Tokyo has over 3,000 sushi restaurants ranging vastly in price and type of establishment. Whether you want Michelin-starred high-end sushi or cheap kaiten sushi (sushi train) or anything in between, this article introduces the best places for each genre you can find in Tokyo!
It probably doesn't come as a surprise that the Japanese metropolis is home to the largest number of sushi restaurants in the world (over 3,000!!!). With all that sushi however, it's difficult to make a choice on where exactly to go. There are sushi restaurants that fit all kinds of needs. In this article, we will introduce some of the best restaurants for sushi classified by the following genres:
Authentic Sushi: Mid-Range Priced (¥3,000 to ¥10,000)
When most non-Japanese think of Japanese sushi, what comes to mind is either the inexpensive and fun sushi conveyor belt restaurants, or perhaps the very traditional, high-end, sometimes Michelin-starred small shops of long-standing that are quite intimidating to walk into if you aren't well-versed in Japan's most famous form of culinary art. What you should know, however, is that the vast majority of sushi restaurants in Japan fall in a mid-priced range category.
If you have a certain interest in sushi and you're seeking quality but aren't willing to pay the price for a high-end sushi meal which can reach ¥30,000 in the most reputable establishments, then these mid-range priced sushi restaurants are definitely your best choice.
In fact, a well-rated ¥5,000 restaurant in Tokyo might easily compare in quality to some of the most highly-rated and most expensive sushi restaurants in other major cities around the world outside of Japan.
What differentiates a high-end sushi restaurant and a good middle-ranged sushi restaurant is not so much the freshness or quality of the fish, but mostly the skills of the sushi chef. High-end restaurants are run by chefs that have reached somewhat of a star status in Japan and even sometimes around the world. That being said, the skills of the chefs at a mid-range priced sushi place are far from being bad in comparison. Being a sushi chef in Japan requires extensive training, and it would be virtually impossible for a sushi restaurant to survive in Tokyo for long without a really skilfull chef behind the counter! So here are the places we suggest to get a great authentic sushi experience at an affordable price!
Sushi Dai (Tsukiji)
Sushi Dai is one of THE most popular sushi restaurants within Tokyo, and is located inside the Tsukiji fish market. To get there, it will take you about a 5-minute walk from either the Tsukijishijo Station (Oedo Line) or the Tsukiji Station (Hibiya Line).You'll likely to spot the extremely long line in front of the shop before its banner. You should expect to wait 2-3 hours to eat here. Reservations are not accepted. So why do people wait for so long to eat here? It's because you can enjoy traditional, high-end Edomae (Tokyo traditional) sushi for only ¥3000! As it is located inside the fish market, the chef chooses the best fish in the morning to make his sushi. The shop closes once the sushi runs out. A good strategy to get the chance to eat there is to start lining up at 5 AM. Give it a try if you're an early bird!
Unsurprisingly, another great sushi a restaurant is located inside the Tsukiji fish market. If you want great sushi but want to avoid the ridiculously long lines at Sushi Dai, this might be your best bet!
Tunao uses a kind of red traditional rice vinegar which gives the rice a sharper taste. Tunao specializes in tuna, so ordering the tuna nigiri platter of 20 pieces at ¥4,980 is a sure bet. The assortment comes with the three basic types of sashimi toppings: lean tuna, medium fatty tuna and fatty tuna. In general the fattier the piece is, the more expensive it is. You also get negitoro (shredded tuna with leek) and some torch-grilled pieces. Tunao is quite tourist-friendly as there are many pictures on the wall showing what you can order. Anyone of their donburi (sashimi topped bowl of rice) are absolutely amazing as well. Every ingredient is carefully selected from the market!
Mantenzushi is located at a 5-minute walk from the South Exit of the JR Tokyo Station. In a warm, relaxing traditional atmosphere. There are two tables for four and a counter from which you can see the chef making the sushi. For the price, Mantenzushi's quality of sushi is difficult to beat! You can have a lunch set for ¥3,000 and a sublime evening set costs only ¥6,000. The restaurant has good sake and many customers enjoy having their set with a nice cold beer. You might be able to get a seat without a reservation for lunch but for dinner, it is strongly recommended that you make one.
The high-end sushi restaurants are ones held by chefs that certainly have a certain prestige. Most of the time, they are small places with only a few counter seats, so they are not the kind of restaurant you can go to in large groups. Reservations are usually needed to enter.
Sitting at the counter gives you the privilege of seeing the sushi masters at work which truly enhances the experience. The sushi is handed to you piece by piece, directly over the counter. You may be able to order à la carte, but most often, you have what is called an "omakase course" which means that the course items will be left to the chef to decide. This is the best way to enjoy the seasonal fish and ingredients available.
The owner is the very famous sushi master Jiro Ono, and this branch is operated by his son Takashi who has earned the honor of receiving two Michelin stars for his cuisine. You can only have the omakase set here which consists of 20 pieces of sushi. There is no need to dip your pieces into soy sauce as each individual piece is brushed with the perfect amount of sauce before being served. One thing all customers going to this prestigious restaurant should remember is that patrons are expected to focus on eating the sushi and to eat quickly. This is the tradition of Edo-style sushi. The restaurant recommends green tea with your meal instead of sake. Expect to pay around ¥25,000.
Jiro Ono is a living legend. He's referred to as the "sushi no kamisama" in Japan, which translates to sushi God. Born in 1925, he still operates his restaurant in Ginza, downtown Tokyo, which has earned the highest distinction of getting three Michelin stars. His sushi pieces are simple yet quite arguably reach perfection. He's been credited with inventing some of his own techniques in the preparation. The bill for the omakase course will be about ¥30,000, and the dining experience will only last about 30 minutes. To enjoy the best sushi, it has to be eaten quickly according to Ono. The restaurant is located on the basement floor of a building at a 1-minute walk from the C6 Exit of the Ginza Station.
Sushi Saito is another member of the three Michelin stars family of Tokyo sushi restaurants. Located near the Roppongi Itchome station, you absolutely need a reservation for this restaurant as it is one of the most famous in Japan. What makes this place so great is simply a combination of the outstanding cutting technique of the fish by sushi master Takashi Saito, the perfect temperature of the pieces of sushi when they are served, the perfect degree of salt and acidity content of the rice and every other detail that goes into the artful preparation of exquisite sushi. It is occasionally possible to have an omakase set during the lunch hour for less than ¥15,000. Evening prices go over ¥20,000.
Conveyor belt sushi, otherwise known as sushi train restaurants, or "kaiten sushi" in Japanese, are ones where the sushi are sent to each table or counter seat by a small revolving conveyor belt. It's quite a fun experience to do! You can sometimes shout out to the chef what item you want, or you can just take the plate that tickles your fancy when it passes near you.
Conveyor belt sushi restaurants are usually quite cheap. It's easy to keep count of how much you are ordering because the color of the plate on which the sushi comes indicates the price of the item. When you are finished eating, a staff member will count the number of plates of each color that you have to sum up your bill.
Kaiten sushi restaurants are usually spacious so even fairly large groups can enter. They are a very family-friendly environment and young kids usually love them.
Located at just 3-minute walk from the Tokyo Station (on the 5th floor of the KITTE Marunouchi building), this place arguably serves the best quality kaiten sushi in Tokyo. You'll surely be surprised by the delicacies you can order without busting your ¥3,000 budget. There are lots and lots of choices on the menu so be bold and try something you've never had before! The restaurant recommends its yellowtail sushi(kuro shio buri). You can also have sushi topped with some rich, creamy and fresh raw egg yolks!
Although this sushi train restaurant is located near Tabata, a minor station of the Yamanote Line, it's totally worth the visit! It's near the Nippori area, so after visiting that beautiful old Tokyo neighborhood, it could be a good idea to walk there. Most plates are ¥150 and you do get a quality that is remarkable for that price. For that reason, the restaurant can get super crowded. What's really interesting is that it has a strong Edo-style character of the "shitamachi" (old Tokyo neighborhood).
Uobei is a popular sushi chain in Tokyo. Every plate is only ¥108! It has recently introduced the updated sushi conveyor belts with touch panels for orders. The sushi comes to you, carried by little bullet trains and other vehicles. The quality of the sushi is not great but the experience is thoroughly entertaining. It's a kind of place that you can very much walk in alone as there are only counter seats. It's a good place for a cheap meal.
This is another interesting category worth mentioning because it is a kind of sushi restaurant you'd have a hard time finding outside of Japan!
Standing sushi bars, as their name implies have no seats. Consequently, they can fit more people in a given area, which means the profit margin by customer is comparatively lower than other sushi restaurant genres, and this ultimately translates to cheaper prices for the customers! In other words, you really get the bang for your buck. The only trade-off is that you'll have to sacrifice the comfort of being able to sit down to eat your sushi.
The quality of sushi is usually high, and they are mostly populated with middle-aged to old Japanese men. In Japanese, standing sushi bars are commonly referred to as "tachigui sushi" which translates to "standing and eating" in a colloquial male way. They tend to be places where people drink sake and beer with their orders too. In some restaurants, it's even possible to have a smoke. Standing sushi bars abound in Tokyo and tend to be located near or inside train stations.
These are definitely worth the visit for a different kind of cultural experience with sushi. And remember, they do serve quality sushi despite their generally inexpensive prices!
This is a small standing sushi bar located just a stone-throw away from the Asakusa Station. You can eat plenty of fine sushi such as soft roe (shirako) and fatty tuna, which is the best part of the tuna, and you probably won't go over 2,000 yen. This restaurant is located in an area with lots of cheap street food, so you can just have a few bites, and a beer perhaps, and continue your walking-eating tour of Asakusa!
Hard to believe that you can find cheap sushi of this quality in fancy Ginza, one of the most expensive districts of Tokyo. People have been raving about this resto ever since it has opened in the spring of 2016. It's the sister branch of the also famous Kaiten Nemuro Hanamaru (introduced in the sushi train section). That name is synonymous with unbeatable quality for the price. There are 55 types of sushi you can order, ranging in price from ¥100 to ¥330.
When you are really hungry and quantity is what you want above all, then all-you-can-eat sushi restaurants are the best choice! You can eat heaps of sushi, lots of variety and not worry about the price while you're at it.
Midori Sushi is THE reference in terms of all-you-can-eat sushi. The quality is great, which isn't always the case for this kind of course, and you can order some expensive pieces such as uni (sea urchin) and ikura (salmon roe). There are a couple of locations across Tokyo but this is the main location. The cost is ¥3,888 for men and ¥3,240 for women. There is a time limit of 90 minutes.
Sushi Dokoro Shintanaka has a solid reputation for its quality and nice rustic ambiance. This place has a friendly and talkative sushi master. He uses an abundance of fresh seasonal ingredients, so the types of sushi you can have varies by the time of year and availability of the ingredients. The all-you-can-eat time is a little short, only 70 minutes, but the price is very cheap for the quality and service. It's a small restaurant with only counter seats. The prices are ¥3,800 for men and ¥3,600 for women. Hard to find a small all-you-can-eat sushi bar of this type in Tokyo.
Located in the very touristy Odaiba, near the beach. Many good things can be said about this restaurant. First, you can get a seat with an amazing view of Tokyo Bay and the Rainbow Bridge of Odaiba. Second, although the sushi is not the best in the all-you-can-eat category, it's still reliably good. And third, it is one of the few all-you-can-eat sushi restaurants with NO TIME LIMIT! It's a bit pricey, at ¥4,500 for men and ¥3,500 for women, but totally worth the go if you've worked up an appetite and want to take your time to enjoy the view, great food, and good company.