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Japanese Cuisine

Those familiar with Japanese cuisine ( nihon ryōri ) know that eating is half the fun of travelling in Japan. Even if you’ve already tried some of Japan’s better-known specialities, you’re likely to be surprised by how delicious the original is when served on its home turf. More importantly, the adventurous eater will be delighted to find that Japanese food is far more than just sushi, tempura or sukiyaki. Indeed, it is possible to spend a month in Japan and sample a different speciality restaurant every day.

With the exception of shokudō (all-round restaurants) and izakaya (pub-eateries), most Japanese restaurants concentrate on a speciality cuisine. In this chapter we discuss the main types of restaurants you are likely to encounter and we provide sample menus for each type. If you familiarise yourself with the main types of restaurants and what they serve, you’ll be able to get the most out of Japan’s incredible culinary scene.

Of course, you may baulk at charging into a restaurant where both the language and the menu are likely to be incomprehensible. Those timid of heart should take solace in the fact that the Japanese will go to extraordinary lengths to understand what you want and will help you to order. To assist you further, eating reviews in this book recommend specific dishes for restaurants in which no English menu is available. If there is an English menu, this is indicated in the review with the symbol .

In this guide, restaurant listings are organised by price category, indicated by the symbols $ (budget), $$ (midrange) or $$$ (top end). Budget options cost ¥1000 or less; midrange meals cost between ¥1000 and ¥4000; and top-end meals will cost more than ¥4000.


When you enter a restaurant in Japan, you’ll be greeted with a hearty ‘ irasshaimase ’ (Welcome!). In all but the most casual places the waiter will next ask you ‘ nan-mei sama ’ (How many people?). Answer with your fingers, which is what the Japanese do. You will then be led to a table, a place at the counter or a tatami room.

At this point you will be given an o-shibori (a hot towel), a cup of tea and a menu. The o-shibori is for wiping your hands and face. When you’re done with it, just roll it up and leave it next to your place. Now comes the hard part: ordering. If you don’t read Japanese, you can use the romanisations and translations in this book to help you, or direct the waiter’s attention to the Japanese script. If this doesn’t work, there are two phrases that may help: ‘ o-susume wa nan desu ka ’ (What do you recommend?) and ‘ o-makase shimasu’ (Please decide for me).

When you’ve finished eating, you can signal for the bill by crossing one index finger over the other to form the sign of an ‘x’. This is the standard sign for ‘Bill, please’. You can also say ‘ o-kanjō kudasai’ . Remember there is no tipping in Japan and tea is free of charge. Usually you will be given a bill to take to the cashier at the front of the restaurant. Only the bigger and more international places take credit cards, so cash is always the surer option. When leaving, it is polite to say to the restaurant staff ‘ gochisō-sama deshita ’, which means ‘It was a real feast’.


Japan offers visitors from abroad a lot of worthwhile places to see and things to do for free. The following is only a small number of examples of places and events that you can enjoy for free in Japan.

Imperial Palace East Garden ʢߖډ౦ޚԓʣ, 3-min. walk from Takebashi Sta. on Tozai Line, or 7-min. walk from Otemachi Sta. on Chiyoda, Mita, Hanzomon and Marunouchi Line, is a garden adjoining the Imperial Palace and a museum. The garden of 210,000 m2 first opened to the public in 1968. Here you can enjoy cherry blossoms and azaleas in spring, various roses in early summer, and camellias in winter. Open: 9:00–17:00 (Apr. 15–Aug.) 9:00–16:30 (Mar.–Apr.14, Sep.–Oct.),

9:00–16:00 (Nov.–Feb.): enter 30 min. before closing time. Closed: Mon.(the following day when Mon. falls on a national holiday except the Emperor’s Birthday, 23rd Dec.), Fri. & New Year’s holiday. Tel: 03-3213-1111. The museum, Sannomaru Shozokan ʢࡾͷؙঘଂؗʣ, is located in the Imperial Palace East Garden. Open: 9:00–16:45 (Apr.15–Aug.), 9:00–16:15 (Mar.–Apr.14, Sep.–Oct.), 9:00–15:45 (Nov–Feb.): enter 15 min. before closing time.

Tokyo Metropolitan Government Buildings ʢ౦ژ౎ிʣ, directly above Tocho-mae Sta. on Oedo Line, or 10-min. walk from Shinjuku Sta., built in 1991, has an observatory on the 45th floor (202-m high) which com-mands a panoramic view of metropolitan Tokyo. A num-ber of sculptures are exhibited outside around the buildings. [North observatory] Open: 9:30–23:00 (enter by 22:30), Closed: 2nd and 4th Mondays (open when Monday falls on a national holiday and closed the following day.), Dec. 29–31 & Jan. 2–3. [South observatory] Open: 9:30–17:30 (enter by 17:00), Closed: 1st and 3rd Tuesdays (open when Tuesday falls on a national holiday and closed the following day.), Dec. 29–31 & Jan. 2–3. Tel: 03-5320-7890. Ryogoku Fireworks Museum ʢ྆ࠃՖՐࢿྉؗʣ,

5-min. walk from JR Ryogoku Sta., provides you with the history, many documents, paintings (Japanese woodblock prints (Ukiyoe)), photos and videos of fireworks. Open: Thr.–Sat. (Nov.–Apr.), Thr.–Sun. (May, Jun., Sep. & Oct.), walk from Ryogoku Sta. on Oedo Line, is the official museum of the Sumo Association. It houses more than 20,000 historical and memorial items of Sumo wrestling, such as paintings, books, photos and the

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