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Japan Nom Noms: What to eat in Japan?

Featured image: Sashimi bowl @ Tsukiji Fish Market. Photo credit: Aaron.

A few of my friends have been asking about food recommendations in Japan, so here is my list! Of note, I only travelled to Tokyo and Kyoto so this is based on my time in those two cities. Aaron has been on a few more trips to Japan than I have, so I have added some of his recommendations to my list as well. I also noted additional locations of the restaurants below.

*FYI: Click on the restaurant name for links to their official websites. Click on famous foodies’ names for links to videos documenting their experiences at the restaurant.


  • GyukatsuGyukatsu Motomura (Tokyo, Osaka, Fukuoka)
    • With only 8 seats in this restaurant (at least for the one we went to in Shibuya), there will most likely be a long line-up but it will be worth the wait. Here you can have some super tender, fatty pieces of beef, crusted with light breading, cooked to a perfect rare. You can self-sear to your liking on the hot stone and dip it in the seasoning of your choice. Read about our experience here.
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    • Gyukatsu @ Gyukatsu Motomura. Photo credit: Aaron.
  • TonkatsuMaisen (Tokyo, Nagano, Osaka and more)
    • If you want to try tonkatsu (Japanese pork cutlets), this bathhouse-turned restaurant is probably one of the most famous restaurants for this dish. They have a few locations in Tokyo but we went to their original location in Omotesando. Try their tonkatsu lunch combos for an authentic pork cutlet experience. I didn’t have the chance to try the famous cutlet sandwiches but I hear they are a must-have! This is on my list for my next trip! Read about our experience here.
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  • Yakiniku (BBQ) @ Han No Daidokoro (Tokyo) The wagyu beef here is truly excellent. Order the “special outside skirt” and be amazed by the fattiest piece beef. I suggest sitting at the bar for a great time. The trainee chef was so animated and passionate, and made sure we ate the raw beef sushi while it’s fresh. Read about our experience here.
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    • Special outside skirt Kobe beef @ Han No Daidokoro
  • **Aaron’s picks:
    • WagyuTeppanyaki @ Misono (Kobe, Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto)
      • Aaron went to the one in Osaka. This is where you will find high-end teppanyaki. Choose your own cut of beef and allow the chef to cook this in front of you on a large flat iron plate.
    • Wagyu beef @ Shima Steak Tokyo (Tokyo)
    • This is where you can get the famous Wagyu steak sandwich at the end of your meal. Youtuber Mark Wiens loved it!


  • Tsujiki Fish Market (Tokyo) Here, you can eat the fish from the source! We were so distracted by all the food, we actually missed visiting the actual market part as it was closed by the time we finished eating. Oops! There are few sit down restaurants with crazy waits but we just decided to try various things straight from the stalls and it was not only deliciously fresh but also very fun. I recommend the fatty blue tuna, the tomago (egg) on a stick and Aaron would recommend the uni (sea urchin. Warning: acquired taste – not for everyone!). At one point, there was even a fisherman who was serving tuna right from the fish itself! Talk about freshness! Read about our experience here.
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    • Eating tuna straight from the source @ Tsukiji Fish Market
  • Uobei (Country-wide but not all of them have the “train sushi” system) I’d have to admit this is not where you’ll expect to get high quality sushi, but compared to Canadian standards it’s superior, especially for the low price tag. The reason I suggest this establishment is for its “train sushi” concept, which is unique. You can select sushi from a tablet and your selection will come on a train via a conveyor system. We went to the location in Shibuya and they had this but apparently some locations do not have the conveyor system so choose wisely! Hopefully they have the fatty blue fin tuna in stock when you visit. I was truly impressed! Read about our experience here.
  • **Aaron’s Pick:
      • I haven’t been here yet but Aaron has and so has Anthony Bourdain! This is where you can get excellent quality omakase, where the chef serves you a meticulously orchestrated meal a piece at a time. Friendly reminder that you will need to book months in advance for this special experience. 


  • Ippudo (Country-wide with international locations as well)
    • There are probably many amazing ramen places in Tokyo I have yet to try but based on the ones I have tried, I preferred Ippudo’s rich, flavourful tonkotsu broth. If you prefer a bit of spice, you can also try the spicy minced-meat ramen as well where you can choose your spice level to your liking. Read about our experience here.
  • Ichiran (Country-wide with international locations as well)
    • I did not actually eat here but I’ve had their ramen kits, which are quite excellent. This chain is definitely well-loved by Youtuber Mikey Chen and I trust him.
  • **Aaron’s pick:
    • Gogyo (Tokyo, Kyoto, Nagoya)This is the restaurant that Aaron must go to as his first stop, every time he goes to Japan. It’s unique for its burnt miso ramen. I’m serious, you will see fire from the kitchen here. I’m not a huge fan of the burnt taste but if you like charred food, this just might be your cup of tea. Read about our experience here.
    • Burnt miso ramen @ Gogyo
    • Burnt miso ramen @ Gogyo


  • Sukemasa (Kyoto) Random find as a result of me not wanting to walk very far with sore feet but best gyoza I had in Japan. Cozy restaurant with simple gyoza meal sets. Order with my favourite yuzu soda and your meal is complete! Read about our experience here.
  • Gyoza @ Sukemasa.
  • Gyoza @ Sukemasa. Photo credit: Aaron.


  • Cheese tarts @ Bake (Country-wide with international locations as well)
    • One will probably not be enough. Have a few of these creamy, cheesy tarts or get a whole box to-go!
Cheese tarts @ Bake
Cheese tarts @ Bake. Photo credit. Aaron.
  • Soft-serve ice-cream @ Cremia This is the creamiest and smoothiest soft-serve ice-cream I’ve ever had! You can find this at many malls while you’re in Japan.
    • Cremia soft-serve
    • Cremia soft-serve

I appreciate that Japan has a lot of good food and this list is not even close to being exhaustive but here are my humble suggestions. Feel free to comment below for more suggestions based on your own experiences! Happy eating!

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