Japan

Restaurants in Japan

Most restaurants in Japan serve local dishes, which consists mainly of rice, miso, fish, noodles, and seasonal vegetables. The local diet is relatively healthy, which is why Japan has a much lower obesity rate than other developed nations. However, in recent years international cuisine has become incredibly popular; it’s now possible to find Japanese restaurants that serve anything from American food to Italian to French cuisine.

However, when in Japan, eat as the Japanese do. Tokyo in particular – which boasts some of the best restaurants in Japan -- is a food lover’s paradise. It contains more Michelin-starred restaurants than any other city in the world. Don’t leave without stopping at Daiwa Sushi. Wait times can easily exceed one hour, but it’s worth it: the sashimi melts in your mouth. Japanese restaurants are also known for their noodle dishes, and it would be a crime to leave the country without sampling at least one bowl of ramen and udon.

Set in a zen garden in Atago, Daigo is a shojin ryori (vegetarian restaurant) in the Buddhist tradition, housed in a temple building that was moved to its current location from the grounds of the nearby Daigo-ji Temple.

A sleek and elegant izakaya (drinking place) on the fifth floor of a Marunouchi skyscraper, Daigomi features an upscale robata-yaki (charcoal grill) where expense-account diners choose the fresh ingredients for their meal from the gorgeous display in front of them.

Japan’s traditional meal-ending confections, collectively known as wagashi, still have a passionate fan base. Often made with red-bean paste, sugar, and mochi (glutinous rice cakes), the treats were once a favored gift exchanged by samurai.

Yakitori — essentially the Japanese version of a grilled chicken kebab — is ubiquitous in Tokyo, found everywhere from street stalls to upscale restaurants.

Some of the world’s best French restaurants can be found in Tokyo, and our favorite among them is elegant Les Saisons, in the Imperial Hotel. At the helm is Chef Thierry Voisin, who was most recently at three-Michelin-starred Les Crayères in Reims.

The temple's restaurant serves vegetarian meals such as sesame tofu and soup made of dried gourds and sea kelp.

Lyonnais legend Paul Bocuse's first restaurant outside France occupies the National Art Center's stunning glass-and-steel lobby. It sits atop a three-story inverted concrete cone, but delivers down-to-earth brasserie fare, such as whitefish-mousseline quenelles in a bisque sauce.

Located in the penthouse of the Chanel Building in Ginza, this Michelin two-starred restaurant is a collaboration between the French fashion house and renowned chef Alain Ducasse.

Comprising just a few booths and stools, this restaurant may be short on old-school Italian charm but the dishes deliver; choose from thin-crust margherita pizza, pepperoncini pasta with red pepper flakes, and Japanese-style spaghetti topped with native shimeji mushrooms.

Known for its steamed Chinese pork buns, noodle bowls, and "hairy crabs" (a delicacy in season during the fall), 50 Ban is a no-frills, street food lunch and dinner spot in the former geisha district of Tokyo (now considered the French neighborhood).

The chef is the mentor of Masa Takayama, whose $450 sushi omakase has thrilled Manhattan sushi cognoscenti since his restaurant, Masa, opened in 2004.

Ask for a seat on the outdoor terrace at this Teruo Kurosaki-owned eatery.

A traditional ryokan (inn) on a quiet sidestreet in Kyoto, the Yoshikawa Inn presents classic Japanese hospitality in a 100-year-old building surrounded by gardens. Guests can eat at the casual twelve-seat counter or in one of nine private tatami rooms.

The brilliant fortysomething chef Yoshihiro Narisawa weds French finesse and Spanish avant-garde savvy with kaiseki aesthetics and a passion for local ingredients.