If you love beef, there are few better places on the planet to eat it than in Japan. 'Wagyu' is typically associated with Kobe beef outside of Japan, but the word literally just means 'Japanese beef'. Once you arrive in Japan, you’ll realise there’s much more than Kobe beef in the world of wagyu – that’s just one of many different varieties and grades of domestic beef here!
Imahan - image © Florentyna Leow
Wagyu finds its way into all kinds of restaurants, but we think that wagyu is best eaten in ways that highlight the quality and taste of the beef. These are shabu-shabu, sukiyaki, yakiniku, and teppanyaki respectively.
You’ll find restaurants that specialise in both shabu-shabu and sukiyaki – they typically go together. Think of shabu-shabu as beef hotpot; sukiyaki is best described as simmered beef and vegetables in a sweet-savoury soy sauce. Then there’s yakiniku, which is Korean-style barbeque. It’s one of the best ways to sample a variety of different cuts of cow, and is an absolute must for beef lovers.
Lastly, there’s teppanyaki. This refers to food that’s been cooked on an iron griddle. While it may not be ultra-flashy – no egg-tossing or spoon-juggling here, folks – it’s all about superb ingredients cooked well. As you can imagine, iron-griddled wagyu is ultra-delicious.
Shabu-Shabu/Sukiyaki in Tokyo
- Ningyocho Imahan (Shinjuku; mid-range to expensive)
For some amazing sukiyaki - a simmered Japanese beef dish - be sure to visit Imahan on the 14th floor of Takashimaya Shinjuku.
- Asakusa Imahan (Asakusa; mid-range to expensive)
There are many sukiyaki restaurants around town, but few are as consistently delicious as the Imahan chain. Asakusa Imahan’s wagyu sukiyaki and shabu-shabu are as memorable as they are exquisite.
- Azuki (Ueno; mid-range to expensive)
If you’re looking for a sukiyaki restaurant that’s a little different from the rest, you’ve come to the right place. Azuki in Ueno prides itself on serving the finest “Sanuki Olive” wagyu sourced from cows on Shodoshima Island in Kagawa – these cattle spend their lives eating food mixed with local olive oil!
- Zakuro Nihonbashi (Nihonbashi; expensive)
Shabu-shabu restaurants rarely get any better than Zakuro Nihonbashi. That’s literally all they serve – they don’t even bother with sukiyaki – and with 60 years of business and counting, you know your wagyu hotpot is going to be excellent.
Yakiniku (Korean Barbeque) in Tokyo
- Jiromaru (Shinjuku; budget to mid-range)
A Korean barbeque beef restaurant serving great wagyu without breaking the bank? That’s exactly what Jiromaru in Shinjuku is – a standing yakiniku bar that’s also cheap and cheerful. They sell different cuts of wagyu by the piece, so solo diners needn’t be left out of this beefy experience.
- Jojoen Ebisu Garden Place (Ebisu; expensive)
On the 38th floor of the Ebisu Garden Place Tower in Ebisu, this high-end Korean barbeque restaurant offers incredible views and superb food to go with it. Highly recommended for meat lovers!
- Oonishi (Ebisu; mid-range to expensive)
Korean-style barbeque is usually best eaten in groups, but at Oonishi in Ebisu, counter-style dining gives solo diners an opportunity to enjoy small portions of exquisite grilled beef parts. This is the very definition of ‘treat yo’self’!
- Cossott'eSP (Azabu Juban; expensive)
Special occasions call for special places, and Cossott’eSP in Azabu Juban is precisely the sort of restaurant you pull out all the stops for. Their yakiniku won’t come cheap, but the taste and quality of their wagyu is out of this world.
Teppanyaki in Tokyo
- Misono (Ginza; expensive)
Located right in the heart of the ritzy Ginza district, the elegantly-decorated Misono serves up extravagant teppanyaki courses centered around Kobe beef. Perfect for impressing your date, especially when there’s a great night view of Tokyo along with your food!
- Ukaitei (Harajuku; expensive)
This excellent teppanyaki restaurant on Omotesando is a brilliant place to sample delicious Japanese meat and shellfish. They offer wine pairings chosen to accentuate the dishes.
- Restaurant Omae XEX (Roppongi; expensive)
This upscale and tourist teppanyaki restaurant serves some surprisingly tasty meat and seafood. As you would expect, it's cooked on a teppan right in front of you.
For more about teppanyaki in Tokyo, see our Best Teppanyaki in Tokyo page.
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Tokyo Vacation Checklist
- For all the essentials in a brief overview, see my First Time In Tokyo guide
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- See my comprehensive Packing List For Japan
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- If you're visiting more than one city, save a ton of money with a Japan Rail Pass – here's why it's worth it
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