By Gaby Doman
This series will offer our insider expertise of the coolest places, quirkiest venues and best-kept secrets in Japan.
One of the many joys of this country is that there’s always something new to discover. At FunkyCorp, it’s part of the job to know Japan intimately and to keep researching. Between our team members, we’ve covered a lot of the country for work and fun. Now we want to share some of our favorite finds.
In the first blog of this series, we’ll kick off with restaurants in our home city. Every long-term resident of Tokyo has a secret eatery they only share with their closest friends, but we used bribery and malice to elicit the FunkyCorp team’s insider knowledge. It’s a collection of those spots you won’t find in your average guidebooks — cozy neighborhood restaurants, hard-to-find gems and delicious food on a budget. We hope you find something to set your mouth watering…
For those nights when you want some grimy, gritty realness, Tara, an account manager at FunkyCorp suggests Akeboshi in Takadanobaba. “It’s a super local standing bar — not the fancy pub kind, but the kind where all the weirdos gather. All the customers know each other — it’s the ultimate ‘shitamachi’ bar. There’s no place further off the beaten path than this.”
Our account manager Maho, is known for her love of beer and socializing, so it’s no surprise her favorite spot is a buzzing izakaya. “Bampaiya is a standing izakaya chain you can find nearly anywhere in Tokyo. It’s always busy and crowded with Japanese businessmen.” She also recommends evenings spent in Yurakucho. “Drinking under the railway viaduct is an unusual experience, which is why I like it. Food and drink are a bit expensive, but it’s worth it for the atmosphere.”
For some of the city’s best kushiyaki, our junior developer, Liza, recommends Sagohachi. “If there are only two of you, grab the counter seats — you can chat between yourselves or with staff. The pork-wrapped spring onion skewers are a must try.”
Hearty Korean Barbecue
Fukiko, our production associate, braves the crowds at Shin-Okubo’s Delica Ondoru for some of the most popular Korean barbecue in Tokyo. “This restaurant has a wide range of side dishes and meats. There are often people queueing up, so you may need to wait for a bit, but it’s worth it!”
An alternative Korean barbecue joint is Kanton no Omoide, recommended by our production associate, Minako, who often travels to Korea to indulge her love of Korean food and K-pop. “It has the best crispy chijimi.”
Japanese Comfort Food
If you like your ramen with a side of street culture, Michael, our producing editor (and resident ramen connoisseur), recommends Menson Rage in Nishi-Ogikubo. “The expert-level shoyu ramen is made with Tokyo-bred gamecock stock. The staff is involved in art, streetwear, skateboarding and BMX, so there are cool clothing collabs and events.”
In FunkyCorp’s neighborhood, try Torafuku, recommended by our production associate, Kumi. “Torafuku make three kinds of rice in the classic rice cooker style, using charcoal. The food is delicious and it’s conveniently close to the office.”
For yakitori, Venus, our production coordinator, loves Oretachi no Toriton in Ikebukuro. “There’s a lot of variety on the menu, the food always tastes great and it’s a very affordable price. If you bring your receipt from the last time you ate there, you’re offered free food.”
Hikaru, our digital marketing manager, recommends Red Pepper, “A cozy Italian restaurant in an alleyway near Omotesando Station. It’s not expensive like you’d expect from the area. The lasagna is my favorite.”
For a taste of home, Michael opts for Wise Sons Deli in Marunouchi. “It’s the only legit Jewish-American deli in the country. It fills a massive, pastrami-shaped hole in my soul.”
A delicious Italian option is Tanta Bocca near Kita-Sando, recommended by content director, Matt. “The food is fantastic and very reasonable for the quality. Many Italian restaurants in Japan can be quite formal, but this place is cozy and casual. Perfect for a dinner with friends or a date — you’ll need to reserve a table, though.”
My recommendation, from my relatively short time in Tokyo, is Pizzeria Alloro in Kita-Senju. It’s intimate, relaxed and informal, especially if you sit at the counter. Its wood-fired pizzas are delicious — try the quattro formaggi with honey and the margherita if you go. It’s my favorite place for a chill date with my boyfriend.
Have you tried any of these restaurants? Do you hang out at any incredible spots we should know about? Share the wealth in the comments below — we’re hungry!