Travel website Trip Advisor recently released its annual list of the 30 best sightseeing spots in Japan. Featuring centuries-old shrines, futuristic cityscapes, and no fewer than four whale sharks, it’s an impressive collection of much of what makes Japan such a unique and awesome country.
Honestly, if you had the time, we wouldn’t try to talk you out of an itinerary that hits all 30 places. Of course, with that much sightseeing, you’re bound to work up an appetite. Thankfully, Trip Advisor is back again with its top 30 restaurants in Japan.
As with the sightseeing list, the rankings are based on reviews from Trip Advisor users who dined at the restaurants. While there’s no shortage of high-priced Japanese fare, there are a few budget-friendly eateries that made the cut too, along with some foreign cuisine as well. Let’s dig in and get this multi-course meal started with number 30.
30. Abucha Nigoten
Hokkaido, Abuta-gun, Kucchan-cho, Yamada 191-29
Visitors to the Niseko ski resort on Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido rave about this Japanese eatery’s sushi and hot pots.
29. The Niseko Supply Company
Hokkaido, Abuta-gun, Kucchan-cho, Azayamada 190-13
If you’re looking for western food in Niseko, the Supply Company is known for its crepes, pastries, and fondue, plus its invigorating coffee and relaxing beer.
28. Niseko Pizza
Hokkaido, Abuta-gun, Kucchan-cho, Yamada 167 3J, Sekka Building basement level 1
Not far from the above entry you’ll find this Italian restaurant that’s popular with the foreign community.
Tokyo-to, Minato-ku, Roppongi 5-9-17, Fujimori Building 1st floor
Not only does Jomon serve up outstanding yakitori chicken skewers, its location on one of the secluded backstreets of Tokyo’s rowdiest nightlife district means you won’t have to worry about barkers trying to drag you off to their hostess bar on the way there.
Tokyo-to, Shinjuku-ku, Shinjuku 3-31-8
Just a few minutes’ walk from the always bustling Shinjuku Station, Tsunahachi’s mix of great tempura and moderate prices has had diners lining up out front for years.
25. Kani Doraku
Osaka-fu, Osaka-shi, Chuo-ku, Dotombori 1-6-18
Japan has a number of restaurants that advertise their specialty with a giant animatronic crab, but none is more famous than the Kani Doraku branch in Osaka’s Dotombori entertainment district.
24. Sukibayashi Jiro
Tokyo-to, Minato-ku, Roppongi 6-12-2 Roppongi Hills Keyakizakadori 3rd floor
Kyoto-fu, Kyoto-shi, Shimogyo-ku, Higashi Shiokojicho, Kyoto Station Building Senmontengai The Cube 11th floor
If you’re not interested in sushi, because of an aversion to raw food, this Kyoto Station restaurant specializes in deep-fried tonkatsu pork cutlets.
22. Yamato Sushi
Tokyo-to, Chuo-ku, Tsukiji 5-2-1, Tsukiji Fish Market, Building 6
Back to Tokyo, back to sushi with this restaurant located inside Japan’s largest seafood market.
21. New York Grill and Bar
Tokyo-to, Shinjuku-ku, Nishi Shinjuku 3-7-1-2 Park Hyatt Tokyo 52nd floor
Yes, you can drink and dine just where Bill Murray’s character did in Lost in Translation. Sip your Suntory whiskey, marvel at the fantastic view of Tokyo, and wonder just how Bob and Charlotte managed to get bored in such a massive city with so many places to explore.
20. Kyoto Gogyo
Kyoto-fu, Kyoto-shi, Nakagyo-ku, Yanagibabadori, Takoyakushi Kudaru, Jumonji-cho
Japan’s ancient capital isn’t all rarified restaurants and delicate delicacies, as proven by the many fans of Kyoto Gogyo’s ramen.
Tokyo-to, Shibuya-ku, Jingumae 4-8-5
Once again, deep-fried pork proves to be a hit with a wide cross-section of travelers, as yet another tonkatsu restaurant, the Aoyama branch of Maiizumi, makes the list.
Hokkaido, Abuta-gun, Kucchan-cho, Yamada 190-4, Shiki Niseko 1st floor
The Niseko ski resort shows up again, this time with the Michelin-ranked French/Japanese fusion Kamimura.
Tokyo-to, Shibuya-ku, Dogenzaka 1-12, Shibuya Mark City East 4th floor
Located beneath several floors of offices, you’ll want to get here before the lunch rush for some of Tokyo’s best reasonably-priced sushi.
Tokyo-to, Shibuya-ku, Jingumae, 6-2-4
If you’re not looking for the latest fashions, you might be tempted to pass on visiting Tokyo’s shopping mecca of Harajuku. If you’re into deep-fried gyoza pot stickers, though, you owe it to yourself to wade through the fashionistas and try the ones at Ro.
Kyoto-fu, Kyoto-shi, Shimogyo-ku, Hashimoto-cho, 103-2
You’ll see a few revolving sushi restaurants in any large Japanese city, but Trip Advisor’s didn’t find any they liked more than Chojiro.
14. Ninja Akasaka
Tokyo-to, Chiyoda-ku, Nagata-cho 2-14-3, Akasaka Tokyo Plaza 1st floor
Even if it wasn’t designed to look like a secret ninja castle, and even if the wait staff didn’t perform incredible magic tricks at your table, Akasaka’s ninja-themed restaurant would still be worth a visit for its beautifully inventive and delicious food. Make sure you reserve a table ahead of time, though, as a two-hour wait isn’t unheard of.
Tokyo-to, Minato-ku, Shiba Koen 4-4-13
This branch of the Ukai chain, located near Tokyo Tower, specializes in tofu, which is served in private dining rooms surrounded by beautiful gardens.
12. Tapas Molecular Bar
Tokyo-to, Chuo-ku, Nihonbashi Muromachi 2-1-1 Mandarin Oriental Tokyo 38th floor
With space for only eight diners and just two seating per night, reservations are essential for this molecular cuisine restaurant in the luxury Mandarin Oriental Tokyo hotel.
11. Kaiseki 511
Tokyo-to, Minato-ku, Akasaka 4-3-28 Dia Plaza Akasaka basement level 1
Although it’s located in the upscale Akasaka neighborhood of Tokyo, Kaiseki 511’s specialty is kobe beef.
Tokyo, Shibuya-ku, Jinnan 1-22-7 Iwamoto Building basement level 1
While travelers gave the no to the Shibuya branch in Tokyo, there’s a whole chain of Ichiran ramen joints. The first time I ate in one on the outskirts of a red light district in Yokohama, I thought its unique setup, with privacy-insuring walls and a screen that ensures even the waiter doesn’t see your face, was to protect the privacy of diners who stopped in for a bite after spending time at one of the local hostess bars. The reality isn’t anything so untoward, as Ichiran’s owners simply want to make sure nothing distracts you from the delicious noodles they serve.
Kyoto-fu, Kyoto-shi, Nakagyo-ku, Higashi Toin, Nishikikoji Higashiiru 653-1 Nishiki Building 1st floor
Edging Ichiran for the top ramen restaurant on the list was Ippudo. The original location of this pork-broth specialist is in Fukuoka, but you can find branches of the chain in Tokyo and Yokohama as well.
Tokyo-to, Chuo-ku, Tsukiji 5-2-1, Tsukiji Fish Market Building 6
Tsukiji gets still more help in building its reputation as the best place in Japan for sushi with this restaurant located inside the market.
Tokyo-to, Minato-ku, Aoyama 2-6-15
Trip Advisor’s number-seven restaurant actually did better in Hospitality Magazine’s rankings, where it was picked as the best in Japan for its innovative French-inspired menu that includes such unique offerings as dirt soup.
Kyoto-fu, Kyoto-shi, Nakagyo-ku, Fuyachodori, Ebisugawa Noboru, Sasayacho 471-1
This restaurant, which specializes in steak and beef cutlet, was Kyoto’s highest-ranked restaurant on the list.
Hyogo-ken, Kobe-shi, Chuo-ku, Kitanocho 1-1, Shin Kobe Oriental Avenue 3rd floor
It’s no surprise that Kobe’s top restaurant serves Kobe beef.
Tokyo-to, Chuo-ku, Ginza 8-7-6
This sushi restaurant, located in Tokyo’s Ginza, came so close to taking the sushi crown away from Tsukiji.
Toyko-to, Chuo-ku, Tsukiji 5-2-1, Tsukiji Fish Market Building 6
No, that’s not a photo of the entrance to Tokyo Station during rush hour. It’s just the line for lunch at Dai, Japan’s highest-ranked sushi restaurant.
2. Center4 Hamburgers
Gifu-ken, Takayama-shi, Kamiichino-cho 94
What’s more surprising, that Japan’s number-two restaurant is located in rural Takayama, or that it uses the region’s prized Hida beef to make mouth-watering hamburgers?
Osaka-fu, Osaka-shi, Chuo-ku Namba 1-1-19
Surprisingly, Trip Advisor’s top-ranked restaurant isn’t in Tokyo or Kyoto, and it doesn’t serve sushi or tempura. Instead, the Hozenji Yokocho branch of M in Osaka is ready to satisfy your carnivorous cravings with marbled Matsuzaka beef. Oddly enough, Matsuzaka beef isn’t raised in Osaka, but in Mie, two prefectures to the east. Apparently the logistics aren’t a problem though, as travelers chose M as their favorite restaurant in the country.
Now, if you’ll excuse us, we’re off to go cry into our cup of instant ramen (thankfully, our tears make it extra salty, just how we like it).