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Mar 22, 2014 10:14 AM

How many months in advance for Michelin reservations?

Just wondering how many months in advance are necessary to secure tables at Saito, RyuGin, Ginza Okuda, Sushi Yoshitake, Aronia de Takazawa, Nagazumi, Ishikawa, Tempura Kondo, etc?

I will be in Tokyo on October 29th but will be very disappointed if I'm unable to get reservations at the above restaurants. How far in advance should I plan to book? I've used JTB for my trip, so I'm hoping they will assist with dining reservations too.

Thanks so much!

PS - What about Kyoto's tables; Arashiyama Kitcho, Hyotei, etc? And for non-Michelin rated like Nishiki and Shoraian? When should we plan to make reservations in order to be assured a table?

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  1. Also, any idea if a hotel or travel agency would have any leverage in securing tables before general reservations open up for the booking period, knowing that their guests are travelling such long distances?

    1 Reply
    1. re: OliverB

      Again this will vary based on the restaurant. I don't think travel agencies or hotels have "leverage". You either make the cut for reliability (via credit card from the hotel) to show up or you don't. A friend who is located in country can often be better than a hotel. Finally, the fact you are travelling from so far away will likely not matter to the restaurant. Most
      top restaurants are not in need of the demand from "far away travellers" though this might be slowly changing.

    2. It will vary based on the season, reservations policy (some only start taking reservations a certain number of days out) and demand at that time. Some of the more famous places will come down to luck even if you are persistent.

      An alternative strategy is not to rely so heavily on michelin to be your guide as there are a number of great restaurants which are not listed. Aside from sushi, I don't think it captures the best of tokyo all that well (and some may disagree even with sushi).

      1. You can call Takazawa (email), Ryugin, and Ishikawa, they all have English speaking staff and will be happy to tell you when you can book (which doesn't guarantee you'll get in, so have some backups, live a little). Okuda probably does as well and is not so hard to book anyway. So that's already half your list!

        Saito is very hard to book. I don't think you should be very disappointed (or even slightly disappointed) if you have to "settle" for one of the other dozens of superb sushi places in Tokyo.

        The other places I think you can give your concierge, they shouldn't be terribly difficult. (I don't know anything about Nagazumi, but guessing that's the case there too)

        JTB? It'd be fascinating to hear about that one.

        Kitcho will also take your booking in English.

        11 Replies
        1. re: Gargle

          Thanks so much... is Yoshitake terribly difficult to get into?

          I really have my heart set on Saito and would go through almost any means of booking a table! Is it completely silly to try calling these places now for reservations the first week of November?

          I'm staying at The Peninsula in Tokyo so I may call and speak with the concierge on Monday, leave him a credit card, and ask if he could please try and pull some strings...

          1. re: OliverB

            Iirc Yoshitake only takes reservations from Japan. I don't know if it's very hard to get them, probably not.

            1. re: OliverB

              Unless something has changed, Saito only takes reservations two months in advance.

              By the way, while the sashimi starters are really incredible, the sushi is nothing that special at Saito. Very good but no better than elsewhere. He belongs to the Kamesaka chain (and apprenticed under Kanesaka), and I found out from a friend that the same fish is used for all of Kanesaka's restaurants, which maybe explains why the sushi is no better than at many other high end sushi places. If you are going for the sashimi part, then I agree that this is very special.

              1. re: Asomaniac

                Thank you, Asomaniac

                We are indeed going for the sashimi course, but also for the full experience. What other names would you recommend for the best quality sushi; Mizutani, Sawada, etc?

                We plan to dine one night at Sushi Yoshitake as well; assuming we can get reservations. I assume that they also open their bookings 1-2 months in advance, or are reservations less competetive here?

                Thanks again!

                1. re: OliverB

                  Never have a problem booking in at Yoshitake one month in advance. I recommend going for the first seating.

                  1. re: wekabeka

                    Thanks so much!

                    What time is the first seating?

            2. re: Gargle

              Hi Gargle,

              Thanks so much for this info, it's really helpfull!

              I'm just curious but what do you mean by your remark about JTB? "I'm fascinated to hear about that one" - are you suggesting they are not very reliable and would not be helpful with a request of this nature?


              1. re: OliverB

                Yes, I think that's what Gargle would be alluding to. They are extremely reliable, but only on what they can or want to do for you. Making restaurant reservations probably qualifies as "not my job" to them.

                1. re: Uncle Yabai

                  Well in all fairness, I've booked an extensive five week trip with JTB (through my Virtuoso agent) at some of the finest properties across Honshu, and it was relayed to me by my TA that they would be handling all of these details for us. It's one of the most costly trips that I've ever taken to date, and I've already left a 25% deposit with them. I was certainly under the impression that they would be helping us to facilitate restaurant reservations, rental car bookings, tours, etc. I thought that was what I was contracting them for and it's the only reason that I decided to go through my Virtuoso TA as opposed to booking with JTB directly. I'm glad I did in the end, as there was an issue with availability at some of the properties which didn't coincide with our dates, and because of Virtuoso's weight, my agent was able to get the manager of both Virtuoso and JTB on the phone together to resolve some incredibly frustrating oversights to our satisfaction. We're travelling for our honeymoon and it's a first time visiting the country for both my wife and myself. My wife's been to over 50 countries working for the UN and a number of int'l non-profits, yet she's been saving Japan for a special trip like this one; as have I. I believe that my TA had made our expectations very clear to JTB, though I would not ever use them again for a trip like the one we're taking, as it's been a stressful time dealing with the company. Perhaps there is just a cultural divide that I'm not aware of. We're roughly six months away from our dates of travel, supposedly have all bookings 100% confirmed, yet they claim they can not provide us with figures as of yet because the properties have not finalized their rates. There have been several examples of similar issues which seem very unusual and impractical to me, and I'm not entirely certain whether they can be chalked up to cultural differences or just inefficiency on JTB's part. Oh well, I don't want to derail this topic too much...

                  1. re: OliverB

                    Part of the reason you are having trouble getting confirmed rates for next fall may be due to the consumption tax going up next week. I have a feeling some businesses may not increase prices by a flat three percent but may wait to see how their customers react to the higher prices.

            3. From a friend of mine in the travel biz:

              Elaine Baran of Esprit Travel in Las Vegas is an authority on Japan.

              She establishes extremely complex creative and accurate programs on a destination which is very difficult to sell if you exclude Tokyo and Kyoto, much more used.

              Elaine runs a small operation and Japan is her sole market!

              2 Replies
              1. re: foodiebuddha

                ^ I wish I had shopped around with my TA!

                I have a great relationship with my Virtuoso agent who has booked int'l travel for myself and my wife for the past several years. She's a friendly acquaintance and has lots of leverage with properties; always going above and beyond for us with regards to upgrades and extra amenities. She offers a really personalized level of service, and so for our honeymoon, I didn't think twice about using her for Japan! In doing so, I wasted a lot of bread essentially paying her a one-time fee to facilitate our whole trip through JTB, which we could have easily done directly ourselves, at no cost. To her credit, she was very helpful in securing certain accommodations at properties which were supposedly blacked out over our dates for shareholders (some of the ryokans were reluctant to release their best rooms to foreigners) but in the end, we got everything we requested in terms of lodging. It was not a pleasant process however and needlessly took the better part of the past 6 months. I'm still without fixed prices (just an initial estimate - though it's supposedly coming in the next two weeks) and without documentation for anything; just confirmation by email which I find unacceptable. Anyhow, if I were to do things over, I would not hesitate to use the above contact. Elaine sounds like the exact resource that we were looking for, and I really regret not spending a bit more time exploring what was out there. I have sent her an email just for fun, explaining that we've already booked our honeymoon (and summarizing my above complaints & how she could have certainly been more helpful and efficient than our current TA) and have asked if she might be able to facilitate our restaurant reservations, to ensure that we are able to get seatings at all of the above listed places. At this point, I'm saving every extra penny for our trip and so it's no longer worth spending money for something like this, since it seems possible to secure most of these places ourselves, with a bit of dilligence and effort. However, if she's willing to take on the task for a small fee, I'd be glad to try her out. I'm tired of waiting around for things to get done, after devoting so much research and effort towards this trip. I certainly appreciate the link and recommendation!