The Taste of Downtown Tokyo: Discovering Shitamachi Food in Katsushika
At the eastern tip of Tokyo is Katsushika City. Packed with the retro flair of the shitamachi*, this district is brimming with budget gourmet eats from the past and it's just a 30-minute train ride from Tokyo's central area. Here are our 5 top picks for local specialties!
*Shitamachi is the area of Tokyo where the common people, merchants and artisans lived during the Edo period.
What Kind of Food Is Tokyo's Shitamachi Food?
For this article we choose five staple dishes that are very well known and loved by Japanese people. Along with tempura, ramen and yakiniku (grilled meat) that are somewhat familiar to foreigners, we have the lesser-known koppe pan (soft bread rolls) and oden (a traditional hotpot dish).
As you explore each restaurant we hope you will discover different part of Katsushika, each with their own unique vibe and special places to see.
Yamato-Ya: A Long-Established Tempura Restaurant
This restaurant has been in business for some 150 years in the picturesque district of Shibamata. It can be found on the street that leads to the Shibamata Taishakuten Temple, immersed in an old-fashioned atmosphere of traditional buildings. The tempura is freshly made at the front of the restaurant right after you order. The regular size tendon (a bowl of rice topped with tempura) includes shrimp, Japanese whiting and salt-water eel. The tempura sauce made from a base of soy sauce, sugar and sake has a deep aroma built throughout the years. For this high quality, the price of the bowl is just 998 yen.
The Japanese-style interior of the restaurant perfectly blends with the retro and traditional atmosphere of Shibamata. If you stop here make sure you also grab some kusadango, Shibamata's flagship souvenir. They are mugwort-flavored Japanese dumplings, and at Yamato-ya you can choose the topping between koshian (smooth red bean paste) and tsubuan (chunky red bean paste).
InformationYamato-ya | 大和家
Address: 7-7-4 Shibamata, Katsushika-ku, Tokyo
Hours: 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. (restaurant service 11:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.)
Access: short walk from Shibamata Station on the Keisei Kanamachi Line
Menya Itto: Internationally Acclaimed Ramen
Menya Itto is a popular ramen restaurant that opened a few shops even in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Bangkok. The main store is here in Katsushika, right by Shinkoiwa Station. The noodles are homemade from a carefully selected blend of six different type of wheat, giving them a unique aroma and body. The soup comes from a mix of seafood and chicken, giving the dish a delicate but deep flavor.
Our recommendation is the Special Seafood Chicken Tsukemen (1,350 yen). This deluxe edition includes three different cuts of roasted pork fillet, a soft-boiled egg and nori seaweed. Tsukemen is a variation of ramen, where the noodles and soup are served in separate bowls and you dip the noodles in the soup before eating them. When you're finished eating the noodles, you get to top off your remaining soup with some hot one from the pot on the counter, and drink it. The place has English instructions on how to eat. There are many other options other than tsukemen, like soy sauce and salt flavored ramen.
InformationMenya Itto | 麺屋 一燈
Address: 1-4-17 Higashishinkoiwa, Katsushika-ku, Tokyo
Hours: 11:00 a.m. - 3:00p.m., 6:00 p.m. - 10:00p.m.
Closed every fourth Wednesday night of the month
Access: short walk from JR Shinkoiwa Station
Yoshida Pan: Snack on Japan's Nostalgic Bread
If you visit Japan you will likely encounter these soft bread rolls called koppe pan. They are often given to school kids or enjoyed by adults as an energetic snack. Koppe pan takes its name from the French word coupé which means cut, and pan, which is the word used for bread in Japan. A beloved and nostalgic snack for many, koppe pan comes in innumerable varieties, both sweet and savory.
Yoshida Pan offers more than 50 different fillings, including seasonal flavors and weekend limited editions. Many of the fillings are recognizable by us westerners, like jam, custard cream and peanut butter. If you'd like to taste something more Japanese try the red bean paste (180 yen), matcha (200 yen) or black soybeans and kinako (200 yen). If you're not afraid to push your boundaries you might want to go for the classic yakisoba koppe pan, where they fill the roll with noodles grilled in a sweet and sour sauce. You can also make your own combos, like the red beans, matcha and whipped cream in the picture above.
Choose your filling and watch them spread generous portions of it on the bread right in front of you. You can also grab a triangle-shaped pack of milk to go with them.
The shop is located in Kameari, a town that became the background for the famous manga Kochira Katsushika-ku Kameari Koen Mae Hashutujo (This is the police station in front of Kameari Park in Katsushika City). It isn't rare to see people getting a koppe pan at Yoshida and enjoying it in Kameari Park, where the home of the manga's protagonist Ryo-san is.
InformationYoshida Pan | 吉田パン
Address: 5-40-1 Kameari, Katsushika-ku, Tokyo
Hours: 7:30 a.m. - 5:30 p.m. (Closes at 1:00 p.m. on Mondays) closes early if sold out.
Access: 4 min. walk from JR Kameari Station
*This shop is takeout only.
Kadoya: High Quality Wagyu Beef at a Reasonable Price
Kadoya is located in the area of Horikiri Shobuen, a beautiful Japanese-style garden famous for the blooming of thousands of irises every June. The restaurant specializes is grade A5 Japanese Black, the highest ranking wagyu beef. Try the fatty and juicy karubi marinated ribs (1,188 yen / 100g) or the thick harami skirt steak (1,944 yen / 150g).
The grilled offal is also very popular and you can get a four-piece plate for 1,512 yen. There is also a great selection of drinks, including the widely known Dassai brand of sake (550 yen / 150ml glass). It might seem like an unusual pairing, but sake and grilled meat actually go great together.
InformationKadoya | かどや
Address: 3-6-5 Horikiri, Katsushika-ku, Tokyo
Hours: 5:00 p.m. - 3:00 a.m. (closes at midnight on national holidays)
Closed on Monday
Access: short walk from Horikirishobuen Station on the Keisei Main Line
*Accepts credit cards
Nimousaku: Traditional Oden with Style
If you really want to dive into the shitamachi atmosphere, a visit to the retro town of Tateishi is due. Close to the Keisei Tateishi Station, this popular joint mainly serves oden and a handpicked selection of sake.
Their steaming oden pot is filled with classic dishes like daikon (210 yen) and some alternative choices like their basil-topped tomato (410 yen). Most ingredients are homemade and everything is prepared with love and care.
A great pairing for oden is atsukan (warm sake). They also have natural wine and other drinks. While their main thing is oden, here you'll also find many staples of the Japanese home-cooked cuisine.
InformationOden Nimousaku | おでん二毛作
Address: 1-14-4 Tateishi, Katsushika-ku, Tokyo
Hours: 2:00 p.m. - 11:00 p.m. (Saturdays 12:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.)
Closed on Sundays and 3rd Monday of the month
Access: short walk from Keisei Tateishi Station on the Keisei Oshiage Line
Read more about Tateishi here!
We hope you enjoyed this little tour of Tokyo's shitamachi food in Katsushika. This is a great way to experience what the locals eat every day while exploring a very interesting part of Tokyo with a local feel!
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THIS ARTICLE IS BASED ON INFORMATION FROM 02 20,2019 Author：DiGJAPAN! Editorial Team