In case you’re wondering: Sukiyabashi Jiro is not on the list.
Every year, TripAdvisor publishes lists to help travellers find some of the best hotels, restaurants and sightseeing spots around the country. Their latest collection of the best of the best focuses on Japan’s best restaurants, as chosen by foreign visitors, and with options ranging from traditional Japanese to vegan, Italian, and Indian cuisine, this top 30 proves that the local dining scene is filled with tasty surprises.
As always, not everyone who visits Japan can speak Japanese, so these restaurants are particularly notable for having English-language menus, English-speaking waitstaff and a foreigner-friendly vibe that’s perfect for travellers on a budget. Let’s take a look at the details below!
30. Trattoria Dai Paesani (Shinjuku, Tokyo)
Coming in at number 30 is an Italian restaurant that showcases wines and dishes from the Abruzzo region of Southern Italy. Diners rave about the authentic flavours and the fresh handmade pasta and handmade cold cuts.
29. Terakawa ( Nara, Nara Prefecture)
Serving up soba and a variety of regional dishes, all presented beautifully by a highly skilled chef, dinner sets start at just 2,000 yen (US$18.28), which is an absolute bargain for the quality you get here. With only 12 seats in the restaurant, diners are advised to make a booking before visiting, which the staff are happy to do for you in English.
28. Itouya (Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture)
Another small eatery, this restaurant seats just 10 people, and is famed for its delicious oden hotpot dishes. The female owner serves diners while dressed in kimono, adding to the ages-old atmosphere inside, which fits in perfectly with the surrounding Nakamachi historical district.
27. Kourin Sushi (Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture)
This small counter-style sushi bar is loved by both Japanese locals and foreign visitors, who come for the fresh food and excellent prices and stay for the warm atmosphere and friendly service.
26. Parco della Pace (Hiroshima, Hiroshima Prefecture)
If you’ve ever had Neapolitan-style woodfired pizza in Japan, you’ll know just how mind-blowingly delicious it can be. Visitors to Hiroshima are getting a taste for Japan’s pizza-making expertise at Parco della Pace, praising their fast, cheap and filling meals.
25. Gyozaoh! Dotonbori (Osaka-shi, Osaka)
Diners are in love with the gyoza pot stickers at this small eatery located at the entrance to Osaka’s lively Dotonbori district. Not only do they do a variety of specialty fillings and styles here, they also serve them up with some friendly hospitality. Be sure to try their exclusive plum wine and finish it all off with some special dessert gyoza!
24. Shou (Chuo-ku, Tokyo)
Located at the famous Tsukiji fish markets, this sushi restaurant may not be as well-known as its insanely popular neighbour Sushi Dai, but visitors say the food here is just as fresh and delicious. The great service and shorter wait times here have diners saying they will definitely be back for more.
23. Wholefood Cafe Apprivoiser (Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture)
This bright and cosy cafe located near Gion is pleasing guests from abroad with its variety of menu options, which range from granola to Japanese curry rice and vegan-friendly dishes.
22. Gluten-free Cafe Little Bird (Shibuya-ku, Tokyo)
It’s not easy to find a lot of gluten-free options in Japan, so diners with food restrictions have been singing the praises of Little Bird. Generous servings and tasty fare make for fuss-free eating which diners are keen to come back for.
21. Oedo Ayatori (Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo)
Located in the heart of Shinjuku’s lively Kabukicho district, this sleek restaurant serves up delicate kaiseki courses ranging in price from 3,800-5,500 yen. The interiors are equally beautiful, with sliding screens and wooden lamps creating a modern Japanese feel.
20. Okonomiyaki Chitose (Osaka-shi, Osaka)
If you’re having trouble deciding which okonomiyaki restaurant to try in its homeland of Osaka, head to this 12-seater joint, where you’ll find a friendly owner at the teppan making generously sized okonomiyaki at very reasonable prices. Be sure to get there early to avoid the queues at the door!
19. Teppan Tavern Tenamonya (Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture)
The blurb on the website for this cosy basement eatery says “Grab beer with Japanese traditional soul food okonomiyaki” but for visitors, there’s plenty more to enjoy here, including well-priced wagyu beef steak, and a warm and friendly atmosphere.
18. Premium Pound Sanjo-Kiyamachi (Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture)
This restaurant specialises in dry-aged beef cooked on the teppan, and their most popular selections are Kobe beef steaks, which are reasonably priced and delicious. Diners describe the meals here as “mind-blowing”.
17. Sushi Naritaya (Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture City)
Tucked away in an alley off Arashiyama’s main street, this small restaurant serves up “absolutely amazing sushi!!!” As much as they love the food here, diners are equally enamoured by the chef behind the counter, and his adorable sign inviting diners to converse with him in English.
16. Han no Daidokoro (Shibuya-ku, Tokyo)
The Dogenzaka branch of this popular grilled beef chain ranks highly with foreign visitors who come here for thick, succulent chunks of high-quality wagyu beef.
15. LBK Craft (Nara, Nara Prefecture)
On the other side of the herbivore/carnivore spectrum is this bright and airy joint, which dishes out vegan fare and delicious craft beers.
14. Heianraku (Takayama, Gifu Prefecture)
This family-run restaurant serves Chinese and Japanese dishes made with local ingredients, and a number of vegetarian options are also available. Diners rave about the friendly customer service here, which is said to make you feel like a family member as soon as you walk in the door!
13. Arash’s Kitchen (Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture)
This is the place to go for delicious and authentic Persian meals, which visiting Persians have likened to their grandma’s cooking back home. On Saturday nights, the place comes alive with energy, thanks to their belly-dancing performers.
12. Yasaka-dori Enraku (Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture)
People are absolutely raving about this restaurant, as it involves a meal with a maiko, a working geisha apprentice, who entertains guests with traditional games, music and dance. This unforgettable cultural experience is so good it gets a 100 percent satisfaction score from all 189 reviewers on Trip Advisor.
11. Doon Shokudo Indoyama (Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture)
This cosy family-run restaurant is getting rave reviews for its delicious North Indian cuisine, cooked by an owner who uses secret family recipes.
10. Izakaya High Spirits (Yamanashi Prefecture, Fujikawaguchiko Town)
If you’re looking for a bite to eat while in the Mt Fuji region, this is the place to go, with reviewers praising the taste of everything on the menu, from the fresh sashimi to the braised pork.
9. Matsukiya (Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture)
This restaurant specialises in Omi beef, which is said to be the top wagyu beef brand in Japan, boasting the longest history of more than 400 years. The low melting point of Omi beef fat means it melts even with the temperature of human skin, creating a meltingly delicious taste when cooked.
8. Steak Aoyama (Hyogo prefecture Kobe City)
Another beef specialty restaurant, this one is a family-owned business that is renowned for its delicious Kobe beef.
7. Ise Sueyoshi (Minato-ku, Tokyo)
With only six tables and five seats at the counter, this is one of the harder kaiseki restaurants to get into, but those who do get to dine here will be able to enjoy beautifully prepared seasonal dishes from a highly respected Japanese chef.
6. Okonomiyaki Katsu (Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture)
Another small family-run restaurant, this one has a homely atmosphere thanks to its charming staff, who serve up okonomiyaki that diners say is utterly delicious.
5. Nino (Nara, Nara Prefecture)
According to diners, the chef and his wife who run this restaurant are incredibly kind, with a life philosophy to “smile and be kind to people and let other people smile”. They also dish out some delicious Italian fare too, as chef Nino spent time honing his cooking skills in Milan.
4. Sakurajaya (Takayama, Gifu Prefecture)
Visitors have been heaping praise on this restaurant for years, calling it Takayama’s best restaurant. Not only do chef Hiroshi and his mother create spectacular Japanese meals, they also take the time to explain each dish to diners so they can understand how it’s been made.
3. Hamburg & Steak Pound, Umekoji (Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture)
If you’re craving a good burger in Kyoto, this joint has what you’re looking for, using top ingredients like Kobe beef and aged Japanese Black beef.
2. Nabezo (Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo)
Nabe hot pot dishes like shabu shabu are the specialty at this restaurant, and with all-you-can-eat deals offering up mouthwatering cuts of meat, this is an incredibly popular destination for diners.
1. Han no Daidokoro Kadochika (Shibuya-ku, Tokyo)
And finally, taking the coveted top spot on the list of foreign visitors’ favourite restaurants is this yakiniku grilled BBQ joint, conveniently located just a few minutes’ walk from Shibuya Station. Wagyu beef from Yamagata Prefecture is the star of the menu here, with diners raving about the top quality of the melt-in-the-mouth beef.
So there you have it – 30 of the best restaurants from around the country, as chosen by foreign visitors. Whether you’re craving Italian, Indian, Chinese, Persian, or traditional Japanese meals, these places will please the palate and the back pocket while you travel around Japan. And if you’re travelling further abroad, there are plenty of good restaurants waiting for you throughout Asia and the rest of the world too!
Featured image: Instagram/bugbugsleepy