Tokyo’s dining scene is not only densely packed, with more restaurants per capita than either Paris or New York, it’s also of an exceptional standard. A great place to start with Tokyo cuisine is the ‘Four kings of Edo’ – tempura, soba, sushi and eel – the four dishes that were popular when Tokyo flourished as the nation's new capital from the late 1800s, and remain coveted today.
When it comes to sushi, pay special attention to the nigiri-style version of the dish that originated in Tokyo, officially called Edomae sushi. Mastery of this style means perfecting nuances such as the compactness of the pressed rice, or the way the fish is cut to catch seasonings and boost umami. At the Tsukiji outer market and nearby Ginza, the Edomae sushi legacy lives on, with many excellent venues offering everything from luxurious omakase sushi course-meals to quick and easy standing bar-style sushi.
The high calibre of the Tokyo dining scene is often credited to the street vendors of the Edo period (1603-1868), with the stiff competition driving up quality – a level that has seen the city become more decorated with Michelin stars than any other in the world. These accolades aren’t limited to traditional Japanese cuisine – local chefs have a knack for adopting and perfecting foreign dishes while also often infusing them with a Japanese twist – nor are they limited to those with deep pockets, as many Michelin-starred restaurants also offer cheap lunch set menus.
If Tokyo is the only destination on your agenda, you can still take a culinary journey around the country at restaurants in the city specialising in the cuisine of other prefectures. Tokyo really is the one-stop solution for everything Japanese.