Tokyo, the Capital of Eating Out

In Tokyo it is very difficult to starve.  Even if you don’t have much money in your pocket you can feed yourself with a 100-yen coin in convenience stores.  If you have a 500-yen coin to spend, you will have great many choices of restaurants, sometimes giving you the change back.  According to the statistics of 2011, the number of ‘food service facilities’ in Tokyo is about 90,000!
As in the previous articles, Sushi, Tempura, Soba and Unagi have been four major dishes that the people of Tokyo love to eat outside their home since Edo period.

I found that ‘food service industry’ started in Japan in 1657 in Edo/Tokyo.  In front of Honryuin, Matsuchiyama-Shoden temple (本龍院 待乳山聖天), the first restaurant was established, where Nara-Chameshi (奈良茶飯) was served.

What is Nara-Chameshi? Nara (奈良) is Nara, the older capital of Japan than Kyoto where there are many historical places you must see. Cha (茶) is tea and Meshi (飯) is rice. So, Nara-Chameshi should be Nara style rice cooked with Japanese tea. According to the official site of ‘Jidaigeki-channel‘, a Satellite TV channel specialized in Japanese Jidaigeki films (Jidaigeki are historical plays, in which actors and actresses perform in historical costumes. It can be called as drama of Samurai’s), Nara-Chameshi was something like…

Have a look at this picture of Nara-Chameshi in the site of Jidaigeki Channel.


Did you see it?  Looked yummy, didn’t it?  Though I imagine that it was a little bit too difficult for many of you to understand what was written.  It was a very interesting recipe of Nara-Chameshi.  Today I will e-mail them to ask for the approval for sharing this recipe in English in my site.  Be patient and be happy with an easy explanation of mine till I get their approval.

Nara-Chameshi is some kind of Risotto of mixed grains, mochigome glutinous rice, dried chestnuts, soybeans, azuki beans, awa foxtail millet made with water, sake, dashi soup and sencha tea, which priests and monks of Todai-ji temple and Kofuku-ji temple in Nara used to it.

As I wrote in the previous article, ‘A Fortune Kitty, A Cat That You Should Express More Respect For!’, the city of Edo was characterized by such frequent great fires that there is a saying 『喧嘩と火事は江戸の華』(Fires and quarrels are the flowers of Edo.).  For the reconstruction many workers from outside gathered and for them the necessity of food service arouse.

In fact, the Nara-Chameshi restaurant was established three years later than the Great Fire of Meireki in 1657, which burnt and destroyed 60-70% of Edo and more than 10,000 people lost their lives.  It is said that it took only two years for the reconstruction.  So, we can imagine how much it was the demand of workers in Edo at that time and I found that around 60% of the residents of Edo were single males who had to feed themselves outside their home.  In the early 19 century, there were more than 6,000 restaurants including the stalls of Soba, Sushi, and tempura!

I found a great information on the internet regarding restaurants in Edo period in the essay of Takashi Waguri in Nikkei Trendy Net.

He wrote about the Gourmet Guide Book like Michelin Guide which existed in Edo period. 183 restaurants were listed up in 1859.  He was amazed with the numbers of restaurants listed up comparing those listed up in Michelin Guide Tokyo 2008 version (150 restaurants) and 2009 (173 restaurants).

Here is a Gourmet Guide of Edo in 1859.



However, less than 40 restaurants out of these 183 are still in existence.  I’m a little proud that the restaurant that my maternal ancestor started is on this list and now it is owned by my uncle.  The ownership has been succeeded to the eldest sons and he is the seventh generation.  But the eldest son did not always want to be a cook.  For example, my great grand father, Takesaburo, was a very good cook and dedicated his life to cooking.  He did not travel any further than Hakone saying that fish would go bad while he was away.  After the World War II he cooked something like Gyūdon and sold near Tokyo Station to earn money to reconstruct his restaurant.  He was a good cook with a good reputation but he was not good at training his son, my grand father, who hesitated to become a cook but became a singer!  Even though he was not a cook he was epicurean and left me many knowledge on food and culture.



Photo of Takesaburo with his loving wife, Kiwa


In Japan, there are 670,000 food service facilities (in 2009).  It seems many but lately, there is a decreasing trend of the numbers.  The number of restaurants was at its peak in 1991 during ‘Bubble Economy’ with 846,000.  In fact, it declined around 20% in 18 years.  Society changes and people change with the flow of time.  Then the demand of people changes.  It is very difficult to stay the same.

I love Japanese culture and tradition.  That can be something what my great grand parents left me.  Although Tokyo and Japan keeps changing, I would like to keep something alive even in modified conditions.  Maybe that is one of the reasons why I’m writing this blog!

にほんブログ村 歴史ブログ 日本の伝統・文化へ
にほんブログ村 英語ブログ 英語の日記(和英併記)へ


There is not Nara-Chameshi restaurant any more but why don’t you make a visit at Matsuchiyama-shoden temple, whose origin can date back to 563?

Address: 7-4-1,Asakusa,Taito-ku,Tokyo
Access: Very close to Imado jinja shrine of Fortune Kitty


Asakusa Station of Tobu line

Keep going on the road of right side of beautifully reconstructed building of Asakusa station of Tobu line for about ten minutes.



Matsuchiyama-Shoden (待乳山聖天)



FavoriteLoadingAdd to favorites

Google Adsense



Mystery of Sushi

In the previous article “What is Washoku? Part I”,


Photo by Brian Gratwicke, Lithobates catesbeianus - Bullfrog

The Sound Of Cows In The Marsh Echoes The Impermanence

Today I would like to share the history of a speci



Tokyo, the City of the Metamorphosis, Die Verwandlung

Tokyo is the capital of Japan, where people and ma



Tempora, Tempurar, or Tempura?

Today, I would like to look into the history of Te



Japan, the country of Ukiyo-e or Kawaii culture?

I read an article which said the love of the Japan



Eating Raw Eggs, One of the Reasons the Japanese Are Thought to be Crazy?

While I was exploring the mystery of Japanese Curr



SAKURA-MOCHI, Traditional Sweets Covered With Cherry Leaves

On the 3rd March, we, the Japanese, traditionally



All the People Can be Called ‘Barbarian’

I sometimes notice, while I’m having a quarrel wit


Illuminated Meguro River for Christmas in Nakameguro area
Photo from

The Year of 2014 is ending..

Today, it is the last day of 2014. How would you d




Sometimes, I wonder how brave the people were to s


Google Adsense


メールアドレスが公開されることはありません。 * が付いている欄は必須項目です

次のHTML タグと属性が使えます: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Google Adsense

Can you imagine
A Solemn Ceremony at Convenience Stores

I am always told by the manager to

a robot which (who) works as a receptionist
Photo by Josh McKible
Which do you prefer, a robot or a man?

In the last article, I wrote about

Before You Get Married To A Japanese Man

If you are a regular reader of my b

When it needs power, the smoke becomes very black with fly ash
Photo by Navis Argenti
the 2015, the ‘Loco’-motivated year

I had a chance to see a marvelous s

Illuminated Meguro River for Christmas in Nakameguro area
Photo from
The Year of 2014 is ending..

Today, it is the last day of 2014.


  • 2HDFT_hedder

    • Name (necessary)

      Mail Address (necessary)



    • Would you like to support a film-making on Japanese culture?
    • Japan from a point of view of a Belgian friend
    • Are you curious to see a Vlog of a friend who is inspired by Japanese music?
    • Wanna purchase beautiful photos for your rooms?
    • Wanna know more about Japan?

    Get every new post on this blog delivered to your Inbox.

    Join other followers:

    PAGE TOP ↑