When you think of Tokyo you might imagine that all you'll be able to eat is sushi - this could not be further from the truth! Tokyo has a wide range of local and regional cuisine in addition to the full complement of international dining options. Tokyo has the largest number of Michelin starred restaurants in the world - 226 in total! This is more than both Paris and New York combined. Tokyo offers the very best of fine dining while also offering high quality food at bars, cafes and even at fast food outlets. So for all your food lovers here’s why you should come to Tokyo.
The hottest food trend right now is izakaya which is the Japanese version of tapas! An Izakaya is a type of gastro pub that has been compared to Irish pubs or early American saloons/taverns. Izakaya are sometimes called akachōchin (red lantern) due to the red paper lanterns that are traditionally found in front of them. So keep your eye out when you are out and about!
Common formats for izakaya (as well as much other) dining in Japan are known as nomi-hōdai ("all you can drink") and tabe-hōdai ("all you can eat"). For a set price per person, customers can continue ordering as much food and/or drink as they wish, with a usual time limit of two or three hours.
Whilst Japan is known for its tofu these dishes are often cooked in fish or pork stock. Japanese soup stock, dashi, contains bonito (fish) extract, and is used in almost every dish. The only people who are strictly vegetarian are Buddhist monks, who follow the traditional Buddhist cuisine, shojin ryori. This is served as a matter of course at shukubo (temple lodgings). It is delicious, elaborate, varied, and strictly vegetarian. So keep your eye out for ‘shojin ryori.’ There are limited numbers of Vegetarian restaurants in Japan but with the use of the below phrases you should hopefully be able to navigate the menu at whichever restaurant you choose.
For our gastronome delegates why not take a food tour to truly experience all Tokyo has to offer! There are a range of food tours that you can pay to go on with English speaking guides. You can taste the best izakaya and okonomiyaki that Tokyo has to offer or why not learn how to make sushi from a Japanese itamae?
If you are looking for something quick and cheap to eat in Japan why not pick up an onigiri? These are the Japanese go to for food on the run. Onigiri is simply white rice wrapped in nori (seaweed), often in a triangle shape they also come in disc, round or oblong shapes. So beloved are onigiri that the Japanese have even dedicated an official day to celebrate it - June 18th. If you are on a strict budget then places like FamilyMar and 7 Eleven offer a variety of bento boxes that are cheap to purchase (under 500 yen/$5.)
Food to take home with you
Looking for unusual gastronomy gifts for your friends? Well you won’t be disappointed. Tokyo has some extraordinary gifts! How about wine or sake flavoured Kit Kats - what could be better than wine and chocolate?! If that doesn’t do it for you then there are a range of other flavours to choose from - Purple Potato, Cinnamon Cookie, European Cheese, Waichigo (strawberry), Sakura Matcha (cherry blossom green tea) and Rum Raisin to name but a few!
Another must is the Tokyo Banana! These are sponge based, banana shaped and soft banana cream filled treats! They come in a range of designs including giraffe spotted or leopard print.
So after 4 days learning you will deserve a well-earned rest! We hope we have whet your appetite and look forward to welcoming you to Tokyo.
Tokyo Comfort Food, Metro 2016
Japan’s soulful side, Telegraph 2016
Where to buy KitKats in Tokyo
Handy phrases for Vegetarians in Tokyo Register