5 unique foodie experiences in Tokyo, Japan
When it comes to foodie highlights, Tokyo is a must on any culinary bucket list. We love Japanese food a lot, a cuisine which is so highly regarded that it has even been added to UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list.
Tokyo is one of the best places in the country to enjoy some truly unique Japanese foodie experiences. These are our top 5 unique foodie experiences in Tokyo, which we tried, loved and highly recommend.
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Eating with Japanese locals in their home
The best experiences we have enjoyed throughout our travels have always been with locals. This is what inspired the Gay Stories section of our blog. Food has also been one of the best ways to connect with people, as well as a really fun way to learn more about the culture.
In Tokyo we discovered Tadaku – with locals! where you visit a family’s home in a residential part of the city and enjoy a meal. They showed us how they prepare their food and also talked us through different aspect of Japanese customs relating to food, such as how to use chopsticks and where to place them when you finish a meal.
We loved Tadaku – with locals because of all the various companies offering this experience, this was the easiest and most user friendly. You can search on their website to find a variety of homes offering experiences on every day of the week. We’ve teamed up with them to offer our readers an exclusive ¥500 off your order by using our unique code NOMADIC_LOCAL when booking.
Eat fresh sushi at the Toyosu market
Tsukiji used to be the world’s largest fish market but as of October 2018 moved to Toyosu. It’s notorious because of the large tuna auctions. For example in January 2012, a bluefin tuna sold for 56.4 million yen ($510,200)! The auctions take place around 5am and you can watch from afar from an observation gallery. If you turn up just before it shuts at midday, you can try out some of the tastiest and fresh sushi in the many nearby restaurants.
The former location of the Tsukiji market near the upscale Ginza shopping district dates back to 1935. But the site was earmarked for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, which is why it was moved to Toyosu.
Stroking kittens whilst sipping your coffee
Animal cafes are one of the many reasons we love Tokyo. Nowhere else in the world can you enjoy a cup of coffee in a designated cafe for cats: you order your brew, then sit down with a cute feline to stroke on your lap. Tokyo’s cat cafes became so popular that the idea expanded to a variety of different animal cafes, such as for birds, rabbits, owls, goats, snakes and even hedgehogs.
The quirky decor in each cafes adds to the otherworldly nature of these unique places. For example at the Temari no Ouchi cat cafe, even the doors are shaped into fairytale arches, with spaces for the cats to nap, play and of course pose away for their onlooking feline admirers.
Enjoying Japanese craft beer
Japanese craft beer has become so popular over the past few decades that Japan is now the 7th largest beer producer in the world.
We definitely recommend checking out one of the famous local breweries during your visit in Tokyo, such as the Outsider Brewing in Yamanashi. It’s located around 90 minutes west of Tokyo, so can easily be included in a day trip away from the city. This is one of the most famous breweries in the country, particularly because of their use of wild yeast rather than cultivated yeast, which makes their beers richer with flavour with a higher alcoholic content.
For us, ramen is one of the best things about Japan. It is considered comfort food and was originally just for special occasions. Today it has become one of the most popular lunch time staples served at one of the many small ramen bars in Tokyo.
Ramen is a meat or vegetables based broth served with noodles and usually topped with a boiled egg. The longer the broth cooks, the richer and tastier it is. Our recipe for chicken ramen takes 3 hours to prepare the broth, but the more dedicated will take far longer, some even days as shown in the Hollywood film The Ramen Girl.
True hardcore ramen fanatics will want to check out the Ramen Museum in Yokohomoa where you get to try out different kinds of ramen and even buy ramen souvenirs to bring back home.
Travel recommendations to Japan
Train saving tips: Depending on how many trains you plan to take in Japan, it may be worth investing in a 7 days JR Pass ($250), which allows you unlimited travel throughout the country for 7 consecutive days. But you must buy it from an agent before you go.
We personally used Japan Rail Pass. They offered the best prices and would definitely recommend them.
Travel insurance: Whether you go diving, hiking or just lay on the beach all day long, you need travel insurance. We use World Nomads because they offer considerable coverage especially for adventurous travellers. They also make it easy to make a claim as it’s all done online.
Flights: To fly to Japan and within, we recommend Skyscanner. Their website is very easy to use and they always offer the best prices. You can even search for the cheapest flights for any given month.
Hotels: Japan has a huge diversity of accommodation options. It is not the cheapest country to travel in but we found that quality is consistent with the price you pay. When we plan a holiday, we use Tripadvisor to research about the best places to stay and activities to do. We also use Booking.com to find the best deals and to book accommodation online.
Internet: for unlimited internet access during your entire trip, consider renting a pocket WiFi. Check out our guide to the best pocket WiFi router to rent in Japan.