Having takoyaki (and fun)
at Kanda, Tokyo
Be prepared... this is probably a less known fact of Japan, but
people simply love to eat. And especially women. And before you
try to find the contradiction, there isn't any.
With an already definite cuisine, a Japanese
style cooking that isn't something to get easily bored of, in
cities like Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, but just about anywhere in the
country you'll find so many restaurants, pastries and fastfood
chains offering meals from all around the world that you'll eyes
will start turning. Might sound a bit overboard but for someone
who has a limit to available financial resources... no matter
what those might be... choosing THE right place for dinner can
be a time consuming, even though fun effort. Not because there's
so few fine places, but rather quite the opposite. Not a rare
sight to see people, couples, small companies go up to the window,
browse through the fifth to tenth menu and still wander off to
the next. It's a lucky tradition that the menu is displayed by
the actual meal in the window... made from plastic but to look
like a ninety-five to hundred percent accurate depiction of the
the Tokyu FoodShow
Eating, choosing what to eat, and for some even
reading up on eating, watching shows on eating, learning to cook
for the sake of having or having someone eat good food are all
in the top twenty national pastimes. And before this turns into
a misunderstanding, it's not really about quantity.
It's about variety of taste.
And in case you've never experienced the dizzy
feel of turning round and round in the middle of a food court,
instead of strengthening your resolve just getting more and more
confused on what to get... just find the right floor in any department
store, or train station and dive into it head start. Great examples
for those on the go are FoodShow in Shibuya, the basement of Seibu,
Ikebukuro, Porta in Kyoto Station, and more or less half of Sapporo
station in Hokkaido.
The only thing that surpasses both cafes and
vending machines in density, if not only in downtown, are fast,
and semi-fast restaurants. The basics are the same, you order
from a somewhat limited menu, get your meal fast, then either
eat or eat on the go. Or if you're under twenty and if you want
to, you can stay for hours even afterwards. There are many names
you will recognize, or think that you have recognized in fastfood
chains, and quickly get accustomed to the huge number of the rest
as well, for the main categories in where and what to eat are
more or less easy to memorize.
at Tokyu FoodShow
Pan or in other words... bread... means a whole
lot of variety of baked food that includes... well, bread as its
common accessory. All types of buns, rolls and sweetbuns are pan
in general. One popular type which can be found nearly in any
store is yakisoba-pan ( fried soba bread ) which has none other
filling than actual yakisoba, fried noodles with meat, vegetables
and soy sauce... another is karee-pan, with a similarly spicy
filling of curry stew, but there are a wide variety of cheese-filled
buns, and melon-pan, which is a yellow to sometimes greenish shaded
huge sweet bun. But aside these classics which just about any
convenience store has, there are lots and lots of pastries downtown
and near most stations selling freshly baked buns, rolls, bread
and cakes of a huge selection...
Some are themed after the country the recipes
originate from, but really only originate from, for the sweets
and bread sold there are always original and absolutely delicious
by all means. For a culture not even liking bread up until only
recently it's pretty good to have stores that sell world class
freshly baked food. Among classics of Danish, French and German
bakery products there are lots and lots of Japanese takes on the
same ingredients, most resulting in quite a well rounded original
taste. Note that these stores have nearly always at least five
to ten people waiting in line with their fully packed trays, for
while the selecting part is self-service, packing the goods properly
seems to be of utmost importance, thus slowing down the process.
Add an additional five minutes to your schedule if you want to
buy something in a popular shop, but remember that they're popular
for a reason... you won't regret it.
And the Andersen queue
at the Tokyu FoodShow
You'll find these pastries to be the ideal source
for your daily portion on bread, if you're the type who can't
live without wheat... supermarkets and convenience stores just
don't tend to have this quality, at least not without slicing
it up and shoving it into plastic bags.
But what's really good is the more complex buns
and rolls with fillings like huge chunks of cheese, cream, sweet
potato, onions, marmalade, cinnamon, vegetables or a more stylish
take on classics like karee-pan... variations on seasonal cakes,
let it be Xmas or Valentine's day, and pastries you just can't
miss out on if you like quality baked sweets.
at MOS Burger
Some names might ring a bell. Like McDonald's.
But perhaps even such a place can hold some surprises as American
and European menus rarely include seasonal offers like the ebiburger
( shrimp in fried gratin ), might not ask you to sort the trash
before you leave but...
...also might not allow you to smoke on the second floor while
Our favorite however is MOS Burger, the Japanese
chain offering refreshing things like the natsume-fish burger,
which is a burger without the buns, presented between two quite
extensive layers of lettuce. Don't need to be skeptic, the mayonnaise
won't even drip. Also the cheese-buns which taste exactly like
eastern European pastry, and a broccoli soup which would fit any
American school meal. But the menu always includes burgers that
are probably the same in any part of the world, plus the usual
Japanese style seasoning, and a huge variety of seafood in all
kinds of shapes and mixture.
to the right, at Spainzaka, Shibuya
Another huge chain is Lotteria, which you may
notice by its huge L logo and quite the stereotype yellow with
red choice of colors for it. The menu here is quite extensive,
basically there's a different item for every combination of topping,
meat, seasoning, seafood, and an amazing number of versions considering
baked potatoes and French fries.
If you're after a more filling, if a bit more
expensive diner-like burger find the nearest FreshnessBurger shop.
The portions are slightly larger, the variety, shape and even
the taste tends towards classic burgers and the fries aren't made
of mashed then reshaped potatoes.
in Ebisu, Tokyo
( as easy as it gets :)
Soba and Udon
Soba and udon, if you don't know already, are
the names of two different types of noodles. Soba being the thinner,
with grayish-brown color and usually served cold with a cold broth
of soy taste ( zarusoba, morisoba ) or in a hot soup with some
topping. Udon is made of wheat instead of buckwheat, is much more
thick, bright white, and loses its shape within like five minutes
because of its somewhat raw substance. Both are delicious and
filling, but are not the least heavy.
With the soups the taste greatly varies by the kind of broth you
order them with. The only common thing is the light soy sauce,
the negi ( green onions ), the five-taste seasoning on the counter,
ginger, and some... seaweeds we won't look the English name up
for not to scare anyone away, but be reassured they are all edible.
Most of the time in classic soba shops payment is made at a vending
machine near the entrance, for which you'll receive food tickets.
The only thing that is NOT decided by these tickets is whether
you'd like soba or udon. The broth, the topping, everything else
is paid there. The tickets are then passed on to the people at
the counter who will ask which noodle you'd like.
The food itself isn't characterized by this,
or at least it shouldn't be but... the stores that specialize
in them are rarely visited by any other people than salarymen
on the run, curious young, and those who love this kind of food.
When in downtown, be prepared to experience a timeless atmosphere
of a makeshift food stand at a train station, regardless of your
actual location. Even the colors used to decorate the restaurants
tend to be none other than gray, brown, black, white and shades
in between, and is a less likely place to see "baito"
teenagers fooling around behind the counter. Seeing this quite
a typical lifelong career of making soba and udon, if you have
never been to one of these shops, you'll see characters you'll
remember for a long time. Stands and small restaurants selling
soba and udon are the original... or perhaps traditional fastfood
stands in Japan, and by stands this means that sometimes even
shops that otherwise look like a diner will lack any seating.
This is an extreme example on fastfood, and is of course outnumbered
by stores that offer you a chair. Otherwise the customers who
don't mind to eat noodles and soup while standing at the counter...
rarely do so for just the fun of it.
But since the food is both cheap and great, if
you can't afford time and/or money to go to a shokudo or restaurant
and order it as an appetizer or side-dish, and don't prepare it
at home... find a good specialty store with good atmosphere, there
are lots of them. Just peek in through the window... and you'll
get the idea whether it is the place for you.
in Yoga, Tokyo
The most popular dishes regardless of age are
Gyuudon and Katsudon. Somewhere in between fastfood and a specialty
restaurant, stores that sell them often sell many other kinds
of meals as well, but none of them are this easy to like. Basically
a huge bowl of rice as your side-dish, and a topping of sliced
beef ( gyuudon ) or pork cutlet ( katsudon ), the later with variations
like beef cutlet or beef-katsu and cheese topping also are quite
the lunch. Some chains that specialize in selling gyuudon were
recently hit hard by the occurrence of mad cow disease in the
US, not that a single case has ever occured in Japan but the fear
of that it might happen was enough for people to abandon this
meal, only to all chains that use beef, including McDonald's to
switch their capacity entirely to Australian beef during 2005,
so that customers may rest assured and return to eating their
favorite food. From a street point of view this revival has already
While it sure is more likely to be prepared at
home than anywhere else, all kiosks in all train stations and
all convenience stores sell an amazing whole of variety, freshly
made every day. In case you wonder, onigiri is a handful of steamed
rice, grasped together with salt and some sesame ( or other )
seasoning into either a triangle or a round shape, and then packed
into nori seaweed, a thin green leaf. And yes, the nori is edible
too. In the middle there are different kinds of fillings, like
tuna with mayonnaise, wa-fuu tuna, seachiken with mayonnaise,
or maguro. In case you didn't know the above list is basically
all tuna. Be prepared for this. But salmon, salmon roe, and all
kinds of other fish fillings are available as well, and for those
who like some variety in taste, or like the Hanshin Tigers we
recommend the ume or picked plum filling and a mirror to look
into, every time they take the first bite.
Two onigiri is probably enough for a quick snack,
six is about the same amount as eating an entire meal. With prices
about a hundred yen in convenience stores, you better catch the
time before the morning and evening rush-hour to be able to get
the kind you wanted.
The Subway chain may sound familiar for just
about anyone. Somewhat different in available fillings, but perhaps
more extended than different, always fresh and amazingly cheap,
considering that it actually offers things like cheese and tomato,
which somehow seem to be more expensive in Japan than in Europe
or America. The stores aren't always located in the restaurant
rows where all the other big fastfood chains are trying to catch
attention, but a bit further off the road, meaning you won't find
them right in the middle of Shibuya but there is one on Bunkamura
Cafes usually offer their own sandwiches as well,
but considering the reasons of also providing a safe haven from
the madness of downtown streets they will price you an amount
some might find regretting, even with the great taste of the food.
Places like Little Italian Tomato Jr. also have
their own variety, but are only a tad cheaper than a cafe sandwich...
too bad because the curry - tuna - mayonnaise mixture is really
All in all the most likely place to buy cheap
and fresh sandwiches are the kiosks at train stations, pastries
and most of all convenience stores, which stock up... or rather
actually need to stock up after every rush hour, considering the
number of hungry schoolgirls, boys, students and people returning
from work who aren't planning to go straight home.
The variety differs from chain to chain, but
the basics are probably the same. Triangle shaped white-bread,
two or three sandwiches packed into one box, most of the time
pairing different fillings. If someone has ever eaten a prepackaged
sandwich at a gas stand or cafeteria in America or Europe... This
isn't like that. It's much better, fresh, doesn't feel like a
compromise, it's real bread with real fillings.
Variations include ham and eggs, ham and cheese,
ham cheese and lettuce, tuna, tuna and eggs, tuna and mayonnaise,
tuna and mayonnaise and lettuce, katsusando ( pork cutlet sandwich
) usually with cheese, lettuce, tomato, ketchup, and a whole lot
more. The price is around one-hundred and fifty to three-hundred
yen, which basically only differs on how desperate someone might
be to be able to buy one. Non-franchise, strategically placed
stands catering people who actually forgot about food up until
then... might be more expensive.
Also, mostly at train stations you'll find the
six-pack mini-sandwiches which are actually just three sandwiches
cut in half not into triangles, and packed neatly side by side
into a plastic box ready to be stuffed into the back of the seat
of the shinkansen.
The ideal all-in-one food. Esthetically and price-wise
somewhere in between a restaurant meal and fastfood, a huge (
and it really is huge ) bowl filled with noodles, soup, vegetables,
meat, mushrooms, eggs, in a combination you ordered them.
No one expects any person below 65 kilos and
after at least a meal that day to be able to eat it all. But that's
not the point. Start with what you like and if you're still hungry
after devastating the contents, you can still sip out the approx.
one liter of heavy, tasty broth. Even though you might need to
There's nothing really special in Ramen, and
it probably is present in different form with a different name
all around the world. Its sheer practical nature, tasty toppings
and seasoning however made it the most popular food in Japan during
the last two decades. Although it originates from China.
Ordering ramen you'll first need to find a ramenya,
or ramen store. These are nearly always specialty restaurants
selling nothing but ramen, with the exception of Chinese restaurants
and ramen shops that sell some more solid food as side-dishes
to the soup. A near-station ramen stand is only recommended for
people who are willing to drink heavily. You'll see how these
two things are connected once you try.
There are three different broths for ramen, which
are the base for the soup, and are responsible for the overall
taste. One is Shooyuu ramen, which is soy sauce based, the other
is shio ramen, which is basically plain salty soup, and the third,
which is the Japanese version of ramen is miso ramen. The first
two are usually chicken, pork or beef soup stock prepared freshly.
The last one however is miso... thus is advised for anyone liking
its taste and those who don't like the idea of eating anything
that touched meat.
The noodles are pretty much a given, boiled separately
and added to the soup only in its bowl, and preparation-wise the
same goes to all the toppings that might come with your order...
but... if you simply say miso ramen, or shooyuu ramen, you'll
get something you could call the regular set. The usual toppings
are a couple of slices of meat, some vegetables, eggs, ginger,
negi ( green onions ), making up to a complete meal. But there
are different specialties in every store, which sometimes even
try hard to brand themselves with a unique version, thus taking
a peek at the menu and deciphering the imaginative names might
not hurt. For those who are worried about the portion of solid
vs. liquid substance, there's a store in Shibuya that pretty much
sells meat with just a hint of ramen below it... you can buy up
to seven slices of pork and some eggs to go with it... but don't
go on weekends unless you want to stand in a queue of about three
dozen people aiming for the same goal.
The vegetarian version would be yasai tappuri
miso ramen ( or tanmen for those less conscience or strict about
what's to be considered as so ) which will be filled with lots
of tasty, and really tasty vegetables along with the noodles.
Make sure to order it "niku nuki de" though. Meaning
without meat. The broth of miso ramen is miso, which is fermented
soy bean paste.
Also, don't forget about the seasonings on the
counter either. Adding pepper and the ramenyuu isn't only for
enthusiasts, it's for the right taste.
Dubbed in English as octopus ball or octopus
puff, it's a traditional fastfood of the kansai area, but is very
popular in all of Japan... dense, pasta and vegetable base mixed
together and fried into neat little balls on a special griddle
with dozens of half-spheres in it for the proper shape... of course
all this made with a little piece of konnyaku and octopus in their
centers. Although it's said to be excluded from the original recipe,
most people will tell you that takoyaki just isn't takoyaki without
its sauce topping. For those who'd like a hint on what it's like,
well... it's a filling portion of 8 balls per pack, and tastes
like the Japanese Worcestershire sauce it's soaking in. It's really
good. Although chewing on the usually hard, gumlike leg of an
octopus might not be okay with everyone. May sound disrespectful
to rob the takoyaki of its namesake ingredient but sometimes it
feels like as if the octopus was just the initial excuse to flap
all the delicious stuff around it. But you'll have to try it to
decide for yourself. Eastern Europeans will recognize it as langos
in a ball shape with octopus in the middle.
Another traditional food of all kinds of festivals,
but lucky for those who like it, can be bought any time of year
in its specialty stores. The griddle here is shaped like a fish,
and the paste doesn't really include any special ingredients that
isn't in any pancake on an American table at breakfast. However
the little waffle like fish are always filled with either anko
( sweet bean jam ) or custard... or even both... making them quite
a filling snack... and are a great thing to grab onto from late
autumn to early spring until the temperature rises. It will warm
your hands and heart in a matter of seconds.
The Japanese version of crepes is said to be
in closest compliance with the Greek... a cardboard thick, fresh
and flexible pancake of the size of a steering wheel, wrapped
up into a cone... filled with loads and loads of delicious stuff.
And whipped creme. Which you have to say so if you don't want.
No need to search hard to find a stand, just
try walking down in the arcades of Namba in Osaka, Susukino in
Sapporo, or Takeshita dori in Harajuku without crossing a line
of girls waiting in front of one. Plastic version is a must, and
even though there are only about ten to twelve ingredients, somehow
mixing the right combinations together seems to be a huge task
no matter how determined one was while in the line. Thus all versions
of all combinations are cast into plastic and put in the window,
only to confuse us even further. But it doesn't really matter
for you can't really go wrong.
The most basic fillings are the above mentioned
whipped cream, or namakuriimu, fresh fruit like strawberry or
bananas, syrup of choice ( usually chocolate or caramel ), ice
cream of different tastes ( or perhaps only different names and
colors ), and whole piece pastry like cheese cake or mille-feuille.
Might sound silly but cheese cake in crepes is... quite good.
The other, more filling version, which is much
like a sandwich, may sound strange for those who thought crepes
was all sweets. It has ingredients like cream cheese, lettuce,
and tuna, meaning it's salty instead of being sweet, and definitely
closer to what you'd call a warm meal. In case there's no other
option to fill your stomach than to eat crepes and you're not
up for sweets, at least there's an option.
A huge and thick round shaped omelet folded in
half... but filled up with loads and loads of delicious stuff
beforehand... then decorated with boring jigsaw lines of either
ketchup or some different, darker sauces like demi glace or Worcestershire.
Meaning that from the outside they will look like a huge drop
of the same yelow substance but once you cut into it, the fillings
will flow out steaming with a delicious scent, crying out for
some mayonnaise to top off the crazy mix of taste. At least for
some people in Kansai. Omuraisu features chikinraisu as its filling,
for lovers of Italian food it's much like chicken risotto, only
less wet and all-red because of the ketchup used for seasoning...
for omusoba you'll find yakisoba inside the package, the thin,
gray noodles fried together with vegetables, soy sauce and often
some kind of meat, mostly chicken.
Overall don't expect this meal to be on the same light level as
ham and eggs for your breakfast, it's name might be deceiving
but if you're having omuraisu or omusoba it's unlikely that you'll
need to order anything else to fill your stomach.
Perhaps there's no need to explain what sushi
is. But if you still don't know, once you are in Japan just head
to the nearest kaitenzushi restaurant, sit by the counter and
watch the different kinds of seafood march round and round on
the moving pavement-like tabletop. Not sure about other Asian
countries but in Europe and America there simply isn't as much
variety in sushi, it rarely can be as fresh, and often costs about
three times more than in Japan. Even in Tokyo, and even in a kaitenzushi
it still is to be considered somewhat more expensive than near
the seas which actually still have fish in them... but in a kaitenzushi
all you pay for is what you eat, taking the little plates down
from the counter, and stocking them up in front of you. Cost is
calculated by the number of plates that take up the pile... if
there is any difference in cost between them their color will
give you a hint. Unless you specifically order ootoro and things
like that you are unlikely to just encounter the really expensive
pieces by chance.
If thirsty just take a teacup and fill it with
the green tea powder you'll find right in between the pickled
ginger and soy sauce ( location may vary ), and push it to the
little tap that will fill it with hot water. But do be careful
that water is really hot. But at least the tea is free, no one
will frown you for having three refills of hot water and only
two plates of maguro sushi.
Most of the time you can get a menu with photos
on them, so that if something isn't circulating atop the counter
you still can order it, even if you don't speak Japanese at all.
But the most basic sushi are probably available already anyway,
just wait for them to pass through in front of you.
While there are lots and lots of Italian restaurants
that serve delicious food, the fastest way to get yourself a portion
of spaghetti is probably either First Kitchen or Italian Tomato
Jr. Both chains are somewhere in between a family and a fastfood
restaurant with Italian Tomato being one class higher in terms
of service, taste, price and interior design... First kitchen
is more like McDonalds than let's say, Skylark Gasto. Be warned
that while both pizza and spaghetti taste quite good, the portions
are only about half of that served in a restaurant...
But then again even restaurants serve pizzas
of paper thin pasta compared to what people might be used to in
America or from Pizza Hut.
Also, and this goes in general for any other
food as well... as opposed to American and European prices, in
Japan the most costly ingredients are cheese and tomato. Thus
travelers arriving from such places will be amazed to see that
the toppings served nearly free at home are the most expensive
while seafood and other things more common to Japan are the cheapest.
Gyros, a.k.a. doner kebab
If you don't know what it is go downtown and
look for it. No matter where you live you ought to run into a
food stand, restaurant or like in Shinjuku a big red truck with
a Turkish person inside it trying to attract customers.
One thing if you not only know what doner kebab
is but also might be looking for other usually related stuff like
soups, Turkish rice, musaka or falafel... is that you won't find
any. The gyros truck sells gyros and gyros only.
Sentimental food - things you like for other
reasons than their street version
Curry is quite common, both the Japanese version,
kareeraisu ( curry with rice ) and the dishes of traditional Indian
cuisine. The latter is only served in Indian restaurants though,
which are of course not fastfood, both service and prices are
higher. Karee is a big time favorite of children, partially for
its all-in-one tastiness and partially because all you have to
do is grab a spoon and dig in, which can't be said for most Japanese
meals. While this dish is mostly included on school and workplace
cafeteria menus only, there are fastfood chains specializing in
kareeraisu, which anyone would simply call curry in the country.
This might be confusing people who had the Indian meal in mind.
Not that it's that much different, but be prepared that the ingredients
in Japanese karee might not be fit for people who - again - don't
wish to eat meat. Which is as far as we know isn't at all uncommon
among the fans of Indian food. Curry with not even a hint of meat
is not available in the Japanese restaurants, only the Indian
menu includes such dishes.
The taste is... well... curry. Both types are
hot, tasty, and range from vibrant yellow to pitch black based
on the ingredients. Not to mention the spinach based Indian meals
which are also delicious.
Only for those who are prepared to eat stuff
out of the box. Bento made in industrial quantities rarely taste
as good as home cooking. It's a good option if you're traveling
or want to have at least the illusion of eating a normal meal
but if you'd like to taste how the food listed on the label really
should be like, you better order it fresh in a shokudo or restaurant...
or search for a place where they sell the boxed lunch in small
enough quantities to have time to concentrate on quality. Bento
bought at a station isn't bad... it's just not gourmet cuisine
that's all. Convenience store bento may be a bit different but
that's based on the chain the shop belongs to, time of day, and
day of week.
Well definitely not fastfood. But some places
like 711 have oden freshly boiling aside the counter and for a
price you can't complain about. If you didn't know what oden is,
basically it's a lot of stuff boiled together in separate little
sacks, but in the same broth, to both share each other's and keep
their own individual taste... when buying you just name which
one of the ingredients you'd like and the people at the counter
will assemble your own personal mix. Okay this is the convenience
store version, the oden stand or home made oden is the real thing.
Ingredients include noodles, eggs, meat, daikon
( radish ), mushrooms, vegetables, and tons of other stuff depending
on who's preparing it... you just pick the ones you like, get
it shoved into a bowl with some soup and you're ready to eat.
Cook what you like... more or less this might
be the English translation. Definitely not the same fun when alone,
the point is to sit around the griddle with the mixture of ingredients
in a bowl, much like a dense paste for a pancake only that it's
full of fillings you'd expect from more serious meals... but as
its name indicates you can pretty much drop anything into your
bowl from bonito flakes to carrots, given that you ordered the
necessary material from the menu. Once mixed to a state you can't
recognize what's in it just drip it on the griddle and fry until
it needs to be flipped to the other side. It's not unusual to
drown it in mayonnaise once on your plate.
An important notice to anyone who would like
to avoid eating meat. In Japan most of the food that otherwise
doesn't have any visual traces of animal products may very well
still be seasoned with crumbs of bacon, boiled together with chicken
broth or prepared together with meat in general. In case you're
not sure whether something you'd order has anything in it that
you dislike, you'd better ask right ahead. And also... asking
whether there's any meat in the food will not do any good, for
people will only tell whether there's a slice or chunks of meat
included as an ingredient or topping. Ask whether the food has
been prepared using even the slightest pieces of animal products,
even if only for seasoning...
And you'll be probably amazed how Japanese who
are said to not eat that much meat... which is true by the way...
still use tiny amounts in most meals if only for the taste.
But don't panic, Japanese restaurants and food
stands prepare meals fresh for everyone, more often than not,
you can try ordering whatever catches your eye without meat. Just
ask whether it's possible, and you'll get your own vegetarian
version of the same dish, while practicing some Japanese "Nikunuki
demo dekimasuka ?" ( Can this be without meat as well? )
And if the answer is somewhere around yes or "Nantoka shimasu"
( we'll figure something out ) you're all set. Just be reasonable,
and don't order all-meat dishes without it.
Eating on the street...
Eating anything other on the street than crepes,
ice cream, waffle or other similar one-hand pastry probably isn't
a good idea, at least not in downtown. Find a place where you
can at least sit down even if you're in a hurry... not that it's
against anything else than common sense to run around with food
in your hands and mouth. Most food courts and department stores
have some area for this purpose... somewhere... if you don't find
it you can always ask. With the exception of the above mentioned
gyros truck, no fastfood facility will leave you without at least
a bench that you could enjoy your food on undisturbed.
Two things you should know about entering a restaurant...
one is that once you get in, you'll have to answer to the question
on how many of you are there ( Nanmeisama desuka ? ) ... answer
depends. If you haven't learned numbers in Japanese just show
the number with your fingers. But then don't plan to go with a
company of more than ten people. The other thing is that a really
popular restaurant will have a line of people waiting in front
of it. Especially on weekends and holidays, and of course only
during dinnertime, a place with some word spread about it will
queue hungry customers up to thirty people. As mentioned before,
deciding what to eat has probably been a hard time for all of
them, so don't expect anyone with a strengthened resolve to just
leave. You'll find a row of pretty comfortable chairs in front
of the entrance, enough to exchange the entire interior with a
new load of people. If you're among those who can't live without
the food served there, or at least will probably feel that way
for the next half hour, just sit down and wait patiently. And
also, don't be surprised that the people working there will eventually
come up to you with the menu so that you can order your food even
while waiting... thus when you finally can enter the store and
sit down it could be presented in only a matter of minutes. Serving
drinks to customers waiting outside is not uncommon either.
And two things when inside the restaurant...
waiters will most likely refrain from bothering you while you're
eating, nor confront you with suggestive questions on whether
you'd like to order anything more or would please leave. You'll
get none of that, but... in exchange you'll have to signal if
you'd like anything with a loud "sumimasen!" at the
least to get the proper attention. ( Don't worry all it means
is "excuse me" ). Also, unless specifically told otherwise
you'll only find free refills of things other than water in family
And finally when you're about to leave take your
bill to the counter or "reji" at the exit, and that's
it. Unless in a traditional restaurant it's unlikely that you
need to pay at the table. If you don't have the bill on your table
already you may either not need or just have to ask for it.
And don't tip. You don't have to, you shouldn't,
no one wants you to. ( "No we don't take tips. But in exchange
the wage is great." )
Full course Japanese meal
Shin Osaka Station, Osaka
Since this is only a supplementary travel guide
we'd like to refrain from providing a complete list of available
facilities and food. If you're visitin Japan, apart of some general
information, money and the will to eat things you haven't before
you don't really need anything anyway.
What you might want to look out for is that most
restaurants serve dinner at different, meaning higher prices than
lunch, if they serve any lunch at all. During dinnertime however
the menu is usually much more extensive, and most of the time
you can still eat a complete meal within the budget of two thousand
yen. As probably anywhere else in the world, the costly part is
not the food but the drinks. You might want to skip on the idea
of getting drunk in a restaurant if you have to worry about your
Food is usually of larger portions and is delicious.
If you don't know Japanese cuisine and are hesitant even if you're
told that you don't have to be, try tempura for starters, which
is basically quite the common ingredients deep-fried and usually
served with rice, salad and the obligatory tasty sauce you dip
it into. You can't really go wrong as most of the tempura is either
seafood or vegetables. Sashimi might also ring a bell to those
who've been to a Japanese restaurant overseas, and is basically
fish with rice. Again something you can't really go wrong with,
except that the finest ingredients may be quite costly in a high
We wouldn't know. Sorry but the word combination
of French and restaurant literally means robbery in Japan and
no one we know has ever felt like losing the food money for four
consecutive days to eat something with a fancy name. On a more
serious note, French restaurants tend to be fashioned as the possible
highest class to eat at, with only a few exceptions.
Basically quite a globalized feel, you could
be anywhere from Canada to China or a space station on the moon...
except for the menu which is of course Japanese The refills for
your juice is free, sometimes even coffee is free, all you need
is order the cup for it. Food is, well... quite good, service
is fast, the interior is much like a diner, for it actually is
a diner. You'll find a pretty international menu of stuff from
hamburgers to Japanese style spaghetti to potato gratin baked
with cheese, pizza, a wide variety of soups and an even wider
variety of cakes and other desserts for the most sensitive target
audience. The best part is that most of the family restaurants
are open until very late, when even most ramenya are already closed...
you can walk in at one at night and still get the same service,
and same mid-low price.
For those who are arriving to Japan from America,
you'll find that there is Denny's as well. With a somewhat localized
menu of course.
Ranging from places with unique interior design
and atmosphere at the 8th floor of a Shibuya building to places
equipped with food ticket vending machines below the basement
of... a Shibuya building. Prices vary for a bowl of pasta between
three hundred to a thousand something yens, with of course the
portions, taste and surroundings being much better in higher class
restaurants. Chains like LaPausa will provide you with an easy
to understand alternative, payable for anyone and serving the
same stuff from Hokkaido to Okinawa.
Of course you should try the many many specialties
and takes on classic Italian themes by Japanese chefs, for they
are quite good at what they're doing. Perhaps surprisingly good
considering that most ingredients and recipes are far from being
a traditional Japanese favorite, yet most Italian restaurants,
perhaps thanks to the young chefs, are preparing great meals from
both classic and original recipes of their own.
Perhaps the second most popular and most common
to Japanese restaurants are the Chinese counterparts, with a huge
number of dishes on the menu that might sound familiar to anyone,
and just as many local specialties. The ingredients are more or
less the same worldwide, thus if you'd like a Peking duck you
can get one even at the most remote places. Fried rice or chahan,
beefun, gyoza in all kinds of variations, steamed buns or manjuu,
Sichuan to mandarin cuisine, whatever you wish for it's probably
available. And if it's not, just head down to Chuukagai in Yokohama,
it's less than an hour away even from downtown Tokyo, and start
exploring the hundreds of restaurants and food stands from their
plastic menus displayed in the windows. The variety is great,
both in service and prices... but a quick option for a near fastfood
like experience, there's the restaurant chain Hiday with a store
or two in every single downtown district.
Chinese food is very common and popular, even
with the already huge number of other international restaurants
on the rise. It's quite hard to tell for some dishes where their
mainland history ends and their Japanese history begins.
Other options for dining include all kinds of
intermixes between pubs and restaurants, both Japanese and western
style. Places with cheap but smaller portions of food with lots
and lots of variety in both solid and liquid items on the menu,
mainly popular among city dwelling people for most of the time
they are either located in some alley near the main roads or at
the top floor of malls, department stores or even skyscrapers
for the sake of stunning views. Of course the class is a bit different
and you wouldn't find an izakaya ( Japanese pub ) in the Seibu
department store. Also there's at least one Irish or British pub
in every town center of Tokyo that will jump in front of you even
without looking for it.
But finally the most inexpensive and sometimes
most tasty option is...
To go to the nearest supermarket or food court, stock up on ingredients
or freshly prepared ready to eat portions to you liking, go home,
prepare then eat it.
Anyway, enjoy your meal!
Visa, border entry, what to bring and be prepared with
- Japanese maps,
Navi mobile navigation, easy orientation for travelers
stores, the resupply stations that sell everything
- Japanese Vending
machines, for drinks, tickets, cigarettes and more
- Japanese Food, and
all kinds of food in Japan, restaurants, fast food, cheap food...
- Tokyo - as we see it
- Budget Tokyo
apartment rental, accommodation, let go of the concern
- Tokyo Prices, the
real cost vs. western legends, how to make most of your budget
- Cheap Tokyo Stores, bargain
tips, where to find what, fashion to electronics
- Tokyo Cafe life, a
guide to Cafes serving as meeting points, hangouts and life-savers
- Tokyo Parks
and Gardens, well maintained icons of tranquility, tradition
or having fun
- The Tokyo crowd...
escaping from Tokyo to Tokyo, evading downtown rushhours