15 Must-Try Dishes in Tokyo

You don't need to be a dining expert to know that Tokyo is one of the world's premier food cities. However, Tokyo is not only a paradise for discovering foods that originated in the capital (like sushi), but for sampling food from all over Japan, such as Wagyu beef from Kobe or ramen from Kyushu island. Try not to drool as you read through the top 15 dishes to try in Tokyo.

01 of 15

Sushi

Sushi

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Sushi is probably the food most commonly associated with Japan and is available all over the country. However, the Edomae-zushi style of preparation (which dates back to when Tokyo was known as Edo) is the most common, both within Japan and abroad. As far as where to try sushi in Tokyo, two options are the easiest for foreigners. The first is at Tsukiji Outer Market, where tuna auctions no longer take place, but which is still home to dozens of fine sushi shops. The second would be any number of conveyor-belt sushi restaurants in Tokyo, which allow you to sample multiple sushi dishes for a low per-plate price, in a very quirky setting no less.

02 of 15

Tempura

Tempura

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Although not quite as ubiquitous as sushi, tempura (which is meat, seafood or vegetables coated in a light batter and then flash-fried) is somewhat famous around the world, as Japanese food goes. Whether you tenzaru soba, which pairs an eclectic tempura basket with hot or cold soba noodles, or keep it simple with just the fried stuff, a great place to eat tempura is Akashi in historical Asakusa. Come here for lunch after a morning walking amid the district's sites, or before hopping over to nearby Ueno Park (assuming you had a rickshaw pull you) to walk it off there.

03 of 15

Yakitori

Yakitori

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Less famous than tempura but simpler, perhaps, than even sushi, yakitori (skewers of grilled chicken and, in some cases, chicken parts) has more than earned its reputation as one of the best dishes to try in Tokyo. Typically enjoyed as street food, yakitori is a staple food of Shinjuku's infamous Omoido Yokocho, which is known in English as "Piss Alley." You can also find yakitori on the menu of many restaurants, including izakaya pubs that are common in Shinjuku, Shibuya, and Roppongi.

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Wagyu Beef Teppanyaki

Wagyu Beef Teppanyaki

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Want to try melt-in-your-mouth Japanese beef, but can't make it all the way to Kobe? Not to worry, as there are plenty of Teppanyaki grills in Tokyo where you can enjoy Wagyu, beef from the world's happiest cows. If you plan to be in Shibuya (and you likely do), make reservations at Hakusyu, located just steps from the Shibuya Scramble pedestrian crossing. Otherwise, another great option is Ginza's Misono, where you can take in stunning views of the Tokyo Tower as you dine.

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05 of 15

Harajuku Crepes

Harajuku Crepes
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Has your trip to Tokyo made your sweet tooth sharpen? If so, you'll want to head to Harajuku's Takeshita-dori—just don't get distracted by the Gothic Lolita types strutting by. Instead, line up at one of the shops selling the crepes that have become famous in this part of Tokyo, and which are certainly not French. Of course, if a folded crepe smothered with strawberries and slathered in whipped cream doesn't tickle your fancy, some savory flavors are available, including "surf and turf" ones featuring meat and seafood.

06 of 15

Ramen

Ramen

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Ramen noodle soup has become so world-famous that it's difficult to come to Japan and not have it on your bucket list. While the most delicious ramen in Japan (at least according to locals—don't shoot the messenger) can be found in the Hakata district of Kyushu island's Fukuoka city, you can get in on the action in several places in Tokyo. The so-called "ramen street" in Tokyo Station spotlights ramen in all its many forms, from creamy tonkotsu pork bone broth to salty shoyu ramen. If you want to eat Hakata-style ramen in particular, consider dining at Kyushu Jangara Ramen in Akihabara.

07 of 15

Tonkatsu

Tonkatsu

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By now, you've probably realized that Tokyo's food scene is, how shall we say this...heavy? This trend continues with tonkatsu, a thick pork cutlet breaded with panko crumbs and deep-fried to golden perfection. Dozens of shops in Tokyo sell tonkatsu, but some of the best include Nishi-azabu's Butagumi, which allows you to choose your own cut of pork and, near Meguro River, Tonki, whose 80-year history makes it practically legendary. Another great tonkatsu spot, which is more convenient but also more crowded as a result, is Saboten, whose legendary flavor has seen it exported all over Asia.

08 of 15

Onigiri

Onigiri

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Who says all the best dishes in Tokyo have to be served on a planet? While it's true that onigiri rice balls are available inside some sit-down eateries, the best place to try these is decidedly casual: Family Mart or 7-11 kombini, or convenience stores. Keep it simple with a plain salted rice onigiri, or try adventure flavors filled with pickled plum, tuna, or salmon. Onigiri is great to enjoy as a meal on the go, whether you're taking day trips to Kamakura or Nikko, trying to squeeze as many Tokyo neighborhoods as possible into your day's sightseeing, or are heading to Haneda or Narita Airports to start your journey home.

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09 of 15

Ikayaki

Ikayaki

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Tokyo's not as famous for street food as its sister (and, sometimes, rival) city Osaka, but a few items stand out for Tokyo travelers who want to walk and chew gu...eat delicious Japanese food. One of these is Ikayaki, which literally means "grilled squid." Featuring an entire squid or cuttlefish, seared until it's perfectly tender and glazed in teriyaki sauce, Ikayaki is all over Tokyo but is especially common in the Kabukicho sub-district of Shinjuku ward and in Tsukiji Outer Market (which makes it a great chaser for your sushi breakfast!).

10 of 15

Melon-pan

Melon

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On one hand, the name of Melon Pan (which literally means "melon bread" is deceiving. Although the sweet bun is shaped and colored, more or less, like a cantaloupe, it doesn't have a melon flavor at all. On the other hand, who cares? Whether you purchase a simple melon pan from a convenience store, or head to a bakery like Asakusa's Kagetsudo, which fills its fresh-baked Melon Pan with ice cream or even whipped cream, we promise you won't hold a grudge.

11 of 15

Cremia Soft Serve

Cremia

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Love soft serve ice cream? Japan, in general, is a paradise for "soft cream" (as the Japanese call it), especially regional varieties like lavender flavored in Hokkaido, and sweet potato in Kanazawa, topped with the city's namesake gold leaf. A classic option to enjoy in Tokyo is Cremia, a decadent variant made with 25 percent fresh cream, 12.5 percent milk fat content, and served in a delicate langue de chat cone. You can find Cremia all over Tokyo—the advertising isn't subtle. (Though it's thankfully not in vain, either!)

12 of 15

Chanko-nabe

Chankonabe

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Have you ever wondered how sumo wrestlers get so huge? It's not by eating tonkatsu or melon pan at every meal, though that would be a delightful way to lose your figure indeed. Rather, it's by eating Chanko-nabe, a hearty Japanese stew made with chicken broth, then loaded up with chicken or fish and a ton of fresh vegetables. Rich in nutrients (but especially protein), chanko (to which it's often appreciated) is sumo wrestlers' bulking secret. Try it yourself at Tomoegata, located in the de-facto "sumo town" of Ryogoku, where you can also watch a sumo practice for free (assuming you come early in the morning and there's not a tournament going on).

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13 of 15

Soba

Soba

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Earlier, you read about soba in the context of tempura, but you needn't burden your heart with fried food in order to enjoy these delicious simple (and healthy!) buckwheat noodles, which are served hot or cold, and typically topped with julienned nori seaweed and served with a shoyu dipping sauce you can mix with spicy wasabi. A great place to enjoy soba in Tokyo is at Kanda Matsuya, located in an Edo-era house in Kanda, about halfway between Tokyo Station and Akihabara.

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Kakigori

Kakigori

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Japan's scorching summers have been shattering all kinds of records lately, so whether you come in 2020 for the Olympics or during another near, you're going to need to find a way to calm down. One delicious way to do this is with a bowl of kakigori, a mountain of delicately shaved ice with fruity syrup (and sometimes fresh fruit), chocolate, green tea or a variety of other flavors. A great place in Tokyo to try kakigori is Shimokita Chaen in Setagaya ward.

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Kaiseki

Kaiseki

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Rather than a single dish, kaiseki is a style of Japanese dining that entails a formal, multi-course presentation, with elements that include many of the top Tokyo dishes on this list. If you want enjoy Michelin-starred kaiseki and don't mind paying for it, make a reservation Kagurazaka Ishikawa in Shinjuku. Otherwise, you'll find a more affordable Tokyo kaiseki experience at Asada in Aoyama, which is not far from Harajuku and Shibuya.

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