For a long time in Japan I ate by walking around and going into a place that looked good when I was hungry or word-of-mouth. That works really well in Japan. However Tablelog is a great website with tons of options on how to search for restaurants in Japan http://tabelog.com/. It works great if you’d like to eat a certain cuisine, if you’re traveling or new to an area.
I also wrote below on the best websites for being a vegan or vegetarian in Japan. If you’re only in need of that scroll on down.
There are a lot of ways on tablelog to search up food. You can just click your location or train station and see anything that’s close-by.
Or you can narrow it down to your city (tablelog is Japanese nation-wide) then pick a cuisine.
A few those foods those who aren’t used to food in Japan may not know:
Monjya – A type of pancake similar to Okonomiyaki but with more flour batter and very flat.
Yakiniku – Also known as Korean Bar-be-que
Yakitori – Chicken on skewers, usually visited to drink as well.
Shabu Shabu – thin strips of beef or pork self-cooked in a large pot with vegetables.
Horumon – Beef or pork entrails. A manly food.
Tonkatsu – Chicken or pork breaded with panko bread crumbs often coming with similar style vegetables.
Nabe – Hotpot usually Shabu Shabu restaurants serve as well. Usually a thicker broth than Shabu Shabu.
Kushiage – Deep fried meats, vegetables on skewers as well as mochi and cheese.
Motsunabe – A nabe made with pork entrails known for its milky type broth.
Hamburg steak – Hamburger patty served usually with a sauce and rice along with stew cooked vegetables.
Izakaya – Bar has a food menu, usually one that specializes in bigger parties and all-you-can-drink
Okonomiyaki – Pancake with cabbage and pork done Osaka style or Hiroshima style.
Curry – Can mean Indian style or Japanese style.
Viking – A buffet, usually all-you-can-eat
Ryokan – An inn that serves a special set meal that is several courses and usually expensive. Meat or fish based.
You can also click on more and the pictures should help here.
Finding food around a train station
Just for kicks I typed Shimokitazawa 下北沢 into the search engine (link). It’s a hipster neighborhood near Shinjuku that I know has a lot of different types of restaurants.
It will pull up restaurants no matter the type if you search just by station by ranking.
Now of course the 10,000 yen place you are getting what you pay for so it should be amazing. Rankings are kind of skewed like that So I don’t trust the rankings much unless I’m looking for a specific type of food and they all are the same price.
The default search is half a kilometer, you can change it to 1km – 2km.
You can also pull up a map showing all your choices and how close they are to the train station.
Finding a type of food
After I narrowed it down to Tokyo I clicked on the “see more types of food” of the above thing I translated.
I scrolled down to sweets and picked “Ices”
From here I found a place in Shimokitazawa called Shimokita Chaen Taizan しもきた茶苑大山 (tabelog link). A teahouse with traditional Japanese ices. I want to eat them now!
So here’s their data, you can also view a map and have it sent to your phone.
It’s 2 minutes away from the station, it’s got 12 seats (sizes of Japanese restaurants are measured in seats or tables). Average people paid under 999 yen (less than $11.00)
People mostly went there with friends, on a date or by themselves.
You can click for more info and see it’s pretty equal who went there as friends, date or by themselves. Which is helpful in Japan since some places are notorious date spots and going alone is a foreveralone feeling.
So I just want ices, but tablelog is nice enough to show all the places to eat super close-by.
For those with no or little Japanese I really recommend using it and clicking on the menu メニュー button. Users usually have uploaded pictures of the actual menu so you can view an intimidating menu beforehand if you’ve planned a place. You also can be assured of the price so there’s no shock when you first check out the menu.
Tablelog is one of several food sites for Japan, but it is currently the most popular. It is super convient to use compared to the others. Gourmet Navi (site) and Tabehodai Navi (site) [specializing in all you can eat] are two other sites.
If you’re in Japan for a visit or a stay I really recommend trying out tablelog. It’s especially helpful if you’d like to try a special cuisine
Being Vegetarian / Vegan in Japan
When I first moved to Japan I was a vegetarian and had been practicing it for several years. Being a vegetarian in America is so extremely easy that you take your choices for granted. Japan it’s a bit harder, but very doable.
Kinomama (Japanese) – Is a website dedicated to organic foods in Japan which often means vegetarian. I love it because it’s nation-wide and has a nice talk on each place. But if the restaurant has a website it links and you can check out their food. In my opinion the best starting out point for vegetarians.
Time Out Tokyo’s Top Vegetarian Restaurants (English) – A great list in English of great places to eat in Tokyo
Vegetarian in Japan (English) – A great blog featuring beautiful pictures of homemade food and restaurant reviews.
Atashida’s Blog – Okay I’m biased because I think Atashida is a great person (we always hang out when I’m in Kansai) and she’s a rocking vegetarian. In her blog she has reviews of some vegetarian places she’s eaten. She’s the best to ask about Kansai vegetarian!