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Because you can't spend all day every day journeying around IgoUgo, editors round up the highlights: members' notable trips, newest reviews, favorite destinations, contests, and more. Have a question or idea? Let us know!

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Eats in the East: Tokyo Dining Tips

Eats in the East: Tokyo Dining Tips Photo

Photo by husain

Posted on March 5, 2008 in Travel Tips

In November, the respected Michelin Guides released its first-ever edition on the culinary hotbed of Tokyo. Awarding more stars here than in any other destination, Michelin gave credit to a city with a dizzying wealth of eateries. It seems that the famous stars weren’t received warmly by every rated establishment, though. For an unbiased look at where to eat—and how to eat—in Tokyo, we look to none other than our own IgoUgo gourmets.

Where To Eat

benlin says: “I promise you the most tender piece of pork you will ever bite into. You can also choose between the giant ebi (shrimp) or the four prawn katsus, which are also high on my list of dining experiences in Japan. All the meals are accompanied with a sesame-seed dipping sauce, where you grind the seeds yourself to a desired consistency.”

billmoy says: “Yoshinoya is a popular chain of fast-food outlets selling a hearty and healthy selection of typical Japanese dishes. There are about a thousand restaurants found all over Japan. The typical Yoshinoya will have an easy-to-read photo menu to order your food selections. There are plenty of standard noodle and soup dishes to choose from, such as the "beef and rice bowl" which every restaurant chain and frozen-dinner company has seemingly adopted. Your Japanese-style breakfast can contain miso soup, pickles, salmon, and steamed rice. There are also some set menu meals that are reasonably priced, and that is important in an expensive city like Tokyo. Wash down your food with a tea or even a beer.”

And becks weighs in, too: “Beef bowl in a Yoshinoya will never be confused with a kaiseki dinner in an expensive restaurant but it does make a more interesting alternative to McDonalds, the other major player on the bargain fast-food field in Tokyo.”

ihagstedt says: “Gonpachi recreates the atmosphere of old Japan. Special seats are available for drinking sake, and the private rooms are arranged to allow a good view of the high-ceilinged restaurant. The top floor of the sushi restaurant has garden seats allowing you to escape and forget the busy city, and for special occasions.”

Tsukiji Fish Market
AgedToPerfection says: “In order to witness the truly marvelous and grotesque, one must arrive at the Tsukiji Fish Market by 6am to see eels writhing on the floor and vendors haggling over huge tuna. Get to Tsukiji early. Don’t worry about making reservations at a sushi restaurant, just pick one that tickles your fancy and try it. We wove through the alleys until we found a clean, small sushi restaurant. Sushi breakfast at 8am is perfectly acceptable and you shouldn’t knock it until you’ve tried it. Where else will you be able to find anything fresher?”

Street food
Seaotter71 says: “Thank God for Japanese street food. My other favorite was takoyaki, or fried octopus dumpling. The round dumplings are made up of batter, octopus, tenkasu (the batter left over from tempura cooking), pickled ginger, and green onion. They are cooked in a takoyakiki, a special cast-iron frying pan with hemispherical molds, and topped with okonomiyaki sauce. It truly is an amazing sight to see the cooks using toothpicks to turn the dumplings in the takoyakiki to give the dumplings their round shape. You can usually spot these places by the cartoon octopus on their sign.”

How To Eat

Random Tips – Mostly About Food
lucinda3 says: “Many restaurants have menus that are only in Japanese. And, many waiters only speak Japanese. If you don't speak Japanese, you can look for restaurants that have menus with English or pictures, or you can look for displays of food out front (so you can point). I would recommend learning some Japanese phrases so you can order more of a range of dishes, rather than limiting yourself.

As you may have heard, it is customary—and even polite—to slurp your noodles. This allows you to experience a better taste and texture, since you avoid breaking the noodles.

A little goes a long way. Learning simple Japanese phrases like "hello" and "thank you" was very much appreciated. Restaurant staff say "thank you" on the way out, and it's polite if you respond in kind (and in Japanese, if you can).”

Eating for Less
dackelynn says: “There are lots of cheap noodle shops in town. Usually you can distinguish these by long counters with seated customers slurping on noodles. Everything will be in Japanese. If there's a ticket machine, you can try taking your chances by selecting a random menu item (if you don't have any allergies or aren't a vegetarian or the like). Take the ticket to the counter and wait for your food. If they have a menu then point at the item you want. Tips aren't necessary in Japan.“

Tips for Vegans and Shellfish Allergies
Jameskyoto says: “As Japan is an island with immediate accessibility to the ocean, it often is perceived that the Japanese people eat seafood as a stand-alone staple. But there are other equally important staples to consider when visiting Japan. These choices range from rice, noodles, and soybeans to poultry, fruits, and vegetables. These have become staples due to limited land space for grazing (cattle, etc.), and land that is suitable for growing particular crops, such as rice and beans. Never forget, this is the country that made tofu famous!”

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