Diversity of Japanese Restaurants

Daiichi; (太市) is a suppon nabe (すっぽん鍋)

The Tokyo metropolitan area ― including Tokyo and the part of Kanagawa, Chiba, and Saitama ― with some 30 million residents, has roughly 160,000 restaurants, versus about 25,000 in greater New York City and 40,000 in Paris, according to Michelin.

Tokyo is a rare city you can try various kinds of cuisine from all over the world.

Interestingly, the largest category in Tokyo restaurants is Chinese cuisine not Japanese, and including cuisines form another regions, Japanese cuisine falls into minority.

This is an apparent manifestation of the diversity of Japanese food culture.

The diversity is not only found in their origins but also can be seen in menu or in atmosphere ― store size and facilities.

A variety of specialized restaurants are the other aspect of the diversity.

Unlike many Japanese restaurants abroad who serve a variety of Japanese food; sushi, tempura, sashimi, and yakitori, fine restaurants in Japan specialize in a certain category, and many of them have established in-depth expertise that newcomers cannot catch up in respective categories.

Daiichi; (太市) is a suppon nabe (すっぽん鍋, soft-shelled snapping turtles hot pot stew) restaurant in Kyoto that has been around since late-17th century. Daiichi has been serving only the suppon nabe tasting menu.

MICHELIN guides’ one-star list includes a famous grilled eel restaurant, Ishibashi that sometimes has queues more than 200 yards long during the summer eel-eating season with Chikuyōtei (from late Edo-period), Nodaiwa (from 18th cent.), Ymanano’chaya (from 19th cent.), Akimoto (from 19th cent.),Obana (from 19th cent.), Shimamura, and Tsuruya.

Komakata Dozeu
Komakata Dozeu; (駒形どぜう)Click image to see video.

Owariya (尾張屋) ― a Kyoto soba (蕎麦 or そば) noodle restaurant since 1465, many specialized restaurants in sushi (鮨, 寿司, orすし), unagi (鰻 or うなぎ, ell), dojyō (どじょう, loach), fugu or fuku (ふぐ, blowfish), Tempura (天ぷら or 天麩羅), udon (うどん, wheat noodle), yakitori (やきとり or 焼き鳥), ankō (あんこう, anglerfish), sukiyaki(すき焼き), karē (カレー, Japanese curry) continue for centuries.

Oyakodon

Oyakodon (親子丼)

On the other hand, relatively new comer categories; Rāmen (ラーメン, [ɽa̠ː.me̞ɴ]), Tonkatsu (豚カツ, とんかつ or トンカツ, pork cutlet), Okonomiyaki; (お好み焼, Japanese savory pancake containing a variety of ingredients) , Gōza (餃子, dumpling), Oyakodon, (親子丼, donburi, rice bowl dish, in which chicken, egg, green onions), Beef stake, Hamburger steak, Spaghetti, Pizza, or Omurice (オムライス, omelette made with fried rice) have gained ground as specialized restaurants.

Another facet of the diversity is in price.

You might pay $300 or more per person at Daiichi depending on the exchange rate at the time. The distinguished restaurants: authentic traditional Japanese cuisine, sushi, tempura, fugu, sukiyaki & stake, along with Michelin’s starred restaurants including French, Italian, and Chinese fall into this price range or higher.

Michelin sets more than a third of restaurants in Tokyo guidebook of 2011 a Bib Gourmand rating which values the restaurant of distinctive tastes of dishes and their cost performance ― around $70. But you can enjoy Japanese delicacies less than $10.

‘B-class gourmet’ generally refers foods, offered by casual restaurants, emphasizing affordability and having popular appeal including most of the restaurants mentioned in specialized categories above.

Although they are named B-class, they bear comparison with the fancy restaurants as to their degree of satisfaction with taste.

Differences lay in whether the elements other than taste such as tableware and furnishings, arranging the foods on dishes of various colors, its architecture, and the spirituality and aesthetic sense which is considered to compose the integral parts of nihon ryōri (日本料理,nihon ryōri, the traditional-style Japanese food, similar to that already existing before the end of national seclusion in 1868), and may be some in French cuisine.

Also, whereas nihon ryōri put emphasis on its delicate sense of taste, B-class gourmet has a thick and strong taste.

You can choose one form a diversity of restaurants in different price ranges, depending of your needs or finances.

The diversity is also found in a set decoration of a restaurant; a top-notch restaurant not always fancy in Japan.

Mr. Naret said Michelin tried to adjust for differences in Tokyo’s restaurant culture, like the large number of tiny but excellent eateries tucked away in unlikely corners of this crowded city.

Click image to see video.

While Michelin usually reserves its highest rating of three stars for large elegant restaurants, in Tokyo it gave the top grade to a closet-size sushi bar, called Sukiyabashi Jiro (すきやばし 次郎), that sat in a basement and lacked a menu or even its own toilet, a first for the guide, Mr. Naret said.

These diversities stem from Japan’s food culture. Japanese cuisine has developed over the centuries as a result of many political and social changes throughout Japan. Through a long culinary past, the Japanese have developed sophisticated and refined cuisine.

—ODAKANE Fuji

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