If you’re planning to visit Japan and are searching for the best restaurants, we have got you covered! Here are some quick tips in English on how to search for restaurants in Japan using Tabelog.
I often get asked by readers and friends where and what to eat in Japan when they visit and it’s always a really tough and challenging question for me to answer. There are an overwhelming number of choices available so it depends on individual preferences, desired cuisine, budget, location, and more.
How To Pick Restaurants in Japan
The second reason it’s difficult to recommend a great restaurant is that there are simply too many of them, even just in the Tokyo area. For instance, if you are a fan of Yakiniku (Japanese BBQ) like me there are close to 4,000 just in Tokyo. Another example is the Michelin restaurants; there are around 200 Michelin Starred restaurants in Tokyo. How do you select which ones to go to? Not to mention that there are a lot of restaurants that are just as good but didn’t make the list.
However, I do have some good news! At every major station around Tokyo (and major cities across Japan), there are a plethora of amazing restaurant options covering choices from sushi, yakitori, and izakaya, to steak houses.
So how do I look up my restaurant choices? What I find really helpful for restaurant reviews when I visit Japan is to use Tabelog (食べログ).
What is Tabelog
Tabelog allows you to conveniently search for restaurants based on your location or the cuisine you want. Tabelog also has an English, Korean, and Chinese version making it easy to navigate and use! It’s like the Japan’s version of Yelp on steroids. Here are the fundamental steps to get started:
1. You can search by location or food type. I highly recommend it by location since it’ll suggest restaurants all over Japan if you select the food type on the homepage.
2. You can also find the top 100 restaurants for the area you have selected.
3. After selecting a location, you’ll be shown a map of the area and a list of restaurants. You can choose the type of food in the search bar.
4. You’ll now see a list of restaurants, and you can sort by the standard view, total ranking score, and by the number of comments left by Tabelog users.
5. When you find the restaurant you’re interested in, click to see the details.
Our Recommendation on Tabelog
When we visit Japan, we use Tabelog frequently to find the food we want to eat near us. It is especially helpful when we visit rural areas as there are less restaurants around.
Based on our own experience, restaurants with over 3.5 ratings on Tabelog tend to be delicious restaurants. If you are looking for a quick bite, any restaurant with a rating above 3 is a safe option. While a 3 out of 5 is quite low by some standards in most countries, the Japanese are pretty critical of their food ranking. You might have heard of すきやばし 次郎 (Sukiyabashi Jiro), featured in Jiro Dreams of Sushi and considered one of the best sushi restaurants in the world. Well, they received a rating of 4.01 out of 5.
I hope this short intro to Tabelog will help you find delicious restaurants while you’re traveling in Japan. To make reservations at a restaurant you found, you can usually ask the hotel concierge to assist you with the booking. Be sure to show up for your reservation on time, as punctuality is highly valued in Japanese culture, and being late may result in losing your spot.
Just a quick note, the English version of Tabelog lets visitors know if there is availability at the restaurant for the day but does not allow reservations. However, the Japanese version does. You can try to use Google Translate to book reservations. Alternatively, for online restaurant reservations, Gurunavi is an option but the UI is not as easy to navigate as Tabelog.
If you are heading to Tokyo and not sure what to eat. Check out our ultimate Tokyo food and restaurant guide. Let us know if you have any questions in the comments below.