Experiencing food culture is one of the most exciting parts of traveling foreign countries.
The survey “Consumption Trend Survey for Foreigners Visiting Japan,” which was conducted by Japan Tourism Agency every 3 months in 2016 shows that the top activity the foreign visitors “wanted to do before the visit to Japan” was to “eat Japanese food.” The result also shows that the majority of them were “satisfied” with the experience of eating Japanese food.
So, how can we find the restaurants that serve the particular food you want from the numerous restaurants in Japan? How can we get the information of the popular restaurants around the area you are staying? Here are some tips on how to search for a restaurant in Japan.
1. Websites helpful to search a restaurant
It seems Tabelog has data of almost all restaurants in Japan. Tabelog is the largest restaurant review website in Japan. Along with the detail information of restaurants such as location and contact information, you will find reviews and photos posted by visitors. Tabelog rating may show the true voice of what the local Japanese think of the restaurant. It’s now available in English, Chinese and Korean.
Gurunavi is available in English, Chinese and Korean. The foreign language pages of Gurunavi are targeting tourists and they have some contents that tourists may find helpful. The website does not include reviews, however, Gurunavi offers a reservation support in English. You can search restaurants by choosing a location and the type of cuisine. It also indicates additional information of the restaurants such as the availability of English menu and free wi-fi.
OpenTable is available in English, Dutch, Spanish, and French. The number of restaurants listed is still limited for Japan section but you can check the reviews, the availability, and book all through this website.
Hot Pepper Gourmet: https://www.hotpepper-gourmet.com/en/
If you are looking for a restaurant that offers some discount coupon, Hot Pepper Gourmet is the website you may want to take a look. It is available in English, Chinese and Korean.
TableCheck has launched just this month in January, 2017. The website is available in multilanguages. You can check the availability and book through this website.
2. Vegetarian, vegan, and halal restaurants
It is actually a bit difficult to find vegetarian, vegan or halal restaurants in Japan. Many Japanese meals may seem animal-free, however, the soup or the seasoning may contain some seafood or animal product. To search vegetarian, vegan, or halal restaurants, the websites below may be helpful. Also, you may find many articles in different websites with a list of those restaurants.
Tokyo Vegans Club: http://vegan.japanteam.net/en/
Happy Cow: https://www.happycow.net/
Halal Gourmet Japan: https://www.halalgourmet.jp/
3. How to book a restaurant
– Ask the concierge at your hotel. This may be the smartest option. They may be able to recommend some good restaurants as well.
– Utilize free services such as Gurunavi and OpenTable.
– Pay to use booking services. This option may be good when you want to book popular restaurants that are usually hard to reserve seats.
– Go directly to the restaurant and book ahead. Communicating face to face is much easier than over the phone for non-English speaking people.
– Use those review websites we recommended and ask any locals around you to make a booking by phone on behalf of you.
These websites listed are very handy but it’s always also fun to follow your instincts and just get in to the restaurant that you feel attracted to.
Just a reminder that many restaurants outside touristy areas don’t have English menu. It would be helpful if you have a guidebook or smartphone with you so that you can look up the food name. We hope you will enjoy the food in Japan!