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Oct 30, 2009 12:06 AM

Family of picky eaters....where to go in Tokyo and Kyoto?

I'm traveling with a bunch of people who don't normally eat Japanese food and are pretty picky. Sushi and anything raw would be out of the question, and a loud izakaya (although one with a private room would be ok) might not be such a good idea, since there is a 80 year old also coming with. The range of ages then is 18-80. Most are used to regular american food and don't usually venture outside of that.

So any recommendations for Tokyo and Kyoto? Especially Tokyo. Something good, with alot of choices on the menu, and not tooo Western, cause I'm well aware of Sizzler and McD's presence there as well, lol.

Thanks all! This would help a deal, we leave in a couple of weeks for Japan.

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  1. I fear you may get stuck eating tonkatsu all the time, and maybe tempura. Can't go wrong wtih those unless they don't eat seafood, either. If they don't, you might have to skip the tempura. But there are a zillion and one tonkatsu restaurants in Kyoto and Tokyo that you can choose from.

    My cousin and his now wife came to Japan and they ended up at places like Saizeriya and Coco's (both chain restaurants--think Denny's. Actually, I think they went to Denny's, too). But they also did some depachika shoppping--it's great because your travelmates will be able to choose from an assortment of foods. The only problem is that they'd have to eat them back at their hotel or wherever they're staying.

    May I ask the purpose of coming to Japan? It's just that whenever I hear about people who won't even try the food of a country, I am reminded of a quotation from James Michener, "If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home." Perhaps once in a while you can give some gentle reminders to that point, and encourage them to try foods outside their comfort zones.

    To that end, maybe before you leave you can put together some kind of "pamphlet" with pictures and descriptions of Japanese foods you'll find. That way they can familiarize themselves with the food, and they'll have a better idea of what to expect. Sometimes when armed with a little bit of knowledge, people can become more adventurous.

    3 Replies
    1. re: prasantrin

      They're all the family of my best friend, who is originally from LA and is of japanese descent. So it's not because they are coming because they want to see and explore Tokyo, but more like the wedding happened to be there. Although eating tonkatsu all the time doesn't sound like a bad idea, haha! I'll do my best to educate them, but since I don't know them very well, it might be difficult.

      I'll look into the yoshoku restaurants Eto, thanks! That sounds like something that they might find acceptable.


      1. re: meating

        Are you saying there's going to be an 80-year-old Japanese ojiichan or obaachan in the group? If that's the case, he/she would be the least of your concerns. If they're healthy enough to be travelling, they might be the most energetic of the bunch. Your job might be to keep them from overdoing it.

        1. re: meating

          They are of Japanese descent and don't eat Japanese food? That is incredible! Please do keep us posted as to what happens.

      2. If your group comprise of "meat and potato" types, then they'll probably like yoshoku (Japanese interpretation of continental cuisine) restaurants.

        1 Reply
        1. re: E Eto

          Yakitori is easy, it's just grilled chicken. Just make sure nobody orders heart or liver and everyone oughta be happy.

          What about yakiniku? Grilled meats? Gyu-kaku is cheap and they have a full English menu if needed.

          Japanese curry, ramen and steak places might work as well. They're all cheap, ubiquitous and easy for picky eaters.

        2. Tsunahachi in Tokyo is reasonably priced and has decent tempura.

          In Kyoto, you can also try sukiyaki. More expensive (you didn't mention anything about price point--that info would be helpful)i, but it's might be OK or Iroha (also sukiyaki)

          You can also try ramen shops, but it's hard to go to ramen places (or any counter places) with large groups (it would also be useful if you mentioned how many people would be in the group, and if they will always be together or sometimes be willing to eat separately).

          Omen might be an OK choice. (website in Japanese only ). They have three locations--near Ginkakuji, on Shijo in Gion, and just off Shijo near Teramachi. Someone usually speaks English at any of the shops just in case there's no English menu (I heard the Ginkakji one has an English menu, but when I went to the one near Teramachi, there was no English menu but someone translated for us). They specialize in udon which is pretty non-descript, but they also have other foods like sansho chicken and tempura. It's a little expensive, but it's usually good.

          It would really be helpful if you could give more information--like price point, how many people in the party, Japanese-language skill level, etc.

          1 Reply
          1. re: prasantrin

            To add : "'salted"' yakitori, croquette, tempura, grilled fish, teppanyaki, all vegetables... The difficult one, in my opinion, will be the ''ginger pork'' referred as ''shoga-yaki''.

          2. Hi meating,

            I'd second all the great suggestions from prasantrin, E Eto and lost squirrel. I had to help feed a "picky eater" as well (who never eats Sushi or anything exotic (totally Midwest-raised)). What I found that worked was what prasantrin and lost squirrel mentioned:

            I "translated" the Japanese foods into something more "American-sounding" and ordered the safer items (that were still quite tasty):

            * Yakitori - "Oh this is just some 'Grilled Chicken'" - they loved it. Just stick with basic items like Chicken Thigh, Breast meat for them, maybe some Shiitake Mushrooms or Okra skewers and that shouldn't weird them out. :)

            At an Izakaya or Koryouri-ya, some safe dishes to try:

            * Buta no Kakuni = "Ah, this is Braised / Slow-Roasted Pork." They ended up loving this dish as well. :)

            * Gindara Saikyo Yaki = "This is Grilled / Broiled Black Cod." (This could work for Tarakasu, or any other types of grilled fish offered at the restaurant.)

            Ultimately, when I managed to tell the picky eater the simple essence of each dish, I managed to get them to try quite a few items out of their comfort zone.

            And then the Yoshoku type food that E Eto mentioned would be pretty safe as well. :)

            Hope it works out, and enjoy Japan. :)

            1. Should try MOS Burger. It's a fast-food chain in Japan. Carl's Jr and Burger King don't stand a chance against these guys. To me, MOS is the ultimate in burgers. And they have a lot of other cool stuff... like rice burgers with seafood tempura or yakiniku beef inside, shrimp cutlet burger. They used to have nan bread rollups with all kinds of goodies inside which I really loved.
              McDonald's in Japan are better than ones in US. But MOS is much better. Can also try places like Red Lobster. Red Lobster in Japan has very different Japan-ized menu and it's not artery-clogging stuff like in the US.

              1 Reply
              1. re: chowmouse

                I have been to Red Lobster twice and I have found the portions relatively small for the price though, even for Japan.