West Meets East: An American in Japan | All Blogs

Restaurants in Japan

By Josiah Lebowitz

I’ll be going in depth on many of the different types of food you can find in Japan in future posts, but for now here’s a quick overview of eating out in Japan.

Shinjuku at Night

Unless you’re in the middle of a large residential district, you’ll find restaurants and snack stands just about everywhere. In fact, you’ll probably see so many of them that deciding where to eat can become rather difficult. In the above picture, for example, the majority of those signs are for restaurants (and the next couple of streets over are just the same). Unsurprisingly, Japanese food dominates the Japanese restaurant scene. Gyudon (rice and beef bowls), soba and udon (Japanese buckwheat and wheat noodles respectively), ramen, sushi, tempura (fried and breaded seafood and vegetables), yakitori (teriyaki chicken cooked on a skewer), and more are all present in abundance. Though at times they’re a bit different than you may be used to from the US. Sushi, for example, is usually found in kaitenzushi (conveyor belt sushi) restaurants and is considerably cheaper and a bit less fancy than what you usually see in the US. Japanese restaurants also tend to be a bit small and cramped compared to those in the US, with the smallest able to seat on a handful of customers at a time.

Eating out in Japan is also surprisingly cheap, at least if you avoid the fancy expensive restaurants. It’s very easy to get a full meal for $5 - $12, especially if you take advantage of Japan’s many excellent fast food restaurants (which feature much better food than your average US fast food chain). Of course, before you can eat and pay, you need to find a restaurant and order your food…

A plastic food display

Fortunately picking a restaurant is often simpler than you’d think, as many feature displays of expertly created plastic food out front which tells you at a glance what they serve and how much things cost. As a note, you know you’ve been in a Japan a bit too long when you start choosing one restaurant over another because their plastic food looked nicer. Even better, if you‘re having trouble telling the waitress what you want to order, you can always point to whatever you want in the plastic food display. Many restaurants that lack plastic food will have a picture menu instead, so you can easily see what’s what and point to the items you want. Which is very useful as you won’t find a lot of English menus outside of major tourist areas (and even then there are often many restaurants without them).

Waiters are usually pretty attentive, despite the fact that there’s no tipping, but at some restaurants you’ll need to flag them down if you want something. In fact, in many larger restaurants include a button specifically to call your waiter. Often, after serving your meal, the waiter will place the check on the table right away. Then, when you’re ready to leave, you take it to the main counter to pay. However, some fast food restaurants do things a bit differently. Upon entering, you’ll find a machine with buttons for each item on the menu. Basically you put your money in the machine and push the buttons for whatever it is you want and the machine will dispense tickets for each item. You then push the change button to reclaim any unused money, take a seat at the counter, and present the waiter with your tickets.

One other thing you’ll get at most restaurants is a moist towelette that you use to wipe your hands (and only your hands) before eating. Once you’re done with it, fold it and set it aside. If you need regular napkins to wipe your hands or face during the meal, you’ll usually find a napkin holder on or near your seat.

A Japanese KFC

Outside of Japanese restaurants, you’ll also find American and Italian ones, including a few familiar chains such as KFC, McDonald’s, and Denny’s. Though the menus are bound to be a bit different than what you’re used to as they’ve all been Japanized to varying degrees. But I’ll be talking about that more in future posts. You’ll also find a decent amount of Chinese, Korean, and Indian restaurants, most of which are pretty authentic with just one or two little changes (for example, all Indian restaurant seem to feature an egg curry that I’ve never seen anywhere else). Other types of foreign food, however, such as Mexican, are extremely rare. But, with so much great Japanese food available, you have to stay in Japan for quite a while before you start missing them.


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Japan has such a rich culture and the cuisine is no less. With a great variety of foods, it’s no wonder there are so many restaurant on a single street. How do they keep everything clean? Here, the grease trap cleaning austin tx is quite an effective method to keep the cooking space clean, whether in restaurants or in our homes. Surely, the Japanese have their methods.

Josiah Lebowitz thank you for this excellent blog about the restaurants in Japan. The Amalficoastrestaurant.ca site also shared about these amazing places. Sounds like the KFC here is in the most demand, great share mate.

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