Trying to get to know Tokyo through a Tokyo food tour? That’s a great idea! Just taking a sightseeing tour is also fun, but add local food into the mix and you’ll be able to have a whole new perspective of Tokyo. You can try interesting new foods or experience making something by yourself. In either case, it’s something you can only experience here, in person. It’s an experience you can tell your friends and family about back home instead of just showing them pictures of famous sightseeing spots you visited. Also, if you’ve already visited Tokyo before, food tours are another way to enjoy what this city has to offer.
9 Best Tokyo Food Tours by Local Guides
Many Japanese foods have now started to become part of the English vocabulary. “Sushi”, “tofu”, “tempura”, and “ramen” are probably some of the most known words. “Sukiyaki” is a name of an English song, “mochi ice” is a delicious dessert combining “mochi” with ice cream, and “miso” soup and “natto” are becoming popular health foods in some parts of the world like Europe. When eating Japanese food in Japan, you’ll find everything from food stands and fast food stores to centuries old restaurants serving a course meal of “washoku” or Japanese food. You can eat cheap or you can spend an exorbitant amount of money on one meal. Many restaurants specialize in one dish, for example “tempura” or “yakiniku” (Japanese style BBQ). And then there are “izakaya” restaurants serving bits of this and that to go along with alcoholic beverages. This is where Japanese people go if they want to go have a drink. There is so much more to learn about Japanese culture, through food, if you’re interested.
Tsukiji Fish Market
Have you ever heard of Tsukiji Fish Market? It’s one of the largest fish markets in the world. It’s also a famous sightseeing spot in Tokyo. It was divided into the inner market and the outer market but the inner market was moved to the Toyosu area and was reopened as the new Toyosu Market in October 2018. The Tsukiji Outer Market is still open in its original location and still as popular as ever. You can enjoy seeing the busy market and try some delicious fresh sushi as well as other food products. The tours below will take you to the Tsukiji fish market. The local guide will help you through the maze of stores and explain about what they are selling. They can also advise you on what to try, because there are so many stores you’re sure to feel overwhelmed.
Food Tour of Tokyo for First-Timers by Chiaki
Experience Making Sushi or Tofu
Another type of food tour in Tokyo is one where you can experience making something. Making sushi and of course eating it is one of the popular activities that foreign visitors enjoy. It’s enjoyable for the kids as well as adults and it’s an experience you’ll only be able to have in Japan. Sightseeing is of course a big part of visiting a country or city for the first time but experiences that make an impression on your tastebuds as well as your nose, eyes, and ears are one of the things that people tend to remember best about their trips.
According to your preference, you can choose to go the Tsukiji fish market and experience making sushi, or you can opt to visit a local Japanese home and experience making and eating homemade sushi. Sushi that you have in stores and the sushi that local people eat at home is quite different in shape and size. At a store, the sushi is the sushi you are probably imagining in your head; a slice of fish on a oval shaped bit of rice. At home, we make “temaki-zushi” which literally means hand wrapped sushi. We put some rice on a palm sized piece of “nori” or seaweed paper and then put whatever slice of fish we want on top. Then we wrap the rice and fish in the “nori”, dip the end in some soy sauce, and eat it. I suppose the taste is generally the same except the difference of having the “nori” there or not. But at home, you get the choice of adding other ingredients like cucumbers or sesame seeds or even more than one type of fish in your “temaki-zushi” since it’s your own creation. In that sense, it’s quite a fun meal.
There’s also a tofu making experience where you’ll visit a tofu factory and learn how tofu is made. Tofu is now known all over the world as a healthy food made from soybeans. Experiencing how it’s made can make for a great activity you can tell people about when you get back home.
Wagashi (Japanese sweets) and Sake (Rice Wine)
Another highlight of a Tokyo food tour is about experiencing what you can only see and experience in Japan. Have you ever heard of “wagashi”? It literally means Japanese sweets. It’s a type of sweet that is not only delicious but also beautiful look at. Many of them are shaped like flowers. It almost looks like an artificial food sample and not something that you can actually eat. Many of these sweets use a bean paste inside and are made out of a batter of rice powder and also sugar. They don’t use any oil or products made out of milk so they’re very healthy. Their taste is not as sweet as those of western sweets, and are made to go with green tea. It’s really amazing to see the professionals shape these beautiful and delicate “wagashi” so carefully. It’s not something you can experience easily and not many Japanese people have had the experience of seeing “wagashi” made right in front of their eyes.
Sake is another one of Japan’s products that have spread worldwide. If you like drinking alcohol, you’ll definitely enjoy visiting a Sake brewery to learn about the process of making Sake and also tasting the different kinds of Sake that they make there. And you’ll appreciate having a guide with you to translate what the brewery staff says.
Other Food Tours
If you’re interested in Japanese food in general, I recommend food tours which will let you experience more than one type of food. For example, fast food in Japan comes a lot cheaper than in other countries. Lunch menus are especially beneficial as they are delicious as well as cheap. You can enjoy lots of types of Japanese fast food like ramen, udon, and soba noodles, or “tendon” (tempura rice bowl), or “gyudon” (beef rice bowl) for about 10 USD or less if you know where to go.
There are also lots of Japanese sweets or snacks to try while staying in Japan like “osenbei” (rice crackers often flavored with soy sauce) or “taiyaki” (fish shaped baked batter cakes with sweet red bean paste inside), etc. Since you’ll find a lot of food stores, especially in a city like Tokyo, trying to figure out which are the ones that taste the best is impossible. But if you’re with a local guide, you don’t have to worry about it. They can take you to stores that have a good reputation even among the local Japanese people.
Enjoy Japanese Casual Meals by Masato
All the guides at TripleLights create their own tours so all of the tours are unique. So if you look through the website, you maybe able to find other food tours that interest you. You can also communicate directly with the guide to ask questions or convey requests, for example what you want to eat or experience, before actually booking a tour.
Also, if you don’t find the perfect tour on the list of tours, you can request a tour for half a day, a full day or more. Write down what you’d like to see or what kind of food you’re interested in. All of the guides will be able to see requests like this and the ones that are available during your requested dates will recommend a food tour just for you. You’ll be able to compare what several guides suggest and see which one looks the most interesting. This is a way you can create your own personalized food tour. It’ll be a private tour so you and your group can go anywhere you want to go.
Most of the tours are walking tours, created so that you can use the public transportation system while sightseeing and get a feel for getting around the city. It’s also an experience that will give you insight on how the local people move around during their daily lives. The city of Tokyo is like a web of train systems so you can go almost everywhere by train. However, there is also the option of hiring a private car and driver for your tour or just to get around. This is an option that will help people with disabilities or elderly people also enjoy touring the city. The car can take you right up to the stores/restaurants you want to visit so it’s very convenient. You can also catch a taxi, but sometimes if it’s rush hour or the weather is bad, you just can’t find one. So having a private car just for you is pretty nice.
Take a look at the guides’ profile videos to see what kind of person they are. The reviews they got from other customers also will help you pick out a great guide. At most tour agencies, you aren’t able to choose your guide or see what they’re like before the day of the tour. But having a pleasant companion during your tour is an important aspect in having a great day. And having a guide who really understands what you’re looking for will make the tour so much better. Try all the different kinds of unique Japanese food and enjoy touring the city of Tokyo!