As New Year is one of Japan’s most celebrated holidays of the year, it’s common for shops and restaurants to close at the end of the old and the beginning of the new year. So if you plan to eat out during the holidays, it's best to check the opening hours of the restaurant before heading over. To make it easier for you, here's a list of restaurants, bistros and cafés that are open over New Year, albeit some with reduced hours.
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One day, all kaiten-zushi restaurants might be like this high-tech Shibuya sushi shop. You won't find any conveyor belts in Uobei: once you place your orders via a multi-language touch screen, the dishes are delivered by high-speed chute, with nary a hint of there being any humans involved in the process. (Sure, the sushi itself is prepared by humans rather than sophisticated humanoids, but it's nice to imagine otherwise.) The flavours aren't quite as dazzling as the futuristic presentation, but when you're paying super low prices, it's hard to complain.
Opening hours during New Year holidays: December 31 11am-7pm, January 1-3 11am-9pm
For a taste of tradition, dine at this sushi restaurant near the Tokyo Metropolitan Teien Art Museum in the upscale residential neighbourhood between Shirokanedai and Ebisu. Shirokane Taira is known for its fresh and seasonal seafood on rice, which are flavoured with either red or white vinegar. The lunch menu starts at ¥5,000 for 10 nigiri and goes up to ¥12,000 for 14 pieces, all of which come with miso soup and a sushi roll.
Opening hours during New Year holidays: Closed on December 31; opening hours as usual from January 1 12noon-2pm, 6pm-10pm
The name 'Kikanbo' literally translates as an 'ogre’s iron club', and this corner ramen-ya feels suitably demonic with its black interior, taiko music on the speakers and festival-style devil masks on the walls. The spice heat here can also feel like purgatory if you choose a dish that’s above your threshold.
You order at a vending machine and the staff will then ask for your preferred spice level on a scale of five. There are also two types of spice mix, ‘kara’ and ‘shibi’; the former refers to the chilli heat while the latter refers to the numbing spice of sansho pepper mix (the Japanese version of the closely related Sichuan pepper). This combination is a classic spice pairing in China's Sichuan province, where the effect on the palate is called ‘ma-la’ (numbing-hot). If the queue's too long, there's a branch just a couple of doors to the right serving much the same food, but in a tsukemen version.
Opening hours during New Year holidays: January 1 11am-4pm; opening hours as usual from January 2 11am-9.30pm, Sun 11am-4pm
Cheesy Kansai mainstay Cheese Craft Works has finally made its way over to Kanto. As its name suggests, the outlet mainly features fromage, with three different types – fromage blanc, ricotta and cottage cheese – made in-store and another 20-odd varieties sourced from elsewhere, including a rather nice mozzarella from Hokkaido.
So naturally, this Odaiba branch has an extensive cheese-based menu, too. If you're looking to eat in, try the ever-popular cheese fondue or go for the five cheeses and broiled sea urchin seafood risotto. Those who prefer a sweet take on cheese will be glad to know that Craft Works also has four varieties of cheese tarts.
Opening hours during New Year holidays: may close earlier on December 31; opening hours as usual from January 1 10am-10pm
The name is a dead giveaway: this café is packed with elements drawn from all things kawaii. With interiors done by Harajuku heavy-hitter Sebastian Masuda, it's a fantastic merry-go-round of super-cute elements, and offers four types of appropriately OTT seating in areas labelled 'Mushroom Disco', 'Milk Stand', 'Bar Experiment' and 'Mel-Tea Room'. Prepare for a sensory overload.
Opening hours during New Year holidays: December 31 - January 3 11am-7pm
Gonpachi is a small chain of restaurants that inspired Quentin Tarantino’s 'Kill Bill' and it was also where George W Bush dined with Japan’s former Prime Minister Koizumi. This venue is the restaurant's 12th outlet and boasts over 300 seats and ten private dining rooms. The interior is reminiscent of an old castle town. At lunch you can enjoy tendon (deep-fried fish and vegetables over rice) and oyakodon (chicken and egg over rice) bowls as well as set meals with fried fish. Come evening, opt for the kushiyaki skewers and handmade soba, both of which pair well with sake.
Opening hours during New Year holidays: 11.30am-12midnight daily
Since opening in 2011, this little bistro has been winning over its patrons with its dependable spring rolls, pad thai and gapao. All the dishes feature lots of vegetables, which are sourced directly from local farms. Aside from a small wine list, you'll also find Asian beers including Thai Singha or Indonesian Bintang.
Opening hours during New Year holidays: December 31 5pm-2am, January 1-3 6pm-5am
This third-floor café and bar in Shinagawa's Goos building, just a quick stumble from the station, opens in time for a late breakfast and keeps going until midnight. The menu has a modern Japanese café angle, where traditional Japanese dishes and ingredients are presented in fresh and creative ways. Some of our favorites include the grilled rice ball topped salmon and ikura (salmon roe) served with a white miso broth; a colourful bowl of spaghetti teeming with cabbage, shallots and sakura ebi (tiny dried prawns); and a luxurious uji matcha tiramisu. Inside, there’s a lounge area as well as a standing bar – both offer a wide selection of liquor as welll as local and international wines.
Opening hours during New Year holidays: December 31, January 1-3 10am-9pm
This New York-style restaurant and bar on the 5th floor of Roppongi Hills can accommodate 164 diners, who can watch the chefs through the lively open kitchen. Food-wise you can expect a fusion of Spanish and Italian cuisines – think tapas and paella – plus a selection of hearty meals commonly served at American Diners, including burgers. The restaurant opens out to a beautiful night scene of Roppongi, and if you prefer a bit more privacy, book the separate room that comes with a view of Tokyo Tower.
Opening hours during New Year holidays: December 31 11am-4am, January 1-3 11am-10pm
More things to do over the New Year
The latest updates on late-night timetables and extended operating hours for all major train and metro lines in Tokyo
Where to welcome the new year with a bang – Tokyo's best countdown parties, gigs and shows. We've got December 31 2019 sorted
Celebrate the New Year with a Japanese tradition by visiting a shrine or temple and pray for good fortunes
Swing away your troubles and start the new year afresh at these traditional bell-ringing rituals held in temples
Catch the first rays of the new year at one of these observation decks and attractions in Tokyo