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Tokyo, Japan: 10 Food Stops During Your Trip to Tokyo

Whatever you dream of Tokyo being like, that’s exactly what it is. I only say that because Tokyo is so eclectic and vast that it somehow exists as everything at once. Orderly and chaotic, business-esque and flamboyantly creative, new and old. I love Tokyo. The food is a reflection of the essence of the city. Some of the most creative new cuisine is coming from this area of the world right now, while it is also the home of the most delicious traditional dishes found in marketplaces all over the city. While spending time in Tokyo, I tried to get a sense of it all, but it seems as though that is impossible. No matter how many times I may visit Tokyo, there will always be more. And so, below is just the tip of the iceberg in regards to delicious food stops around the city...

1. Drink matcha tea at a traditional teahouse hidden in Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden

What is it? Matcha is essentially green tea leaves that have been ground up into an extremely fine powder

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I am a sucker for a good garden, and Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden is up there as one of the most beautiful inner-city gardens I have had the pleasure of visiting. Visit during the spring or fall, and you will be overwhelmed by the colors and beauty. Another aspect of Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden is the teahouses hidden amongst the trees. For a small fee, you can stop in and relax with some fresh tea and traditional sides to accompany it. We found it was a wonderful way to escape the heat and relax our feet, while having such a unique and beautiful experience.

2. Eat traditional snacks at Nakamise Shopping Street on your way to Sensoji Temple

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Like a good garden, you can also find me searching high and low for the best outdoor marketplaces in any city I visit. It is such an honest and refreshing way to see a country's everyday culture and local happenings. Although now Nakamise Shopping Street has become one of the more touristy areas of the city, it still maintains its stalls and traditional snacks to give people a taste of Japan. I snacked on senbei, traditional sweet rice crackers, as I roamed the stalls looking for some new artwork for my walls.

3. Eat Ramen in Shibuya after passing through

Shibuya Crossing

What is it? Typically wheat noodles served in a meat or fish broth, often containing veggies, sauces, and egg

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You can’t visit Japan without sitting down for a full bowl of ramen. In America, we’ve been overexposed to “instant ramen” in styrofoam bowls, but let me save you some time- they are absolutely not the same thing. Ramen in Japan is even better than you can imagine, full of meat, veggies, and noodles. This will put you straight into a food coma if done correctly. Shibuya is a great representation of the newness of Tokyo, full of lights and signs; it will overstimulate your senses and overwhelm you with the creativity that is Tokyo.

4. Eat fresh seafood and treats at local fish markets

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Again with the marketplaces. Even if you’re not a big fish-lover, this will still be a culturally important and equally delicious stop. This block of stalls that weave like a maze is full of fresh snacks and foods, each store offering something that you’ll want sample. I love fresh seafood, and this market is full of oysters, eels, octopus -- truly anything you can imagine. If you don’t feel like eating anything fishy, try the Tamagoyaki, a popular omelet-like snack on a skewer (pictured above) and the variety of nuts and treats!

5. Settle in at a conveyor belt sushi bar

How do they work?

Like Ramen, it would be a mistake to visit Japan without having your taste of authentic Japanese sushi. I loved the idea of trying out a sushi conveyor belt restaurant during my visit. It is such a fun and non-committal way to try a variety of fresh seafood. How do they typically work? Each kind is served on a differently patterned plate, letting you know how much it will cost. For example, everything passing on a blue plate will cost the same amount, everything passing on a yellow plate will cost the same amount. Just grab whatever looks delicious and the waiter will come by and add the amount of plates together to charge you!

6. Pick up some street food around town

Like what? Takoyaki (fried octopus), Gyoza (potstickers), sweet potato, Tamagoyaki (Japanese omelet, found at Tsukiji Fish Market)

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Japan is a great place to snack on some street food. Often, tourists worry about the safety of eating food off of the street in a country that feels foreign. The street food in Japan is cheap, but very safe and delicious. Do not hesitate to get in line with the locals and try different varieties of fried and fresh food.

7. Slurp up some Soba Noodles

What is it? Buckwheat noodles, served hot as a soup or cold with sides

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Soba noodles can be served hot or cold. If they are cold (which I always suggest eating on a hot day), you will be given the noodles with the sauce on the side. Mix the sauce with some of the wasabi and onions that also come on the side and then go ahead and eat the noodles by dipping them in the sauce. You may also be brought the water that the noodles were cooked in after you finish the noodles, in which case you should mix it with the remaining sauce, to drink and enjoy. If you decide to eat the soba noodles hot, it will typically be served as a soup. PS. it is customary to slurp, as it is thought to cool down the noodles. It isn’t rude to pick up the bowl and drink the remaining broth, either!

8. Shoot some Sake

What is it? Traditional rice wine, about 18-20% ABV

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Sake, also called rice wine, is the most popular alcoholic beverage served in Japan. It can be served warm or cold, depending on the variety, so make sure you ask if you prefer one over the other. In addition, there is a lot of tradition surrounding sake. Some important notes about politely drinking sake are:

1. Serve and receive sake with two hands

2. Pour for others and allow others to pour for you

3. Although the cup is small, drink in sips with two hands

9. Eat your way around Tokyo Disneyland

I am not above admitting that I am on a mission to visit every Disneyland Park. So, when in Tokyo, of course I am going to visit Tokyo Disneyland. It is such an easy day trip on the train that you can do with your friends and family for a full-day break out of the bustling city. One thing I adore about all Disney locations is their overwhelming abundance of snacks and treats. In between rides and touring, make sure to try every Mickey shaped pretzel, cookie, and pastry you can get your hands on!

10. Cool down with some matcha ice cream

One final and fun thing to grab during your long, hot days touring around Tokyo in the summertime is some matcha ice cream. This is something that has become popular in the US, with so many new flavorful ice cream and gelato shops popping up, but trust me, nowhere does it better than Japan itself. It is a wonderful, cold and refreshing treat to give your legs a break as you wander around a city that seems endless.

Any other suggestions? Let me know!

Written by Emi Lungmus

Edited by Anna McCarthy

Photography by Emi Lungmus, Dia Griffiths, & Simon Doong


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