Kaiseki dining is Japan’s traditional haute cuisine, a tasting course of small, elegant dishes precisely prepared to evoke the flavors and imagery of the season. While Kyoto is the birthplace of kaiseki, Tokyo, with its world-class dining offers its own inimitable kaiseki dining scene, influenced by the cooking styles of various regions across Japan. Here are 11 must-try kaiseki restaurants from Japan’s metropolitan capital city.
Yakitori is a popular type of Japanese food consisting of skewered chicken meat cooked typically over a charcoal grill, where “yaki” means to grill and “tori” is bird. The meat can come from all different parts of the chicken–from the neck, crest, breast, wings, heart, liver, and more. Vegetables such as shiitake mushrooms, green peppers and cherry tomatoes may also feature either with the chicken or separately on skewers. Yakitori is often flavored with salt or a soy sauce-based sauce known as tare, and is usually eaten as casual-style snack or meal with drinks. Read on to discover some of the best places for yakitori in Tokyo.
Japan is a country that was relatively late when it comes to eating beef, due to Buddhist tradition which forbade eating meat. However, during the Meiji era the country adopted a more Western-style diet as it aimed to modernize. Today, Japan is one of the best places to enjoy an excellent steak thanks to the generations of artisan cattle farmers who have carefully raised regional varieties of Japanese domestic cattle, known as “wagyu”.
Japanese fireworks, or hanabi (meaning “flowers of fire”), are a tradition that goes back several centuries. Arriving to Japan during the Edo period, the art of making fireworks has become a major artistic endeavor with master artisans crafting stunning spectacles to be displayed at the fireworks festivals known as hanabi taikai. While in other countries firework displays are typically held as part of holiday celebrations, in Japan, fireworks festivals have become an important summer tradition and usually take place alongside large rivers to help people keep cool in the heat. Read on for four of the most renowned Tokyo fireworks festivals of summer, along with recommendations for great places to indulge in great food and drinks before or after the show.
Tsukiji, located in Tokyo’s Chuo ward, was made world famous by the wholesale fish market located in the area. The district is also home to plenty of other attractions that make it a great day out in Tokyo for both residents and visitors. The elegant Hamarikyu Gardens nearby were originally a feudal lord’s residence and duck hunting grounds. The Tsukiji Hongan-Ji temple adjacent to Tsukiji Station is a Buddhist temple that dazzles visitors with its ancient Indian Buddhist architectural style. A stroll along the Sumida River is the perfect activity for a fine day, with view of several famous Tokyo bridges.
Curry is one of the most popular dishes in Japan that has been enjoyed since the early Meiji period. During that time, Japanese people started to eat British-style curry and other Western foods as a way to emulate modern Western culture. Over time the flavor of British curry, which is based on Indian curry, became sweeter with a more mild flavor to suit the Japanese palate, and the dish came to be known as a Japanese dish called “kare raisu” (curry rice).
The Asakusa district is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Tokyo metropolitan area. Although it’s located in the middle of Japan’s largest city, Asakusa, which was historically the town’s entertainment quarter, maintains the traditional “shitamachi” downtown vibe of old Edo, and it’s one of the few places in Tokyo where one can still take a ride on a rickshaw. The local landmark Kaminarimon is a massive gate that leads to Sensoji Temple, which is flanked by the Nakamise shopping street, a traditional market that has sold souvenirs and local snacks to visitors for centuries.
Shibuya is one of Tokyo’s top destinations for visitors and locals alike. A beacon of youth culture and entertainment, the area offers everything from shopping and karaoke to cool bars and lively nightclubs.
Just outside of Shibuya Station is the Hachiko statue dedicated to Japan’s most loyal canine, which has become a popular rendezvous spot for groups of friends meeting up. And the intersection in front of the station, often referred to as “Scramble Crossing” is the busiest pedestrian crossing in the world, with as many as 2,500 people passing through it each time the traffic light changes. But Shibuya isn’t only a place to go for fun shopping and entertainment, it’s home to trendy cafés and numerous restaurants that provide a wide range of cuisines. If you’re wondering where to eat near Shibuya station, here’s a handy guide.
Cherry blossom season in Japan begins each year in early spring, lasting until around Golden Week in May. During that time, swaths of pink and white sakura blossoms burst into full bloom starting from the Kyushu area in the southwest and moving in a northerly direction. During this season hanami, or cherry blossom viewing parties, are common in Japan. Sakura viewing first began during the Heian period, the historical peak of the Japanese nobility and a period in which culture and the arts flourished in Japan. The Heian emperor would host extravagant feasts beneath the cherry blossoms at the imperial palace in Kyoto, which set the tradition for hanami picnics. Today, hanami parties can take place either during the daytime or at night among family, friends, and coworkers.
Tokyo Tower is one of the most famous silhouettes on the Tokyo skyline. Modeled after the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the iconic structure—which functions as a communications and observation tower—stands approximately 333 meters (about 1,090 feet) tall. Although Tokyo Tower has been superseded as a broadcasting tower by the taller Tokyo Skytree, which opened in 2012, it is still a favorite landmark for travelers to add to their list.