Restaurants in Japan   日本のレストラン

Date of publication :
Eaters ramen counter

Ramen is often eaten at a counter, alone or with friends.

Some plastic food in a restaurant window, showing what's on the menu.

Some plastic food in a restaurant window, showing what's on the menu.

The sushiyasan (sushi chef) of Gou restaurant in Fukuoka.

Dokorogou sushi restaurant in Fukuoka.

The main room of the Izakaya Kenpachi has inspired a scene in the film Kill Bill.

The main room of the izakaya Kenpachi featured in a scene in the film Kill Bill.

Windows on the World restaurant

View from the restaurant 'Windows on the World'.

Yakumo-an Restaurant

At Yakumo-an, you can eat soba noodles in the beautiful Japanese garden.

What are we eating tonight?

Arriving in Japan and finding yourself spoilt for choice in front of a dizzying array of different restaurants - it's a situation well known to visitors of Japan! Here is a short explanation to help with any confusion.

If you go to a Japanese restaurant in the west, it will likely be a sushi restaurant serving a variety of other Japanese specialties too. When you arrive in Japan, you'll have a big surprise when you discover the incredible variety of Japanese restaurants on offer.

1 restaurant, 1 specialty

The first thing to know is that in Japan the vast majority of restaurants are specialty restaurants.

You will see restaurants dedicated to sushi, ramen, kare (Japanese curry), pork tonkatsu (breaded cutlet), okonomiyaki and more.

They're often small restaurants that don't look like a restaurant at first glance, but once inside can be the best way for visitors to eat well.

Prices may vary depending on the quality of the products, but in recent years, the Michelin Guide has awarded several restaurants serving ramen and yakitori in Tokyo!

The most famous sushi restaurants won't even serve you unless you have been introduced by a known customer.

Start by ordering an omakase menu, this means the chef serves you his own selection of sushi, considered a great privilege.

I need a drink...

A kind of restaurant-bar called an izakaya is very popular in Japan, and is the Japanese equivalent of a tapas bar.

The menus are varied, the portions are rather small and often fried, to be shared by the group and enjoyed with plenty of beer or other alcoholic beverages. Salarymen come in large noisy groups at the end of the week to help forge the group spirit.

The atmosphere is often lively and fun. In the same style of group-dining restaurants, you will find yakiniku, Japanese barbecue.

For family

If you are dining out as a family, family restaurants are a good solution. These are chain restaurants that offer a variety of Western or Japanese (washoku) menus.

They are mostly very cheap and clean, but the food there is usually fairly ordinary. They often offer a nomihodai, an unlimited, self-service soft drinks counter. As the name suggests, These restaurants often serve as a meeting place for families with young children on weekends.

These types of restaurants also serve good inexpensive breakfasts. The main chains are Denny's, Gasto, Royal Host, Saizeriya (Italian), Kappazushi (conveyor belt sushi), or Jonathan.

Japan also offers a variety of well-known fast food chains. There's MOS Burger, a clean Japanese chain that serves good quality burgers with Japanese-style menus (think teriyaki burgers, fried shrimp burgers or rice burgers).

We won't go into themed restaurants in this article, they're more shows rather than restaurants.

In recent years many of these restaurants have begun to offer Halal menus for growing customers from the Philippines or Malaysia.

Gourmet restaurants

Japanese traditional fine dining, kaiseki, is mostly enjoyed in traditional inns, where ryokan usually include the meal in the overall price for the night. The price of a kaiseki meal will be much higher than in other restaurants

But don't forget that it's still Japan. The restaurants there are, for the most part, clean and quite honest, even at a simple yatai. All you risk is large check (and stomach!).

Comments Read comments from our travellers