialities lie within seafood (hence the sign) and either has a bar at which to stand and eat at ground level, or you can go up a floor for table seating.

It&rsquos the first I&rsquove been on my feet whilst having my dinner in a restaurant (a common occurrence in Tokyo &ndash good for space-saving I suspect) and you know, I barely noticed. It was probably all that sake.

An okomase (chef&rsquos selection of the best seafood of that day) sashimi platter presented us with some glistening produce: tairagai (like a giant scallop) with an iridescent shell oysters with spring onions, daikon (Japanese radish) and a touch of chilli paste sawara (Spanish mackerel) tai (snapper) shime saba (cured mackerel) aji (horse mackerel) and maguro (tuna).

Before bar-hopping to the next place, we finished with a soup (as Japanese cuisine so often dictates &ndash contrary to the the west which generally starts with it) &ndash of seaweed with tofu. Warm and comforting, full of calcium and righteousness.

Again, a fully Japanese menu. &ldquoOkomase sashimi, kudasai?&rdquo will get you a platter similar to what we had.

What: seafood or vegetables battered and deep fried

Where: 3-9-4 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo Map

Hours: Mon &ndash Sun 11.00 &ndash 23.30

Price: the below two set meals with an extra side = ¥1600 (appx. £9 / $29)

If you haven&rsquot already noticed, the Japanese quite like deep-frying things. Probably the most internationally recognised of this genre is tempura. If you want to &ndash particularly in the upmarket district of Ginza &ndash you can spend upwards of £150 a head for what is essentially a very simple concept (the best ones always are though, aren&rsquot they).

But don&rsquot let that simplicity fool you. Good tempura should start with quality ingredients destined for the plunge, have a light and crisp batter, and not be greasy &ndash I suspect it&rsquos more difficult than it sounds.

Tendon Tenya is a respectable and exedingly good value chain that manages to achieve this, and much-loved by locals. The menu is full of set meals (also available in English), with a choice of carbs to help bulk it out including rice and (hot or cold) udon, along with a range of extra toppings or additional sides, including a tasty little octopus and seaweed salad.

Filling the bellies of two big-eaters with good food for under a tenner in one of the poshest parts of town &ndash credit where it&rsquos due.

What: things that are skewered and grilled over coals &ndash aka yakitori (usually when it&rsquos chicken)

Where: 3-19-6, Shinbashi, Minato-ku, Tokyo (2 min walk from Shinbashi station) Map

Hours: Mon &ndash Fri 17:00 &ndash 23:00, Sat 17:00 &ndash 22:00, Closed Sundays

Price: the below plus some tea = ¥3000 (appx. £17 / $29)

If you&rsquore the sort of person that is quite into the bits of the animal so often cast aside as waste, this is the place for you. Even if you&rsquore not, I urge you to try it.

Mitsumasa is a casual but well turned out offering that heaves with uniformly black-suited salary man kicking back after a long day in the office, with row after row of meaty skewers straight from the coals &ndash and a beer, or four. The uncooked meat is displayed in the glass cabinet and is an ode to all things pig, for it is this animal they specialise in.

We had pig skin (yum), pig tongue (ok then), pig heart (aren&rsquot these going to be put into humans soon?), the less conquered parts of a chicken&rsquos anatomy including the gizzard (crunchy) and knuckle (as pleasant as I assume chewing through a baby&rsquos finger to be), chicken meatballs (phew), pickles with boiled pig intestine (go on then), and pig liver (strong, bitter, iron). I am generally pretty ok with tripe from sheep and cows and chickens, but when it comes to eating the organs of something else that eats meat, I wince a little.

But it&rsquos a firm favourite with the Japanese and if you truly want to embrace the cuisine in it&rsquos fullest form, I would give it a go.

What: Japan&rsquos national social lubricant &ndash a clear and alcoholic beverage made from fermented rice

Where: Tony Building, 2F, 6-4-15 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo Map

Hours: Mon &ndash Thu 18:00 &ndash 03:00, Fri 18:00 &ndash 03:30, Sat 18:00 &ndash 00:30, closed Sun and every third Sat

Price: three tastings and some nibbles = ¥1000 (appx. £6 / $10)

For those prepared to knock elbows on the hunt for some of the country&rsquos best sake, Kuri is a bar specialising in just that, with a weekly changing menu of over 150 varieties behind the counter.

The offering here is junmai meaning made solely with rice and water, without any additional distilled alcohol. They range from the freshest, just-pressed, unfiltered namazake (unpasteurised sake &ndash kept refrigerated) to aged bottles from all over the country. The patterns at the bottom of the cups are designed to induce coos over the clarity of the tipple.

Before I sampled these, I thought I didn&rsquot like sake. Turns out, I do like sake &ndash I in fact love it. Forget anything you&rsquove had outside Japan &ndash you won&rsquot have had access to true namazake as its lack of pasteurisation means it doesn&rsquot last long enough to reach overseas in a saleable condition. And let me tell you, it&rsquos a taste revelation.

Go for a flight of three tasters with some nibbles, perhaps opening with &lsquonani ga osusume des ka?&lsquo (what do you recommend?). If the response is the Japanese for &lsquowhat do you like?&rsquo, I&rsquom afraid you&rsquore on your own. But I&rsquom sure you&rsquoll be fine.


6) Japanese Breakfast

What: a combination of things you&rsquove probably not come across before

Restaurant: I have no idea of the name

Where: close to Yarakucho Station &ndash look out for railway arches Map

Hours: they seemed to start packing away the breakfast items around 10 &ndash 10.30

Price: natto, rice, miso, nori, egg and tea for two = ¥550 (appx. £3 / $5)

There is something to be said for a nation of people who can think of few better ways to start their day than with a stringy, stinking mess of natto &ndash fermented soya bean. Pick some up with your chopsticks and marvel at the mucus-like stretchiness, with sticky strings that float suspended in mid-air still attached to your utensils the need to bat them away after every mouthful can look like a violent tick to the uninitiated.

Into this, stir raw egg and chopped spring onions, mix with a bowl of rice, add some sheets of nori (seaweed), accompany with dried fish and life-affirming miso and you have the makings of a rather splendid breakfast.

There is no presence of this restaurant on the internet, and I usefully didn&rsquot take a picture of its front. We found it by asking the Tourist Information office behind Yarakucho Station where we could enjoy a traditional Japanese breakfast &ndash this would be a good place to start. What I can tell you is that it&rsquos small, and for the remainder of the day is a conveyor belt sushi restaurant.

The main point of this point is that you should experience a traditional Japanese breakfast in Tokyo, whether it&rsquos here or somewhere else.

(The other half is convinced he recalls its precise location, which is what&rsquos displayed on the map link above &ndash I do think he&rsquos pretty close if not spot on. Good luck.)

What: the most internationally recognised part of Japanese cuisine

Where: 7-6, Ginza 8-chome, Chuo-ku, Tokyo Map

Hours: Mon &ndash Sat 11:30 &ndash 14:00 / 17:00 &ndash 22:00, closed Sun and public holidays

Price: two omakase lunches with tea = ¥11,800 (appx. £68 / $115)

Yes, you can eat a sushi breakfast in Tsukiji Market at six in the morning, the real crowd-pullers being Sushi Dai and Daiwa Sushi. And arguably, it probably is some of the freshest in the world, considering the meat has travelled a matter of yards from wholesale (mere hours before) to chopstick.

But can that level of freshness really be so different from a quality sushi restaurant just a 15 minute walk away? The answer to that is of course, no. So forgo the three hour queues of tourists (no one wants too many of them first thing in the morning), and enjoy sushi at the countless number of other great restaurants in the area, nay, the city.

Kyubey is one of these. Round the corner from Tsukiji (almost), you can marvel at the deft manipulation of rice and the precise preparation of seafood by the itamae (chefs), from the counter seating.

And you want fresh? The legs of the prawns were moving and their mouths foaming little bubbles moments before their heads were ripped off and entrails removed before our very eyes. What theatre.

We grinned maniacally through the following (from top left): buttery salmon, spotted mackerel, squid with salt and a momentary touch of lime, velvety sea urchin (my first time &ndash I loved it), those prawns (crunchy), scallop, otoro (the fattiest part of tuna belly &ndash picture missing), bonito with fresh ginger and the tiniest scrape of raw garlic (look at that colour), cooked and coated unagi (eel), thin and crisp daikon and shiso (perilla leaf) sandwiches, sweet egg custard, vegetable maki, and miso.

&lsquoGo chi so sama&rsquo, indeed &ndash it was glorious nothing in this country has come close.

Recommended by Yukari.

What: Chinese-style wheat noodles served in a meat or fish based broth, often flavoured with soy or miso, topped with all manner of tasty treats

Where: Toshiba Build. B2, 5-2-1, Ginza (Shinbashi station&rsquos underground shopping centre) Map
Hours: Mon &ndash Fri 11:00 &ndash 23:00, Sat &ndash Sun and holidays 11:00 &ndash 22:00
Price: two bowls of ramen and some gyoza = ¥1990 (appx. £12 / $20)

Whilst the best we can hope for in the UK is a Boots meal deal where they still have Innocent on the shelf, or if we&rsquore lucky, a Pret, station-eating in Japan is nothing to be scoffed at it&rsquos synonymous with quality meals of excellent value.

The train stations in Tokyo have vast malls beneath, ready to breach the surface with the volume of shops and restaurants on offer (if ever in doubt in this city, head below ground or up some stairs and you&rsquore sure to stumble across something great) Naokyu is one of these. Established around 100 years ago (one of the oldest in Tokyo, they claim), it serves traditional ramen in pork and chicken broths in a typically casual noodle-joint environment.

The tantan-men (a dish originating from Sichuan cuisine) was hot and spicy, a gathering of ground pork cooked in miso with sesame and some greens. It did wonders at blasting away the cold I was suffering from. Koku-uma ramen, with slices of pork belly, bamboo shoots, thin noodles and seasoned with soy was also very good, but the tamago (egg) should have had a runny yolk.

Dining on noodles tends to be a quick-fix affair in Tokyo &ndash there are endless vending machine restaurants densely packed around station exits to &ndash very speedily and cheaply &ndash fill the bellies of salary-men (more often than not, inhaling their noodles whilst standing at a bar) on their way home. Naokyu is a good option to slow it down a bit &ndash take a seat and savour the meal.

Our bowls of bone-warming elixir were very well-received the cacophony of sucking and slurping from the fully Japanese clientèle around us hinted towards the same.

What: Tokyo has a lot of boulangeries and patisseries, and they&rsquore really good at them

Where: Tokia Building, 1F, 2-7-3 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo (near Tokyo station) Map
Hours: Mon &ndash Sun: Bakery 10:00 &ndash 21:00, Bar 10:00 &ndash 23:00, Brasserie Lunch 11:30 &ndash 14:00, Dinner 18:00 &ndash 23:30. Closed 1st Jan and holidays
Price: the below = ¥3510 (appx. £20 / $35)

The Japanese don&rsquot half love their bread. More often than not, it will be pristine white and highly processed, rather than the rustic, malty loaves dusted with oats and speckled with seeds we&rsquore so good at producing here.

But there are quite a few skilled bakeries turning out all sorts of French pastries, boules and brioche with an expert hand. Viron is one of these, with a glass cabinet creaking under it&rsquos own weight of stuffed rolls and sticks, pastries and patisseries able to add a kilo to muffin-tops through a hard stare alone. They import flour from France (where they also have a presence) to make Viron&rsquos signature baguette, of which they&rsquove won awards for.

We had an entirely brown but very good breakfast of coffee, two chocolate studded viennoise, a big pain au chocolate, a crunchy and sweet Kouing Aman (originally from Brittany &ndash crisp caramelised shell with soft buttery layers within), and a sundried tomato fougasse. Pass the fibre bar.

There&rsquos outdoor seating and a lot of space inside, and it doubles up as a brasserie open for lunch and dinner if you fancy adding a bit more colour to your plate. Located right next to Tokyo station, it&rsquos a prime spot for a morning pick-me-up before heading on the Shinkansen (bullet train).

Word of warning, coffee that isn&rsquot standard filter or drip (always served with a pot of cream) is something that is a little pricey in Japan &ndash a cappuccino and a latte came in at close to £8.

Recommended by Yukari.

10) Department Store Food Halls

What: the basement food halls of Tokyo&rsquos department stores have a global reputation for a reason

Where: 1-4-1 Nihonbashimuromachi, Chūō, Tokyo Map
Hours: Daily 10&ndash7, basements until 8
Price: varies considerably

This this branch of Tokyo&rsquos first depato (department store), also called hyakkaten (hundred-kinds-of-goods emporium), is the HQ of the international Mitsukoshi chain, and it&rsquos impressive.

Descend to the basement food hall and prepare to become disorientated by the scale, diversity and sheer sensory onslaught of nearly half an acre of the world&rsquos choicest comestibles. The space is filled with the noise from the drawn-out Japanese trader battle cries of &lsquoIRRASHAIMASEEEEE!&rsquo (welcome!) and there are free samples of absolutely everything. From German wursts and confectionary moulded into chrysanthemums, to white triangle sandwiches filled with whipped cream and sliced strawberries and £120 muskmelons &ndash if it can be consumed, you will find it here.

Grab some things to eat &ndash perhaps a bento box followed by a decadent dessert &ndash and enjoy up a few floors in the Mitsukoshi roof garden.


Dining observations I made in Tokyo

  • A lot of restaurants are smoking, but ventilation systems tend to be so good that it&rsquos easy not to notice. Many have designated no-smoking areas.
  • Your bill is often brought to the table with the food (or when you ask for it) and payment is usually made at the till they&rsquoll have near the entrance. It&rsquos rare the payment is made at the table.
  • When you do go to pay (both in restaurants or any shop), there will usually be a small tray at the cash desk. You are to put your payment (cash or card) on this tray, but the change will usually be given to you directly.
  • If you want to grab the attention of the waiter, use sumimasen (excuse me).
  • There is no tipping in Japan &ndash pay what&rsquos on the bill and nothing more.
  • You will usually be given an oshibori (moist towel &ndash often hot) once you&rsquore seated &ndash use this to wipe your hands and as a serviette for your meal &ndash a lot of restaurants seem to not have any on the table.
  • It&rsquos good etiquette to pour a drink for your companion and not yourself.
  • Never leave your chopsticks sticking out of a bowl of rice.
  • It is perfectly acceptable &ndash in fact encouraged &ndash to slurp your noodles very noisily &ndash it translates as you enjoying your food.
  • If you&rsquore cool, you eat sushi with your fingers. Turn it upside down and only dip the topping into the soy, not the rice. Sashimi is with chopsticks though.
  • People don&rsquot really eat while walking around in Japan &ndash so street-food isn&rsquot common. If you&rsquove purchased something on the go, it&rsquos more polite to remain stationary or find somewhere to perch until you&rsquove finished it.

&ldquoIf I had to eat one city&rsquos food for the rest of my life, every day, it would have to be Tokyo. And I think the majority of chefs you ask that question to would answer the same way&rdquo &ndash Anthony Bourdain.

Check out www.japan-experience.com for all your Japan travel related needs, from rail passes and car rental, to hotel booking and tours.

Spending most of my time either eating or travelling. Constantly in awe of nature and on a mission to seek the joy in every moment. Please feel free to leave a comment below, I love hearing from you all!


JAPAN | 10 things you must eat in Tokyo

I can&rsquot imagine there is any one single resource that lists all the places to get food in Tokyo. If it did, it would break the internet. And if it didn&rsquot break the internet, it would break the human resolve, because reading it would be like counting the population of China in that you would never reach the end. Perhaps this should be the modern-day definition of infinity &ndash the number of restaurants in Tokyo (incidentally, I have just Googled &lsquohow many restaurants are there in Tokyo?&rsquo and estimations say 80k compared to 15k in New York and 6k in London. So like I said, infinite).

Tokyo&rsquos topography is like a psychedelic 3D game of Tetris. It&rsquos a city made from a bazillion building blocks stacked on top of each other with that efficiency the Japanese are so good at. It rises up and out, as well as below (there are vast subterranean floors running beneath stations) to create a mind-boggling, multi-layered, three dimensional environment able to satisfy every want ever conceived.

Every door, every window, every protruding neon sign or hanging banner, every alleyway, every floor in every single building, the top and bottom (and middle) of every flight of stairs, every nondescript frontage, every unassuming flicker of light, every gap between two planks of wood &ndash is yet another dining establishment ready to serve. They range from standing-only holes-in-the-wall, thresholds marked by a simple curtain and able to accommodate no more than five pairs of feet, to yawning cafés for long languorous lunches. A lifetime might provide enough meals to eat your way across seven of its buildings.

In a city like this, deciding where to eat by throwing a chopstick into the air (don&rsquot actually do this &ndash very rude), heading half a kilometre in the direction its pointing towards when it lands, spinning round with your eyes closed five times, and eating wherever is closest to the point where your vision stops dancing, will more often than not land you a very good meal. After all, this is a country where the quality of the most ordinary food offering is often on a par with the part of London&rsquos dining scene we would call &lsquopretty decent&rsquo.

If you are reading this post, I can safely assume that you, intrepid explorer and/or fellow food-nut, are quite like me, in that you like to do a bit of pre-holiday eating research. You want the best food for the best price, you want to make sure you&rsquore not &lsquosettling&rsquo when there is a superstar restaurant around the corner, you want to indulge in the finest eating your finite time and budget can possibly allow, and this requires some forward planning &ndash I get that.

Mika from Tokyo Food Tour

But my advice to you is, when it comes to Tokyo, don&rsquot get bogged down in this. Because almost all of it is great. Even though the restaurant you ate at yesterday fed you &ldquothe best sushi you&rsquove ever had&rdquo, you can&rsquot possibly know if the place seven doors down is better because, when a country consistently churns out excellence, what&rsquos &ldquobetter&rdquo just becomes arbitrary. I mean, it&rsquos just all good &ndash you know?

But because you are (still) reading this, you probably are like me, and demand some level of guidance, a list to follow, pointers about where to even begin. It&rsquos understandable, so I&rsquove created a little something.

What&rsquos good about this list is firstly, it covers a respectable portion of Japan&rsquos vast cuisine. Secondly, it&rsquos not comprised by me alone &ndash who still knows next to nothing about Tokyo despite spending five days there &ndash but by people who do.

One main source is Mika Takaki from Tokyo Food Tour who showed us a few great places around Ginza one evening. She&rsquos a cook and caterer, lived and worked in San Francisco for a few years, and is able to personalise food tours to whatever it is you&rsquore interested in Mika doesn&rsquot come cheap, but does come highly recommended.

The other is Japanese chef, author, sommelier and shochu advisor Yukari Sakomoto. I came across a short interview in a travel magazine about her favourite spots in Tokyo and visited a few. I have then added a couple of cheap-and-cheerful entries I pre-holiday-researched myself when I was under the misguided impression that these would be lifesavers, as Tokyo was the most expensive city in the universe. Which I quickly realised after landing, is a massive misconception.

My final bit of advice when visiting Tokyo: surrender your senses to the onslaught of stimuli and just go with it, whatever &lsquoit&rsquo turns out to be for you.

10 Things to Eat in Tokyo

What: aka kushiage &ndash lightly breaded and fried skewers of &ndash well, anything

Where: 3-16-10 Shinbashi, Minato-ku, Tokyo Map
Hours: Mon &ndash Fri 11:30 &ndash 14:00 / 16:30 &ndash 23:30 Sat &ndash Sun 12:00 &ndash 23:30
Price: the below plus one large beer = ¥2100 (appx. £12 / $20)

Give a good kushikatsu chef an old leather belt and he could probably breadcrumb and fry it up into something you would want to put into your mouth.

Very fine crumbs are used in this coating, and the fry is quick and hot resulting in a crisp shell concealing briefly cooked ingredients beneath.

We worked our way through a mixture of meat and vegetable skewers: pickled ginger, lotus root, smelt fish, shrimp, mochi (glutinous rice balls), onion, small green peppers (like Padron peppers), and a second round of pickled ginger because it was deep pink and gorgeous. As well as a plate of pork tripe cooked in a sweet viscous miso sauce and furnished with spring onions &ndash why not.

The dipping sauce for the skewers is dark, sweet and shared &ndash you submerge them whole, before biting only. The sign above it roughly translates to &ldquodouble-dip and prepare to be skewered&rdquo. Rightly so.

The menu is fully Japanese so I would advise pointing at the glass counter at what you fancy, learning the words for ingredients you particularly enjoy, or using that very useful phrase &ndash &lsquonani ga osusume des ka?&lsquo (what do you recommend?).

What: thinly carved and spanking fresh raw meat (usually seafood)

Where: 2-19-7 Shinbashi, Minato-ku, Tokyo (1 min walk East of Shinbashi Station) Map

Hours: Only open in the evenings, 17.00 &ndash 11.30

Price: the below plus two glasses of sake = ¥3000 (appx. £17 / $29)

Uokin has a few outlets in Tokyo and we were informed by Mika that it&rsquos very much an izagaya (casual eatery) of-the-moment. Its specialities lie within seafood (hence the sign) and either has a bar at which to stand and eat at ground level, or you can go up a floor for table seating.

It&rsquos the first I&rsquove been on my feet whilst having my dinner in a restaurant (a common occurrence in Tokyo &ndash good for space-saving I suspect) and you know, I barely noticed. It was probably all that sake.

An okomase (chef&rsquos selection of the best seafood of that day) sashimi platter presented us with some glistening produce: tairagai (like a giant scallop) with an iridescent shell oysters with spring onions, daikon (Japanese radish) and a touch of chilli paste sawara (Spanish mackerel) tai (snapper) shime saba (cured mackerel) aji (horse mackerel) and maguro (tuna).

Before bar-hopping to the next place, we finished with a soup (as Japanese cuisine so often dictates &ndash contrary to the the west which generally starts with it) &ndash of seaweed with tofu. Warm and comforting, full of calcium and righteousness.

Again, a fully Japanese menu. &ldquoOkomase sashimi, kudasai?&rdquo will get you a platter similar to what we had.

What: seafood or vegetables battered and deep fried

Where: 3-9-4 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo Map

Hours: Mon &ndash Sun 11.00 &ndash 23.30

Price: the below two set meals with an extra side = ¥1600 (appx. £9 / $29)

If you haven&rsquot already noticed, the Japanese quite like deep-frying things. Probably the most internationally recognised of this genre is tempura. If you want to &ndash particularly in the upmarket district of Ginza &ndash you can spend upwards of £150 a head for what is essentially a very simple concept (the best ones always are though, aren&rsquot they).

But don&rsquot let that simplicity fool you. Good tempura should start with quality ingredients destined for the plunge, have a light and crisp batter, and not be greasy &ndash I suspect it&rsquos more difficult than it sounds.

Tendon Tenya is a respectable and exedingly good value chain that manages to achieve this, and much-loved by locals. The menu is full of set meals (also available in English), with a choice of carbs to help bulk it out including rice and (hot or cold) udon, along with a range of extra toppings or additional sides, including a tasty little octopus and seaweed salad.

Filling the bellies of two big-eaters with good food for under a tenner in one of the poshest parts of town &ndash credit where it&rsquos due.

What: things that are skewered and grilled over coals &ndash aka yakitori (usually when it&rsquos chicken)

Where: 3-19-6, Shinbashi, Minato-ku, Tokyo (2 min walk from Shinbashi station) Map

Hours: Mon &ndash Fri 17:00 &ndash 23:00, Sat 17:00 &ndash 22:00, Closed Sundays

Price: the below plus some tea = ¥3000 (appx. £17 / $29)

If you&rsquore the sort of person that is quite into the bits of the animal so often cast aside as waste, this is the place for you. Even if you&rsquore not, I urge you to try it.

Mitsumasa is a casual but well turned out offering that heaves with uniformly black-suited salary man kicking back after a long day in the office, with row after row of meaty skewers straight from the coals &ndash and a beer, or four. The uncooked meat is displayed in the glass cabinet and is an ode to all things pig, for it is this animal they specialise in.

We had pig skin (yum), pig tongue (ok then), pig heart (aren&rsquot these going to be put into humans soon?), the less conquered parts of a chicken&rsquos anatomy including the gizzard (crunchy) and knuckle (as pleasant as I assume chewing through a baby&rsquos finger to be), chicken meatballs (phew), pickles with boiled pig intestine (go on then), and pig liver (strong, bitter, iron). I am generally pretty ok with tripe from sheep and cows and chickens, but when it comes to eating the organs of something else that eats meat, I wince a little.

But it&rsquos a firm favourite with the Japanese and if you truly want to embrace the cuisine in it&rsquos fullest form, I would give it a go.

What: Japan&rsquos national social lubricant &ndash a clear and alcoholic beverage made from fermented rice

Where: Tony Building, 2F, 6-4-15 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo Map

Hours: Mon &ndash Thu 18:00 &ndash 03:00, Fri 18:00 &ndash 03:30, Sat 18:00 &ndash 00:30, closed Sun and every third Sat

Price: three tastings and some nibbles = ¥1000 (appx. £6 / $10)

For those prepared to knock elbows on the hunt for some of the country&rsquos best sake, Kuri is a bar specialising in just that, with a weekly changing menu of over 150 varieties behind the counter.

The offering here is junmai meaning made solely with rice and water, without any additional distilled alcohol. They range from the freshest, just-pressed, unfiltered namazake (unpasteurised sake &ndash kept refrigerated) to aged bottles from all over the country. The patterns at the bottom of the cups are designed to induce coos over the clarity of the tipple.

Before I sampled these, I thought I didn&rsquot like sake. Turns out, I do like sake &ndash I in fact love it. Forget anything you&rsquove had outside Japan &ndash you won&rsquot have had access to true namazake as its lack of pasteurisation means it doesn&rsquot last long enough to reach overseas in a saleable condition. And let me tell you, it&rsquos a taste revelation.

Go for a flight of three tasters with some nibbles, perhaps opening with &lsquonani ga osusume des ka?&lsquo (what do you recommend?). If the response is the Japanese for &lsquowhat do you like?&rsquo, I&rsquom afraid you&rsquore on your own. But I&rsquom sure you&rsquoll be fine.


6) Japanese Breakfast

What: a combination of things you&rsquove probably not come across before

Restaurant: I have no idea of the name

Where: close to Yarakucho Station &ndash look out for railway arches Map

Hours: they seemed to start packing away the breakfast items around 10 &ndash 10.30

Price: natto, rice, miso, nori, egg and tea for two = ¥550 (appx. £3 / $5)

There is something to be said for a nation of people who can think of few better ways to start their day than with a stringy, stinking mess of natto &ndash fermented soya bean. Pick some up with your chopsticks and marvel at the mucus-like stretchiness, with sticky strings that float suspended in mid-air still attached to your utensils the need to bat them away after every mouthful can look like a violent tick to the uninitiated.

Into this, stir raw egg and chopped spring onions, mix with a bowl of rice, add some sheets of nori (seaweed), accompany with dried fish and life-affirming miso and you have the makings of a rather splendid breakfast.

There is no presence of this restaurant on the internet, and I usefully didn&rsquot take a picture of its front. We found it by asking the Tourist Information office behind Yarakucho Station where we could enjoy a traditional Japanese breakfast &ndash this would be a good place to start. What I can tell you is that it&rsquos small, and for the remainder of the day is a conveyor belt sushi restaurant.

The main point of this point is that you should experience a traditional Japanese breakfast in Tokyo, whether it&rsquos here or somewhere else.

(The other half is convinced he recalls its precise location, which is what&rsquos displayed on the map link above &ndash I do think he&rsquos pretty close if not spot on. Good luck.)

What: the most internationally recognised part of Japanese cuisine

Where: 7-6, Ginza 8-chome, Chuo-ku, Tokyo Map

Hours: Mon &ndash Sat 11:30 &ndash 14:00 / 17:00 &ndash 22:00, closed Sun and public holidays

Price: two omakase lunches with tea = ¥11,800 (appx. £68 / $115)

Yes, you can eat a sushi breakfast in Tsukiji Market at six in the morning, the real crowd-pullers being Sushi Dai and Daiwa Sushi. And arguably, it probably is some of the freshest in the world, considering the meat has travelled a matter of yards from wholesale (mere hours before) to chopstick.

But can that level of freshness really be so different from a quality sushi restaurant just a 15 minute walk away? The answer to that is of course, no. So forgo the three hour queues of tourists (no one wants too many of them first thing in the morning), and enjoy sushi at the countless number of other great restaurants in the area, nay, the city.

Kyubey is one of these. Round the corner from Tsukiji (almost), you can marvel at the deft manipulation of rice and the precise preparation of seafood by the itamae (chefs), from the counter seating.

And you want fresh? The legs of the prawns were moving and their mouths foaming little bubbles moments before their heads were ripped off and entrails removed before our very eyes. What theatre.

We grinned maniacally through the following (from top left): buttery salmon, spotted mackerel, squid with salt and a momentary touch of lime, velvety sea urchin (my first time &ndash I loved it), those prawns (crunchy), scallop, otoro (the fattiest part of tuna belly &ndash picture missing), bonito with fresh ginger and the tiniest scrape of raw garlic (look at that colour), cooked and coated unagi (eel), thin and crisp daikon and shiso (perilla leaf) sandwiches, sweet egg custard, vegetable maki, and miso.

&lsquoGo chi so sama&rsquo, indeed &ndash it was glorious nothing in this country has come close.

Recommended by Yukari.

What: Chinese-style wheat noodles served in a meat or fish based broth, often flavoured with soy or miso, topped with all manner of tasty treats

Where: Toshiba Build. B2, 5-2-1, Ginza (Shinbashi station&rsquos underground shopping centre) Map
Hours: Mon &ndash Fri 11:00 &ndash 23:00, Sat &ndash Sun and holidays 11:00 &ndash 22:00
Price: two bowls of ramen and some gyoza = ¥1990 (appx. £12 / $20)

Whilst the best we can hope for in the UK is a Boots meal deal where they still have Innocent on the shelf, or if we&rsquore lucky, a Pret, station-eating in Japan is nothing to be scoffed at it&rsquos synonymous with quality meals of excellent value.

The train stations in Tokyo have vast malls beneath, ready to breach the surface with the volume of shops and restaurants on offer (if ever in doubt in this city, head below ground or up some stairs and you&rsquore sure to stumble across something great) Naokyu is one of these. Established around 100 years ago (one of the oldest in Tokyo, they claim), it serves traditional ramen in pork and chicken broths in a typically casual noodle-joint environment.

The tantan-men (a dish originating from Sichuan cuisine) was hot and spicy, a gathering of ground pork cooked in miso with sesame and some greens. It did wonders at blasting away the cold I was suffering from. Koku-uma ramen, with slices of pork belly, bamboo shoots, thin noodles and seasoned with soy was also very good, but the tamago (egg) should have had a runny yolk.

Dining on noodles tends to be a quick-fix affair in Tokyo &ndash there are endless vending machine restaurants densely packed around station exits to &ndash very speedily and cheaply &ndash fill the bellies of salary-men (more often than not, inhaling their noodles whilst standing at a bar) on their way home. Naokyu is a good option to slow it down a bit &ndash take a seat and savour the meal.

Our bowls of bone-warming elixir were very well-received the cacophony of sucking and slurping from the fully Japanese clientèle around us hinted towards the same.

What: Tokyo has a lot of boulangeries and patisseries, and they&rsquore really good at them

Where: Tokia Building, 1F, 2-7-3 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo (near Tokyo station) Map
Hours: Mon &ndash Sun: Bakery 10:00 &ndash 21:00, Bar 10:00 &ndash 23:00, Brasserie Lunch 11:30 &ndash 14:00, Dinner 18:00 &ndash 23:30. Closed 1st Jan and holidays
Price: the below = ¥3510 (appx. £20 / $35)

The Japanese don&rsquot half love their bread. More often than not, it will be pristine white and highly processed, rather than the rustic, malty loaves dusted with oats and speckled with seeds we&rsquore so good at producing here.

But there are quite a few skilled bakeries turning out all sorts of French pastries, boules and brioche with an expert hand. Viron is one of these, with a glass cabinet creaking under it&rsquos own weight of stuffed rolls and sticks, pastries and patisseries able to add a kilo to muffin-tops through a hard stare alone. They import flour from France (where they also have a presence) to make Viron&rsquos signature baguette, of which they&rsquove won awards for.

We had an entirely brown but very good breakfast of coffee, two chocolate studded viennoise, a big pain au chocolate, a crunchy and sweet Kouing Aman (originally from Brittany &ndash crisp caramelised shell with soft buttery layers within), and a sundried tomato fougasse. Pass the fibre bar.

There&rsquos outdoor seating and a lot of space inside, and it doubles up as a brasserie open for lunch and dinner if you fancy adding a bit more colour to your plate. Located right next to Tokyo station, it&rsquos a prime spot for a morning pick-me-up before heading on the Shinkansen (bullet train).

Word of warning, coffee that isn&rsquot standard filter or drip (always served with a pot of cream) is something that is a little pricey in Japan &ndash a cappuccino and a latte came in at close to £8.

Recommended by Yukari.

10) Department Store Food Halls

What: the basement food halls of Tokyo&rsquos department stores have a global reputation for a reason

Where: 1-4-1 Nihonbashimuromachi, Chūō, Tokyo Map
Hours: Daily 10&ndash7, basements until 8
Price: varies considerably

This this branch of Tokyo&rsquos first depato (department store), also called hyakkaten (hundred-kinds-of-goods emporium), is the HQ of the international Mitsukoshi chain, and it&rsquos impressive.

Descend to the basement food hall and prepare to become disorientated by the scale, diversity and sheer sensory onslaught of nearly half an acre of the world&rsquos choicest comestibles. The space is filled with the noise from the drawn-out Japanese trader battle cries of &lsquoIRRASHAIMASEEEEE!&rsquo (welcome!) and there are free samples of absolutely everything. From German wursts and confectionary moulded into chrysanthemums, to white triangle sandwiches filled with whipped cream and sliced strawberries and £120 muskmelons &ndash if it can be consumed, you will find it here.

Grab some things to eat &ndash perhaps a bento box followed by a decadent dessert &ndash and enjoy up a few floors in the Mitsukoshi roof garden.


Dining observations I made in Tokyo

  • A lot of restaurants are smoking, but ventilation systems tend to be so good that it&rsquos easy not to notice. Many have designated no-smoking areas.
  • Your bill is often brought to the table with the food (or when you ask for it) and payment is usually made at the till they&rsquoll have near the entrance. It&rsquos rare the payment is made at the table.
  • When you do go to pay (both in restaurants or any shop), there will usually be a small tray at the cash desk. You are to put your payment (cash or card) on this tray, but the change will usually be given to you directly.
  • If you want to grab the attention of the waiter, use sumimasen (excuse me).
  • There is no tipping in Japan &ndash pay what&rsquos on the bill and nothing more.
  • You will usually be given an oshibori (moist towel &ndash often hot) once you&rsquore seated &ndash use this to wipe your hands and as a serviette for your meal &ndash a lot of restaurants seem to not have any on the table.
  • It&rsquos good etiquette to pour a drink for your companion and not yourself.
  • Never leave your chopsticks sticking out of a bowl of rice.
  • It is perfectly acceptable &ndash in fact encouraged &ndash to slurp your noodles very noisily &ndash it translates as you enjoying your food.
  • If you&rsquore cool, you eat sushi with your fingers. Turn it upside down and only dip the topping into the soy, not the rice. Sashimi is with chopsticks though.
  • People don&rsquot really eat while walking around in Japan &ndash so street-food isn&rsquot common. If you&rsquove purchased something on the go, it&rsquos more polite to remain stationary or find somewhere to perch until you&rsquove finished it.

&ldquoIf I had to eat one city&rsquos food for the rest of my life, every day, it would have to be Tokyo. And I think the majority of chefs you ask that question to would answer the same way&rdquo &ndash Anthony Bourdain.

Check out www.japan-experience.com for all your Japan travel related needs, from rail passes and car rental, to hotel booking and tours.

Spending most of my time either eating or travelling. Constantly in awe of nature and on a mission to seek the joy in every moment. Please feel free to leave a comment below, I love hearing from you all!


JAPAN | 10 things you must eat in Tokyo

I can&rsquot imagine there is any one single resource that lists all the places to get food in Tokyo. If it did, it would break the internet. And if it didn&rsquot break the internet, it would break the human resolve, because reading it would be like counting the population of China in that you would never reach the end. Perhaps this should be the modern-day definition of infinity &ndash the number of restaurants in Tokyo (incidentally, I have just Googled &lsquohow many restaurants are there in Tokyo?&rsquo and estimations say 80k compared to 15k in New York and 6k in London. So like I said, infinite).

Tokyo&rsquos topography is like a psychedelic 3D game of Tetris. It&rsquos a city made from a bazillion building blocks stacked on top of each other with that efficiency the Japanese are so good at. It rises up and out, as well as below (there are vast subterranean floors running beneath stations) to create a mind-boggling, multi-layered, three dimensional environment able to satisfy every want ever conceived.

Every door, every window, every protruding neon sign or hanging banner, every alleyway, every floor in every single building, the top and bottom (and middle) of every flight of stairs, every nondescript frontage, every unassuming flicker of light, every gap between two planks of wood &ndash is yet another dining establishment ready to serve. They range from standing-only holes-in-the-wall, thresholds marked by a simple curtain and able to accommodate no more than five pairs of feet, to yawning cafés for long languorous lunches. A lifetime might provide enough meals to eat your way across seven of its buildings.

In a city like this, deciding where to eat by throwing a chopstick into the air (don&rsquot actually do this &ndash very rude), heading half a kilometre in the direction its pointing towards when it lands, spinning round with your eyes closed five times, and eating wherever is closest to the point where your vision stops dancing, will more often than not land you a very good meal. After all, this is a country where the quality of the most ordinary food offering is often on a par with the part of London&rsquos dining scene we would call &lsquopretty decent&rsquo.

If you are reading this post, I can safely assume that you, intrepid explorer and/or fellow food-nut, are quite like me, in that you like to do a bit of pre-holiday eating research. You want the best food for the best price, you want to make sure you&rsquore not &lsquosettling&rsquo when there is a superstar restaurant around the corner, you want to indulge in the finest eating your finite time and budget can possibly allow, and this requires some forward planning &ndash I get that.

Mika from Tokyo Food Tour

But my advice to you is, when it comes to Tokyo, don&rsquot get bogged down in this. Because almost all of it is great. Even though the restaurant you ate at yesterday fed you &ldquothe best sushi you&rsquove ever had&rdquo, you can&rsquot possibly know if the place seven doors down is better because, when a country consistently churns out excellence, what&rsquos &ldquobetter&rdquo just becomes arbitrary. I mean, it&rsquos just all good &ndash you know?

But because you are (still) reading this, you probably are like me, and demand some level of guidance, a list to follow, pointers about where to even begin. It&rsquos understandable, so I&rsquove created a little something.

What&rsquos good about this list is firstly, it covers a respectable portion of Japan&rsquos vast cuisine. Secondly, it&rsquos not comprised by me alone &ndash who still knows next to nothing about Tokyo despite spending five days there &ndash but by people who do.

One main source is Mika Takaki from Tokyo Food Tour who showed us a few great places around Ginza one evening. She&rsquos a cook and caterer, lived and worked in San Francisco for a few years, and is able to personalise food tours to whatever it is you&rsquore interested in Mika doesn&rsquot come cheap, but does come highly recommended.

The other is Japanese chef, author, sommelier and shochu advisor Yukari Sakomoto. I came across a short interview in a travel magazine about her favourite spots in Tokyo and visited a few. I have then added a couple of cheap-and-cheerful entries I pre-holiday-researched myself when I was under the misguided impression that these would be lifesavers, as Tokyo was the most expensive city in the universe. Which I quickly realised after landing, is a massive misconception.

My final bit of advice when visiting Tokyo: surrender your senses to the onslaught of stimuli and just go with it, whatever &lsquoit&rsquo turns out to be for you.

10 Things to Eat in Tokyo

What: aka kushiage &ndash lightly breaded and fried skewers of &ndash well, anything

Where: 3-16-10 Shinbashi, Minato-ku, Tokyo Map
Hours: Mon &ndash Fri 11:30 &ndash 14:00 / 16:30 &ndash 23:30 Sat &ndash Sun 12:00 &ndash 23:30
Price: the below plus one large beer = ¥2100 (appx. £12 / $20)

Give a good kushikatsu chef an old leather belt and he could probably breadcrumb and fry it up into something you would want to put into your mouth.

Very fine crumbs are used in this coating, and the fry is quick and hot resulting in a crisp shell concealing briefly cooked ingredients beneath.

We worked our way through a mixture of meat and vegetable skewers: pickled ginger, lotus root, smelt fish, shrimp, mochi (glutinous rice balls), onion, small green peppers (like Padron peppers), and a second round of pickled ginger because it was deep pink and gorgeous. As well as a plate of pork tripe cooked in a sweet viscous miso sauce and furnished with spring onions &ndash why not.

The dipping sauce for the skewers is dark, sweet and shared &ndash you submerge them whole, before biting only. The sign above it roughly translates to &ldquodouble-dip and prepare to be skewered&rdquo. Rightly so.

The menu is fully Japanese so I would advise pointing at the glass counter at what you fancy, learning the words for ingredients you particularly enjoy, or using that very useful phrase &ndash &lsquonani ga osusume des ka?&lsquo (what do you recommend?).

What: thinly carved and spanking fresh raw meat (usually seafood)

Where: 2-19-7 Shinbashi, Minato-ku, Tokyo (1 min walk East of Shinbashi Station) Map

Hours: Only open in the evenings, 17.00 &ndash 11.30

Price: the below plus two glasses of sake = ¥3000 (appx. £17 / $29)

Uokin has a few outlets in Tokyo and we were informed by Mika that it&rsquos very much an izagaya (casual eatery) of-the-moment. Its specialities lie within seafood (hence the sign) and either has a bar at which to stand and eat at ground level, or you can go up a floor for table seating.

It&rsquos the first I&rsquove been on my feet whilst having my dinner in a restaurant (a common occurrence in Tokyo &ndash good for space-saving I suspect) and you know, I barely noticed. It was probably all that sake.

An okomase (chef&rsquos selection of the best seafood of that day) sashimi platter presented us with some glistening produce: tairagai (like a giant scallop) with an iridescent shell oysters with spring onions, daikon (Japanese radish) and a touch of chilli paste sawara (Spanish mackerel) tai (snapper) shime saba (cured mackerel) aji (horse mackerel) and maguro (tuna).

Before bar-hopping to the next place, we finished with a soup (as Japanese cuisine so often dictates &ndash contrary to the the west which generally starts with it) &ndash of seaweed with tofu. Warm and comforting, full of calcium and righteousness.

Again, a fully Japanese menu. &ldquoOkomase sashimi, kudasai?&rdquo will get you a platter similar to what we had.

What: seafood or vegetables battered and deep fried

Where: 3-9-4 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo Map

Hours: Mon &ndash Sun 11.00 &ndash 23.30

Price: the below two set meals with an extra side = ¥1600 (appx. £9 / $29)

If you haven&rsquot already noticed, the Japanese quite like deep-frying things. Probably the most internationally recognised of this genre is tempura. If you want to &ndash particularly in the upmarket district of Ginza &ndash you can spend upwards of £150 a head for what is essentially a very simple concept (the best ones always are though, aren&rsquot they).

But don&rsquot let that simplicity fool you. Good tempura should start with quality ingredients destined for the plunge, have a light and crisp batter, and not be greasy &ndash I suspect it&rsquos more difficult than it sounds.

Tendon Tenya is a respectable and exedingly good value chain that manages to achieve this, and much-loved by locals. The menu is full of set meals (also available in English), with a choice of carbs to help bulk it out including rice and (hot or cold) udon, along with a range of extra toppings or additional sides, including a tasty little octopus and seaweed salad.

Filling the bellies of two big-eaters with good food for under a tenner in one of the poshest parts of town &ndash credit where it&rsquos due.

What: things that are skewered and grilled over coals &ndash aka yakitori (usually when it&rsquos chicken)

Where: 3-19-6, Shinbashi, Minato-ku, Tokyo (2 min walk from Shinbashi station) Map

Hours: Mon &ndash Fri 17:00 &ndash 23:00, Sat 17:00 &ndash 22:00, Closed Sundays

Price: the below plus some tea = ¥3000 (appx. £17 / $29)

If you&rsquore the sort of person that is quite into the bits of the animal so often cast aside as waste, this is the place for you. Even if you&rsquore not, I urge you to try it.

Mitsumasa is a casual but well turned out offering that heaves with uniformly black-suited salary man kicking back after a long day in the office, with row after row of meaty skewers straight from the coals &ndash and a beer, or four. The uncooked meat is displayed in the glass cabinet and is an ode to all things pig, for it is this animal they specialise in.

We had pig skin (yum), pig tongue (ok then), pig heart (aren&rsquot these going to be put into humans soon?), the less conquered parts of a chicken&rsquos anatomy including the gizzard (crunchy) and knuckle (as pleasant as I assume chewing through a baby&rsquos finger to be), chicken meatballs (phew), pickles with boiled pig intestine (go on then), and pig liver (strong, bitter, iron). I am generally pretty ok with tripe from sheep and cows and chickens, but when it comes to eating the organs of something else that eats meat, I wince a little.

But it&rsquos a firm favourite with the Japanese and if you truly want to embrace the cuisine in it&rsquos fullest form, I would give it a go.

What: Japan&rsquos national social lubricant &ndash a clear and alcoholic beverage made from fermented rice

Where: Tony Building, 2F, 6-4-15 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo Map

Hours: Mon &ndash Thu 18:00 &ndash 03:00, Fri 18:00 &ndash 03:30, Sat 18:00 &ndash 00:30, closed Sun and every third Sat

Price: three tastings and some nibbles = ¥1000 (appx. £6 / $10)

For those prepared to knock elbows on the hunt for some of the country&rsquos best sake, Kuri is a bar specialising in just that, with a weekly changing menu of over 150 varieties behind the counter.

The offering here is junmai meaning made solely with rice and water, without any additional distilled alcohol. They range from the freshest, just-pressed, unfiltered namazake (unpasteurised sake &ndash kept refrigerated) to aged bottles from all over the country. The patterns at the bottom of the cups are designed to induce coos over the clarity of the tipple.

Before I sampled these, I thought I didn&rsquot like sake. Turns out, I do like sake &ndash I in fact love it. Forget anything you&rsquove had outside Japan &ndash you won&rsquot have had access to true namazake as its lack of pasteurisation means it doesn&rsquot last long enough to reach overseas in a saleable condition. And let me tell you, it&rsquos a taste revelation.

Go for a flight of three tasters with some nibbles, perhaps opening with &lsquonani ga osusume des ka?&lsquo (what do you recommend?). If the response is the Japanese for &lsquowhat do you like?&rsquo, I&rsquom afraid you&rsquore on your own. But I&rsquom sure you&rsquoll be fine.


6) Japanese Breakfast

What: a combination of things you&rsquove probably not come across before

Restaurant: I have no idea of the name

Where: close to Yarakucho Station &ndash look out for railway arches Map

Hours: they seemed to start packing away the breakfast items around 10 &ndash 10.30

Price: natto, rice, miso, nori, egg and tea for two = ¥550 (appx. £3 / $5)

There is something to be said for a nation of people who can think of few better ways to start their day than with a stringy, stinking mess of natto &ndash fermented soya bean. Pick some up with your chopsticks and marvel at the mucus-like stretchiness, with sticky strings that float suspended in mid-air still attached to your utensils the need to bat them away after every mouthful can look like a violent tick to the uninitiated.

Into this, stir raw egg and chopped spring onions, mix with a bowl of rice, add some sheets of nori (seaweed), accompany with dried fish and life-affirming miso and you have the makings of a rather splendid breakfast.

There is no presence of this restaurant on the internet, and I usefully didn&rsquot take a picture of its front. We found it by asking the Tourist Information office behind Yarakucho Station where we could enjoy a traditional Japanese breakfast &ndash this would be a good place to start. What I can tell you is that it&rsquos small, and for the remainder of the day is a conveyor belt sushi restaurant.

The main point of this point is that you should experience a traditional Japanese breakfast in Tokyo, whether it&rsquos here or somewhere else.

(The other half is convinced he recalls its precise location, which is what&rsquos displayed on the map link above &ndash I do think he&rsquos pretty close if not spot on. Good luck.)

What: the most internationally recognised part of Japanese cuisine

Where: 7-6, Ginza 8-chome, Chuo-ku, Tokyo Map

Hours: Mon &ndash Sat 11:30 &ndash 14:00 / 17:00 &ndash 22:00, closed Sun and public holidays

Price: two omakase lunches with tea = ¥11,800 (appx. £68 / $115)

Yes, you can eat a sushi breakfast in Tsukiji Market at six in the morning, the real crowd-pullers being Sushi Dai and Daiwa Sushi. And arguably, it probably is some of the freshest in the world, considering the meat has travelled a matter of yards from wholesale (mere hours before) to chopstick.

But can that level of freshness really be so different from a quality sushi restaurant just a 15 minute walk away? The answer to that is of course, no. So forgo the three hour queues of tourists (no one wants too many of them first thing in the morning), and enjoy sushi at the countless number of other great restaurants in the area, nay, the city.

Kyubey is one of these. Round the corner from Tsukiji (almost), you can marvel at the deft manipulation of rice and the precise preparation of seafood by the itamae (chefs), from the counter seating.

And you want fresh? The legs of the prawns were moving and their mouths foaming little bubbles moments before their heads were ripped off and entrails removed before our very eyes. What theatre.

We grinned maniacally through the following (from top left): buttery salmon, spotted mackerel, squid with salt and a momentary touch of lime, velvety sea urchin (my first time &ndash I loved it), those prawns (crunchy), scallop, otoro (the fattiest part of tuna belly &ndash picture missing), bonito with fresh ginger and the tiniest scrape of raw garlic (look at that colour), cooked and coated unagi (eel), thin and crisp daikon and shiso (perilla leaf) sandwiches, sweet egg custard, vegetable maki, and miso.

&lsquoGo chi so sama&rsquo, indeed &ndash it was glorious nothing in this country has come close.

Recommended by Yukari.

What: Chinese-style wheat noodles served in a meat or fish based broth, often flavoured with soy or miso, topped with all manner of tasty treats

Where: Toshiba Build. B2, 5-2-1, Ginza (Shinbashi station&rsquos underground shopping centre) Map
Hours: Mon &ndash Fri 11:00 &ndash 23:00, Sat &ndash Sun and holidays 11:00 &ndash 22:00
Price: two bowls of ramen and some gyoza = ¥1990 (appx. £12 / $20)

Whilst the best we can hope for in the UK is a Boots meal deal where they still have Innocent on the shelf, or if we&rsquore lucky, a Pret, station-eating in Japan is nothing to be scoffed at it&rsquos synonymous with quality meals of excellent value.

The train stations in Tokyo have vast malls beneath, ready to breach the surface with the volume of shops and restaurants on offer (if ever in doubt in this city, head below ground or up some stairs and you&rsquore sure to stumble across something great) Naokyu is one of these. Established around 100 years ago (one of the oldest in Tokyo, they claim), it serves traditional ramen in pork and chicken broths in a typically casual noodle-joint environment.

The tantan-men (a dish originating from Sichuan cuisine) was hot and spicy, a gathering of ground pork cooked in miso with sesame and some greens. It did wonders at blasting away the cold I was suffering from. Koku-uma ramen, with slices of pork belly, bamboo shoots, thin noodles and seasoned with soy was also very good, but the tamago (egg) should have had a runny yolk.

Dining on noodles tends to be a quick-fix affair in Tokyo &ndash there are endless vending machine restaurants densely packed around station exits to &ndash very speedily and cheaply &ndash fill the bellies of salary-men (more often than not, inhaling their noodles whilst standing at a bar) on their way home. Naokyu is a good option to slow it down a bit &ndash take a seat and savour the meal.

Our bowls of bone-warming elixir were very well-received the cacophony of sucking and slurping from the fully Japanese clientèle around us hinted towards the same.

What: Tokyo has a lot of boulangeries and patisseries, and they&rsquore really good at them

Where: Tokia Building, 1F, 2-7-3 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo (near Tokyo station) Map
Hours: Mon &ndash Sun: Bakery 10:00 &ndash 21:00, Bar 10:00 &ndash 23:00, Brasserie Lunch 11:30 &ndash 14:00, Dinner 18:00 &ndash 23:30. Closed 1st Jan and holidays
Price: the below = ¥3510 (appx. £20 / $35)

The Japanese don&rsquot half love their bread. More often than not, it will be pristine white and highly processed, rather than the rustic, malty loaves dusted with oats and speckled with seeds we&rsquore so good at producing here.

But there are quite a few skilled bakeries turning out all sorts of French pastries, boules and brioche with an expert hand. Viron is one of these, with a glass cabinet creaking under it&rsquos own weight of stuffed rolls and sticks, pastries and patisseries able to add a kilo to muffin-tops through a hard stare alone. They import flour from France (where they also have a presence) to make Viron&rsquos signature baguette, of which they&rsquove won awards for.

We had an entirely brown but very good breakfast of coffee, two chocolate studded viennoise, a big pain au chocolate, a crunchy and sweet Kouing Aman (originally from Brittany &ndash crisp caramelised shell with soft buttery layers within), and a sundried tomato fougasse. Pass the fibre bar.

There&rsquos outdoor seating and a lot of space inside, and it doubles up as a brasserie open for lunch and dinner if you fancy adding a bit more colour to your plate. Located right next to Tokyo station, it&rsquos a prime spot for a morning pick-me-up before heading on the Shinkansen (bullet train).

Word of warning, coffee that isn&rsquot standard filter or drip (always served with a pot of cream) is something that is a little pricey in Japan &ndash a cappuccino and a latte came in at close to £8.

Recommended by Yukari.

10) Department Store Food Halls

What: the basement food halls of Tokyo&rsquos department stores have a global reputation for a reason

Where: 1-4-1 Nihonbashimuromachi, Chūō, Tokyo Map
Hours: Daily 10&ndash7, basements until 8
Price: varies considerably

This this branch of Tokyo&rsquos first depato (department store), also called hyakkaten (hundred-kinds-of-goods emporium), is the HQ of the international Mitsukoshi chain, and it&rsquos impressive.

Descend to the basement food hall and prepare to become disorientated by the scale, diversity and sheer sensory onslaught of nearly half an acre of the world&rsquos choicest comestibles. The space is filled with the noise from the drawn-out Japanese trader battle cries of &lsquoIRRASHAIMASEEEEE!&rsquo (welcome!) and there are free samples of absolutely everything. From German wursts and confectionary moulded into chrysanthemums, to white triangle sandwiches filled with whipped cream and sliced strawberries and £120 muskmelons &ndash if it can be consumed, you will find it here.

Grab some things to eat &ndash perhaps a bento box followed by a decadent dessert &ndash and enjoy up a few floors in the Mitsukoshi roof garden.


Dining observations I made in Tokyo

  • A lot of restaurants are smoking, but ventilation systems tend to be so good that it&rsquos easy not to notice. Many have designated no-smoking areas.
  • Your bill is often brought to the table with the food (or when you ask for it) and payment is usually made at the till they&rsquoll have near the entrance. It&rsquos rare the payment is made at the table.
  • When you do go to pay (both in restaurants or any shop), there will usually be a small tray at the cash desk. You are to put your payment (cash or card) on this tray, but the change will usually be given to you directly.
  • If you want to grab the attention of the waiter, use sumimasen (excuse me).
  • There is no tipping in Japan &ndash pay what&rsquos on the bill and nothing more.
  • You will usually be given an oshibori (moist towel &ndash often hot) once you&rsquore seated &ndash use this to wipe your hands and as a serviette for your meal &ndash a lot of restaurants seem to not have any on the table.
  • It&rsquos good etiquette to pour a drink for your companion and not yourself.
  • Never leave your chopsticks sticking out of a bowl of rice.
  • It is perfectly acceptable &ndash in fact encouraged &ndash to slurp your noodles very noisily &ndash it translates as you enjoying your food.
  • If you&rsquore cool, you eat sushi with your fingers. Turn it upside down and only dip the topping into the soy, not the rice. Sashimi is with chopsticks though.
  • People don&rsquot really eat while walking around in Japan &ndash so street-food isn&rsquot common. If you&rsquove purchased something on the go, it&rsquos more polite to remain stationary or find somewhere to perch until you&rsquove finished it.

&ldquoIf I had to eat one city&rsquos food for the rest of my life, every day, it would have to be Tokyo. And I think the majority of chefs you ask that question to would answer the same way&rdquo &ndash Anthony Bourdain.

Check out www.japan-experience.com for all your Japan travel related needs, from rail passes and car rental, to hotel booking and tours.

Spending most of my time either eating or travelling. Constantly in awe of nature and on a mission to seek the joy in every moment. Please feel free to leave a comment below, I love hearing from you all!


JAPAN | 10 things you must eat in Tokyo

I can&rsquot imagine there is any one single resource that lists all the places to get food in Tokyo. If it did, it would break the internet. And if it didn&rsquot break the internet, it would break the human resolve, because reading it would be like counting the population of China in that you would never reach the end. Perhaps this should be the modern-day definition of infinity &ndash the number of restaurants in Tokyo (incidentally, I have just Googled &lsquohow many restaurants are there in Tokyo?&rsquo and estimations say 80k compared to 15k in New York and 6k in London. So like I said, infinite).

Tokyo&rsquos topography is like a psychedelic 3D game of Tetris. It&rsquos a city made from a bazillion building blocks stacked on top of each other with that efficiency the Japanese are so good at. It rises up and out, as well as below (there are vast subterranean floors running beneath stations) to create a mind-boggling, multi-layered, three dimensional environment able to satisfy every want ever conceived.

Every door, every window, every protruding neon sign or hanging banner, every alleyway, every floor in every single building, the top and bottom (and middle) of every flight of stairs, every nondescript frontage, every unassuming flicker of light, every gap between two planks of wood &ndash is yet another dining establishment ready to serve. They range from standing-only holes-in-the-wall, thresholds marked by a simple curtain and able to accommodate no more than five pairs of feet, to yawning cafés for long languorous lunches. A lifetime might provide enough meals to eat your way across seven of its buildings.

In a city like this, deciding where to eat by throwing a chopstick into the air (don&rsquot actually do this &ndash very rude), heading half a kilometre in the direction its pointing towards when it lands, spinning round with your eyes closed five times, and eating wherever is closest to the point where your vision stops dancing, will more often than not land you a very good meal. After all, this is a country where the quality of the most ordinary food offering is often on a par with the part of London&rsquos dining scene we would call &lsquopretty decent&rsquo.

If you are reading this post, I can safely assume that you, intrepid explorer and/or fellow food-nut, are quite like me, in that you like to do a bit of pre-holiday eating research. You want the best food for the best price, you want to make sure you&rsquore not &lsquosettling&rsquo when there is a superstar restaurant around the corner, you want to indulge in the finest eating your finite time and budget can possibly allow, and this requires some forward planning &ndash I get that.

Mika from Tokyo Food Tour

But my advice to you is, when it comes to Tokyo, don&rsquot get bogged down in this. Because almost all of it is great. Even though the restaurant you ate at yesterday fed you &ldquothe best sushi you&rsquove ever had&rdquo, you can&rsquot possibly know if the place seven doors down is better because, when a country consistently churns out excellence, what&rsquos &ldquobetter&rdquo just becomes arbitrary. I mean, it&rsquos just all good &ndash you know?

But because you are (still) reading this, you probably are like me, and demand some level of guidance, a list to follow, pointers about where to even begin. It&rsquos understandable, so I&rsquove created a little something.

What&rsquos good about this list is firstly, it covers a respectable portion of Japan&rsquos vast cuisine. Secondly, it&rsquos not comprised by me alone &ndash who still knows next to nothing about Tokyo despite spending five days there &ndash but by people who do.

One main source is Mika Takaki from Tokyo Food Tour who showed us a few great places around Ginza one evening. She&rsquos a cook and caterer, lived and worked in San Francisco for a few years, and is able to personalise food tours to whatever it is you&rsquore interested in Mika doesn&rsquot come cheap, but does come highly recommended.

The other is Japanese chef, author, sommelier and shochu advisor Yukari Sakomoto. I came across a short interview in a travel magazine about her favourite spots in Tokyo and visited a few. I have then added a couple of cheap-and-cheerful entries I pre-holiday-researched myself when I was under the misguided impression that these would be lifesavers, as Tokyo was the most expensive city in the universe. Which I quickly realised after landing, is a massive misconception.

My final bit of advice when visiting Tokyo: surrender your senses to the onslaught of stimuli and just go with it, whatever &lsquoit&rsquo turns out to be for you.

10 Things to Eat in Tokyo

What: aka kushiage &ndash lightly breaded and fried skewers of &ndash well, anything

Where: 3-16-10 Shinbashi, Minato-ku, Tokyo Map
Hours: Mon &ndash Fri 11:30 &ndash 14:00 / 16:30 &ndash 23:30 Sat &ndash Sun 12:00 &ndash 23:30
Price: the below plus one large beer = ¥2100 (appx. £12 / $20)

Give a good kushikatsu chef an old leather belt and he could probably breadcrumb and fry it up into something you would want to put into your mouth.

Very fine crumbs are used in this coating, and the fry is quick and hot resulting in a crisp shell concealing briefly cooked ingredients beneath.

We worked our way through a mixture of meat and vegetable skewers: pickled ginger, lotus root, smelt fish, shrimp, mochi (glutinous rice balls), onion, small green peppers (like Padron peppers), and a second round of pickled ginger because it was deep pink and gorgeous. As well as a plate of pork tripe cooked in a sweet viscous miso sauce and furnished with spring onions &ndash why not.

The dipping sauce for the skewers is dark, sweet and shared &ndash you submerge them whole, before biting only. The sign above it roughly translates to &ldquodouble-dip and prepare to be skewered&rdquo. Rightly so.

The menu is fully Japanese so I would advise pointing at the glass counter at what you fancy, learning the words for ingredients you particularly enjoy, or using that very useful phrase &ndash &lsquonani ga osusume des ka?&lsquo (what do you recommend?).

What: thinly carved and spanking fresh raw meat (usually seafood)

Where: 2-19-7 Shinbashi, Minato-ku, Tokyo (1 min walk East of Shinbashi Station) Map

Hours: Only open in the evenings, 17.00 &ndash 11.30

Price: the below plus two glasses of sake = ¥3000 (appx. £17 / $29)

Uokin has a few outlets in Tokyo and we were informed by Mika that it&rsquos very much an izagaya (casual eatery) of-the-moment. Its specialities lie within seafood (hence the sign) and either has a bar at which to stand and eat at ground level, or you can go up a floor for table seating.

It&rsquos the first I&rsquove been on my feet whilst having my dinner in a restaurant (a common occurrence in Tokyo &ndash good for space-saving I suspect) and you know, I barely noticed. It was probably all that sake.

An okomase (chef&rsquos selection of the best seafood of that day) sashimi platter presented us with some glistening produce: tairagai (like a giant scallop) with an iridescent shell oysters with spring onions, daikon (Japanese radish) and a touch of chilli paste sawara (Spanish mackerel) tai (snapper) shime saba (cured mackerel) aji (horse mackerel) and maguro (tuna).

Before bar-hopping to the next place, we finished with a soup (as Japanese cuisine so often dictates &ndash contrary to the the west which generally starts with it) &ndash of seaweed with tofu. Warm and comforting, full of calcium and righteousness.

Again, a fully Japanese menu. &ldquoOkomase sashimi, kudasai?&rdquo will get you a platter similar to what we had.

What: seafood or vegetables battered and deep fried

Where: 3-9-4 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo Map

Hours: Mon &ndash Sun 11.00 &ndash 23.30

Price: the below two set meals with an extra side = ¥1600 (appx. £9 / $29)

If you haven&rsquot already noticed, the Japanese quite like deep-frying things. Probably the most internationally recognised of this genre is tempura. If you want to &ndash particularly in the upmarket district of Ginza &ndash you can spend upwards of £150 a head for what is essentially a very simple concept (the best ones always are though, aren&rsquot they).

But don&rsquot let that simplicity fool you. Good tempura should start with quality ingredients destined for the plunge, have a light and crisp batter, and not be greasy &ndash I suspect it&rsquos more difficult than it sounds.

Tendon Tenya is a respectable and exedingly good value chain that manages to achieve this, and much-loved by locals. The menu is full of set meals (also available in English), with a choice of carbs to help bulk it out including rice and (hot or cold) udon, along with a range of extra toppings or additional sides, including a tasty little octopus and seaweed salad.

Filling the bellies of two big-eaters with good food for under a tenner in one of the poshest parts of town &ndash credit where it&rsquos due.

What: things that are skewered and grilled over coals &ndash aka yakitori (usually when it&rsquos chicken)

Where: 3-19-6, Shinbashi, Minato-ku, Tokyo (2 min walk from Shinbashi station) Map

Hours: Mon &ndash Fri 17:00 &ndash 23:00, Sat 17:00 &ndash 22:00, Closed Sundays

Price: the below plus some tea = ¥3000 (appx. £17 / $29)

If you&rsquore the sort of person that is quite into the bits of the animal so often cast aside as waste, this is the place for you. Even if you&rsquore not, I urge you to try it.

Mitsumasa is a casual but well turned out offering that heaves with uniformly black-suited salary man kicking back after a long day in the office, with row after row of meaty skewers straight from the coals &ndash and a beer, or four. The uncooked meat is displayed in the glass cabinet and is an ode to all things pig, for it is this animal they specialise in.

We had pig skin (yum), pig tongue (ok then), pig heart (aren&rsquot these going to be put into humans soon?), the less conquered parts of a chicken&rsquos anatomy including the gizzard (crunchy) and knuckle (as pleasant as I assume chewing through a baby&rsquos finger to be), chicken meatballs (phew), pickles with boiled pig intestine (go on then), and pig liver (strong, bitter, iron). I am generally pretty ok with tripe from sheep and cows and chickens, but when it comes to eating the organs of something else that eats meat, I wince a little.

But it&rsquos a firm favourite with the Japanese and if you truly want to embrace the cuisine in it&rsquos fullest form, I would give it a go.

What: Japan&rsquos national social lubricant &ndash a clear and alcoholic beverage made from fermented rice

Where: Tony Building, 2F, 6-4-15 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo Map

Hours: Mon &ndash Thu 18:00 &ndash 03:00, Fri 18:00 &ndash 03:30, Sat 18:00 &ndash 00:30, closed Sun and every third Sat

Price: three tastings and some nibbles = ¥1000 (appx. £6 / $10)

For those prepared to knock elbows on the hunt for some of the country&rsquos best sake, Kuri is a bar specialising in just that, with a weekly changing menu of over 150 varieties behind the counter.

The offering here is junmai meaning made solely with rice and water, without any additional distilled alcohol. They range from the freshest, just-pressed, unfiltered namazake (unpasteurised sake &ndash kept refrigerated) to aged bottles from all over the country. The patterns at the bottom of the cups are designed to induce coos over the clarity of the tipple.

Before I sampled these, I thought I didn&rsquot like sake. Turns out, I do like sake &ndash I in fact love it. Forget anything you&rsquove had outside Japan &ndash you won&rsquot have had access to true namazake as its lack of pasteurisation means it doesn&rsquot last long enough to reach overseas in a saleable condition. And let me tell you, it&rsquos a taste revelation.

Go for a flight of three tasters with some nibbles, perhaps opening with &lsquonani ga osusume des ka?&lsquo (what do you recommend?). If the response is the Japanese for &lsquowhat do you like?&rsquo, I&rsquom afraid you&rsquore on your own. But I&rsquom sure you&rsquoll be fine.


6) Japanese Breakfast

What: a combination of things you&rsquove probably not come across before

Restaurant: I have no idea of the name

Where: close to Yarakucho Station &ndash look out for railway arches Map

Hours: they seemed to start packing away the breakfast items around 10 &ndash 10.30

Price: natto, rice, miso, nori, egg and tea for two = ¥550 (appx. £3 / $5)

There is something to be said for a nation of people who can think of few better ways to start their day than with a stringy, stinking mess of natto &ndash fermented soya bean. Pick some up with your chopsticks and marvel at the mucus-like stretchiness, with sticky strings that float suspended in mid-air still attached to your utensils the need to bat them away after every mouthful can look like a violent tick to the uninitiated.

Into this, stir raw egg and chopped spring onions, mix with a bowl of rice, add some sheets of nori (seaweed), accompany with dried fish and life-affirming miso and you have the makings of a rather splendid breakfast.

There is no presence of this restaurant on the internet, and I usefully didn&rsquot take a picture of its front. We found it by asking the Tourist Information office behind Yarakucho Station where we could enjoy a traditional Japanese breakfast &ndash this would be a good place to start. What I can tell you is that it&rsquos small, and for the remainder of the day is a conveyor belt sushi restaurant.

The main point of this point is that you should experience a traditional Japanese breakfast in Tokyo, whether it&rsquos here or somewhere else.

(The other half is convinced he recalls its precise location, which is what&rsquos displayed on the map link above &ndash I do think he&rsquos pretty close if not spot on. Good luck.)

What: the most internationally recognised part of Japanese cuisine

Where: 7-6, Ginza 8-chome, Chuo-ku, Tokyo Map

Hours: Mon &ndash Sat 11:30 &ndash 14:00 / 17:00 &ndash 22:00, closed Sun and public holidays

Price: two omakase lunches with tea = ¥11,800 (appx. £68 / $115)

Yes, you can eat a sushi breakfast in Tsukiji Market at six in the morning, the real crowd-pullers being Sushi Dai and Daiwa Sushi. And arguably, it probably is some of the freshest in the world, considering the meat has travelled a matter of yards from wholesale (mere hours before) to chopstick.

But can that level of freshness really be so different from a quality sushi restaurant just a 15 minute walk away? The answer to that is of course, no. So forgo the three hour queues of tourists (no one wants too many of them first thing in the morning), and enjoy sushi at the countless number of other great restaurants in the area, nay, the city.

Kyubey is one of these. Round the corner from Tsukiji (almost), you can marvel at the deft manipulation of rice and the precise preparation of seafood by the itamae (chefs), from the counter seating.

And you want fresh? The legs of the prawns were moving and their mouths foaming little bubbles moments before their heads were ripped off and entrails removed before our very eyes. What theatre.

We grinned maniacally through the following (from top left): buttery salmon, spotted mackerel, squid with salt and a momentary touch of lime, velvety sea urchin (my first time &ndash I loved it), those prawns (crunchy), scallop, otoro (the fattiest part of tuna belly &ndash picture missing), bonito with fresh ginger and the tiniest scrape of raw garlic (look at that colour), cooked and coated unagi (eel), thin and crisp daikon and shiso (perilla leaf) sandwiches, sweet egg custard, vegetable maki, and miso.

&lsquoGo chi so sama&rsquo, indeed &ndash it was glorious nothing in this country has come close.

Recommended by Yukari.

What: Chinese-style wheat noodles served in a meat or fish based broth, often flavoured with soy or miso, topped with all manner of tasty treats

Where: Toshiba Build. B2, 5-2-1, Ginza (Shinbashi station&rsquos underground shopping centre) Map
Hours: Mon &ndash Fri 11:00 &ndash 23:00, Sat &ndash Sun and holidays 11:00 &ndash 22:00
Price: two bowls of ramen and some gyoza = ¥1990 (appx. £12 / $20)

Whilst the best we can hope for in the UK is a Boots meal deal where they still have Innocent on the shelf, or if we&rsquore lucky, a Pret, station-eating in Japan is nothing to be scoffed at it&rsquos synonymous with quality meals of excellent value.

The train stations in Tokyo have vast malls beneath, ready to breach the surface with the volume of shops and restaurants on offer (if ever in doubt in this city, head below ground or up some stairs and you&rsquore sure to stumble across something great) Naokyu is one of these. Established around 100 years ago (one of the oldest in Tokyo, they claim), it serves traditional ramen in pork and chicken broths in a typically casual noodle-joint environment.

The tantan-men (a dish originating from Sichuan cuisine) was hot and spicy, a gathering of ground pork cooked in miso with sesame and some greens. It did wonders at blasting away the cold I was suffering from. Koku-uma ramen, with slices of pork belly, bamboo shoots, thin noodles and seasoned with soy was also very good, but the tamago (egg) should have had a runny yolk.

Dining on noodles tends to be a quick-fix affair in Tokyo &ndash there are endless vending machine restaurants densely packed around station exits to &ndash very speedily and cheaply &ndash fill the bellies of salary-men (more often than not, inhaling their noodles whilst standing at a bar) on their way home. Naokyu is a good option to slow it down a bit &ndash take a seat and savour the meal.

Our bowls of bone-warming elixir were very well-received the cacophony of sucking and slurping from the fully Japanese clientèle around us hinted towards the same.

What: Tokyo has a lot of boulangeries and patisseries, and they&rsquore really good at them

Where: Tokia Building, 1F, 2-7-3 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo (near Tokyo station) Map
Hours: Mon &ndash Sun: Bakery 10:00 &ndash 21:00, Bar 10:00 &ndash 23:00, Brasserie Lunch 11:30 &ndash 14:00, Dinner 18:00 &ndash 23:30. Closed 1st Jan and holidays
Price: the below = ¥3510 (appx. £20 / $35)

The Japanese don&rsquot half love their bread. More often than not, it will be pristine white and highly processed, rather than the rustic, malty loaves dusted with oats and speckled with seeds we&rsquore so good at producing here.

But there are quite a few skilled bakeries turning out all sorts of French pastries, boules and brioche with an expert hand. Viron is one of these, with a glass cabinet creaking under it&rsquos own weight of stuffed rolls and sticks, pastries and patisseries able to add a kilo to muffin-tops through a hard stare alone. They import flour from France (where they also have a presence) to make Viron&rsquos signature baguette, of which they&rsquove won awards for.

We had an entirely brown but very good breakfast of coffee, two chocolate studded viennoise, a big pain au chocolate, a crunchy and sweet Kouing Aman (originally from Brittany &ndash crisp caramelised shell with soft buttery layers within), and a sundried tomato fougasse. Pass the fibre bar.

There&rsquos outdoor seating and a lot of space inside, and it doubles up as a brasserie open for lunch and dinner if you fancy adding a bit more colour to your plate. Located right next to Tokyo station, it&rsquos a prime spot for a morning pick-me-up before heading on the Shinkansen (bullet train).

Word of warning, coffee that isn&rsquot standard filter or drip (always served with a pot of cream) is something that is a little pricey in Japan &ndash a cappuccino and a latte came in at close to £8.

Recommended by Yukari.

10) Department Store Food Halls

What: the basement food halls of Tokyo&rsquos department stores have a global reputation for a reason

Where: 1-4-1 Nihonbashimuromachi, Chūō, Tokyo Map
Hours: Daily 10&ndash7, basements until 8
Price: varies considerably

This this branch of Tokyo&rsquos first depato (department store), also called hyakkaten (hundred-kinds-of-goods emporium), is the HQ of the international Mitsukoshi chain, and it&rsquos impressive.

Descend to the basement food hall and prepare to become disorientated by the scale, diversity and sheer sensory onslaught of nearly half an acre of the world&rsquos choicest comestibles. The space is filled with the noise from the drawn-out Japanese trader battle cries of &lsquoIRRASHAIMASEEEEE!&rsquo (welcome!) and there are free samples of absolutely everything. From German wursts and confectionary moulded into chrysanthemums, to white triangle sandwiches filled with whipped cream and sliced strawberries and £120 muskmelons &ndash if it can be consumed, you will find it here.

Grab some things to eat &ndash perhaps a bento box followed by a decadent dessert &ndash and enjoy up a few floors in the Mitsukoshi roof garden.


Dining observations I made in Tokyo

  • A lot of restaurants are smoking, but ventilation systems tend to be so good that it&rsquos easy not to notice. Many have designated no-smoking areas.
  • Your bill is often brought to the table with the food (or when you ask for it) and payment is usually made at the till they&rsquoll have near the entrance. It&rsquos rare the payment is made at the table.
  • When you do go to pay (both in restaurants or any shop), there will usually be a small tray at the cash desk. You are to put your payment (cash or card) on this tray, but the change will usually be given to you directly.
  • If you want to grab the attention of the waiter, use sumimasen (excuse me).
  • There is no tipping in Japan &ndash pay what&rsquos on the bill and nothing more.
  • You will usually be given an oshibori (moist towel &ndash often hot) once you&rsquore seated &ndash use this to wipe your hands and as a serviette for your meal &ndash a lot of restaurants seem to not have any on the table.
  • It&rsquos good etiquette to pour a drink for your companion and not yourself.
  • Never leave your chopsticks sticking out of a bowl of rice.
  • It is perfectly acceptable &ndash in fact encouraged &ndash to slurp your noodles very noisily &ndash it translates as you enjoying your food.
  • If you&rsquore cool, you eat sushi with your fingers. Turn it upside down and only dip the topping into the soy, not the rice. Sashimi is with chopsticks though.
  • People don&rsquot really eat while walking around in Japan &ndash so street-food isn&rsquot common. If you&rsquove purchased something on the go, it&rsquos more polite to remain stationary or find somewhere to perch until you&rsquove finished it.

&ldquoIf I had to eat one city&rsquos food for the rest of my life, every day, it would have to be Tokyo. And I think the majority of chefs you ask that question to would answer the same way&rdquo &ndash Anthony Bourdain.

Check out www.japan-experience.com for all your Japan travel related needs, from rail passes and car rental, to hotel booking and tours.

Spending most of my time either eating or travelling. Constantly in awe of nature and on a mission to seek the joy in every moment. Please feel free to leave a comment below, I love hearing from you all!


JAPAN | 10 things you must eat in Tokyo

I can&rsquot imagine there is any one single resource that lists all the places to get food in Tokyo. If it did, it would break the internet. And if it didn&rsquot break the internet, it would break the human resolve, because reading it would be like counting the population of China in that you would never reach the end. Perhaps this should be the modern-day definition of infinity &ndash the number of restaurants in Tokyo (incidentally, I have just Googled &lsquohow many restaurants are there in Tokyo?&rsquo and estimations say 80k compared to 15k in New York and 6k in London. So like I said, infinite).

Tokyo&rsquos topography is like a psychedelic 3D game of Tetris. It&rsquos a city made from a bazillion building blocks stacked on top of each other with that efficiency the Japanese are so good at. It rises up and out, as well as below (there are vast subterranean floors running beneath stations) to create a mind-boggling, multi-layered, three dimensional environment able to satisfy every want ever conceived.

Every door, every window, every protruding neon sign or hanging banner, every alleyway, every floor in every single building, the top and bottom (and middle) of every flight of stairs, every nondescript frontage, every unassuming flicker of light, every gap between two planks of wood &ndash is yet another dining establishment ready to serve. They range from standing-only holes-in-the-wall, thresholds marked by a simple curtain and able to accommodate no more than five pairs of feet, to yawning cafés for long languorous lunches. A lifetime might provide enough meals to eat your way across seven of its buildings.

In a city like this, deciding where to eat by throwing a chopstick into the air (don&rsquot actually do this &ndash very rude), heading half a kilometre in the direction its pointing towards when it lands, spinning round with your eyes closed five times, and eating wherever is closest to the point where your vision stops dancing, will more often than not land you a very good meal. After all, this is a country where the quality of the most ordinary food offering is often on a par with the part of London&rsquos dining scene we would call &lsquopretty decent&rsquo.

If you are reading this post, I can safely assume that you, intrepid explorer and/or fellow food-nut, are quite like me, in that you like to do a bit of pre-holiday eating research. You want the best food for the best price, you want to make sure you&rsquore not &lsquosettling&rsquo when there is a superstar restaurant around the corner, you want to indulge in the finest eating your finite time and budget can possibly allow, and this requires some forward planning &ndash I get that.

Mika from Tokyo Food Tour

But my advice to you is, when it comes to Tokyo, don&rsquot get bogged down in this. Because almost all of it is great. Even though the restaurant you ate at yesterday fed you &ldquothe best sushi you&rsquove ever had&rdquo, you can&rsquot possibly know if the place seven doors down is better because, when a country consistently churns out excellence, what&rsquos &ldquobetter&rdquo just becomes arbitrary. I mean, it&rsquos just all good &ndash you know?

But because you are (still) reading this, you probably are like me, and demand some level of guidance, a list to follow, pointers about where to even begin. It&rsquos understandable, so I&rsquove created a little something.

What&rsquos good about this list is firstly, it covers a respectable portion of Japan&rsquos vast cuisine. Secondly, it&rsquos not comprised by me alone &ndash who still knows next to nothing about Tokyo despite spending five days there &ndash but by people who do.

One main source is Mika Takaki from Tokyo Food Tour who showed us a few great places around Ginza one evening. She&rsquos a cook and caterer, lived and worked in San Francisco for a few years, and is able to personalise food tours to whatever it is you&rsquore interested in Mika doesn&rsquot come cheap, but does come highly recommended.

The other is Japanese chef, author, sommelier and shochu advisor Yukari Sakomoto. I came across a short interview in a travel magazine about her favourite spots in Tokyo and visited a few. I have then added a couple of cheap-and-cheerful entries I pre-holiday-researched myself when I was under the misguided impression that these would be lifesavers, as Tokyo was the most expensive city in the universe. Which I quickly realised after landing, is a massive misconception.

My final bit of advice when visiting Tokyo: surrender your senses to the onslaught of stimuli and just go with it, whatever &lsquoit&rsquo turns out to be for you.

10 Things to Eat in Tokyo

What: aka kushiage &ndash lightly breaded and fried skewers of &ndash well, anything

Where: 3-16-10 Shinbashi, Minato-ku, Tokyo Map
Hours: Mon &ndash Fri 11:30 &ndash 14:00 / 16:30 &ndash 23:30 Sat &ndash Sun 12:00 &ndash 23:30
Price: the below plus one large beer = ¥2100 (appx. £12 / $20)

Give a good kushikatsu chef an old leather belt and he could probably breadcrumb and fry it up into something you would want to put into your mouth.

Very fine crumbs are used in this coating, and the fry is quick and hot resulting in a crisp shell concealing briefly cooked ingredients beneath.

We worked our way through a mixture of meat and vegetable skewers: pickled ginger, lotus root, smelt fish, shrimp, mochi (glutinous rice balls), onion, small green peppers (like Padron peppers), and a second round of pickled ginger because it was deep pink and gorgeous. As well as a plate of pork tripe cooked in a sweet viscous miso sauce and furnished with spring onions &ndash why not.

The dipping sauce for the skewers is dark, sweet and shared &ndash you submerge them whole, before biting only. The sign above it roughly translates to &ldquodouble-dip and prepare to be skewered&rdquo. Rightly so.

The menu is fully Japanese so I would advise pointing at the glass counter at what you fancy, learning the words for ingredients you particularly enjoy, or using that very useful phrase &ndash &lsquonani ga osusume des ka?&lsquo (what do you recommend?).

What: thinly carved and spanking fresh raw meat (usually seafood)

Where: 2-19-7 Shinbashi, Minato-ku, Tokyo (1 min walk East of Shinbashi Station) Map

Hours: Only open in the evenings, 17.00 &ndash 11.30

Price: the below plus two glasses of sake = ¥3000 (appx. £17 / $29)

Uokin has a few outlets in Tokyo and we were informed by Mika that it&rsquos very much an izagaya (casual eatery) of-the-moment. Its specialities lie within seafood (hence the sign) and either has a bar at which to stand and eat at ground level, or you can go up a floor for table seating.

It&rsquos the first I&rsquove been on my feet whilst having my dinner in a restaurant (a common occurrence in Tokyo &ndash good for space-saving I suspect) and you know, I barely noticed. It was probably all that sake.

An okomase (chef&rsquos selection of the best seafood of that day) sashimi platter presented us with some glistening produce: tairagai (like a giant scallop) with an iridescent shell oysters with spring onions, daikon (Japanese radish) and a touch of chilli paste sawara (Spanish mackerel) tai (snapper) shime saba (cured mackerel) aji (horse mackerel) and maguro (tuna).

Before bar-hopping to the next place, we finished with a soup (as Japanese cuisine so often dictates &ndash contrary to the the west which generally starts with it) &ndash of seaweed with tofu. Warm and comforting, full of calcium and righteousness.

Again, a fully Japanese menu. &ldquoOkomase sashimi, kudasai?&rdquo will get you a platter similar to what we had.

What: seafood or vegetables battered and deep fried

Where: 3-9-4 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo Map

Hours: Mon &ndash Sun 11.00 &ndash 23.30

Price: the below two set meals with an extra side = ¥1600 (appx. £9 / $29)

If you haven&rsquot already noticed, the Japanese quite like deep-frying things. Probably the most internationally recognised of this genre is tempura. If you want to &ndash particularly in the upmarket district of Ginza &ndash you can spend upwards of £150 a head for what is essentially a very simple concept (the best ones always are though, aren&rsquot they).

But don&rsquot let that simplicity fool you. Good tempura should start with quality ingredients destined for the plunge, have a light and crisp batter, and not be greasy &ndash I suspect it&rsquos more difficult than it sounds.

Tendon Tenya is a respectable and exedingly good value chain that manages to achieve this, and much-loved by locals. The menu is full of set meals (also available in English), with a choice of carbs to help bulk it out including rice and (hot or cold) udon, along with a range of extra toppings or additional sides, including a tasty little octopus and seaweed salad.

Filling the bellies of two big-eaters with good food for under a tenner in one of the poshest parts of town &ndash credit where it&rsquos due.

What: things that are skewered and grilled over coals &ndash aka yakitori (usually when it&rsquos chicken)

Where: 3-19-6, Shinbashi, Minato-ku, Tokyo (2 min walk from Shinbashi station) Map

Hours: Mon &ndash Fri 17:00 &ndash 23:00, Sat 17:00 &ndash 22:00, Closed Sundays

Price: the below plus some tea = ¥3000 (appx. £17 / $29)

If you&rsquore the sort of person that is quite into the bits of the animal so often cast aside as waste, this is the place for you. Even if you&rsquore not, I urge you to try it.

Mitsumasa is a casual but well turned out offering that heaves with uniformly black-suited salary man kicking back after a long day in the office, with row after row of meaty skewers straight from the coals &ndash and a beer, or four. The uncooked meat is displayed in the glass cabinet and is an ode to all things pig, for it is this animal they specialise in.

We had pig skin (yum), pig tongue (ok then), pig heart (aren&rsquot these going to be put into humans soon?), the less conquered parts of a chicken&rsquos anatomy including the gizzard (crunchy) and knuckle (as pleasant as I assume chewing through a baby&rsquos finger to be), chicken meatballs (phew), pickles with boiled pig intestine (go on then), and pig liver (strong, bitter, iron). I am generally pretty ok with tripe from sheep and cows and chickens, but when it comes to eating the organs of something else that eats meat, I wince a little.

But it&rsquos a firm favourite with the Japanese and if you truly want to embrace the cuisine in it&rsquos fullest form, I would give it a go.

What: Japan&rsquos national social lubricant &ndash a clear and alcoholic beverage made from fermented rice

Where: Tony Building, 2F, 6-4-15 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo Map

Hours: Mon &ndash Thu 18:00 &ndash 03:00, Fri 18:00 &ndash 03:30, Sat 18:00 &ndash 00:30, closed Sun and every third Sat

Price: three tastings and some nibbles = ¥1000 (appx. £6 / $10)

For those prepared to knock elbows on the hunt for some of the country&rsquos best sake, Kuri is a bar specialising in just that, with a weekly changing menu of over 150 varieties behind the counter.

The offering here is junmai meaning made solely with rice and water, without any additional distilled alcohol. They range from the freshest, just-pressed, unfiltered namazake (unpasteurised sake &ndash kept refrigerated) to aged bottles from all over the country. The patterns at the bottom of the cups are designed to induce coos over the clarity of the tipple.

Before I sampled these, I thought I didn&rsquot like sake. Turns out, I do like sake &ndash I in fact love it. Forget anything you&rsquove had outside Japan &ndash you won&rsquot have had access to true namazake as its lack of pasteurisation means it doesn&rsquot last long enough to reach overseas in a saleable condition. And let me tell you, it&rsquos a taste revelation.

Go for a flight of three tasters with some nibbles, perhaps opening with &lsquonani ga osusume des ka?&lsquo (what do you recommend?). If the response is the Japanese for &lsquowhat do you like?&rsquo, I&rsquom afraid you&rsquore on your own. But I&rsquom sure you&rsquoll be fine.


6) Japanese Breakfast

What: a combination of things you&rsquove probably not come across before

Restaurant: I have no idea of the name

Where: close to Yarakucho Station &ndash look out for railway arches Map

Hours: they seemed to start packing away the breakfast items around 10 &ndash 10.30

Price: natto, rice, miso, nori, egg and tea for two = ¥550 (appx. £3 / $5)

There is something to be said for a nation of people who can think of few better ways to start their day than with a stringy, stinking mess of natto &ndash fermented soya bean. Pick some up with your chopsticks and marvel at the mucus-like stretchiness, with sticky strings that float suspended in mid-air still attached to your utensils the need to bat them away after every mouthful can look like a violent tick to the uninitiated.

Into this, stir raw egg and chopped spring onions, mix with a bowl of rice, add some sheets of nori (seaweed), accompany with dried fish and life-affirming miso and you have the makings of a rather splendid breakfast.

There is no presence of this restaurant on the internet, and I usefully didn&rsquot take a picture of its front. We found it by asking the Tourist Information office behind Yarakucho Station where we could enjoy a traditional Japanese breakfast &ndash this would be a good place to start. What I can tell you is that it&rsquos small, and for the remainder of the day is a conveyor belt sushi restaurant.

The main point of this point is that you should experience a traditional Japanese breakfast in Tokyo, whether it&rsquos here or somewhere else.

(The other half is convinced he recalls its precise location, which is what&rsquos displayed on the map link above &ndash I do think he&rsquos pretty close if not spot on. Good luck.)

What: the most internationally recognised part of Japanese cuisine

Where: 7-6, Ginza 8-chome, Chuo-ku, Tokyo Map

Hours: Mon &ndash Sat 11:30 &ndash 14:00 / 17:00 &ndash 22:00, closed Sun and public holidays

Price: two omakase lunches with tea = ¥11,800 (appx. £68 / $115)

Yes, you can eat a sushi breakfast in Tsukiji Market at six in the morning, the real crowd-pullers being Sushi Dai and Daiwa Sushi. And arguably, it probably is some of the freshest in the world, considering the meat has travelled a matter of yards from wholesale (mere hours before) to chopstick.

But can that level of freshness really be so different from a quality sushi restaurant just a 15 minute walk away? The answer to that is of course, no. So forgo the three hour queues of tourists (no one wants too many of them first thing in the morning), and enjoy sushi at the countless number of other great restaurants in the area, nay, the city.

Kyubey is one of these. Round the corner from Tsukiji (almost), you can marvel at the deft manipulation of rice and the precise preparation of seafood by the itamae (chefs), from the counter seating.

And you want fresh? The legs of the prawns were moving and their mouths foaming little bubbles moments before their heads were ripped off and entrails removed before our very eyes. What theatre.

We grinned maniacally through the following (from top left): buttery salmon, spotted mackerel, squid with salt and a momentary touch of lime, velvety sea urchin (my first time &ndash I loved it), those prawns (crunchy), scallop, otoro (the fattiest part of tuna belly &ndash picture missing), bonito with fresh ginger and the tiniest scrape of raw garlic (look at that colour), cooked and coated unagi (eel), thin and crisp daikon and shiso (perilla leaf) sandwiches, sweet egg custard, vegetable maki, and miso.

&lsquoGo chi so sama&rsquo, indeed &ndash it was glorious nothing in this country has come close.

Recommended by Yukari.

What: Chinese-style wheat noodles served in a meat or fish based broth, often flavoured with soy or miso, topped with all manner of tasty treats

Where: Toshiba Build. B2, 5-2-1, Ginza (Shinbashi station&rsquos underground shopping centre) Map
Hours: Mon &ndash Fri 11:00 &ndash 23:00, Sat &ndash Sun and holidays 11:00 &ndash 22:00
Price: two bowls of ramen and some gyoza = ¥1990 (appx. £12 / $20)

Whilst the best we can hope for in the UK is a Boots meal deal where they still have Innocent on the shelf, or if we&rsquore lucky, a Pret, station-eating in Japan is nothing to be scoffed at it&rsquos synonymous with quality meals of excellent value.

The train stations in Tokyo have vast malls beneath, ready to breach the surface with the volume of shops and restaurants on offer (if ever in doubt in this city, head below ground or up some stairs and you&rsquore sure to stumble across something great) Naokyu is one of these. Established around 100 years ago (one of the oldest in Tokyo, they claim), it serves traditional ramen in pork and chicken broths in a typically casual noodle-joint environment.

The tantan-men (a dish originating from Sichuan cuisine) was hot and spicy, a gathering of ground pork cooked in miso with sesame and some greens. It did wonders at blasting away the cold I was suffering from. Koku-uma ramen, with slices of pork belly, bamboo shoots, thin noodles and seasoned with soy was also very good, but the tamago (egg) should have had a runny yolk.

Dining on noodles tends to be a quick-fix affair in Tokyo &ndash there are endless vending machine restaurants densely packed around station exits to &ndash very speedily and cheaply &ndash fill the bellies of salary-men (more often than not, inhaling their noodles whilst standing at a bar) on their way home. Naokyu is a good option to slow it down a bit &ndash take a seat and savour the meal.

Our bowls of bone-warming elixir were very well-received the cacophony of sucking and slurping from the fully Japanese clientèle around us hinted towards the same.

What: Tokyo has a lot of boulangeries and patisseries, and they&rsquore really good at them

Where: Tokia Building, 1F, 2-7-3 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo (near Tokyo station) Map
Hours: Mon &ndash Sun: Bakery 10:00 &ndash 21:00, Bar 10:00 &ndash 23:00, Brasserie Lunch 11:30 &ndash 14:00, Dinner 18:00 &ndash 23:30. Closed 1st Jan and holidays
Price: the below = ¥3510 (appx. £20 / $35)

The Japanese don&rsquot half love their bread. More often than not, it will be pristine white and highly processed, rather than the rustic, malty loaves dusted with oats and speckled with seeds we&rsquore so good at producing here.

But there are quite a few skilled bakeries turning out all sorts of French pastries, boules and brioche with an expert hand. Viron is one of these, with a glass cabinet creaking under it&rsquos own weight of stuffed rolls and sticks, pastries and patisseries able to add a kilo to muffin-tops through a hard stare alone. They import flour from France (where they also have a presence) to make Viron&rsquos signature baguette, of which they&rsquove won awards for.

We had an entirely brown but very good breakfast of coffee, two chocolate studded viennoise, a big pain au chocolate, a crunchy and sweet Kouing Aman (originally from Brittany &ndash crisp caramelised shell with soft buttery layers within), and a sundried tomato fougasse. Pass the fibre bar.

There&rsquos outdoor seating and a lot of space inside, and it doubles up as a brasserie open for lunch and dinner if you fancy adding a bit more colour to your plate. Located right next to Tokyo station, it&rsquos a prime spot for a morning pick-me-up before heading on the Shinkansen (bullet train).

Word of warning, coffee that isn&rsquot standard filter or drip (always served with a pot of cream) is something that is a little pricey in Japan &ndash a cappuccino and a latte came in at close to £8.

Recommended by Yukari.

10) Department Store Food Halls

What: the basement food halls of Tokyo&rsquos department stores have a global reputation for a reason

Where: 1-4-1 Nihonbashimuromachi, Chūō, Tokyo Map
Hours: Daily 10&ndash7, basements until 8
Price: varies considerably

This this branch of Tokyo&rsquos first depato (department store), also called hyakkaten (hundred-kinds-of-goods emporium), is the HQ of the international Mitsukoshi chain, and it&rsquos impressive.

Descend to the basement food hall and prepare to become disorientated by the scale, diversity and sheer sensory onslaught of nearly half an acre of the world&rsquos choicest comestibles. The space is filled with the noise from the drawn-out Japanese trader battle cries of &lsquoIRRASHAIMASEEEEE!&rsquo (welcome!) and there are free samples of absolutely everything. From German wursts and confectionary moulded into chrysanthemums, to white triangle sandwiches filled with whipped cream and sliced strawberries and £120 muskmelons &ndash if it can be consumed, you will find it here.

Grab some things to eat &ndash perhaps a bento box followed by a decadent dessert &ndash and enjoy up a few floors in the Mitsukoshi roof garden.


Dining observations I made in Tokyo

  • A lot of restaurants are smoking, but ventilation systems tend to be so good that it&rsquos easy not to notice. Many have designated no-smoking areas.
  • Your bill is often brought to the table with the food (or when you ask for it) and payment is usually made at the till they&rsquoll have near the entrance. It&rsquos rare the payment is made at the table.
  • When you do go to pay (both in restaurants or any shop), there will usually be a small tray at the cash desk. You are to put your payment (cash or card) on this tray, but the change will usually be given to you directly.
  • If you want to grab the attention of the waiter, use sumimasen (excuse me).
  • There is no tipping in Japan &ndash pay what&rsquos on the bill and nothing more.
  • You will usually be given an oshibori (moist towel &ndash often hot) once you&rsquore seated &ndash use this to wipe your hands and as a serviette for your meal &ndash a lot of restaurants seem to not have any on the table.
  • It&rsquos good etiquette to pour a drink for your companion and not yourself.
  • Never leave your chopsticks sticking out of a bowl of rice.
  • It is perfectly acceptable &ndash in fact encouraged &ndash to slurp your noodles very noisily &ndash it translates as you enjoying your food.
  • If you&rsquore cool, you eat sushi with your fingers. Turn it upside down and only dip the topping into the soy, not the rice. Sashimi is with chopsticks though.
  • People don&rsquot really eat while walking around in Japan &ndash so street-food isn&rsquot common. If you&rsquove purchased something on the go, it&rsquos more polite to remain stationary or find somewhere to perch until you&rsquove finished it.

&ldquoIf I had to eat one city&rsquos food for the rest of my life, every day, it would have to be Tokyo. And I think the majority of chefs you ask that question to would answer the same way&rdquo &ndash Anthony Bourdain.

Check out www.japan-experience.com for all your Japan travel related needs, from rail passes and car rental, to hotel booking and tours.

Spending most of my time either eating or travelling. Constantly in awe of nature and on a mission to seek the joy in every moment. Please feel free to leave a comment below, I love hearing from you all!


JAPAN | 10 things you must eat in Tokyo

I can&rsquot imagine there is any one single resource that lists all the places to get food in Tokyo. If it did, it would break the internet. And if it didn&rsquot break the internet, it would break the human resolve, because reading it would be like counting the population of China in that you would never reach the end. Perhaps this should be the modern-day definition of infinity &ndash the number of restaurants in Tokyo (incidentally, I have just Googled &lsquohow many restaurants are there in Tokyo?&rsquo and estimations say 80k compared to 15k in New York and 6k in London. So like I said, infinite).

Tokyo&rsquos topography is like a psychedelic 3D game of Tetris. It&rsquos a city made from a bazillion building blocks stacked on top of each other with that efficiency the Japanese are so good at. It rises up and out, as well as below (there are vast subterranean floors running beneath stations) to create a mind-boggling, multi-layered, three dimensional environment able to satisfy every want ever conceived.

Every door, every window, every protruding neon sign or hanging banner, every alleyway, every floor in every single building, the top and bottom (and middle) of every flight of stairs, every nondescript frontage, every unassuming flicker of light, every gap between two planks of wood &ndash is yet another dining establishment ready to serve. They range from standing-only holes-in-the-wall, thresholds marked by a simple curtain and able to accommodate no more than five pairs of feet, to yawning cafés for long languorous lunches. A lifetime might provide enough meals to eat your way across seven of its buildings.

In a city like this, deciding where to eat by throwing a chopstick into the air (don&rsquot actually do this &ndash very rude), heading half a kilometre in the direction its pointing towards when it lands, spinning round with your eyes closed five times, and eating wherever is closest to the point where your vision stops dancing, will more often than not land you a very good meal. After all, this is a country where the quality of the most ordinary food offering is often on a par with the part of London&rsquos dining scene we would call &lsquopretty decent&rsquo.

If you are reading this post, I can safely assume that you, intrepid explorer and/or fellow food-nut, are quite like me, in that you like to do a bit of pre-holiday eating research. You want the best food for the best price, you want to make sure you&rsquore not &lsquosettling&rsquo when there is a superstar restaurant around the corner, you want to indulge in the finest eating your finite time and budget can possibly allow, and this requires some forward planning &ndash I get that.

Mika from Tokyo Food Tour

But my advice to you is, when it comes to Tokyo, don&rsquot get bogged down in this. Because almost all of it is great. Even though the restaurant you ate at yesterday fed you &ldquothe best sushi you&rsquove ever had&rdquo, you can&rsquot possibly know if the place seven doors down is better because, when a country consistently churns out excellence, what&rsquos &ldquobetter&rdquo just becomes arbitrary. I mean, it&rsquos just all good &ndash you know?

But because you are (still) reading this, you probably are like me, and demand some level of guidance, a list to follow, pointers about where to even begin. It&rsquos understandable, so I&rsquove created a little something.

What&rsquos good about this list is firstly, it covers a respectable portion of Japan&rsquos vast cuisine. Secondly, it&rsquos not comprised by me alone &ndash who still knows next to nothing about Tokyo despite spending five days there &ndash but by people who do.

One main source is Mika Takaki from Tokyo Food Tour who showed us a few great places around Ginza one evening. She&rsquos a cook and caterer, lived and worked in San Francisco for a few years, and is able to personalise food tours to whatever it is you&rsquore interested in Mika doesn&rsquot come cheap, but does come highly recommended.

The other is Japanese chef, author, sommelier and shochu advisor Yukari Sakomoto. I came across a short interview in a travel magazine about her favourite spots in Tokyo and visited a few. I have then added a couple of cheap-and-cheerful entries I pre-holiday-researched myself when I was under the misguided impression that these would be lifesavers, as Tokyo was the most expensive city in the universe. Which I quickly realised after landing, is a massive misconception.

My final bit of advice when visiting Tokyo: surrender your senses to the onslaught of stimuli and just go with it, whatever &lsquoit&rsquo turns out to be for you.

10 Things to Eat in Tokyo

What: aka kushiage &ndash lightly breaded and fried skewers of &ndash well, anything

Where: 3-16-10 Shinbashi, Minato-ku, Tokyo Map
Hours: Mon &ndash Fri 11:30 &ndash 14:00 / 16:30 &ndash 23:30 Sat &ndash Sun 12:00 &ndash 23:30
Price: the below plus one large beer = ¥2100 (appx. £12 / $20)

Give a good kushikatsu chef an old leather belt and he could probably breadcrumb and fry it up into something you would want to put into your mouth.

Very fine crumbs are used in this coating, and the fry is quick and hot resulting in a crisp shell concealing briefly cooked ingredients beneath.

We worked our way through a mixture of meat and vegetable skewers: pickled ginger, lotus root, smelt fish, shrimp, mochi (glutinous rice balls), onion, small green peppers (like Padron peppers), and a second round of pickled ginger because it was deep pink and gorgeous. As well as a plate of pork tripe cooked in a sweet viscous miso sauce and furnished with spring onions &ndash why not.

The dipping sauce for the skewers is dark, sweet and shared &ndash you submerge them whole, before biting only. The sign above it roughly translates to &ldquodouble-dip and prepare to be skewered&rdquo. Rightly so.

The menu is fully Japanese so I would advise pointing at the glass counter at what you fancy, learning the words for ingredients you particularly enjoy, or using that very useful phrase &ndash &lsquonani ga osusume des ka?&lsquo (what do you recommend?).

What: thinly carved and spanking fresh raw meat (usually seafood)

Where: 2-19-7 Shinbashi, Minato-ku, Tokyo (1 min walk East of Shinbashi Station) Map

Hours: Only open in the evenings, 17.00 &ndash 11.30

Price: the below plus two glasses of sake = ¥3000 (appx. £17 / $29)

Uokin has a few outlets in Tokyo and we were informed by Mika that it&rsquos very much an izagaya (casual eatery) of-the-moment. Its specialities lie within seafood (hence the sign) and either has a bar at which to stand and eat at ground level, or you can go up a floor for table seating.

It&rsquos the first I&rsquove been on my feet whilst having my dinner in a restaurant (a common occurrence in Tokyo &ndash good for space-saving I suspect) and you know, I barely noticed. It was probably all that sake.

An okomase (chef&rsquos selection of the best seafood of that day) sashimi platter presented us with some glistening produce: tairagai (like a giant scallop) with an iridescent shell oysters with spring onions, daikon (Japanese radish) and a touch of chilli paste sawara (Spanish mackerel) tai (snapper) shime saba (cured mackerel) aji (horse mackerel) and maguro (tuna).

Before bar-hopping to the next place, we finished with a soup (as Japanese cuisine so often dictates &ndash contrary to the the west which generally starts with it) &ndash of seaweed with tofu. Warm and comforting, full of calcium and righteousness.

Again, a fully Japanese menu. &ldquoOkomase sashimi, kudasai?&rdquo will get you a platter similar to what we had.

What: seafood or vegetables battered and deep fried

Where: 3-9-4 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo Map

Hours: Mon &ndash Sun 11.00 &ndash 23.30

Price: the below two set meals with an extra side = ¥1600 (appx. £9 / $29)

If you haven&rsquot already noticed, the Japanese quite like deep-frying things. Probably the most internationally recognised of this genre is tempura. If you want to &ndash particularly in the upmarket district of Ginza &ndash you can spend upwards of £150 a head for what is essentially a very simple concept (the best ones always are though, aren&rsquot they).

But don&rsquot let that simplicity fool you. Good tempura should start with quality ingredients destined for the plunge, have a light and crisp batter, and not be greasy &ndash I suspect it&rsquos more difficult than it sounds.

Tendon Tenya is a respectable and exedingly good value chain that manages to achieve this, and much-loved by locals. The menu is full of set meals (also available in English), with a choice of carbs to help bulk it out including rice and (hot or cold) udon, along with a range of extra toppings or additional sides, including a tasty little octopus and seaweed salad.

Filling the bellies of two big-eaters with good food for under a tenner in one of the poshest parts of town &ndash credit where it&rsquos due.

What: things that are skewered and grilled over coals &ndash aka yakitori (usually when it&rsquos chicken)

Where: 3-19-6, Shinbashi, Minato-ku, Tokyo (2 min walk from Shinbashi station) Map

Hours: Mon &ndash Fri 17:00 &ndash 23:00, Sat 17:00 &ndash 22:00, Closed Sundays

Price: the below plus some tea = ¥3000 (appx. £17 / $29)

If you&rsquore the sort of person that is quite into the bits of the animal so often cast aside as waste, this is the place for you. Even if you&rsquore not, I urge you to try it.

Mitsumasa is a casual but well turned out offering that heaves with uniformly black-suited salary man kicking back after a long day in the office, with row after row of meaty skewers straight from the coals &ndash and a beer, or four. The uncooked meat is displayed in the glass cabinet and is an ode to all things pig, for it is this animal they specialise in.

We had pig skin (yum), pig tongue (ok then), pig heart (aren&rsquot these going to be put into humans soon?), the less conquered parts of a chicken&rsquos anatomy including the gizzard (crunchy) and knuckle (as pleasant as I assume chewing through a baby&rsquos finger to be), chicken meatballs (phew), pickles with boiled pig intestine (go on then), and pig liver (strong, bitter, iron). I am generally pretty ok with tripe from sheep and cows and chickens, but when it comes to eating the organs of something else that eats meat, I wince a little.

But it&rsquos a firm favourite with the Japanese and if you truly want to embrace the cuisine in it&rsquos fullest form, I would give it a go.

What: Japan&rsquos national social lubricant &ndash a clear and alcoholic beverage made from fermented rice

Where: Tony Building, 2F, 6-4-15 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo Map

Hours: Mon &ndash Thu 18:00 &ndash 03:00, Fri 18:00 &ndash 03:30, Sat 18:00 &ndash 00:30, closed Sun and every third Sat

Price: three tastings and some nibbles = ¥1000 (appx. £6 / $10)

For those prepared to knock elbows on the hunt for some of the country&rsquos best sake, Kuri is a bar specialising in just that, with a weekly changing menu of over 150 varieties behind the counter.

The offering here is junmai meaning made solely with rice and water, without any additional distilled alcohol. They range from the freshest, just-pressed, unfiltered namazake (unpasteurised sake &ndash kept refrigerated) to aged bottles from all over the country. The patterns at the bottom of the cups are designed to induce coos over the clarity of the tipple.

Before I sampled these, I thought I didn&rsquot like sake. Turns out, I do like sake &ndash I in fact love it. Forget anything you&rsquove had outside Japan &ndash you won&rsquot have had access to true namazake as its lack of pasteurisation means it doesn&rsquot last long enough to reach overseas in a saleable condition. And let me tell you, it&rsquos a taste revelation.

Go for a flight of three tasters with some nibbles, perhaps opening with &lsquonani ga osusume des ka?&lsquo (what do you recommend?). If the response is the Japanese for &lsquowhat do you like?&rsquo, I&rsquom afraid you&rsquore on your own. But I&rsquom sure you&rsquoll be fine.


6) Japanese Breakfast

What: a combination of things you&rsquove probably not come across before

Restaurant: I have no idea of the name

Where: close to Yarakucho Station &ndash look out for railway arches Map

Hours: they seemed to start packing away the breakfast items around 10 &ndash 10.30

Price: natto, rice, miso, nori, egg and tea for two = ¥550 (appx. £3 / $5)

There is something to be said for a nation of people who can think of few better ways to start their day than with a stringy, stinking mess of natto &ndash fermented soya bean. Pick some up with your chopsticks and marvel at the mucus-like stretchiness, with sticky strings that float suspended in mid-air still attached to your utensils the need to bat them away after every mouthful can look like a violent tick to the uninitiated.

Into this, stir raw egg and chopped spring onions, mix with a bowl of rice, add some sheets of nori (seaweed), accompany with dried fish and life-affirming miso and you have the makings of a rather splendid breakfast.

There is no presence of this restaurant on the internet, and I usefully didn&rsquot take a picture of its front. We found it by asking the Tourist Information office behind Yarakucho Station where we could enjoy a traditional Japanese breakfast &ndash this would be a good place to start. What I can tell you is that it&rsquos small, and for the remainder of the day is a conveyor belt sushi restaurant.

The main point of this point is that you should experience a traditional Japanese breakfast in Tokyo, whether it&rsquos here or somewhere else.

(The other half is convinced he recalls its precise location, which is what&rsquos displayed on the map link above &ndash I do think he&rsquos pretty close if not spot on. Good luck.)

What: the most internationally recognised part of Japanese cuisine

Where: 7-6, Ginza 8-chome, Chuo-ku, Tokyo Map

Hours: Mon &ndash Sat 11:30 &ndash 14:00 / 17:00 &ndash 22:00, closed Sun and public holidays

Price: two omakase lunches with tea = ¥11,800 (appx. £68 / $115)

Yes, you can eat a sushi breakfast in Tsukiji Market at six in the morning, the real crowd-pullers being Sushi Dai and Daiwa Sushi. And arguably, it probably is some of the freshest in the world, considering the meat has travelled a matter of yards from wholesale (mere hours before) to chopstick.

But can that level of freshness really be so different from a quality sushi restaurant just a 15 minute walk away? The answer to that is of course, no. So forgo the three hour queues of tourists (no one wants too many of them first thing in the morning), and enjoy sushi at the countless number of other great restaurants in the area, nay, the city.

Kyubey is one of these. Round the corner from Tsukiji (almost), you can marvel at the deft manipulation of rice and the precise preparation of seafood by the itamae (chefs), from the counter seating.

And you want fresh? The legs of the prawns were moving and their mouths foaming little bubbles moments before their heads were ripped off and entrails removed before our very eyes. What theatre.

We grinned maniacally through the following (from top left): buttery salmon, spotted mackerel, squid with salt and a momentary touch of lime, velvety sea urchin (my first time &ndash I loved it), those prawns (crunchy), scallop, otoro (the fattiest part of tuna belly &ndash picture missing), bonito with fresh ginger and the tiniest scrape of raw garlic (look at that colour), cooked and coated unagi (eel), thin and crisp daikon and shiso (perilla leaf) sandwiches, sweet egg custard, vegetable maki, and miso.

&lsquoGo chi so sama&rsquo, indeed &ndash it was glorious nothing in this country has come close.

Recommended by Yukari.

What: Chinese-style wheat noodles served in a meat or fish based broth, often flavoured with soy or miso, topped with all manner of tasty treats

Where: Toshiba Build. B2, 5-2-1, Ginza (Shinbashi station&rsquos underground shopping centre) Map
Hours: Mon &ndash Fri 11:00 &ndash 23:00, Sat &ndash Sun and holidays 11:00 &ndash 22:00
Price: two bowls of ramen and some gyoza = ¥1990 (appx. £12 / $20)

Whilst the best we can hope for in the UK is a Boots meal deal where they still have Innocent on the shelf, or if we&rsquore lucky, a Pret, station-eating in Japan is nothing to be scoffed at it&rsquos synonymous with quality meals of excellent value.

The train stations in Tokyo have vast malls beneath, ready to breach the surface with the volume of shops and restaurants on offer (if ever in doubt in this city, head below ground or up some stairs and you&rsquore sure to stumble across something great) Naokyu is one of these. Established around 100 years ago (one of the oldest in Tokyo, they claim), it serves traditional ramen in pork and chicken broths in a typically casual noodle-joint environment.

The tantan-men (a dish originating from Sichuan cuisine) was hot and spicy, a gathering of ground pork cooked in miso with sesame and some greens. It did wonders at blasting away the cold I was suffering from. Koku-uma ramen, with slices of pork belly, bamboo shoots, thin noodles and seasoned with soy was also very good, but the tamago (egg) should have had a runny yolk.

Dining on noodles tends to be a quick-fix affair in Tokyo &ndash there are endless vending machine restaurants densely packed around station exits to &ndash very speedily and cheaply &ndash fill the bellies of salary-men (more often than not, inhaling their noodles whilst standing at a bar) on their way home. Naokyu is a good option to slow it down a bit &ndash take a seat and savour the meal.

Our bowls of bone-warming elixir were very well-received the cacophony of sucking and slurping from the fully Japanese clientèle around us hinted towards the same.

What: Tokyo has a lot of boulangeries and patisseries, and they&rsquore really good at them

Where: Tokia Building, 1F, 2-7-3 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo (near Tokyo station) Map
Hours: Mon &ndash Sun: Bakery 10:00 &ndash 21:00, Bar 10:00 &ndash 23:00, Brasserie Lunch 11:30 &ndash 14:00, Dinner 18:00 &ndash 23:30. Closed 1st Jan and holidays
Price: the below = ¥3510 (appx. £20 / $35)

The Japanese don&rsquot half love their bread. More often than not, it will be pristine white and highly processed, rather than the rustic, malty loaves dusted with oats and speckled with seeds we&rsquore so good at producing here.

But there are quite a few skilled bakeries turning out all sorts of French pastries, boules and brioche with an expert hand. Viron is one of these, with a glass cabinet creaking under it&rsquos own weight of stuffed rolls and sticks, pastries and patisseries able to add a kilo to muffin-tops through a hard stare alone. They import flour from France (where they also have a presence) to make Viron&rsquos signature baguette, of which they&rsquove won awards for.

We had an entirely brown but very good breakfast of coffee, two chocolate studded viennoise, a big pain au chocolate, a crunchy and sweet Kouing Aman (originally from Brittany &ndash crisp caramelised shell with soft buttery layers within), and a sundried tomato fougasse. Pass the fibre bar.

There&rsquos outdoor seating and a lot of space inside, and it doubles up as a brasserie open for lunch and dinner if you fancy adding a bit more colour to your plate. Located right next to Tokyo station, it&rsquos a prime spot for a morning pick-me-up before heading on the Shinkansen (bullet train).

Word of warning, coffee that isn&rsquot standard filter or drip (always served with a pot of cream) is something that is a little pricey in Japan &ndash a cappuccino and a latte came in at close to £8.

Recommended by Yukari.

10) Department Store Food Halls

What: the basement food halls of Tokyo&rsquos department stores have a global reputation for a reason

Where: 1-4-1 Nihonbashimuromachi, Chūō, Tokyo Map
Hours: Daily 10&ndash7, basements until 8
Price: varies considerably

This this branch of Tokyo&rsquos first depato (department store), also called hyakkaten (hundred-kinds-of-goods emporium), is the HQ of the international Mitsukoshi chain, and it&rsquos impressive.

Descend to the basement food hall and prepare to become disorientated by the scale, diversity and sheer sensory onslaught of nearly half an acre of the world&rsquos choicest comestibles. The space is filled with the noise from the drawn-out Japanese trader battle cries of &lsquoIRRASHAIMASEEEEE!&rsquo (welcome!) and there are free samples of absolutely everything. From German wursts and confectionary moulded into chrysanthemums, to white triangle sandwiches filled with whipped cream and sliced strawberries and £120 muskmelons &ndash if it can be consumed, you will find it here.

Grab some things to eat &ndash perhaps a bento box followed by a decadent dessert &ndash and enjoy up a few floors in the Mitsukoshi roof garden.


Dining observations I made in Tokyo

  • A lot of restaurants are smoking, but ventilation systems tend to be so good that it&rsquos easy not to notice. Many have designated no-smoking areas.
  • Your bill is often brought to the table with the food (or when you ask for it) and payment is usually made at the till they&rsquoll have near the entrance. It&rsquos rare the payment is made at the table.
  • When you do go to pay (both in restaurants or any shop), there will usually be a small tray at the cash desk. You are to put your payment (cash or card) on this tray, but the change will usually be given to you directly.
  • If you want to grab the attention of the waiter, use sumimasen (excuse me).
  • There is no tipping in Japan &ndash pay what&rsquos on the bill and nothing more.
  • You will usually be given an oshibori (moist towel &ndash often hot) once you&rsquore seated &ndash use this to wipe your hands and as a serviette for your meal &ndash a lot of restaurants seem to not have any on the table.
  • It&rsquos good etiquette to pour a drink for your companion and not yourself.
  • Never leave your chopsticks sticking out of a bowl of rice.
  • It is perfectly acceptable &ndash in fact encouraged &ndash to slurp your noodles very noisily &ndash it translates as you enjoying your food.
  • If you&rsquore cool, you eat sushi with your fingers. Turn it upside down and only dip the topping into the soy, not the rice. Sashimi is with chopsticks though.
  • People don&rsquot really eat while walking around in Japan &ndash so street-food isn&rsquot common. If you&rsquove purchased something on the go, it&rsquos more polite to remain stationary or find somewhere to perch until you&rsquove finished it.

&ldquoIf I had to eat one city&rsquos food for the rest of my life, every day, it would have to be Tokyo. And I think the majority of chefs you ask that question to would answer the same way&rdquo &ndash Anthony Bourdain.

Check out www.japan-experience.com for all your Japan travel related needs, from rail passes and car rental, to hotel booking and tours.

Spending most of my time either eating or travelling. Constantly in awe of nature and on a mission to seek the joy in every moment. Please feel free to leave a comment below, I love hearing from you all!


JAPAN | 10 things you must eat in Tokyo

I can&rsquot imagine there is any one single resource that lists all the places to get food in Tokyo. If it did, it would break the internet. And if it didn&rsquot break the internet, it would break the human resolve, because reading it would be like counting the population of China in that you would never reach the end. Perhaps this should be the modern-day definition of infinity &ndash the number of restaurants in Tokyo (incidentally, I have just Googled &lsquohow many restaurants are there in Tokyo?&rsquo and estimations say 80k compared to 15k in New York and 6k in London. So like I said, infinite).

Tokyo&rsquos topography is like a psychedelic 3D game of Tetris. It&rsquos a city made from a bazillion building blocks stacked on top of each other with that efficiency the Japanese are so good at. It rises up and out, as well as below (there are vast subterranean floors running beneath stations) to create a mind-boggling, multi-layered, three dimensional environment able to satisfy every want ever conceived.

Every door, every window, every protruding neon sign or hanging banner, every alleyway, every floor in every single building, the top and bottom (and middle) of every flight of stairs, every nondescript frontage, every unassuming flicker of light, every gap between two planks of wood &ndash is yet another dining establishment ready to serve. They range from standing-only holes-in-the-wall, thresholds marked by a simple curtain and able to accommodate no more than five pairs of feet, to yawning cafés for long languorous lunches. A lifetime might provide enough meals to eat your way across seven of its buildings.

In a city like this, deciding where to eat by throwing a chopstick into the air (don&rsquot actually do this &ndash very rude), heading half a kilometre in the direction its pointing towards when it lands, spinning round with your eyes closed five times, and eating wherever is closest to the point where your vision stops dancing, will more often than not land you a very good meal. After all, this is a country where the quality of the most ordinary food offering is often on a par with the part of London&rsquos dining scene we would call &lsquopretty decent&rsquo.

If you are reading this post, I can safely assume that you, intrepid explorer and/or fellow food-nut, are quite like me, in that you like to do a bit of pre-holiday eating research. You want the best food for the best price, you want to make sure you&rsquore not &lsquosettling&rsquo when there is a superstar restaurant around the corner, you want to indulge in the finest eating your finite time and budget can possibly allow, and this requires some forward planning &ndash I get that.

Mika from Tokyo Food Tour

But my advice to you is, when it comes to Tokyo, don&rsquot get bogged down in this. Because almost all of it is great. Even though the restaurant you ate at yesterday fed you &ldquothe best sushi you&rsquove ever had&rdquo, you can&rsquot possibly know if the place seven doors down is better because, when a country consistently churns out excellence, what&rsquos &ldquobetter&rdquo just becomes arbitrary. I mean, it&rsquos just all good &ndash you know?

But because you are (still) reading this, you probably are like me, and demand some level of guidance, a list to follow, pointers about where to even begin. It&rsquos understandable, so I&rsquove created a little something.

What&rsquos good about this list is firstly, it covers a respectable portion of Japan&rsquos vast cuisine. Secondly, it&rsquos not comprised by me alone &ndash who still knows next to nothing about Tokyo despite spending five days there &ndash but by people who do.

One main source is Mika Takaki from Tokyo Food Tour who showed us a few great places around Ginza one evening. She&rsquos a cook and caterer, lived and worked in San Francisco for a few years, and is able to personalise food tours to whatever it is you&rsquore interested in Mika doesn&rsquot come cheap, but does come highly recommended.

The other is Japanese chef, author, sommelier and shochu advisor Yukari Sakomoto. I came across a short interview in a travel magazine about her favourite spots in Tokyo and visited a few. I have then added a couple of cheap-and-cheerful entries I pre-holiday-researched myself when I was under the misguided impression that these would be lifesavers, as Tokyo was the most expensive city in the universe. Which I quickly realised after landing, is a massive misconception.

My final bit of advice when visiting Tokyo: surrender your senses to the onslaught of stimuli and just go with it, whatever &lsquoit&rsquo turns out to be for you.

10 Things to Eat in Tokyo

What: aka kushiage &ndash lightly breaded and fried skewers of &ndash well, anything

Where: 3-16-10 Shinbashi, Minato-ku, Tokyo Map
Hours: Mon &ndash Fri 11:30 &ndash 14:00 / 16:30 &ndash 23:30 Sat &ndash Sun 12:00 &ndash 23:30
Price: the below plus one large beer = ¥2100 (appx. £12 / $20)

Give a good kushikatsu chef an old leather belt and he could probably breadcrumb and fry it up into something you would want to put into your mouth.

Very fine crumbs are used in this coating, and the fry is quick and hot resulting in a crisp shell concealing briefly cooked ingredients beneath.

We worked our way through a mixture of meat and vegetable skewers: pickled ginger, lotus root, smelt fish, shrimp, mochi (glutinous rice balls), onion, small green peppers (like Padron peppers), and a second round of pickled ginger because it was deep pink and gorgeous. As well as a plate of pork tripe cooked in a sweet viscous miso sauce and furnished with spring onions &ndash why not.

The dipping sauce for the skewers is dark, sweet and shared &ndash you submerge them whole, before biting only. The sign above it roughly translates to &ldquodouble-dip and prepare to be skewered&rdquo. Rightly so.

The menu is fully Japanese so I would advise pointing at the glass counter at what you fancy, learning the words for ingredients you particularly enjoy, or using that very useful phrase &ndash &lsquonani ga osusume des ka?&lsquo (what do you recommend?).

What: thinly carved and spanking fresh raw meat (usually seafood)

Where: 2-19-7 Shinbashi, Minato-ku, Tokyo (1 min walk East of Shinbashi Station) Map

Hours: Only open in the evenings, 17.00 &ndash 11.30

Price: the below plus two glasses of sake = ¥3000 (appx. £17 / $29)

Uokin has a few outlets in Tokyo and we were informed by Mika that it&rsquos very much an izagaya (casual eatery) of-the-moment. Its specialities lie within seafood (hence the sign) and either has a bar at which to stand and eat at ground level, or you can go up a floor for table seating.

It&rsquos the first I&rsquove been on my feet whilst having my dinner in a restaurant (a common occurrence in Tokyo &ndash good for space-saving I suspect) and you know, I barely noticed. It was probably all that sake.

An okomase (chef&rsquos selection of the best seafood of that day) sashimi platter presented us with some glistening produce: tairagai (like a giant scallop) with an iridescent shell oysters with spring onions, daikon (Japanese radish) and a touch of chilli paste sawara (Spanish mackerel) tai (snapper) shime saba (cured mackerel) aji (horse mackerel) and maguro (tuna).

Before bar-hopping to the next place, we finished with a soup (as Japanese cuisine so often dictates &ndash contrary to the the west which generally starts with it) &ndash of seaweed with tofu. Warm and comforting, full of calcium and righteousness.

Again, a fully Japanese menu. &ldquoOkomase sashimi, kudasai?&rdquo will get you a platter similar to what we had.

What: seafood or vegetables battered and deep fried

Where: 3-9-4 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo Map

Hours: Mon &ndash Sun 11.00 &ndash 23.30

Price: the below two set meals with an extra side = ¥1600 (appx. £9 / $29)

If you haven&rsquot already noticed, the Japanese quite like deep-frying things. Probably the most internationally recognised of this genre is tempura. If you want to &ndash particularly in the upmarket district of Ginza &ndash you can spend upwards of £150 a head for what is essentially a very simple concept (the best ones always are though, aren&rsquot they).

But don&rsquot let that simplicity fool you. Good tempura should start with quality ingredients destined for the plunge, have a light and crisp batter, and not be greasy &ndash I suspect it&rsquos more difficult than it sounds.

Tendon Tenya is a respectable and exedingly good value chain that manages to achieve this, and much-loved by locals. The menu is full of set meals (also available in English), with a choice of carbs to help bulk it out including rice and (hot or cold) udon, along with a range of extra toppings or additional sides, including a tasty little octopus and seaweed salad.

Filling the bellies of two big-eaters with good food for under a tenner in one of the poshest parts of town &ndash credit where it&rsquos due.

What: things that are skewered and grilled over coals &ndash aka yakitori (usually when it&rsquos chicken)

Where: 3-19-6, Shinbashi, Minato-ku, Tokyo (2 min walk from Shinbashi station) Map

Hours: Mon &ndash Fri 17:00 &ndash 23:00, Sat 17:00 &ndash 22:00, Closed Sundays

Price: the below plus some tea = ¥3000 (appx. £17 / $29)

If you&rsquore the sort of person that is quite into the bits of the animal so often cast aside as waste, this is the place for you. Even if you&rsquore not, I urge you to try it.

Mitsumasa is a casual but well turned out offering that heaves with uniformly black-suited salary man kicking back after a long day in the office, with row after row of meaty skewers straight from the coals &ndash and a beer, or four. The uncooked meat is displayed in the glass cabinet and is an ode to all things pig, for it is this animal they specialise in.

We had pig skin (yum), pig tongue (ok then), pig heart (aren&rsquot these going to be put into humans soon?), the less conquered parts of a chicken&rsquos anatomy including the gizzard (crunchy) and knuckle (as pleasant as I assume chewing through a baby&rsquos finger to be), chicken meatballs (phew), pickles with boiled pig intestine (go on then), and pig liver (strong, bitter, iron). I am generally pretty ok with tripe from sheep and cows and chickens, but when it comes to eating the organs of something else that eats meat, I wince a little.

But it&rsquos a firm favourite with the Japanese and if you truly want to embrace the cuisine in it&rsquos fullest form, I would give it a go.

What: Japan&rsquos national social lubricant &ndash a clear and alcoholic beverage made from fermented rice

Where: Tony Building, 2F, 6-4-15 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo Map

Hours: Mon &ndash Thu 18:00 &ndash 03:00, Fri 18:00 &ndash 03:30, Sat 18:00 &ndash 00:30, closed Sun and every third Sat

Price: three tastings and some nibbles = ¥1000 (appx. £6 / $10)

For those prepared to knock elbows on the hunt for some of the country&rsquos best sake, Kuri is a bar specialising in just that, with a weekly changing menu of over 150 varieties behind the counter.

The offering here is junmai meaning made solely with rice and water, without any additional distilled alcohol. They range from the freshest, just-pressed, unfiltered namazake (unpasteurised sake &ndash kept refrigerated) to aged bottles from all over the country. The patterns at the bottom of the cups are designed to induce coos over the clarity of the tipple.

Before I sampled these, I thought I didn&rsquot like sake. Turns out, I do like sake &ndash I in fact love it. Forget anything you&rsquove had outside Japan &ndash you won&rsquot have had access to true namazake as its lack of pasteurisation means it doesn&rsquot last long enough to reach overseas in a saleable condition. And let me tell you, it&rsquos a taste revelation.

Go for a flight of three tasters with some nibbles, perhaps opening with &lsquonani ga osusume des ka?&lsquo (what do you recommend?). If the response is the Japanese for &lsquowhat do you like?&rsquo, I&rsquom afraid you&rsquore on your own. But I&rsquom sure you&rsquoll be fine.


6) Japanese Breakfast

What: a combination of things you&rsquove probably not come across before

Restaurant: I have no idea of the name

Where: close to Yarakucho Station &ndash look out for railway arches Map

Hours: they seemed to start packing away the breakfast items around 10 &ndash 10.30

Price: natto, rice, miso, nori, egg and tea for two = ¥550 (appx. £3 / $5)

There is something to be said for a nation of people who can think of few better ways to start their day than with a stringy, stinking mess of natto &ndash fermented soya bean. Pick some up with your chopsticks and marvel at the mucus-like stretchiness, with sticky strings that float suspended in mid-air still attached to your utensils the need to bat them away after every mouthful can look like a violent tick to the uninitiated.

Into this, stir raw egg and chopped spring onions, mix with a bowl of rice, add some sheets of nori (seaweed), accompany with dried fish and life-affirming miso and you have the makings of a rather splendid breakfast.

There is no presence of this restaurant on the internet, and I usefully didn&rsquot take a picture of its front. We found it by asking the Tourist Information office behind Yarakucho Station where we could enjoy a traditional Japanese breakfast &ndash this would be a good place to start. What I can tell you is that it&rsquos small, and for the remainder of the day is a conveyor belt sushi restaurant.

The main point of this point is that you should experience a traditional Japanese breakfast in Tokyo, whether it&rsquos here or somewhere else.

(The other half is convinced he recalls its precise location, which is what&rsquos displayed on the map link above &ndash I do think he&rsquos pretty close if not spot on. Good luck.)

What: the most internationally recognised part of Japanese cuisine

Where: 7-6, Ginza 8-chome, Chuo-ku, Tokyo Map

Hours: Mon &ndash Sat 11:30 &ndash 14:00 / 17:00 &ndash 22:00, closed Sun and public holidays

Price: two omakase lunches with tea = ¥11,800 (appx. £68 / $115)

Yes, you can eat a sushi breakfast in Tsukiji Market at six in the morning, the real crowd-pullers being Sushi Dai and Daiwa Sushi. And arguably, it probably is some of the freshest in the world, considering the meat has travelled a matter of yards from wholesale (mere hours before) to chopstick.

But can that level of freshness really be so different from a quality sushi restaurant just a 15 minute walk away? The answer to that is of course, no. So forgo the three hour queues of tourists (no one wants too many of them first thing in the morning), and enjoy sushi at the countless number of other great restaurants in the area, nay, the city.

Kyubey is one of these. Round the corner from Tsukiji (almost), you can marvel at the deft manipulation of rice and the precise preparation of seafood by the itamae (chefs), from the counter seating.

And you want fresh? The legs of the prawns were moving and their mouths foaming little bubbles moments before their heads were ripped off and entrails removed before our very eyes. What theatre.

We grinned maniacally through the following (from top left): buttery salmon, spotted mackerel, squid with salt and a momentary touch of lime, velvety sea urchin (my first time &ndash I loved it), those prawns (crunchy), scallop, otoro (the fattiest part of tuna belly &ndash picture missing), bonito with fresh ginger and the tiniest scrape of raw garlic (look at that colour), cooked and coated unagi (eel), thin and crisp daikon and shiso (perilla leaf) sandwiches, sweet egg custard, vegetable maki, and miso.

&lsquoGo chi so sama&rsquo, indeed &ndash it was glorious nothing in this country has come close.

Recommended by Yukari.

What: Chinese-style wheat noodles served in a meat or fish based broth, often flavoured with soy or miso, topped with all manner of tasty treats

Where: Toshiba Build. B2, 5-2-1, Ginza (Shinbashi station&rsquos underground shopping centre) Map
Hours: Mon &ndash Fri 11:00 &ndash 23:00, Sat &ndash Sun and holidays 11:00 &ndash 22:00
Price: two bowls of ramen and some gyoza = ¥1990 (appx. £12 / $20)

Whilst the best we can hope for in the UK is a Boots meal deal where they still have Innocent on the shelf, or if we&rsquore lucky, a Pret, station-eating in Japan is nothing to be scoffed at it&rsquos synonymous with quality meals of excellent value.

The train stations in Tokyo have vast malls beneath, ready to breach the surface with the volume of shops and restaurants on offer (if ever in doubt in this city, head below ground or up some stairs and you&rsquore sure to stumble across something great) Naokyu is one of these. Established around 100 years ago (one of the oldest in Tokyo, they claim), it serves traditional ramen in pork and chicken broths in a typically casual noodle-joint environment.

The tantan-men (a dish originating from Sichuan cuisine) was hot and spicy, a gathering of ground pork cooked in miso with sesame and some greens. It did wonders at blasting away the cold I was suffering from. Koku-uma ramen, with slices of pork belly, bamboo shoots, thin noodles and seasoned with soy was also very good, but the tamago (egg) should have had a runny yolk.

Dining on noodles tends to be a quick-fix affair in Tokyo &ndash there are endless vending machine restaurants densely packed around station exits to &ndash very speedily and cheaply &ndash fill the bellies of salary-men (more often than not, inhaling their noodles whilst standing at a bar) on their way home. Naokyu is a good option to slow it down a bit &ndash take a seat and savour the meal.

Our bowls of bone-warming elixir were very well-received the cacophony of sucking and slurping from the fully Japanese clientèle around us hinted towards the same.

What: Tokyo has a lot of boulangeries and patisseries, and they&rsquore really good at them

Where: Tokia Building, 1F, 2-7-3 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo (near Tokyo station) Map
Hours: Mon &ndash Sun: Bakery 10:00 &ndash 21:00, Bar 10:00 &ndash 23:00, Brasserie Lunch 11:30 &ndash 14:00, Dinner 18:00 &ndash 23:30. Closed 1st Jan and holidays
Price: the below = ¥3510 (appx. £20 / $35)

The Japanese don&rsquot half love their bread. More often than not, it will be pristine white and highly processed, rather than the rustic, malty loaves dusted with oats and speckled with seeds we&rsquore so good at producing here.

But there are quite a few skilled bakeries turning out all sorts of French pastries, boules and brioche with an expert hand. Viron is one of these, with a glass cabinet creaking under it&rsquos own weight of stuffed rolls and sticks, pastries and patisseries able to add a kilo to muffin-tops through a hard stare alone. They import flour from France (where they also have a presence) to make Viron&rsquos signature baguette, of which they&rsquove won awards for.

We had an entirely brown but very good breakfast of coffee, two chocolate studded viennoise, a big pain au chocolate, a crunchy and sweet Kouing Aman (originally from Brittany &ndash crisp caramelised shell with soft buttery layers within), and a sundried tomato fougasse. Pass the fibre bar.

There&rsquos outdoor seating and a lot of space inside, and it doubles up as a brasserie open for lunch and dinner if you fancy adding a bit more colour to your plate. Located right next to Tokyo station, it&rsquos a prime spot for a morning pick-me-up before heading on the Shinkansen (bullet train).

Word of warning, coffee that isn&rsquot standard filter or drip (always served with a pot of cream) is something that is a little pricey in Japan &ndash a cappuccino and a latte came in at close to £8.

Recommended by Yukari.

10) Department Store Food Halls

What: the basement food halls of Tokyo&rsquos department stores have a global reputation for a reason

Where: 1-4-1 Nihonbashimuromachi, Chūō, Tokyo Map
Hours: Daily 10&ndash7, basements until 8
Price: varies considerably

This this branch of Tokyo&rsquos first depato (department store), also called hyakkaten (hundred-kinds-of-goods emporium), is the HQ of the international Mitsukoshi chain, and it&rsquos impressive.

Descend to the basement food hall and prepare to become disorientated by the scale, diversity and sheer sensory onslaught of nearly half an acre of the world&rsquos choicest comestibles. The space is filled with the noise from the drawn-out Japanese trader battle cries of &lsquoIRRASHAIMASEEEEE!&rsquo (welcome!) and there are free samples of absolutely everything. From German wursts and confectionary moulded into chrysanthemums, to white triangle sandwiches filled with whipped cream and sliced strawberries and £120 muskmelons &ndash if it can be consumed, you will find it here.

Grab some things to eat &ndash perhaps a bento box followed by a decadent dessert &ndash and enjoy up a few floors in the Mitsukoshi roof garden.


Dining observations I made in Tokyo

  • A lot of restaurants are smoking, but ventilation systems tend to be so good that it&rsquos easy not to notice. Many have designated no-smoking areas.
  • Your bill is often brought to the table with the food (or when you ask for it) and payment is usually made at the till they&rsquoll have near the entrance. It&rsquos rare the payment is made at the table.
  • When you do go to pay (both in restaurants or any shop), there will usually be a small tray at the cash desk. You are to put your payment (cash or card) on this tray, but the change will usually be given to you directly.
  • If you want to grab the attention of the waiter, use sumimasen (excuse me).
  • There is no tipping in Japan &ndash pay what&rsquos on the bill and nothing more.
  • You will usually be given an oshibori (moist towel &ndash often hot) once you&rsquore seated &ndash use this to wipe your hands and as a serviette for your meal &ndash a lot of restaurants seem to not have any on the table.
  • It&rsquos good etiquette to pour a drink for your companion and not yourself.
  • Never leave your chopsticks sticking out of a bowl of rice.
  • It is perfectly acceptable &ndash in fact encouraged &ndash to slurp your noodles very noisily &ndash it translates as you enjoying your food.
  • If you&rsquore cool, you eat sushi with your fingers. Turn it upside down and only dip the topping into the soy, not the rice. Sashimi is with chopsticks though.
  • People don&rsquot really eat while walking around in Japan &ndash so street-food isn&rsquot common. If you&rsquove purchased something on the go, it&rsquos more polite to remain stationary or find somewhere to perch until you&rsquove finished it.

&ldquoIf I had to eat one city&rsquos food for the rest of my life, every day, it would have to be Tokyo. And I think the majority of chefs you ask that question to would answer the same way&rdquo &ndash Anthony Bourdain.

Check out www.japan-experience.com for all your Japan travel related needs, from rail passes and car rental, to hotel booking and tours.

Spending most of my time either eating or travelling. Constantly in awe of nature and on a mission to seek the joy in every moment. Please feel free to leave a comment below, I love hearing from you all!


JAPAN | 10 things you must eat in Tokyo

I can&rsquot imagine there is any one single resource that lists all the places to get food in Tokyo. If it did, it would break the internet. And if it didn&rsquot break the internet, it would break the human resolve, because reading it would be like counting the population of China in that you would never reach the end. Perhaps this should be the modern-day definition of infinity &ndash the number of restaurants in Tokyo (incidentally, I have just Googled &lsquohow many restaurants are there in Tokyo?&rsquo and estimations say 80k compared to 15k in New York and 6k in London. So like I said, infinite).

Tokyo&rsquos topography is like a psychedelic 3D game of Tetris. It&rsquos a city made from a bazillion building blocks stacked on top of each other with that efficiency the Japanese are so good at. It rises up and out, as well as below (there are vast subterranean floors running beneath stations) to create a mind-boggling, multi-layered, three dimensional environment able to satisfy every want ever conceived.

Every door, every window, every protruding neon sign or hanging banner, every alleyway, every floor in every single building, the top and bottom (and middle) of every flight of stairs, every nondescript frontage, every unassuming flicker of light, every gap between two planks of wood &ndash is yet another dining establishment ready to serve. They range from standing-only holes-in-the-wall, thresholds marked by a simple curtain and able to accommodate no more than five pairs of feet, to yawning cafés for long languorous lunches. A lifetime might provide enough meals to eat your way across seven of its buildings.

In a city like this, deciding where to eat by throwing a chopstick into the air (don&rsquot actually do this &ndash very rude), heading half a kilometre in the direction its pointing towards when it lands, spinning round with your eyes closed five times, and eating wherever is closest to the point where your vision stops dancing, will more often than not land you a very good meal. After all, this is a country where the quality of the most ordinary food offering is often on a par with the part of London&rsquos dining scene we would call &lsquopretty decent&rsquo.

If you are reading this post, I can safely assume that you, intrepid explorer and/or fellow food-nut, are quite like me, in that you like to do a bit of pre-holiday eating research. You want the best food for the best price, you want to make sure you&rsquore not &lsquosettling&rsquo when there is a superstar restaurant around the corner, you want to indulge in the finest eating your finite time and budget can possibly allow, and this requires some forward planning &ndash I get that.

Mika from Tokyo Food Tour

But my advice to you is, when it comes to Tokyo, don&rsquot get bogged down in this. Because almost all of it is great. Even though the restaurant you ate at yesterday fed you &ldquothe best sushi you&rsquove ever had&rdquo, you can&rsquot possibly know if the place seven doors down is better because, when a country consistently churns out excellence, what&rsquos &ldquobetter&rdquo just becomes arbitrary. I mean, it&rsquos just all good &ndash you know?

But because you are (still) reading this, you probably are like me, and demand some level of guidance, a list to follow, pointers about where to even begin. It&rsquos understandable, so I&rsquove created a little something.

What&rsquos good about this list is firstly, it covers a respectable portion of Japan&rsquos vast cuisine. Secondly, it&rsquos not comprised by me alone &ndash who still knows next to nothing about Tokyo despite spending five days there &ndash but by people who do.

One main source is Mika Takaki from Tokyo Food Tour who showed us a few great places around Ginza one evening. She&rsquos a cook and caterer, lived and worked in San Francisco for a few years, and is able to personalise food tours to whatever it is you&rsquore interested in Mika doesn&rsquot come cheap, but does come highly recommended.

The other is Japanese chef, author, sommelier and shochu advisor Yukari Sakomoto. I came across a short interview in a travel magazine about her favourite spots in Tokyo and visited a few. I have then added a couple of cheap-and-cheerful entries I pre-holiday-researched myself when I was under the misguided impression that these would be lifesavers, as Tokyo was the most expensive city in the universe. Which I quickly realised after landing, is a massive misconception.

My final bit of advice when visiting Tokyo: surrender your senses to the onslaught of stimuli and just go with it, whatever &lsquoit&rsquo turns out to be for you.

10 Things to Eat in Tokyo

What: aka kushiage &ndash lightly breaded and fried skewers of &ndash well, anything

Where: 3-16-10 Shinbashi, Minato-ku, Tokyo Map
Hours: Mon &ndash Fri 11:30 &ndash 14:00 / 16:30 &ndash 23:30 Sat &ndash Sun 12:00 &ndash 23:30
Price: the below plus one large beer = ¥2100 (appx. £12 / $20)

Give a good kushikatsu chef an old leather belt and he could probably breadcrumb and fry it up into something you would want to put into your mouth.

Very fine crumbs are used in this coating, and the fry is quick and hot resulting in a crisp shell concealing briefly cooked ingredients beneath.

We worked our way through a mixture of meat and vegetable skewers: pickled ginger, lotus root, smelt fish, shrimp, mochi (glutinous rice balls), onion, small green peppers (like Padron peppers), and a second round of pickled ginger because it was deep pink and gorgeous. As well as a plate of pork tripe cooked in a sweet viscous miso sauce and furnished with spring onions &ndash why not.

The dipping sauce for the skewers is dark, sweet and shared &ndash you submerge them whole, before biting only. The sign above it roughly translates to &ldquodouble-dip and prepare to be skewered&rdquo. Rightly so.

The menu is fully Japanese so I would advise pointing at the glass counter at what you fancy, learning the words for ingredients you particularly enjoy, or using that very useful phrase &ndash &lsquonani ga osusume des ka?&lsquo (what do you recommend?).

What: thinly carved and spanking fresh raw meat (usually seafood)

Where: 2-19-7 Shinbashi, Minato-ku, Tokyo (1 min walk East of Shinbashi Station) Map

Hours: Only open in the evenings, 17.00 &ndash 11.30

Price: the below plus two glasses of sake = ¥3000 (appx. £17 / $29)

Uokin has a few outlets in Tokyo and we were informed by Mika that it&rsquos very much an izagaya (casual eatery) of-the-moment. Its specialities lie within seafood (hence the sign) and either has a bar at which to stand and eat at ground level, or you can go up a floor for table seating.

It&rsquos the first I&rsquove been on my feet whilst having my dinner in a restaurant (a common occurrence in Tokyo &ndash good for space-saving I suspect) and you know, I barely noticed. It was probably all that sake.

An okomase (chef&rsquos selection of the best seafood of that day) sashimi platter presented us with some glistening produce: tairagai (like a giant scallop) with an iridescent shell oysters with spring onions, daikon (Japanese radish) and a touch of chilli paste sawara (Spanish mackerel) tai (snapper) shime saba (cured mackerel) aji (horse mackerel) and maguro (tuna).

Before bar-hopping to the next place, we finished with a soup (as Japanese cuisine so often dictates &ndash contrary to the the west which generally starts with it) &ndash of seaweed with tofu. Warm and comforting, full of calcium and righteousness.

Again, a fully Japanese menu. &ldquoOkomase sashimi, kudasai?&rdquo will get you a platter similar to what we had.

What: seafood or vegetables battered and deep fried

Where: 3-9-4 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo Map

Hours: Mon &ndash Sun 11.00 &ndash 23.30

Price: the below two set meals with an extra side = ¥1600 (appx. £9 / $29)

If you haven&rsquot already noticed, the Japanese quite like deep-frying things. Probably the most internationally recognised of this genre is tempura. If you want to &ndash particularly in the upmarket district of Ginza &ndash you can spend upwards of £150 a head for what is essentially a very simple concept (the best ones always are though, aren&rsquot they).

But don&rsquot let that simplicity fool you. Good tempura should start with quality ingredients destined for the plunge, have a light and crisp batter, and not be greasy &ndash I suspect it&rsquos more difficult than it sounds.

Tendon Tenya is a respectable and exedingly good value chain that manages to achieve this, and much-loved by locals. The menu is full of set meals (also available in English), with a choice of carbs to help bulk it out including rice and (hot or cold) udon, along with a range of extra toppings or additional sides, including a tasty little octopus and seaweed salad.

Filling the bellies of two big-eaters with good food for under a tenner in one of the poshest parts of town &ndash credit where it&rsquos due.

What: things that are skewered and grilled over coals &ndash aka yakitori (usually when it&rsquos chicken)

Where: 3-19-6, Shinbashi, Minato-ku, Tokyo (2 min walk from Shinbashi station) Map

Hours: Mon &ndash Fri 17:00 &ndash 23:00, Sat 17:00 &ndash 22:00, Closed Sundays

Price: the below plus some tea = ¥3000 (appx. £17 / $29)

If you&rsquore the sort of person that is quite into the bits of the animal so often cast aside as waste, this is the place for you. Even if you&rsquore not, I urge you to try it.

Mitsumasa is a casual but well turned out offering that heaves with uniformly black-suited salary man kicking back after a long day in the office, with row after row of meaty skewers straight from the coals &ndash and a beer, or four. The uncooked meat is displayed in the glass cabinet and is an ode to all things pig, for it is this animal they specialise in.

We had pig skin (yum), pig tongue (ok then), pig heart (aren&rsquot these going to be put into humans soon?), the less conquered parts of a chicken&rsquos anatomy including the gizzard (crunchy) and knuckle (as pleasant as I assume chewing through a baby&rsquos finger to be), chicken meatballs (phew), pickles with boiled pig intestine (go on then), and pig liver (strong, bitter, iron). I am generally pretty ok with tripe from sheep and cows and chickens, but when it comes to eating the organs of something else that eats meat, I wince a little.

But it&rsquos a firm favourite with the Japanese and if you truly want to embrace the cuisine in it&rsquos fullest form, I would give it a go.

What: Japan&rsquos national social lubricant &ndash a clear and alcoholic beverage made from fermented rice

Where: Tony Building, 2F, 6-4-15 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo Map

Hours: Mon &ndash Thu 18:00 &ndash 03:00, Fri 18:00 &ndash 03:30, Sat 18:00 &ndash 00:30, closed Sun and every third Sat

Price: three tastings and some nibbles = ¥1000 (appx. £6 / $10)

For those prepared to knock elbows on the hunt for some of the country&rsquos best sake, Kuri is a bar specialising in just that, with a weekly changing menu of over 150 varieties behind the counter.

The offering here is junmai meaning made solely with rice and water, without any additional distilled alcohol. They range from the freshest, just-pressed, unfiltered namazake (unpasteurised sake &ndash kept refrigerated) to aged bottles from all over the country. The patterns at the bottom of the cups are designed to induce coos over the clarity of the tipple.

Before I sampled these, I thought I didn&rsquot like sake. Turns out, I do like sake &ndash I in fact love it. Forget anything you&rsquove had outside Japan &ndash you won&rsquot have had access to true namazake as its lack of pasteurisation means it doesn&rsquot last long enough to reach overseas in a saleable condition. And let me tell you, it&rsquos a taste revelation.

Go for a flight of three tasters with some nibbles, perhaps opening with &lsquonani ga osusume des ka?&lsquo (what do you recommend?). If the response is the Japanese for &lsquowhat do you like?&rsquo, I&rsquom afraid you&rsquore on your own. But I&rsquom sure you&rsquoll be fine.


6) Japanese Breakfast

What: a combination of things you&rsquove probably not come across before

Restaurant: I have no idea of the name

Where: close to Yarakucho Station &ndash look out for railway arches Map

Hours: they seemed to start packing away the breakfast items around 10 &ndash 10.30

Price: natto, rice, miso, nori, egg and tea for two = ¥550 (appx. £3 / $5)

There is something to be said for a nation of people who can think of few better ways to start their day than with a stringy, stinking mess of natto &ndash fermented soya bean. Pick some up with your chopsticks and marvel at the mucus-like stretchiness, with sticky strings that float suspended in mid-air still attached to your utensils the need to bat them away after every mouthful can look like a violent tick to the uninitiated.

Into this, stir raw egg and chopped spring onions, mix with a bowl of rice, add some sheets of nori (seaweed), accompany with dried fish and life-affirming miso and you have the makings of a rather splendid breakfast.

There is no presence of this restaurant on the internet, and I usefully didn&rsquot take a picture of its front. We found it by asking the Tourist Information office behind Yarakucho Station where we could enjoy a traditional Japanese breakfast &ndash this would be a good place to start. What I can tell you is that it&rsquos small, and for the remainder of the day is a conveyor belt sushi restaurant.

The main point of this point is that you should experience a traditional Japanese breakfast in Tokyo, whether it&rsquos here or somewhere else.

(The other half is convinced he recalls its precise location, which is what&rsquos displayed on the map link above &ndash I do think he&rsquos pretty close if not spot on. Good luck.)

What: the most internationally recognised part of Japanese cuisine

Where: 7-6, Ginza 8-chome, Chuo-ku, Tokyo Map

Hours: Mon &ndash Sat 11:30 &ndash 14:00 / 17:00 &ndash 22:00, closed Sun and public holidays

Price: two omakase lunches with tea = ¥11,800 (appx. £68 / $115)

Yes, you can eat a sushi breakfast in Tsukiji Market at six in the morning, the real crowd-pullers being Sushi Dai and Daiwa Sushi. And arguably, it probably is some of the freshest in the world, considering the meat has travelled a matter of yards from wholesale (mere hours before) to chopstick.

But can that level of freshness really be so different from a quality sushi restaurant just a 15 minute walk away? The answer to that is of course, no. So forgo the three hour queues of tourists (no one wants too many of them first thing in the morning), and enjoy sushi at the countless number of other great restaurants in the area, nay, the city.

Kyubey is one of these. Round the corner from Tsukiji (almost), you can marvel at the deft manipulation of rice and the precise preparation of seafood by the itamae (chefs), from the counter seating.

And you want fresh? The legs of the prawns were moving and their mouths foaming little bubbles moments before their heads were ripped off and entrails removed before our very eyes. What theatre.

We grinned maniacally through the following (from top left): buttery salmon, spotted mackerel, squid with salt and a momentary touch of lime, velvety sea urchin (my first time &ndash I loved it), those prawns (crunchy), scallop, otoro (the fattiest part of tuna belly &ndash picture missing), bonito with fresh ginger and the tiniest scrape of raw garlic (look at that colour), cooked and coated unagi (eel), thin and crisp daikon and shiso (perilla leaf) sandwiches, sweet egg custard, vegetable maki, and miso.

&lsquoGo chi so sama&rsquo, indeed &ndash it was glorious nothing in this country has come close.

Recommended by Yukari.

What: Chinese-style wheat noodles served in a meat or fish based broth, often flavoured with soy or miso, topped with all manner of tasty treats

Where: Toshiba Build. B2, 5-2-1, Ginza (Shinbashi station&rsquos underground shopping centre) Map
Hours: Mon &ndash Fri 11:00 &ndash 23:00, Sat &ndash Sun and holidays 11:00 &ndash 22:00
Price: two bowls of ramen and some gyoza = ¥1990 (appx. £12 / $20)

Whilst the best we can hope for in the UK is a Boots meal deal where they still have Innocent on the shelf, or if we&rsquore lucky, a Pret, station-eating in Japan is nothing to be scoffed at it&rsquos synonymous with quality meals of excellent value.

The train stations in Tokyo have vast malls beneath, ready to breach the surface with the volume of shops and restaurants on offer (if ever in doubt in this city, head below ground or up some stairs and you&rsquore sure to stumble across something great) Naokyu is one of these. Established around 100 years ago (one of the oldest in Tokyo, they claim), it serves traditional ramen in pork and chicken broths in a typically casual noodle-joint environment.

The tantan-men (a dish originating from Sichuan cuisine) was hot and spicy, a gathering of ground pork cooked in miso with sesame and some greens. It did wonders at blasting away the cold I was suffering from. Koku-uma ramen, with slices of pork belly, bamboo shoots, thin noodles and seasoned with soy was also very good, but the tamago (egg) should have had a runny yolk.

Dining on noodles tends to be a quick-fix affair in Tokyo &ndash there are endless vending machine restaurants densely packed around station exits to &ndash very speedily and cheaply &ndash fill the bellies of salary-men (more often than not, inhaling their noodles whilst standing at a bar) on their way home. Naokyu is a good option to slow it down a bit &ndash take a seat and savour the meal.

Our bowls of bone-warming elixir were very well-received the cacophony of sucking and slurping from the fully Japanese clientèle around us hinted towards the same.

What: Tokyo has a lot of boulangeries and patisseries, and they&rsquore really good at them

Where: Tokia Building, 1F, 2-7-3 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo (near Tokyo station) Map
Hours: Mon &ndash Sun: Bakery 10:00 &ndash 21:00, Bar 10:00 &ndash 23:00, Brasserie Lunch 11:30 &ndash 14:00, Dinner 18:00 &ndash 23:30. Closed 1st Jan and holidays
Price: the below = ¥3510 (appx. £20 / $35)

The Japanese don&rsquot half love their bread. More often than not, it will be pristine white and highly processed, rather than the rustic, malty loaves dusted with oats and speckled with seeds we&rsquore so good at producing here.

But there are quite a few skilled bakeries turning out all sorts of French pastries, boules and brioche with an expert hand. Viron is one of these, with a glass cabinet creaking under it&rsquos own weight of stuffed rolls and sticks, pastries and patisseries able to add a kilo to muffin-tops through a hard stare alone. They import flour from France (where they also have a presence) to make Viron&rsquos signature baguette, of which they&rsquove won awards for.

We had an entirely brown but very good breakfast of coffee, two chocolate studded viennoise, a big pain au chocolate, a crunchy and sweet Kouing Aman (originally from Brittany &ndash crisp caramelised shell with soft buttery layers within), and a sundried tomato fougasse. Pass the fibre bar.

There&rsquos outdoor seating and a lot of space inside, and it doubles up as a brasserie open for lunch and dinner if you fancy adding a bit more colour to your plate. Located right next to Tokyo station, it&rsquos a prime spot for a morning pick-me-up before heading on the Shinkansen (bullet train).

Word of warning, coffee that isn&rsquot standard filter or drip (always served with a pot of cream) is something that is a little pricey in Japan &ndash a cappuccino and a latte came in at close to £8.

Recommended by Yukari.

10) Department Store Food Halls

What: the basement food halls of Tokyo&rsquos department stores have a global reputation for a reason

Where: 1-4-1 Nihonbashimuromachi, Chūō, Tokyo Map
Hours: Daily 10&ndash7, basements until 8
Price: varies considerably

This this branch of Tokyo&rsquos first depato (department store), also called hyakkaten (hundred-kinds-of-goods emporium), is the HQ of the international Mitsukoshi chain, and it&rsquos impressive.

Descend to the basement food hall and prepare to become disorientated by the scale, diversity and sheer sensory onslaught of nearly half an acre of the world&rsquos choicest comestibles. The space is filled with the noise from the drawn-out Japanese trader battle cries of &lsquoIRRASHAIMASEEEEE!&rsquo (welcome!) and there are free samples of absolutely everything. From German wursts and confectionary moulded into chrysanthemums, to white triangle sandwiches filled with whipped cream and sliced strawberries and £120 muskmelons &ndash if it can be consumed, you will find it here.

Grab some things to eat &ndash perhaps a bento box followed by a decadent dessert &ndash and enjoy up a few floors in the Mitsukoshi roof garden.


Dining observations I made in Tokyo

  • A lot of restaurants are smoking, but ventilation systems tend to be so good that it&rsquos easy not to notice. Many have designated no-smoking areas.
  • Your bill is often brought to the table with the food (or when you ask for it) and payment is usually made at the till they&rsquoll have near the entrance. It&rsquos rare the payment is made at the table.
  • When you do go to pay (both in restaurants or any shop), there will usually be a small tray at the cash desk. You are to put your payment (cash or card) on this tray, but the change will usually be given to you directly.
  • If you want to grab the attention of the waiter, use sumimasen (excuse me).
  • There is no tipping in Japan &ndash pay what&rsquos on the bill and nothing more.
  • You will usually be given an oshibori (moist towel &ndash often hot) once you&rsquore seated &ndash use this to wipe your hands and as a serviette for your meal &ndash a lot of restaurants seem to not have any on the table.
  • It&rsquos good etiquette to pour a drink for your companion and not yourself.
  • Never leave your chopsticks sticking out of a bowl of rice.
  • It is perfectly acceptable &ndash in fact encouraged &ndash to slurp your noodles very noisily &ndash it translates as you enjoying your food.
  • If you&rsquore cool, you eat sushi with your fingers. Turn it upside down and only dip the topping into the soy, not the rice. Sashimi is with chopsticks though.
  • People don&rsquot really eat while walking around in Japan &ndash so street-food isn&rsquot common. If you&rsquove purchased something on the go, it&rsquos more polite to remain stationary or find somewhere to perch until you&rsquove finished it.

&ldquoIf I had to eat one city&rsquos food for the rest of my life, every day, it would have to be Tokyo. And I think the majority of chefs you ask that question to would answer the same way&rdquo &ndash Anthony Bourdain.

Check out www.japan-experience.com for all your Japan travel related needs, from rail passes and car rental, to hotel booking and tours.

Spending most of my time either eating or travelling. Constantly in awe of nature and on a mission to seek the joy in every moment. Please feel free to leave a comment below, I love hearing from you all!


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