Tokyo is the undisputed capital of sushi. From the sleek restaurants of Ginza to the world-famous tuna auctions of Tsukiji Market, Japan’s largest city revolves around a culture of fresh-caught fish. While sushi is definitely the type of cuisine most associated with Japanese food internationally, most sushi lovers know little about the dish’s ever-evolving etiquette and history. The following eateries are the best in all of Tokyo, and represent the high-end, inexpensive, and everything in between. Trust us, a visit to one of these restaurants is your first step to becoming a certified sushi expert.
At this point, mentioning Sukiyabashi Jiro in a list of top Tokyo restaurants might seem redundant, but this Michelin-starred Ginza sushi bar remains a shining star of the culinary universe. A 2011 documentary immortalized the still-at-it nonagenarian owner Jiro Ono, whose work ethic transcends normal human levels of industriousness. The omakase here remains out of this world, although Jiro recently bestowed most of the sushi-making responsibilities to his sons. Reservations can be made through your hotel concierge, at least one month in advance.
This Tokyo staple has multiple locations, so we recommend eating at Sushi no Midori’s outpost in the neighborhood of Ginza. The line is long — but worth it. Less intimidating than other sushi spots in the area, the vibe is relatively casual. And a low key vibes means more freedom to try new things. Sushi no Midori offers a few set plates of the chef’s daily recommendations, that are both surprisingly inexpensive and very fresh.
A short distance from Shimbashi station, Kyubey is famous in Japan and worldwide. Recently called the 7th best restaurant in the world, it’s been around since 1935. The head shop in Ginza serves a delicate symphony of a meal, complimented by a speciality brew of Suntory beer. A popular offering is the “dancing shrimp” — a prawn that’s still moving slightly as it lies on your serving plate. A nigiri-only omakase runs at about $150 USD.
The gem of Ark Hills (a development project similar to the hyper-modern Roppongi Hills), Sushi Saito is a must if you’re hankering for a top-tier meal, but can’t get seats at Jiro’s. This restaurant might actually be better: Sushi Saito has the highest rating on Tabelog (the Japanese version of Yelp), and has received 3 Michelin stars for the past five years. Reservations are required for both lunch and dinner.
A bit off the beaten path, Sushiryori Inose is not exactly inexpensive, but your yen buys you an experience that can’t be replicated anywhere else. Here you’ll interact with a bubbly husband-wife chef team, whose warmth and friendliness is uncharacteristic for the typical Japanese sushi joint. Menu options are standard, but reliably tasty. Reservations are a good idea.
Umi means “the sea” in Japanese, but this restaurant uses two characters for the word, rendering it “sea taste.” And right off Tokyo’s Tsukiji Market, this place is as close to the ocean as you can get. Umi is a sleek, quiet eatery, with an immaculate sushi bar. It’s also open for dinner, long after the market has closed for the day. Reservations are made in Japanese, so ask your hotel staff in advance.
This Anthony Bourdain-approved sushi spot is refreshingly far from the touristy areas. Each piece of sushi is seasoned with anecdotes from the eponymous chef, who serves his omakase with a deliberate flair. Here, the rice is as important as the fish, and Yasuda takes great pains to make sure you’re having a good time. It’s not cheap, but this is omakase with heart. To get here, take the Ginza line to Gaienmae Station.
Tsugu Sushimasa still flies under the radar, which is lucky for the newcomers just discovering this place. The restaurant is in Shinjuku, Japan’s sometimes-seedy entertainment hub. Three generations of owners have faithfully guarded their Edo-period culinary secret: a special technique of making sushi rice by using a slightly more flavorful vinegar. Tsugu Sushimasa also includes some pieces of grilled fish on the menu — a delicious interlude to the typical sushi melody.
A short walk from Hanzomon subway station, this eight-seat sushi spot is a mystifying experience. There’s a delicate, but comfortable, air to this place — not pretentious, but not wholly relaxed either. The chef is attentive and friendly, and oftentimes serves sea grapes — Okinawan seaweed — along with your meal. Make your reservations early, seats fill up fast.
Akihabara is known first and foremost as Tokyo’s geek capital — think anime, maid cafes, arcades, and the like — but there’s also a cheap sushi joint here that’s worth a visit. Pretty standard in price, portions, and quality, Ganso is a kaiten sushi place, or a sushi restaurant with a conveyor belt. Some of the dessert options are wacky, but hit the spot after a soy sauce overdose. After you’re finished eating, a staff member counts the number of plates you’ve consumed to determine your bill. The design of each plate reflects the price.
Highly affordable, this Shinjuku gem is a standing room-only sushi bar, with space for about 12 people. It’s intimate: you can watch the chef prepare your meal right in front of your eyes, which is a kind of omakase experience for a fraction of the price. Savor fresh cuts of negitoro, uni, and salmon, and down it all with some complimentary green tea.
It’s worth scoping Sushi Katsura, located near the old location of Tsukiji Market. Both lunch and dinner here is a fair price compared to the fancier establishments in the area. The lunch nigiri set is really a steal (for about $15 USD), and comes with complimentary beer or sake. The atmosphere is friendly and relaxed.
At Uobei, customers order on a small screen, and a few minutes later the sushi zips right to your table on a high-speed conveyor belt. If you don’t speak any Japanese, this makes choosing the sushi you want an absolute breeze. The fish here is better than other restaurants of the same price range, and the futuristic set-up is guaranteed to entertain.
Near Ebisu station off the Yamanote line is Sushi Hayakawa, a Zen eatery with a subdued sushi bar and an enigmatic chef. The menu is highly unique: one recent dish was tuna belly on a charcoal-broiled roll with truffle flakes. A visit to the restaurant’s official Instagram will clue you into the catch of the day. Prices are steep so be prepared.
This place hasn’t made any best-of lists yet, but that’s because savvy Tokyoites have been keeping it a fervent secret. A stone’s throw away from northeastern Tokyo’s Ueno station, this small kaiten (conveyor belt) shop serves quality fatty tuna, sweet clam, and thick slabs of shiny pink salmon at wholly unbeatable prices.
Can’t get enough tuna? Itamae is the place for you. With 12 locations around Tokyo, this place is affordable, unpretentious, and 100 percent delicious. It’s been called the number one restaurant for tuna in Tokyo, and they take that reputation pretty seriously. From 2008 to 2011, Itamae bought the “first tuna of the year” at Tokyo’s high-priced tuna auctions. Nowadays, they host an annual tuna-carving event.
There are no Michelin stars here, but there might as well be: Seamon has earned extremely high reviews from customers from all over the world. They don't serve omakase in the strictest sense; here they offer certain set courses with different entrees and various pieces of sushi, plus dessert. It’s more relaxed here, but you still get a luxury experience: each party is given their own personal sushi chef.
Himawari Zushi Shintoshin
Located in bustling Shinjuku, Himawari Zushi excels in the categories of price and flavor. It’s a conveyor belt sushi restaurant, but you can order freshly made sushi as well. Prices are very cheap, and the fluke, shrimp, and fatty salmon are the shining stars. Allow a little extra time to wait in line during evening hours.
With outposts all over the world, it might seem silly to head straight to Nobu after you’ve landed in Tokyo. But with a new Saturday brunch menu, this restaurant continues to deliver authentic and innovative Japanese fusion cuisine. With vegetarian options, the lunch box satisfies all kinds of eaters. There’s also a sleek bar here with fine cocktails and local sake.
Oh Kura Sushi, the best and cheapest sushi in all of Japan. Kura is a chain restaurant with stores all over the country, but the ones in Tokyo are definitely the best, being as they’re the closest to all the action at Tsukiji. Everything here is pretty good, but you might want to avoid some of the fishier fish if you’re not the mackerel type. For those with weird taste buds, occasionally really bizarre sushi floats by on the Kura conveyor belt: banana slices, for example.