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No Relation Sushi
Photograph: Reagan Byrne, courtesy of No Relation

The 15 best Japanese restaurants in Boston

Japanese restaurants abound in Boston, transcending traditional sushi and omakase to contemporary izakayas and hibachi.

Jillian Dara
Written by
Jillian Dara
Written by
Eric Grossman
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Our collection of best Japanese restaurants in Boston is an outstanding reflection of the country’s expansive culinary offerings, from Tokyo to Sapporo, and every small town in between. There’s sushi and omakase, hearty ramen, contemporary izakayas (the Japanese version of small plates) and flavorful, interactive hibachi hubs—all of which provide an immersive overview of Japan’s rich food culture. Regardless of which restaurant you try first, be sure to pair your meal with a Japanese whiskey, beer or sake for a well-rounded experience. And once you’ve explored the best Japanese restaurants in Boston, explore other regional Asian cuisine at the best Thai restaurants in Boston or the best Chinese restaurants in Boston.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best restaurants in Boston

Best Japanese restaurants in Boston

  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Harvard Sq
  • price 2 of 4

Cafe Sushi attracts many of the area’s best chefs and cooks as they look to kick back over reasonably priced plates of perfectly prepared maki and nigiri. All the standards are here, from salmon skin rolls to hamachi sashimi, but the signature maki is where things get interesting: spicy snow crab with marinated eggplant are star ingredients of the Salmon-Avo Aburi Maki and purple dragonfruit sushi rice with branzino are highlights in the “The Phantom” Eric’s Winning Maki. Can’t decide? The Sushi Dinner, Sashimi Dinner and Chef’s Sampler are reasonably priced trays that showcase a well-balanced variety of what Cafe Sushi offers.

  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Porter Sq
  • price 2 of 4

This cozy haunt in Cambridge is everything you envision when it comes to Japanese noodles and ramen. Huge bowls feature thick, house-made noodles, and your only choice is whether you want two pieces of pork or five. You’ll receive a hearty Japanese congratulations if you manage to finish your bowl. Communal tables encourage chatting with strangers. The restaurant’s name means “talk about your dreams,” and you may even be asked to share yours out loud with everyone.

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  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Leather District
  • price 4 of 4

Clear out your bank account and then clear your weekend, because o ya’s singular dining experience is one to be savored. Owners Tim and Nancy Cushman set a new bar for special-event dining with o ya’s opening in 2007; even today the restaurant regularly wins accolades as one of the best restaurants in all of New England. The a la carte sushi is a marvel of both flavor and presentation, but if you’re really looking to splurge, settle in for the nightly omakase, a chef’s choice menu of 20 courses, from nigiri to cooked dishes.

  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Back Bay
  • price 4 of 4

Uni built its reputation on incredible sashimi and izakaya offerings, and the menu still shines, plating up the freshest ingredients from Maine Uni to local Unagi. Though Uni has mastered the classics, they aren’t afraid to experiment and impart new flavors in dishes that change with the season (past highlights have included coconut, passion fruit and watermelon). The sake list is impressive as well, with numerous unfiltered and unpasteurized options.

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  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • South End
  • price 4 of 4

This swanky South End sushi spot is high-concept and high-priced, but worth it for the luxe interpretations of Japanese specialties. Creative sushi rolls feature ingredients such as truffle, caviar, microgreens and delicate sauces. The entrée side of the menu includes teriyaki ribeye, seafood risotto and Chilean sea bass. If this all sounds delicious and you can’t decide, put your faith in the chef and choose a six or nine-course tasting menu, with the option to add on truffle and Wagyu. There’s also more than 50 sakes and cocktails, including the smoking “Yuzu Spirit,” made with ginza suzume soju and liquid nitrogen.

  • Bars
  • Cocktail bars
  • South End
  • price 2 of 4

With only two seatings nightly, released a month in advance, you’ll need to act fast to scoop up a reservation for this coveted omakase experience. Did we mention the tasting counter only fits nine diners? This spot is tucked behind Chef Colin Lynch’s speakeasy-esque tiki bar and restaurant, Shore Leave, and upon check-in, the host will whisk you to the back room that houses No Relation—no sooner or later than your prompt 6pm or 8:30pm reservation. Come hungry and ready to feast upon the 14 dishes that will be expertly prepared in front of you, with the option to repeat as many of your favorites as you wish at the end of your meal. Add on the sake pairing, and you won’t regret it!

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  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Porter Sq
  • price 1 of 4

Located in the Shops at Porter, Yume Ga Arukara thrills devotees who stand in line for one of the few seats at the counter-service restaurant. Before you go, note the limited menu–they’re renowned for their niku (beef) udon so that’s what you can expect here. Like its sister establishment, the wildly popular ramen restaurant Yume Wo Katare (located a short stroll away on the other side of Porter Square), Yume Ga Arukara exudes a dedication to craft. Diners do have the choice to add ginger, extra beef, extra noodles, double-extra noodles, or to omit the beef.

  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Somerville
  • price 2 of 4

In the heart of Davis Square, Tsurumen’s pride and joy is their steaming bowl of Osaka-style ramen. The intimate restaurant typically accrues a line, but it’s worth the wait. Fresh ramen, tender pork, and flavorful broth anchor each bowl. Tsurumen opened in Boston with the goal to only operate for 1000 days, however, in July of 2021, the team announced it was here to stay, with a new goal: to become “the King of Ramen shops.”

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  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • price 2 of 4

This tiny, underground gem in Coolidge Corner is the perfect setting for traditional Japanese fare. The menu—written in both Japanese and English—isn’t simplified for the American palate. While sushi is an option, their take on Donburi (traditional Kaiseki cuisine) is a must-try, including Katsu Donburi (deep fried black pork loin with egg and vegetables) as well as their Udon and Soba noodle dishes.

  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Central Sq
  • price 3 of 4

Chef Tracy Chang’s skills shine at Pagu. Her famed Guchi’s Midnight Ramen (featuring flavorful broth, pork belly, umami oil, nori, and a six-minute egg) is on the menu alongside modern Japanese-fusion small plates. Start with a Japanese-inspired cocktail or sake, then try salmon ceviche and squid ink unagi bao, before bellying up for the suckling pig (serves two) and of course, the Guchi’s ramen. If you’re not too full, the dessert menu offers unique treats you won’t find elsewhere, with matcha cookies and black sesame tofu with tea syrup.

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  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • price 3 of 4

This Brookline standby is always packed, and for good reason. Sit in a booth, a table, the tatami room, or the sushi bar and choose from an extensive menu of standard and creative sushi offerings. Go traditional (rich salmon sashimi), daring (foie gras nigiri with spicy daikon radish, scallion, sesame, and ponzu sauce), or cute (ladybug maki contains spicy seafood salad and sweet potato tempura inside, cherry tomato and black tobiko outside). There’s also mouthwatering rice dishes, like the lump crab fried rice and the veg katsu curry–so this spot is sure to satiate any sort of specialized craving.

  • Restaurants
  • Peruvian
  • Downtown
  • price 4 of 4

Modern Peruvian cuisine has been influenced by Japanese tradition, alongside Chinese favorites, and Ruka presents this combination to great success via dishes such as their hamachi ceviche (charred jalapeno, coconut, leche de tigre, avocado, okinawan chips and sushi rice) and hot dishes like Japanese long fries, yucca wasabi puffs and pork belly buns. Enhancing the experience are cocktails made with both Japanese whiskeys and Peruvian piscos.

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  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Fenway/Kenmore
  • price 3 of 4

Situated inside the Four Seasons One Dalton, this newcomer quickly attracted diners for its global reputation, with locations from the Maldives to Mykonos. Inside its 12th location here in Boston, Zuma offers sleek interiors and a modern-Japanese menu served in izakaya style. There are items using local specialities, including the ise ebi no oven yaki (1.5lb of roasted Boston lobster with shiso ponzu butter), as well as brand classics like their special maki and nigiri variations. Zuma is also unique for its Japanese brunch served weekends from 11:30am—3pm; the package includes endless starters (think: sushi, sashimi and maki), an entree and shareable dessert platter for $75 per person.

  • Restaurants
  • Japanese

There’s something indescribable about watching your food be prepared in front of you over a blazing hot fire, while you sip a frosty Sapporo or Japanese cocktail with plum wine. Hibachi, literally meaning fire bowl in Japanese, evolved from its traditional use as a heating device to a style of dining experience that’s interactive for any guest, but especially entertaining for large parties. For the latter, reserve a table at their Chestnut Hill location for the ultimate group gathering, from corporate events to birthday dinners.

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  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • South End
  • price 3 of 4

Unexpectedly set in the Back Bay, elegant nooks, sleek lighting and a loungey vibe set the stage for standout sushi and cocktails. The extensive maki list includes classic rolls such as rainbow and spider, as well as unique offerings like its neighborhood namesake, Backbay (asparagus, cucumber, and avocado wrapped with seared tuna) as well as the Douzo Special (shrimp tempura, seafood salad, tobiko, eel sauce, sriracha and avocado, wrapped with tuna and soy paper). The toro (fatty tuna) is not to be missed, and you can also choose from skewers, udon, ramen and a selection of rice dishes. Lunch brings an additional variety of bento specials and donburi.

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