Super-local izakaya hidden behind train tracks or deep inside shopping arcades. Jazz cafes deep in a warren of alleyways. Restaurants where you’ll never see an English menu – or at least will take you out of the way of the usual neighbourhoods. These are my favourite places to eat at, and I’d love to have a meal with you.
Because there are so many possible restaurants and dishes to try all over Tokyo, no two visits or tours will be exactly alike.
Some possible iterations:
・Coffee at a jazz bar, followed by dinner at a fabulous, divey little izakaya somewhere in town – soulful cooking and drinks a-plenty.
・Amazing yakitori? Seafood? Ramen? Tonkatsu? Standing izakaya with incredible wagyu-uni rolls way out east of Tokyo where nothing is written in English? Let’s do it.
・Hunting down some great soup curry and wandering around the neighbourhood afterwards.
・Chatting to a tofu shop owner and having freshly-made soy milk before wandering around the neighbourhood and eating lunch or dinner.
・Need a Japanese speaker to go with you to a special sushi place – or a particular restaurant? Sure. (As long as I can actually make that reservation.)
Okay, how does this work? No two tours are ever alike, so I’m available on a for-hire basis at either lunch or dinnertime. No two meals cost the same, so meals for yourself and myself will need to be covered by you. This means we can order as much or as little as you and your traveling companions want to eat. Note: I don’t drink alcohol – but am happy to recommend some fun drinks for you!
You will have 4 hours of my time, from the moment I meet you somewhere to the moment we say goodbye. For these 4 hours, you also get my Japanese speaking and interpretation skills, years of accumulated travel/cultural knowledge about Japan (and other places), insight into living here as a non-white person, ridiculous puns, and very probably a ton of book recommendations. We will eat some fabulous food.
How many people can we be? Because restaurants in Japan can be pretty small, there is a maximum of 5 participants. It really depends on exactly what you want to eat as well – a tiny 6-seater place might only be able to accommodate 2 – 3 of us.
What else? I require a preliminary, non-refundable planning fee of JPY10,000 – this will be fully applicable to the cost of hiring me. This is because each tour will be fully customized. It allows me to spend time crafting options and researching places I think you’ll love, emailing you suggestions, and most importantly, making restaurant reservations.
While it’s entirely possible to rock up to places or bars on the day for dinner, many Japan-dwellers (as well as myself) believe in advance planning. Really good restaurants will be booked out up to weeks, if not months in advance. Some places will only take reservations exactly one month in advance. Some places require that you sacrifice a small mouse underneath a gibbous moon before calling them. (Kidding about that last one, but you know what I mean.)
Also, please bear in mind that queuing is a national sport in Japan. If you want me to take you to a particularly popular place, waiting in line does count as part of those 4 hours we have together!
Please contact me only if you’re serious about wanting to do a food tour with me. I’m a one-person operation, and it’s hard to respond to every single email!
What can’t you do? I can’t bring you to Sushi Saito or any of those invite-only sushi or kaiseki restaurants. Besides, I think there’s so much more to Tokyo than these hallowed and exclusive restaurants – there is a whole world out there beyond super expensive food!
I would skip tea ceremony in Tokyo. But if you’re going to Kyoto, I would suggest contacting Michael at Kanjoan. He does wonderful tea kaiseki.
I don’t want to eat with you. Can you recommend a few restaurants? Sure! Check out Food Sake Tokyo or Tokyo Food File on some places to eat in Tokyo. They have written extensively about the restaurants they like in this city. I’m afraid I can’t respond to individual requests for restaurant recommendations only – one-woman operation, remember?
Hang on – I have dietary restrictions/allergies. This is a tough one. Japan is not the easiest place for anyone who is vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, has allergies, etc. If you have serious allergies, are coeliac, or require completely vegan food that isn’t shojin ryori, I am afraid that I cannot help. I wish I could, but I’m a one-woman operation with limited resources! Please see the liability page for more.
Barring any serious allergies, it may be possible to do something more vegetarian-friendly. Please bear in mind that many savoury Japanese foods are made with fish stock but they can otherwise be reasonably veggie-heavy or vegetarian-friendly.
If you have a degree of flexibility and a little soupçon of adventure, this will make everything much easier!
Are you always available? I work solo and have a number of eggs in my basket. Based on my schedule I may not be available. But I will certainly let you know upfront if this is the case – a simple yes or no.
Weekdays are invariably better than weekends. Definitely contact me for tours on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.
Cool. Let’s eat! Hell yes! Please contact me to arrange dates for a food tour – at least one month before your intended travel dates to Tokyo, and up to 4 months prior. Tell me what you like, what you dislike, what you want to eat, what you don’t want to eat – and let’s try and make that happen.