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Nov 13, 2012 06:00 AM

Tempura Tsunahachi Honten, Shinjuku, Tokyo

Our first lunch after we arrived in Japan was at this tempura restaurant near Shinjuku station, the honten location, not the one in Keio.

Although we arrived only a few minutes after they opened, it was a national holiday and there was already a queue outside, continuing inside but it didn't take long before we were seated at the upstairs counter. (I'd asked for counter seating rather than in the dining room area).

We went for two set menus, the hira zen (1,260 Yen) and the tempura zen (1,995 Yen).

Both included miso soup, rice, green vegetable pickle and of course, daikon and dipping sauce. Both included tempura prawn, vegetables, white fish tails and shrimp kakiage. The tempura zen also came with tempura eel and an additional pickle.

Service was brisk, as was trade, with many customers who arrived after us also out before us. But it was also friendly, and we didn't feel rushed through our meal. I imagine the pace is slower in the evening...

My favourites were the individual tempura shrimp and the shrimp kakiage, though the eel was also good. Actually all of it was good! The batter was light and crispy without being greasy and everything was cooked perfectly. Having experienced tempura (in London) where either the filling or batter is over or undercooked in relation to the other, this is something I certainly appreciated.

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  1. We try to go there whenever we're in Tokyo. My husband, who does not like deep fried foods will only eat the tempura at Tsunahachi. We always sit at the counter, too.

    1 Reply
    1. re: onigiri

      Do you usually do lunch or dinner? Am curious about whether dinner tends to be a slower paced affair...?

    2. One thing that confuses me greatly ... the romaji spelling for the name does seem to be "tsunahachi" as I've used it. But the URL for their own website spells it "tunahachi". Is this an alternative spelling? I can't imagine they made an error with their domain name registration, surely, so I'm wondering why the two spellings?

      10 Replies
      1. re: Kavey

        It's just different transliterations. In English, つ is more closely pronounced as "tsu" so that is the more common transliteration used by English speakers. But many Japanese will transliterate it as "tu" because it follows the same general pattern as most other Japanese syllabary.

        a i u e o
        ka ki ku ke ko
        sa shi (sometimes transliterated as "si") su se so
        ta chi (sometimes transliterated as "ti") tsu (or "tu") te to


        1. re: prasantrin

          Thanks Prasantrin
          I'd wondered if it was that. Am surprised that the restaurant themselves would use two different transliterations, one in the URL and one in the website text itself...

          1. re: Kavey

            To make it more confusing, there are two chains with very similar names.

            The one you went to is called "Tempura Shinjuku Tsunahachi", while the other chain, with branches in Shibuya, Shinagawa and many other locations, is called "Tempura Tsunahachi" (without the "Shinjuku"). I don't know if that's related to the URL issue, but it might be.

            1. re: Robb S

              Oh gosh, how confusing!

              On their website, the one I went to use only "Tempura Tsunahachi" as their name, and have four Tokyo locations, one Kyoto and one Sapporo.

              I wonder if the two businesses are related, or whether the names are a coincidence, or whether the second to open deliberately copied the first?

              I can't find the website for the other one, as searching on the name brings up the one I visited...


              1. re: Kavey

                Their main page (in Japanese) actually lists 29 branches (plus some take-out counters), and the name in Japanese is Tempura Shinjuku Tsunahachi.

                Here's a page of a branch of the other chain: . At the bottom there's a list of nine sister shops.

                1. re: Robb S

                  Aah, so in Japanese, it's more obvious they are two separate chains?

                  I think in UK, would be difficult to open a shop in same line of business, with such a similar name. Does that concept hold sway in Japan too? I'm curious how this came about.

                  Thanks Robb

                  1. re: Kavey

                    Maybe it's not so obvious in Japanese - the shape of the logos and the style of the writing are very similar. I'm sure there's some story here - feuding brothers, a disgruntled ex-chef - but I have no idea what it is in this case.

                      1. re: Robb S

                        In that case the feud goes a long way back. The Tsunahachi chain was founded in Taisho 12, while the Shinjuku Tsunahachi was started Taisho 13.

                        1. re: Uncle Yabai

                          Gosh, so within a year of the launch of the original!!