A big part of Japanese culture is eating out, and why not when there is so much amazing stuff to try and experiences that need to be had! Keep reading for inspiration for Japanese dining!
Recreate your own Japanese restaurant or cafe at home using some of these ideas, but make sure to add some Chu Lo for an authentic experience.
££££ Themed Restaurants for Niche Experiences
Immersive experience restaurants are super popular in Japan, Tokyo is known for these, they are pretty pricy but there is a dinner and a show in each 2-hour booking so they are more about the experience than the food.
Kawaii Monster Café
Adorable and fuzzy monsters are your waiters, and they serve the cutest meals anyone can imagine – Teletubbies meets Rainbows… all of them. Haha!
This is a real Tron / black mirror experience, you are served by robots with robot-themed foods – no beige insight. Instead, all-electric greens and blues.
Ninjas and Vampires Restaurants
A few slightly less child-friendly places are the Ninja restaurant, where you will be surprised by Ninjas who serve your food. They specialise in Wagyu Steak and cut it in front of you with style but you can also expect sushi served on a sword. Vampire Café is spookiest of them all. Dim lighting and candles in a café where every day is Halloween. There are heavy curtains and coffins all over with vampire waiters who appear out of nowhere. The food is a bit gimmicky, but they know their theme and stay true from starter to dessert.
£££ Maid Cafes
These are an onslaught to the senses, you are welcomed by an extremely enthusiastic girl in a maid outfit. You will then be told about the magical kingdom you are about to enter and taken to your seat. The culture in these cafes is one of magic and positivity – perfect if you need a lift. Be ready to but a magical spell on your beer before being allowed to drink any! Food is princess and fairy-tale based, and every half hour the room will erupt into dance and song. You will be expected to dance along. It can get quite pricy in these cafes, as everything is sold in a package deal which will include pictures and letters from the magical maid world.
££ Hot Pot Restaurants
The Japanese equivalent of a fondue. You will be sat at a table with a central hot pot which you chose the base for. This will then be heated, and you will be served with raw meats and vegetables to make your own hot pot soup. These frequently have an ‘all you can eat and drink’ session so although expensive – it is good value if you want some drinks and food.
Everyday Eats – Cheap and Local
Vending machine Cafes
Excellent if you hate human interaction – but if you don’t speak Japanese watch out. Check the pictures and go for something safe. The food here is mostly hearty soups and curries. Good place for an authentic Katsu Curry.
Sushi Belt Restaurant
Again excellent to avoid humans, you are shown to a booth where there is a screen to order food. You get a cute warning before your food arrives and you take it off the belt and save your plate for the count up at the end. There is usually an excellent range of Sushi so it’s a good place to start a trip to work out what you like before spending more at a fancy place.
Very hard to find but worth the effort. Usually tucked away in a side street and covered with a curtain. If you speak even a little Japanese you will be welcomed warmly and expect free food. You may have to sing for it and drink a lot of Sake; also get comfy because these are SMAAALL. The food you can expect is all fresh and made in front of you, think Ramen, Takoyaki and Gyoza.
24 hours Canteen
Does what it says on the tin, usually looks like someone’s front room and always has plastic meal displays outside. You may find some dubious things on these menus so be careful, or you will be eating Whale. Fish Pancakes and Karagge Chicken are my favourites.
Bear with me because the Teriyaki Burger in a Japan McDonalds is a work of genius. It’s fun to go into a restaurant which looks exactly the same as what you are used to but with a menu that will blow your mind! Sakura McFlurry and Mac and Cheese burger… yes, please!
Finally, if you like this inspiration for Japanese dining check out this guide for etiquette advice whilst in Japan!