1. Dawn Avatar Robot Cafe
    Photo: Keisuke Tanigawa Dawn Avatar Robot Cafe
  2. One day in... Nihonbashi
    Photo: Time Out TokyoNihonbashi Bridge

One day in... Nihonbashi

This former financial district is reinventing itself with cool new cafés, hotels and more

Written by
Time Out Tokyo Editors
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Nihonbashi is quite literally the centre of Tokyo – distances within the city and Japan are all calculated in relation to Nihonbashi Bridge. It was also once Tokyo's financial district and it still has a reputation for high-rises and high-end shopping, including the old-school department stores including the Takashimaya and Mitsukoshi flagship stores and a 200-year-old washi paper shop. But don't let all the fancy trimmings deter you. 

The former Wall Street of Tokyo includes Kabutocho, recently named the city's coolest neighbourhood, and has reinvented itself with trendy new restaurants, shops and bars hidden amongst all the towering steel and concrete. Here are some of our favourites.

Note: these restaurants/cafés/stores might close early depending on the current Covid-19 measures. Please check with the individual outlets for the latest business hours.

RECOMMENDED: 101 things to do in Tokyo

Eat

  • Restaurants

A café teeming with robot staff would usually prompt nervous jokes about the planet being overtaken by androids, but the visionary tech company Ory Lab begged to differ. While recent technology has given us everything from unmanned convenience stores to an 18-metre-tall moving Gundam, Ory Lab’s latest venture is one that goes beyond harnessing robotics for the sake of efficiency or novelty – they’re here to make a difference. 

Named the DAWN Avatar Robot Café – DAWN being an acronym for Diverse Avatar Working Network – Ory Lab’s new Nihonbashi venue features robot workers piloted by humans from remote locations. It’s a revolutionary model for people with disabilities, childcare obligations or other constraints that make it difficult to take up conventional jobs.

  • Restaurants
  • Kayabacho

The team at Caveman would prefer not to have their cuisine classified, but if it must be summed up, they suggest – with a grin – calling it ‘progressive Japanese’. This charm and confidence shine through at Caveman: innovative dishes and drinks, friendly staff, and a more relaxed atmosphere. Produced by the team behind Kabi, Caveman is helmed by owner-chef Atsuki Kuroda, who brings his own experience living and cooking in Italy and Norway.

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  • Restaurants
  • Kayabacho

Dessert lovers rejoice! Ease is a new patisserie and bakery with counter seats where you can watch sweets being made by hand. Owner-chef Keisuke Oyama, whose hands you’ll be watching, is an award-winning pastry chef who has studied in France and worked at several Michelin-starred restaurants, including Sincere and Ristorante Aso. At Ease, he combines tradition with a modern twist, such as Amazon cacao choux cream, mango and shiso mousse cake, and matcha-cassis financiers.

  • Restaurants
  • Bakurocho

Tucked into an unassuming backstreet in Nihonbashi, this bakery may be small, but its selection is abundant and of excellent quality. Before opening Beaver Bread, Kenichi Warita worked as the in-house baker at an upmarket French restaurant in Ginza. There, he had to produce impeccable goods; at Beaver Bread, he says his approach is more homely and rustic. That said, everything here still has a polished look, from the perfectly flaky pastries to the sandwiches and sourdough.

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  • Restaurants
  • Kayabacho

After training in France and at Michelin-starred French restaurants in Japan, chef Kyohei Nishi has opened his debut restaurant, Neki, in Nihonbashi. The casual bistro is a showcase of his influences, with a menu that blends Japanese and French flavours and techniques. The lunch menu is terrific value and the warm, modern interior has a mix of small tables and counter spots looking over the open kitchen.

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  • Restaurants
  • Nihonbashi
  • price 1 of 4

The reason this tempura specialist inspires almost holy devotion in diners is clear once your tendon (tempura on rice) arrives. It’s tempura perfection: light batter, golden and crisp, encases precisely and perfectly cooked seafood. Two shrimp, diced squid, a remarkably large white fish and a square of nori, all dressed with a moreish tentsuyu sauce just before serving.

  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Nihonbashi

Kaisendon is pretty much the only dish on the menu at this Nihonbashi restaurant. Tsujihan isn’t exactly a well-kept secret anymore, so expect to queue – sometimes up to two hours – for a bowl. But the wait is worth it when you can dig into a bowl of fluffy rice topped with tuna, shellfish, salmon roe, leek, cucumber, and more. Before finishing the rice, be sure to pour in some of Tsujihan’s dashi stock to turn it into an ochazuke.

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  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Nihonbashi
  • price 2 of 4

Conger eels can grow up to three metres long in the wild, but you'll only find them cut up and cooked at Tamai, a venerable eatery that also sells eel-themed Hello Kitty figurines. This classic restaurant is housed in a handsome wooden building that dates back to 1953 and is perhaps the city's finest purveyor of traditional eel rice bowls.

Ningyocho Imahan
  • Restaurants
  • Japanese
  • Ningyocho
  • price 2 of 4

Sukiyaki is often eaten at home in Japan, but tasting this simmered cuisine at a specialty restaurant is another experience altogether. Established 120 years ago, Ningyocho Imahan is a butchery and restaurant in one, so you know you’ll be getting only the finest quality meat here. Staff will pour a small amount of a sweet soy-based soup into the heated iron pot on your table before simmering the beautifully marbled beef in the sauce.

Drink

  • Restaurants
  • Cafés
  • Kayabacho

Situated to the left of the entrance to the hip K5 building, Switch Coffee feels like you’ve stepped into a green nursery, complete with a handful of small tables, free wi-fi and excellent coffee. Choose from a single-origin drip coffee (price varies), espresso (¥450), latte (¥550), cappuccino (¥550) or an iced coffee with tonic water (¥600) – an uncanny but surprisingly refreshing combination.

  • Restaurants
  • Nihonbashi

An elegant white space accentuated by clean lines, warm wood and natural stones, Yamamotoyama Fujie Sabo is a modern, elegant take on a traditional Japanese tea house. The good looks also come with a great pedigree, as the brand has existed for nearly 330 years. Opt for a sencha set with wagashi (Japanese confectionery) and you can choose from a variety of single-origin teas.

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  • Restaurants
  • Kayabacho

Under one – very stylish – roof in Nihonbashi, Human Nature and Stockholm Roast cater to two of our most basic needs: wine and coffee. Human Nature started as a mobile wine cart and online shop specialising in natural wine, while Stockholm Roast, a micro-roaster started in Sweden in 2011, has relocated from its original Tokyo spot at the front of Commune in Omotesando.

Note: during the state of emergency, the shop is not serving alcohol.

To do

  • Things to do
  • Nihonbashi

A boat ride into the past, Funaasobi Mizuha introduces you to the city’s history through the four main rivers in Tokyo: Nihonbashi, Kamejima, Sumida and Kanda. During the 90-minute tour, you’ll discover the ancient stone walls of the old Edo Castle, historic bridges and railway-related heritage sites, plus old waterways excavated about 400 years ago, which go to explain how and why Tokyo is really a city of water.

  • Things to do
  • Kayabacho

You’ve explored Tokyo by train, on foot, possibly even on two wheels – but what about on water? Tokyo Great Tours lets you travel by kayak and see the city from its canals and rivers. We recommend ‘Route C’ for beginners: you’ll paddle under highways and the historic Nihonbashi Bridge, and see Tokyo Skytree.

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  • Things to do
  • Nihonbashi

Located in the business district of Nihonbashi, this tiny shrine was first established in the ninth century, and was moved around during the area’s redevelopment. Now, Fukutoku Shrine is nestled near the Coredo Muromachi shopping centre and is a small spot of tranquility in the concrete jungle. The shrine is considered a 'power spot' for winning the lottery, as it was one of the rare shrines authorised to sell lottery tickets in the Edo period (1603-1868). 

  • Museums
  • Nihonbashi

This uplifting museum is a cornucopia of kites, including Indonesian dried leaves, giant woodblock-print samurai and a huge styrofoam iron. The former owner of the first-floor restaurant (one of Tokyo’s earliest forays into Western-style dining) spent a lifetime collecting the 300-plus kites now layering the walls, packing display cases and crowding the ceiling. Don’t expect detailed explanations of the exhibits; this is more of a private hobby on public display.

Stay

  • Hotels
  • Boutique hotels
  • Kayabacho

Inside a handsome former bank building from the 1920s, Hotel K5 is one of Tokyo’s most distinctive boutique hotels. Stockholm-based firm Claesson Koivisto Rune directed the interior design, imbuing the hotel with a dreamy blend of Scandinavian and Japanese aesthetics. The four types of rooms – 20 in total – vary from a 21sqm studio to an 80sqm loft, with furnishings like elegant shibori-dyed bed nets, red-lit bathrooms, shelves of art books, a minibar and even a record player and vinyl collection.

Citan
  • Hotels
  • B&Bs
  • Bakurocho

A hipster hostel located inside a renovated 90-year-old house, Citan looks more like a restaurant than hostel, and when you step inside you'll be greeted by a coffee stand accessible for guests and non-guests alike. The basement houses a large restaurant and bar, which opens from 6pm and serves light meals that go well with select picks off the extensive wine list.

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  • Hotels
  • Boutique hotels
  • Nihonbashi

With artsy hotels in hip neighbourhoods like Koenji and Akihabara, Tokyo’s popular hotel operator BnA (short for ‘Bed and Art’) launched this venue in Nihonbashi, named for the area's former status as Tokyo’s answer to Wall Street. BnA Wall is more than just a place to stay – each of the 26 rooms is unique and designed by one of 23 different local emerging artists.

More one-day itineraries

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