The local cuisine of Tokyo was shaped over a period of 400 years in and around the flourishing Edo period (1603-1867).
Monjayaki, a savory pancake similar to okonomiyaki, Fukagawa meshi clam rice, and Yanagawa nabe hot pot are only a few of the infinite number of local specialties born in Tokyo’s 23 wards, the western Tama area, and the Izu and Ogasawara islands.
Sushi has grown in popularity the world over. What better place to try all the different kinds of delicious, eye-pleasing sushi available than Tokyo? From nigiri-zushi, vinegar-flavored rice topped with bite-sized pieces of fresh fish, to chirashi-zushi, literally "scattered sushi," a bowl of rice with seasoned vegetables mixed in, topped with a variety of seafood and egg.
Soba established itself as a popular everyday dish by the mid-Edo period, and came to be a major local specialty of Tokyo. It’s also one of the few dishes that is perfectly acceptable to slurp. This is because sucking air is believed to enhance the aroma of the buckwheat noodles.
Monja-yaki is made with a flour-based batter topped with shredded cabbage and other ingredients and cooked on a hot griddle. The 60 or so eateries lining Tsukishima Monja Street serve everything from meat and seafood to ethnic-inspired monja-yaki. The best part is, you get to make it yourself.
Fukagawa-meshi is a bowl of rice topped with a miso-based stew of Japanese littleneck clams and chopped leeks. The dish originated as a kind of fast food for fishermen working busily in the Fukagawa area near the mouth of the Sumida-gawa River, where clam gathering boomed in the Edo period.
Dojo-nabe and Yanagawa-nabe
Dojo-nabe is a shallow pot dish lined with dojo loach (a type of freshwater fish) cooked in soy sauce-flavored broth, served with chopped leeks. Yanagawa-nabe is also a hot pot dish made with loach, cooked with burdock and eggs. Loach has been used in Japanese cuisine since the Edo period.
This hearty hot pot made with chicken and seasonal vegetables is staple for sumo wrestlers (each sumo stable has its own distinct recipe). Try it while watching a sumo tournament or after a visit to a sumo stable, or drop by one of the many popular specialty chanko-nabe restaurants around the city.
People on the Izu and Ogasawara Islands prepare seafood not only as sashimi but also in charcoal-grilled, steamed, and in miso-soup dishes.
Shima-zushi is sushi made with fish caught in the waters near the islands. To preserve the ingredients in the hot weather, the fish is marinated in soy sauce, a preparation called zuke, and the rice is flavored slightly sweeter and stronger than typical sushi rice. Wasabi, which is difficult to find on the islands, is substituted with karashi mustard or togarashi chili pepper.
Kabayaki eel is prepared differently in the Kanto (Tokyo and surrounding prefectures) and Kansai (Kyoto, Osaka and the surrounding prefectures). In the Kanto style, the eel is sliced down the back, first broiled plain, then steamed, and then seasoned and grilled once again. According to legend, because a large population of the samurai warrior class lived in Edo (now Tokyo), it was bad luck to slit the eel down the belly.