Some Western culinary influences in Japan, including Portugal (tempura) and the Americas (teppanyaki), have been so integrated into Japanese cooking, it is difficult to differentiate them from more traditional Japanese cuisine like sushi and kaiseki. Standard Japanese meals usually include rice, soup, pickles and an entree, like fish or vegetables.
Restaurant Dining in Major Cities
The Japanese people love to eat raw fish in the form of sushi or sashimi as a domestic delicacy. Sushi shops are among the most popular eating spots in the country. But fish of any preparation is not a staple food. Only rice enjoys that status. You may be surprised to discover an almost infinite variety of Japanese cuisine, which more than holds its own against the inundation of overseas ethnic cuisines that have "traveled" to Japan with immense success.
Restaurants and other dining spots offer tasty dishes in a very broad price range, from very expensive to very affordable. You can also rest assured of impeccable service, the highest sanitation standards, and safe tap water to drink. Sample some of the popular Japanese dishes to discover your own favorites.
Where to Dine
From the heights of Chinese culinary delights to the peaks of French haute cuisine, Japan's premier restaurants are second to none. Most are located in the best hotels or in fashionable city districts such as Tokyo's Ginza, Roppongi, Akasaka and Harajuku. Gourmets may discover new taste sensations never before encountered.
More affordable restaurants abound in downtown office building basements, the dining floors of department stores, urban shopping centers, and the underground malls of the busiest railway stations.
At lunchtime, office workers crowd these dining spots. Many order teishoku, a low-priced complete meal on a tray. Most restaurants in the moderate to inexpensive price range have realistic plastic models of their dishes, with prices, in a showcase outside the entrance. If you don't know what to order, point to the dish you want to try. Some restaurants have bilingual (Japanese and English) menus. Paperback guidebooks to inexpensive Japanese dishes are available at major bookstores.
For people in a hurry, noodle stands, coffee shops, fastfood outlets and vending machines provide a variety of food and drink at very low cost.
At most restaurants, you receive a bill and pay as you leave. A few have you buy a meal coupon in advance and hand it to the waiter or waitress. Payment is made in cash except when credit cards are accepted. Inexpensive restaurants, coffee shops and fast-food outlets accept cash only. No tipping, please.
Unique Dining Novelties
- Box lunches, some unique to a particular area, are sold aboard
- Dinner on a cruise ship during an evening bay cruise lets you
- see city lights from the water.
- Streetside "yatai" stalls, some with stools, offer inexpensive
- taste treats.
- Dinner-shows at deluxe hotels combine fine food and live
- entertainment for that one evening you may want to splurge.
- Convenience stores have sandwiches, box lunches and other
- cooked dishes you can take out.
- Department store basements are great places to sample many
- kinds of food.
- Kaiten Sushi: Customers sit at a round counter and receive
- low-priced sushi on a circling conveyor belt.
- Dining Out
- What to Eat
- How to Eat
- Menu Guide
- Alcoholic Beverages
- Where to Drink
- Drinking Etiquette
- Chicken Yakitori
- Eggplant Miso Soup
- Japanese Potstickers (Gyoza)
- Japanese-Style Salad Dressings
- Pan-Broiled Scallops
- Shabu Shabu
- Tori no Mizutaki
- Tuna Tataki
from Kate's Global Kitchen:
Japanese Cookbooks with Recipes
- At the Japanese Table by Lesley Downer
- Food Sake Tokyo by Yukari Sakamoto
- Izakaya: The Japanese Pub Cookbook by Mark Robinson
- The Book of Miso by William Shurtleff & Akiko Aoyagi
- The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen by Eric Gower
- Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art by Shizuo Tsuji
- Japanese Cooking by Miyoko Nishimoto Schinner
- Japanese Kitchen Knives by Hiromitsu Nozaki
- Nobu Miami: The Party Cookbook
by Nobu Matsuhisa and Thomas Buckley
- Sake by Beau Timken and Sara Deseran
- The Sushi Lover's Cookbook: Easy-to-Prepare Sushi for Every Occasion
by Yumi Umemura
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This page modified January 2007