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Apr 26, 2009 06:16 PM

Nagoya, Tokyo, Osaka, and Sapporo Essentials?

I'll be in the aforementioned cities in July on a music tour... What MUST I try? Specialties of each city? I eat everything... I'm mostly looking for things that may be hard to find in NYC where I live...
Thanks in advance!

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  1. Where in Nagoya will you be? I imagine you'll have just a day or so? Are you a performer or spectator? Some Nagoya specialties-

    tebasaki-sweet & spicy wings
    miso katsu-pork cutlet topped with sweet miso sauce
    miso nikomi-thick udon noodles in a gravy-like miso soup
    taiwan ramen-Nagoya original, very spicy
    kishimen-flat udon like noodles in katsuo (fish) based broth, similar to udon, in the summer you can order zaru-kishi (chilled noodles with dipping sauce)
    doteni-beef innards, radish, konnyaku, slow cooked in thick miso sauce
    hitsumabushi-grilled eel atop rice in a box

    Yes, we like our miso here in Nagoya! There are also some excellent ramen shops that I could recommend to you, depending on where you'll be. People on tour don't usually have much time to spend at restaurants (the soundchecks are incredible and start time is EARLY) so I mention ramen because it' s quick and often open late. July can be unbearably hot, not sure a crock full of noodles in a hot miso stew will appeal to you, but miso nikomi is awesome. July is also prime eel eating time, the locals say it gives you power and stamina to endure the heat of summer. Let me know if any of the above sound good to you, where you'll be and I'll try to list some locations/links.

    12 Replies
    1. re: deraumai

      Deraumai, I would love to hear some of your Nagoya recommendations especially for izakaya (modern or traditional and any ones with excellent sake selections), ramen/noodle shops, sushi bars or chicken specialists. On my last 2 visits to Japan, I have spent quite a lot of time in Nagoya and am a big fan of both the city and its food culture which to an outsider like myself seems to be understated but very high quality. I stay in Shimizu Guchi about 1km away from Nagoya Castle, will be revisiting later in the year.

      My best discovery so far has been a yakitori ya called Jinya - - there are two branches, we go to the one in Shimizu Guchi. I also love a sushi bar located more centrally (near the wholesale fish market) which has the name (when translated into English) of "Tea by Night". I don't always catch the names and locations of places I've been taken to, my first dining experience in Nagoya was a wonderful izakaya in an area well away from the centre, I'm still trying to find out the name and address. I'm also partial to drinking Koheji sake whilst listening to some piano music and taking in stellar views of the Castle in the bar on one of the high floors at the Westin Hotel.

      This is an earlier thread on eating options in Nagoya. We tried Torigin and the chicken sashimi moriawase was good but overall the place didn't wow. On the other hand the chicken miso sukiyaki @ Miyakagi was superlative, great food in an old world setting laden with charm. You can also eat hitsumabushi there which we did but the miso sukiyaki was the standout item.

      Look forward to receiving some of your recommendations (any part of town really, am happy to travel) and to my next visit to Nagoya!!

      1. re: oonth

        Hi oonth-It's always great to hear some positive feedback about Nagoya, I think it's generally underrated. Some of the places I'd like to steer you toward don't have websites, so I'm just listing the address or phone number. I don't know if you can read or speak Japanese, but perhaps you could copy and print and show to your host or taxi driver.

        There's a great little sake bar that's not too far from Jinya. It's called Mahorama and the master is a very kind, mellow, long-haired fellow. Most, if not all , the sakes are regional and served in beautiful ceramics. The food menu is limited, mainly just nibbles to enjoy with sake.
        名古屋市東区泉1-17-25 イープ太田ビル2F

        George-Ya Oden Bar Hanare-Another late night spot about 3 minutes walk from Chikusa Station with a really decent sake selection. It's actually two shops, George-Ya is a bit larger with an extensive menu from thin crust pizzas to natto with ground mountain potato. The food is OK, some of it is really good and some just so-so, but it solves a late night dining dilemma when you don't quite know what it is you want to eat! The Oden Bar Hanare is right across the street and stays open til 5am. You can order some of the George-Ya menu items and the sake selection is the same, sometimes the master has to run across the street to get the open bottle. I really dig Hanare late at night and the oden is excellent. Really strong katsuo dashi and about 45 different oden items, from standard to oddly tasty (camembert cheese).
        George Ya-Oden Bar Hanare

        Okkon-This is one of my favorite places, usually reserved for special occasions because it is inevitably ¥5000 or more per person, which is more than I can spend on a "regular" night out to eat. Seasonal creations are all on display on the counter, you walk behind the chairs of the other diners and point out what you want. The fish is excellent, the other dishes are tasty and presented with style that is artful, yet not overly fussy. They offer 6-8 sakes but only one or two of those is in the Junmai realm, and that's where I prefer to drink. Not a bad list, but not the best for me. Inspiring food and a powerful master. Situated in the gentlemen's entertainment area between Sakae and Shin-Sakae Stations, near Ikeda park.

        Yuzu Toto-I guess I'd call this place a classy fish-izakaya. Very nice sake list and a killer daily menu, the standing menu also very fine. The master knows his fish and sources most of it from his family's fishing operation south of Nagoya. Another true favorite, about 3 minutes walk from Ikeshita Station.

        Furaibo-My top recommendation for a classic, lively, neighborhood izakaya with good food at reasonable prices is THIS PARTICULAR FURAIBO. There are about 60 different Furaibo locations and they are all completely different. In the great tebasaki (Nagoya's wings) debate, Yama-chan vs. Furaibo, I will say that Yama-chan tends to be more consistent. Their standing menu is standardized. I think the only thing standardized at the Furaibo shops is the pricing for wings and alcohol. Anyway, the wings at this shop are the best I've had anywhere, period. The regular menu items are tasty and the daily specials are usually excellent; fish, seasonal vegetables, fried rice, yuba dumplings... As for sake, you have a choice between hot or cold. The hot is best avoided (unless the master is pouring and wants to have a drink with you), the cold is a 300ml bottle of something drinkable but not mindblowing. It's also quite far from where you are staying and the nearest station is about 20 min by cab, but should you find yourself on the southeast outskirts of Nagoya, here's the address.
        Furaibo 徳重店
        名古屋市緑区徳重5-819 〒458-0815

        I'm afraid I got carried away. I'll save the noodle shops for another entry, and rschwim, a couple are not far from the Nagoya Dome.

        1. re: deraumai

          Deraumai, I will get to stay in Nagoya but I don't know where my hotel is yet... You mentioned about noodle shops...?

          1. re: deraumai

            deraumai, never did thank you for your list of recs, I hope to try some of them out on my next visit to nagoya which might be as soon as next month. i will also let you know if we stumble across any other so far unreported but worthwhile places. Like rschwim, I would also be interested to hear about your recs for noodle bars if you find the time to jot them down.


            1. re: deraumai

              Sorry for the delay, here are some of my ideas for noodles in Nagoya. Again, some of these places don't have websites, but a cab driver or local should be able to help you.

              Miso Nikomi Udon
              This is a true Nagoya specialty, thick chewy udon noodles cooked in a deep miso gravy-like soup. Usually there is a slice of fish cake, scallions, raw egg, fried tofu strips, a shiitake and a couple chunks of chicken in the mix, and some shops do additional toppings like tempura shrimp or mochi. I love this dish and since moving to Nagoya, it has become my number one comfort food.

              YamamotoYa Honten-is the standard for miso nikomi. It is a Nagoya chain with about 12 locations (none especially close to the Dome, but a few downtown and near Nagoya station). That said, it's quite good, the menu is standardized and you know what to expect. The shops are clean, bright and usually high-ceilinged with enormous wood slab tables, and the last time I ate there, free tsukemono "refills". It's a bit more expensive than a mom & pop joint but I think for a first time experience it's great.

              Yamamoto Ya Honten

              Makotoya-There is a local chain by the same name, but this location is separate, it's not part of the group you may find via a web search. It's a small neighborhood shop, quite well known and the old master is usually making noodles in the open kitchen as you enter, and they are excellent noodles. About a 10 minute walk east from Sakurayama station or 15 minutes south from Kawana station.


              Sue Hiro-This shop is about 5-10 minutes, by taxi, from Nagoya Dome or a 15 minute walk north from Ikeshita station. It's a neighborhood place and its miso nikomi is quite tasty. They have additional menu items and the set lunch menu is a good value.

              末広 若水店

              Nagoya's own version of udon.

              Chikusa Kishimen-This mom & pop joint is only open in the evenings and has been in business for about 50 years. About 3 minutes from Chikusa station, just around the corner from George-Ya Oden Bar Hanare (you can check the map on the previous post's link) a little south, closer to the station on a small street lined with restaurants. They also have a decent miso nikomi.

              Ramen and Taiwan Ramen
              Taiwan Ramen is not really from Taiwan, it's from Nagoya and for those who think there is no spice in Japanese food, just try to get through a bowl at Misen! Taiwan ramen usually has ground pork or chicken in place of cha-shu pork slices. Garlic and chiles are also standard components but like any ramen, it can vary wildly from place to place.

              Misen-A local chain of Chinese restaurants, Misen is the first place people think of for Taiwan ramen. It's not my favorite but as a standard, it's certainly worth a try. I find it too spicy to be enjoyable. The menu is extensive and tasty so you can order family style and everyone can try a little bowl of the heat! The Imaike branch is the main shop, and a short walk from Imaike station, but there are several locations.


              Josui-This is one of my favorite ramen shops! The soup is carefully balanced, very flavorful without being heavy and the noodles are thin. There is a strong element of fish (niboshi, saba) in the soup so if that's not your thing, then steer clear. My favorites are the shoyu ramen and Josui's version of Taiwan ramen, not terribly spicy but really excellent flavor. There is often a wait at lunchtime. Not too far from Nagoya Dome, probably 10 minutes by taxi.

              Josui Ramen 如水ラーメン

              Kokuya-Another favorite for ramen! There are several choices at Kokuya, you may choose if you want deep taste, lighter taste, various kinds of soup.... Everything I've tried has been awesome and their noodles have a very fresh eggy taste. The ramen I usually come back to is the "koteri-ton-tori-shoyu" deep taste, shoyu ramen with pork/chicken base. The flavor reminds me, in a pleasant way, of Sunday dinner's chicken gravy. There is another shoyu ramen that has a substantial amount of katsuo in the mix that I love too. I usually to go to Kokuya with an eating buddy and order two different things and swap halfway! There are two locations, one of them is in Sakae, the downtown area, and easily walkable from Sakae station. It's in a tiny alleyway behind the Maruzen Dept. store. The other location is west of Higashi Betsuin station, but not really near anything.

              Chuka Soba Kokuya 中華そばこくや
              名古屋市中区栄3-2-115 (sakae location)


              Happy slurping!

              Oonth, I bicycled past JinYa (the location near Takaoka station) a couple weeks ago and they were totally gutting the place! The website is still up and running, so hopefully it was just some remodeling, I'd like to try it, the sake list looked great.

          2. re: deraumai

            Thanks for your reply--Just reading it makes me hungry! Unfortunately I don't know how much time I'll have in town (as of yet I'm not even sure if we're staying overnight...) Hopefully we'll stay over. Thanks again

            PS--I'm a performer and will be playing at the Nagoya Dome

            1. re: deraumai


              I'll stay at the Nagoya Hilton. Are any of the places you've written about near there?

              1. re: rschwim

                Of the things I wrote about, there's probably a branch of Yamamoto Honten somewhere near there (miso nikomi). The ramen shop KOKUYA is in the Sakae area which is one subway stop from the Hilton (Fushimi to Sakae, yellow Higashiyama line) or about a 15 minute walk. There's a Yama-chan (one of Nagoya's two major tebasaki-izakaya chains) across the street from the Hilton, I've never been to that particular branch.
                Something I didn't write about as you were asking about noodles, but not far from the Hilton is a 24-hour sushi shop called Maru-hachi Sushi. It's just outside of the fish market, nothing fancy, but really awesome super fresh sushi at reasonable prices. It's just west of your hotel, on the second floor, if you're game, the hotel staff should be able to point you there.


                1. re: rschwim


                  Where did you end up eating in Nagoya?

                  1. re: deraumai

                    Thanks again! You've been really helpful... Went to Yamamoto Honten and an eel place just across the river--All great! Thanks so much. Any suggestions for places near Osaka Ritz Carlton?

                    1. re: rschwim

                      Maimon, Nenohi, Benoit, Sun, Kuraudo are all very close.


              2. Hrmm, as far as Osaka goes, here's what I've been guided to eat by folks living in Kansai

                Takoyaki - gooey, doughy octopus dumpling balls. They have a variety that's black, actually, though I've never had the pleasure.
                Kushi-katsu - basically fried stuff on a stick. Veggies, cheese, and of course meat, served by the stick or pair, dipped in sauce and eaten with a beer. Fantastic.
                Okonomiyaki - though I swear by the Hiroshima style, Kansai style has its fans.

                When I was in Sapporo, we were basically all over the place with the food, but here's what I remember being good:
                Ramen - miso ramen is a specialty of Sapporo, and there are a couple of ramen alleys in Susukino that are definitely worth a visit. They also had a ramen section at Shin-Chitose Airport, similar to the Kyoto station setup. I suggest going to the places with the long lines :)
                Jingis Kahn - yakiniku style lamb. You can find places that do it domburi style, over rice, or spots that let you grill it yourself.
                Dairy or potato products - Cheese, ice cream, chocolate were all great, and they'll try potatoes in almost anything.
                Soup Curry - some fantastic spice and delicious combinations of veggies, seafood, and meat served with rice (had mine with saffron rice...delicious)
                Shiroi Koibito - a sweet that's rather famous in Japan, apparently there was some kind of controversy about it a few years ago, but all my co-workers downed them pretty quickly.
                Sapporo beer! - There's a brewery in town that has beer tasting as well as the history of the brand. Some variations you can only get in Sapporo.

                Tokyo I believe is famous for stuff like monjyayaki, edo-mae sushi, and basically having pretty much anything you want.

                Have fun and good eating!

                3 Replies
                1. re: MeAndroo

                  Sapporo - full of great places - Ramen - I would stay away from the ramen alleys as they are for tourists and expensive.
                  great ramen yukikaze excellent opens 9 pm closes 4 am! address is south 7 west 4 daiana minami south 7 building.
                  Hofe - French south 1 west 7 white building. Uses lots of hokkaido ingredients, deer, bear vegies all great
                  Remember Lunch in japan is cheap and good. Sapporo average less than $10
                  Bar - Pinot 20 wines by the glass at least always changing opened till 2 am
                  Potatoes up here are excellent
                  Where are you playing?

                    1. re: rschwim

                      that's big! place will be packed..... you will be taken out after the show I' m sure. Remember although Sapporo has a population of almost 2 mil. few speak English which makes for great fun. Want anything just yell! I sell (OZ) wine, if you want any in advance let me know