Among all the astounding things about Tokyo, for me the single most astounding is the food business. The number of restaurants and cafés and lunch counters and bakeries and bars and street vendors beggars description. In my experience, most of them are good.

Closing time, somewhere in Shibuya

On this trip, I got off the JR once at the wrong station, fairly late at night, and didn’t realise it. I thought “I don’t recognize this exit, I’ll just orbit the station till I spot a landmark”. Which didn’t work that well, I was wandering down back streets off back streets. And every other building on every little alley had an a couple of places to eat. And in every one of them there were people eating.

Another story. When I was heading home, I decided to take the airport bus from my hotel, departing at 12:50. I got to the hotel at 12:10 or so and bought a ticket and felt hungry. I looked at the high prices and boring fare in the lobby café and headed out. Across the way there was a little square with some benches and shade, and on the street were parked three separate trucks selling box lunches out the back; also a more formal cart with an umbrella, but the truck guys’ food looked better: rice, fried egg, a couple of mini-salads and four mystery-meat patties for ¥500. Tasty!



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From: Robin (Jun 15 2007, at 01:41)

Best char sui ramen I've ever had was in (I think) the center of this map in Asakusa. Very low key place - all the prices are in kanji and the owner was surprised that we could use hashi - but still highly recommended.

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From: Rainer (Jun 15 2007, at 03:48)

And don't forget to mention that 500 Yen is as much as about 4 USD. So Tokyo is not that expensive as expected.

Thanks for the food-report.

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From: Jacek (Jun 15 2007, at 07:43)

Perhaps there are so many places to eat because it's such a vertical place? I mean all the people living or working stack up above the street, but the food places are generally steet-level, so there has to be a big concentration, right?

I've never been to such a city, so I'm really just guessing. OTOH, I don't remember great concentrations of food places in NYC, which I have visited briefly; yet I expect Tokyo to be way different, even tho similarly vertical.

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From: Norbert (Jun 15 2007, at 20:36)

Jacek, there are so many restaurants in the central areas of Tokyo (where Tim probably was hanging out) because people eat out a lot, and because much of the eating is done in the central areas before people head back home into the suburbs.

Tokyo is actually much less vertical than Manhattan - there are usually high-rise clusters around the main train stations, and some hotels and office buildings scattered around, but even in the central areas many buildings are just four to eight floors. If you look out of a window in one of the tall buildings, it's usually easy to spot the nearby main train stations because they really stick out. And then there's the sprawling suburbia where two to four floors are the norm.

There's no assumption in Tokyo that restaurants need to be on the ground floor - it's perfectly normal for them to be in the basement or on some upper floor. Department stores usually have an entire floor of restaurants at the top, that is, around floor 8.

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From: Eric Meyer (Jun 19 2007, at 12:28)

Two words: unagi bar.

Yum.

Also, Tantek Çelik and I were very successful in employing the "salarymen" hunting strategy, which is: when selecting a place for lunch, find a place that's full of salarymen. The food will be tasty and inexpensive. And it was.

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June 14, 2007
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