Heading To Japan? Here's What To Know And Eat According To The Experts

Heading To Japan? Here's What To Know And Eat According To The Experts

A list of five social do’s and don’ts in Japan.

By Georgie Murray | 7th November 2019

Although the Rugby World Cup has just finished up and it may have not been the result the boys in yellow and green wanted, the world's eyes have been turned to Japan. Despite the loss, you can’t be disappointed from the previews of Japan and what’s on offer. From the eats, beats, vibes and culture on show throughout the Cup, there’s a heightened buzz about the country. While it’s a common destination for Aussies, especially for the snow season, it’s a go-to year-round.

Like many of us, you’ve probably got the Tokyo fever and are looking out for the next round of flight sales, right? But, before you jet-off, do you know the cultural norms and expectations? What about the best foods to taste test? Stats show 58% of Aussies put sampling the local cuisine on top of the list when travelling somewhere new, so what’s on your plate is something not to muck around with.

We’ve roped in the experts to divulge the top five must-eats in Tokyo and the top five social customs you need to know before handing over your plane ticket.

Over to you, boys.

Tokyo’s Top Five Eats

Expert: Mat Rogers (rugby legend) and Tokyo local, Tomo

8bit Café

For the retro lovers, step inside this gamer paradise for an afternoon of bites and drinks accompanied by classic games like Tetris and Mario. Inside you’ll find all sorts of consoles from your childhood, in perfect working order, among an incredible collection of relics and models from times gone by.


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No Side Club

No Side Club is already set to be one of the most popular spots in Tokyo this year. Statuettes of famous rugby players are lined up along the bar, with rugby balls and other paraphernalia covering the walls. Their succulent fried chicken, and pork curry, paired with a massive list of drinks make No Side Club a great place to watch sport and indulge in the atmosphere. ‘’The sense of pride in the bar was absolutely unmatched! Getting amongst the crazy rugby fans was definitely a huge highlight of my time in Tokyo,” said Aussie rugby legend Mat Rogers after visiting the bar with Mastercard.

Ginza Iwa

Skilled professional Chef Iwa owns Ginza Iwa and prepares outstanding rolls and nigiri sushi using only aged tuna to ensure the best possible flavour. Aromatic and tart akami; fatty, moderately sweet chutoro; and marbled otoro are left to adjust to room temperature before being created into his renowned sushi.


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Kagurazaka Ishikawa

A Michelin 3-star kaiseki (traditional) restaurant, chef Hideki Ishikawa's cuisine is bound only by his imagination. The kimono-dressed waitresses will serve a full dinner of multiple dishes in the Japanese style. With only four private rooms and seven counter seats, dinner at Kagurazaka Ishikawa is an intimate and personalised experience. Chef Ishikawa prepares a full dinner of nine or 10 dishes, which change daily and according to the customer! The perfect elegant and unforgettable experience to take up in-between the world cup games.


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Kawaii Monster Cafe

The restaurant was designed around the concept of Tokyo as a monster, swallowing the trends of the time and creating a new city no one has ever seen. Filled with four psychedelic zones to choose from, you step off the street and through the mouth of Mr. Ten Thousand Chopsticks into a wonderland of sheep heads and jellyfish tentacles. Depending on your travel plans you might even be able to take part in their epic Halloween Party.


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It wouldn’t be a great list if we didn’t include a ramen shop and Nakiryu is one of the best. Awarded a one Michelin star in 2016 the shop remains a small and quant destination to have amazing ramen. With affordable bowls you absolutely have to check out this place. The only down side is that they only have 10 seats available so make sure you plan ahead before going.


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Karaage-ya Oshu Iwai

Last but not least you have to check out Karaage-ya Oshu Iwai. This place isn’t a romantic sit-in destination, instead, this shop is all about smashing and grabbing as its food is geared towards takeaway. While it’s not the most pristine place like some of the others on the list, you’ll be seduced by the aromas of chicken and garlic as you walk in. It’s widely considered one of the best Karaage places in Tokyo.

The Social Customs You Need To Know

Expert: Dr Peter Mauch, Cross Cultural Expert, Western Sydney University

With all these exciting placing to go it’s important to remember Japan is a long way from Australia. Being in a new country means there are small social rules that you can mess up very easily and while we can’t prep you for everything we have got you covered with the basics. Follow these and you’ll be gliding through Tokyo with the confidence of a local.

Take off your shoes

This first tip is an absolute must. Everyone in Japan removes their shoes when entering a family home. It helps to keep the home clean and it helps to maintain the distinction between “uchi” (inside) and “soto” (outside). If you are concerned about smelly feet and cleanliness, bring some wet wipes to keep you feeling fresh.

No eating in public spaces

Eating take-away foods such as onigiri (rice balls), on the train or even as you walk down the street, is a no-no. Just don’t do it! There are lots of amazing restaurants in Tokyo to sit down and have a meal (I mean, did you read the above?). Plus, with a robust transit system you are only a few moments away from your hotel.

No suds in the bath-tub

The Japanese love onsen and sento (hot baths); they are the perfect way to relax. Just be aware of your shower-room etiquette. Before you get into the bath make sure you shower with soap and you wash off completely before you get in the tub.

Don’t eat directly from a shared dish

At a restaurant or in a family home, meals generally involve shared dishes placed in the middle of the table. Each guest will be given two or three plates of his/her own. Be sure, when taking a morsel from a shared dish, to rest it on your own plate before eating it.

Don’t rest your chopsticks so they are standing up in a rice-bowl

Always rest your chopsticks on the edge of a bowl or plate. Most importantly, never stick them into your rice-bowl so that they look like they are standing up. This is done at Buddhist funerals, and to do so at the dinner table is a bad look.

Ps. If you’re heading over soon, check out Mastercard’s Tap Map available through the @Mastercardau Instagram for some inspiration.


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Article by Georgie Murray

Georgie is a Journalist with a knack for bad jokes and dating disasters. A total open book, there’s no topic off limits for this Rod Stewart enthusiast. Starting her career in Broadcast Journalism, Georgie has since gone back to basics of the written word with a particular love for taboo topics and fashion media.


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