Originally published in 1900 as a way to encourage driving in France, the Guide Michelin has become the world’s foremost authority on great restaurants. Since its first inclusion in 2007, Tokyo has solidified its reputation as a true gourmet city, with 446 restaurants listed in the 2021 edition.
In addition to celebrating fine dining through its awarding of “Michelin Stars,” the guide also recognizes restaurants with a commitment to sustainable gastronomy. Six Tokyo restaurants have been recognized with a Green Star for innovative practices. And not every selection is pricey, either: the city has 234 restaurants recognized with the Bib Gourmand for providing great value.
While it’s a good idea to take part in Tokyo’s culture of street food, explore sights like the Tsukiji Fish Market or themed eateries such as the famous Robot Restaurant, or even learn to make some Japanese food yourself, it would be a waste to visit Tokyo without partaking in one of its incredible Michelin-starred restaurants. Here are just a few of the best, with details on how you can visit them.
One Star Restaurants
Many things are taken into consideration when determining whether a restaurant should receive a star. Quality of product, mastery of technique, harmony of flavors, and consistency are just a few of them. Restaurants awarded one star are said to demonstrate “High-quality cooking” that is “worth a stop,” a seal of approval that means you’re bound to get a good meal there. In 2021, 158 Tokyo restaurants received one star, with 18 selected for the first time. Here are a few that stand out:
Nishiazabu Sushi Shin
Chef Shintaro Suzuki employs traditional Edomae techniques in an intimate setting just a 10-minute train ride from Roppongi Hills. Perfect for after a visit to the National Art Center and before a night out on the town, the Omakase style, where diners enjoy a set menu of dishes chosen for them by the chef, allows you to sit back and enjoy what you’re given without worrying about what to order.
- Website: Sushi Shin
- Location: 4-18-20 Nishiazabu, Minato-ku, Tokyo, 106-0031
- Price Range: 8,500-16,000 JPY for lunch, 23,000 for dinner, 4,860-14,580 for takeout
- Cuisine: Sushi
Only a 10-minute walk from the Nambu Line Shirokane-Takanawa Station in Minato City, Akiyama, open since 2018, only offers seven seats at its counter. Aside from exclusivity, this also enhances the experience by putting you close enough to notice every detail of your meal being prepared. If you aren’t up for the full dinner menu, it’s also possible to order a la carte at lunch on Sundays.
- Website: Akiyama
- Location: 6-5-3 Shirokane, Minato-ku, Tokyo, 108-0072
- Price Range: Up to 21,000 JPY for dinner service
- Cuisine: Kappo, a style of cooking where the diner is seated very close to the chef cutting the food, with a single multi-course menu offered.
With just 14 seats, lines for this nondescript spot can be extremely long, so be prepared to wait, possibly for a couple hours at peak times. While it’s definitely on the cheap side for a Michelin-starred experience, the restaurant is cash-only, so bring some yen with you. You’ll see soba noodles used in a lot of Japanese dishes like the yakisoba found at touristy spots, but this is the most authentic version you’re likely to find. Don’t be scared off by the cold noodles, as they are a true delicacy.
- Website: Tamawarai on Facebook
- Location: 5-23-3 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, 150-0001, a 5-minute walk from Exit 7 of Meiji Jingumae (Harajuku) Station
- Price Range: 2,000-10,000 JPY
- Cuisine: Soba, or buckwheat noodles, hand-ground and served either hot or cold with sauce.
Restaurants awarded two stars are said to be “worth a detour,” meaning even if you’re not in the neighborhood, you won’t regret going out of your way, or even staying an extra night, in order to eat there. The 2021 Tokyo guide features 42 two-star restaurants, with two new additions. Even though Japan offers great takeout and convenience store food, it’s worth going the extra mile at least once in your trip for a meal like these:
Not far from Tengenjibashi station in the southern part of Minato City, Seisoka is a traditional Kaiseki restaurant. This style of cuisine involves elaborate multi-course meals, and is for those seeking a traditional Japanese fine-dining experience. Expect food that looks as good as it tastes, presented with extreme care by Chef Nozomu Yamai.
- Contact: Phone number – 03-3473-3103
- Location: 4-2-34 Minami Azabu, Minato-ku, Tokyo, 106-0047
- Price Range: Average cost of lunch is 7,000 JPY per person, average cost of dinner 20,000-30,000 JPY per person
- Cuisine: Kaiseki
You’ve likely tried tempura at sushi joints in America, but that won’t really prepare you for what’s going on at Uchitsu. With varieties like rock oysters, crab in the shell, and fish without the head removed, you’re bound to try something new. Unlike some Western restaurants that offer gigantic all-encompassing menus, the best Japanese eateries often focus on doing one thing extremely well, and that’s what’s going on here. You may show up a tempura novice, but by the end of the night, you’ll feel like an expert.
- Website: Tempura Uchitsu
- Location: 5-25-4 Hiroo, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, 150-0012
- Price Range: 25,000 JPY (not including beverages)
- Cuisine: Tempura
If you aren’t familiar with fugu, or pufferfish, it has a bit of a reputation due to its lethal poison, an element that makes some diners squeamish. It takes considerable training to learn to work with fugu, but under the care of a seasoned chef, it can be safe, delicious, and one of those memorable experiences you can’t get anywhere else. At the Nishiazabu location of this Oita-based establishment, fugu is airlifted in and prepared in a multitude of ways so you can sample the full array and feel like a daredevil, even though there’s very little actual worry.
- Website: Usukifugu Yamadaya
- Location: 4-11-14 Nishiazabu, Minato-ku, Tokyo, 106-0031
- Price Range: 23,000-33,000 JPY plus 10% service charge and 8% tax
- Cuisine: Fugu in a 6, 7, or 8-course menu
Representing the best food a country has to offer, restaurants awarded three stars provide “exceptional cuisine” and are said to be “worth a special journey.” That means that even if you weren’t planning on visiting Tokyo, it’s worth it just to eat at these places. Luckily, Tokyo has a wealth of incredible things to see, but even if it didn’t, its twelve three-star restaurants, including two new ones, would make it worth the trip. Some of these spots are hard to get into, so take the time to make a reservation in advance if you really want to go.
Hiroyuki Kanda’s intimate eight-seat restaurant is all about crafting a unique experience for each diner based on their tastes and budget. Just an eight-minute walk from Roppongi Station, it has held its three-star rating for 14 consecutive years. Atmosphere is incredibly important at Kanda, which operates with an aim “that customers enjoy our food and drink in harmony.” To that end, every element is considered, and diners can expect dishes both innovative and simplistic that bring out the best in their ingredients.
- Website: Nihonyori Kanda
- Location: 3-6-34 Motoazabu, Minato-ku, Tokyo, 105-0002
- Price Range: 15,000-40,000 JPY, with extensive sake and wine lists
- Cuisine: No written menu; the experience is tailored to each individual customer.
Combining creativity with tradition, Masahiro Yoshitake’s 9th-floor Ginza establishment offers seafood with subtle notes added, whether from marinating fish in dashi or stuffing prawns with a mince made of their shells. Preparations range from the simplistic to the complex, offering a sushi journey unlike any you’ve had before. It’s not easy to get a reservation here, but those who do walk away in awe of the skill on display.
- Website: Sushi Yoshitake
- Location: 7-8-13 Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo, 104-0061
- Price Range: 35,000 JPY
- Cuisine: Sushi
The restaurant’s Shinjuku location makes it perfect for those ready to take in the nightlife later in the evening, and its minimalist interior lets the food speak for itself. The 2021 Michelin Guide praises the chef’s “daily pursuit of new tastes,” with a seasonal menu that ensures diners will be shown something fresh every time they come in. If you can get one of the seven seats at the counter, be prepared to try things you don’t recognize, and whether it’s deep-fried turtle or snow crab with tosa vinegar jelly, just surrender and enjoy every bite.
- Website: Kagurazaka Ishikawa
- Location: 5-37 Kagurazaka, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, 162-0825
- Price Range: 30,000-40,000 JPY
- Cuisine: Kaiseki
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Gregg Maxwell Parker is an author and screenwriter best known for the book Troublemakers. Originally from the United States, he moved to Kobe in 2018. Gregg and his wife, Eriko, are the minds behind the blog As Seen In Japan, where they share pictures and stories from everyday Japanese life. They can be found on Twitter and Instagram.