What food you can expect to find in Tokyo…

By Kurt Wilson

What food you can expect to find in Tokyo…


Sushi has grown into a popular cuisine the world over. From nigiri-zushi, or bite-sized balls of vinegar-flavored rice topped with pieces of fresh seasonal seafood, to chirashi-zushi, or a plate of this rice covered with a variety of ingredients, the eye-pleasing sushi is a tradition of Japan with universal appeal.


Soba established itself as a popular everyday dish by the mid Edo period, and came to be a major local flavor of Tokyo. It’s also one of the few rare dishes that are perfectly acceptable to slurp. This is because sucking air is believed to enhance the aroma of the buckwheat noodles.


Monja-yaki is made with a flour-based batter topped with shredded cabbage and other ingredients and cooked on a griddle. The 60 or so eateries lining Tsukishima Monja Street serve everything from seafood to ethnic-inspired monja-yaki.


Fukagawa-meshi is a bowl of rice topped with a miso-based stew of Japanese littleneck clams and chopped leeks. The dish originated as a kind of fast food for fishermen working busily in the Fukagawa area near the mouth of the Sumida-gawa River, where clam gathering boomed in the Edo period.


Dojo-nabe is a shallow pot dish lined with dojo loaches and cooked in soy sauce-flavored warishita broth, served with chopped leeks to add as desired. Yanagawa-nabe is also a shallow pot dish lined with loaches but cooked with shaved gobo burdock and beaten eggs.


Chanko-nabe is a hot pot made with chicken and seasonal vegetables. The large pot dish originally cooked for sumo wrestlers—each stable has its own distinct recipe—eventually came to gain wide popularity among the general public.

Island Cuisine

People on the Izu Islands and the Ogasawara Islands prepare their abundant supply of seafood not only as sashimi but also in charcoal-grilled, steamed, and miso-soup dishes. Shima-zushi is sushi made with fish caught near the islands. To preserve the ingredients in the warm weather, the fish is marinated in soy sauce for a preparation called zuke. The rice is flavored slightly sweeter and stronger. Wasabi, which is difficult to find on the islands, is substituted with karashi mustard or togarashi chili pepper.

Unagi (EEL)

Kabayaki eel is prepared differently in the Kanto and Kansai regions. In Kanto style, the eel is sliced down the back, first broiled plain, then steamed, and then seasoned and grilled once again. Legend says that because Edo had a large population of the samurai warrior class, it was bad luck to slit the eel down the belly.