Tokyo: Japan’s Mecca of Gourmet Drinks and Dining


by Chris Pellegrini

There has probably never been a more exciting time to be a fan of Japanese food and drink, especially in Tokyo. Japanese restaurants are finally getting the international recognition they deserve, and the upper reaches of the beverage industry are earning new-found respect. The dynamism of the domestic market has fashioned an environment where foodies and alcohol otaku (geeks) alike can delight in nearly constant innovation.

That said, high-end products are a relatively new phenomenon where alcohol is concerned. Largely due to the strength of large brewers and distillers that have long cornered the taste buds of Japan, the move toward higher quality beverages has mostly flown under the radar as far as the average Japanese 20-something is concerned. From the television-watching, train-riding consumer’s point of view, Japan is still all about macro-produced, easy-to-drink and favorably-priced booze. Quizically, this remains the general state of affairs even though Japan’s whiskey, shochu, nihonshu and craft beer industries have each created formidable and growing premium markets over the past two to three decades.

Just a quick look around the metropolis shows that good things are in store for those who would like to drink something better; indeed, the number of bars catering to discerning drinkers has increased exponentially since the turn of the century. There are now craft beer bars cropping up from Ryogoku to Kokubunji and down to Yokohama, and the affinity for pairing quality brew with izakaya fare is creating new boundaries seasonally.

Likewise, honkaku (single-distilled) shochu has seen an enduring renaissance since Tokyo’s partiers discovered that the aromatic and low-octane drink (usually 50 proof) is way too good to let grandpa have all the fun. Shochu bars have popped up all over the metropolitan area with imo (potato) shochu leading the way in terms of selection and adherents. Many are starting to realize, quite simply, that shochu is possibly the best sub-80 proof alcohol on the market in terms of bang for buck.

While nihonshu is Japan’s best known alcoholic export, libations such as shochu and whiskey are now making the most noise domestically, both in terms of overall sales and press coverage. Whiskey distillers such as Suntory have been winning international plaudits left, right and center for the undeniable balance of their single-malts.

Concurrently, several big-city Japanese restaurants have attracted long-overdue praise for their attention to detail both in terms of menu and customer service. The influential Michelin guide has recently awarded Tokyo more stars than any other city in the world (twice what Paris has earned).

Put in perspective, however, and also in defense, Tokyo is one of the most densely populated cities in the world and boasts an enormous middle class. Since Tokyo is arguably in the global top ten for most restaurants per capita, culinary excellence is logically widespread. Accordingly, the number of Michelin stars awarded will likely increase as more hidden alleys and suburbs are combed in subsequent editions of the guide.

All of this signals good things to come. As things continue to evolve, new print publications such as “The Japan Beer Times” ( and websites like “Japan Eats” ( have arrived on the scene to document the changes for an international audience. The next decade promises to be a busy one for food and drink enthusiasts in Tokyo-the gastronomic capital of Japan.









と、このように見てくると東京は今後ますますグルメの街として脚光を浴びていく可能性を持っている。このような東京の動きについては「ジャパン・ビア・タイムズ」といった新しい出版物や「Japan Eats」(などのウェブサイトの登場により英語でも情報収集ができるようになってきた。美味しいものに目が無い人たちにとってこれからの東京は日本が世界に誇る美食の街としてますます目が離せない存在になっていくだろう。

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