If you’re looking for a healthy lunch option for a reasonable price in Harajuku, then head to t.shizen, an unassuming neighborhood teishoku (set lunch) spot that’s popular with the local office workers.
The pork set lunch at t.shizen. - image © Florentyna Leow
t.shizen is in a narrow building down a small lane in the Jingumae area of Harajuku. Here’s how to get there: To get to this neighborhood from Harajuku, go out at Exit 5 of Meijijingumae-Harajuku on the Chiyoda Line. Cross the street to Tokyo Plaza Omotesando Harajuku (that's the cool building with the fractal mirrors), and turn left. Keep walking. You’ll see a super colorful shop window for “Moshi Moshi Harajuku” at the corner of a small street. Walk down this smaller side street that runs parallel to the main road.
t.shizen’s sandwich board comes out around lunch hours. - image © Florentyna Leow
You’ll walk by numerous restaurants, clothes shops, and Beams Records. When you emerge, cross the road at the nearest traffic light (note: you’ll see many people jaywalking here when traffic is low), continuing your trajectory. Keep walking in the same direction - you’ll pass a post office on your right. Look out for the small, discrete lantern advertising a soba shop called Matsunaga Soba. Keep walking past Matsunaga Soba and you’ll soon see a sandwich board with t.shizen written on the top, placed just before a building with a bright orange wall. Turn right and walk straight down. You’ll see it on your right.
The entrance to t.shizen. - image © Florentyna Leow
I may sound like a broken record, but it bears repeating: as with most lunch places in Tokyo go before 12pm, or you may have to jostle with the lunch crowd. The local office workers tend to descend on t.shizen around half past twelve. For whatever reason, I see mainly women at this place. It is a charming little place, with seating on several floors. They make the most out of their space, so you might find yourself at close quarters with other diners.
The first floor of t.shizen seen from the staircase - making the most of small spaces here. - image © Florentyna Leow
Much is made of the seasonality of Japanese cuisine. But the menu at t.shizen is, by and large, barring days when they’re out of certain ingredients, unchanging year-round. This is not a bad thing at all, especially when there’s little on the menu heavily dependent on the seasons. There’s something to be said for comfort and consistency, for a place that does your favourite dish right each time. That’s why you return to a restaurant again and again.
An English language menu! - image © Florentyna Leow
There’s a reasonable variety of dishes on the menu, assuming you like fish. Grilled salmon, sea bass, atka mackerel, black cod… did I mention fish? The black cod is delicious, but my favourite dish here is actually their sautéed pork. Tender slices of soy and sugar-marinated pork in a salty-sweet sauce reminiscent of teriyaki (and probably a variant thereof). If you can’t decide between fish and pork, the special lunch includes both. Writing about this makes me sad about the pork-less contents of my fridge. I love that at t.shizen, you can mix and match three varieties of rice - white, brown, and five-grain.
The set lunches include a nice helping of salad with Japanese-style dressing, i.e. soy-based, not creamy, and barely oily. There’s also small bites of simmered tofu, pumpkin salad, and leafy greens in soybean lees.
Whitebait, not clickbait. - image © Florentyna Leow
With teishoku places, I’m all about the add-ons. I like variety in my meals, and small side dishes really make a set lunch sing. They didn’t have mentaiko (spicy pollock roe) that day so I ordered the shirasu instead - a little heap of salty, tiny, boiled whitebait that really helps your rice go down, as they say in Japanese. If you need a little more convincing, they’re full of calcium and apparently very good for you.
Raw egg on a mix of brown rice and five-grain rice. - image © Florentyna Leow
If you’re feeling adventurous, order a raw egg for JPY50. Pour it into your rice, and mix with your chopsticks until each grain of rice is coated with raw egg. The heat will cook it slightly, and it is a saucy slurry that makes everything taste extra delicious, including the pork.
Some counter seating on the second floor. - image © Florentyna Leow
It’s hard not to love t.shizen. What I love about it is that it’s not particularly special. On Japanese food-rating websites, it sits in the average range. Most neighbourhoods in Tokyo have several places like this. It’s just a neighborhood cafe that does solid set lunches.
I wouldn't necessarily go out of my way to come here, especially if I’m not at work. If I were visiting Tokyo and had a limited number of days here, I’d make the time to visit Mi no Ringo or Mokubaza instead. But if you happen to be wandering through the neighbourhood on your way towards Gaienmae or Aoyama, you might want to consider dropping by for lunch.
Name in Japanese:
2 Chome-19-2 Jingumae, Shibuya, Tokyo 150-0001
11:30~17:00 (Mon - Fri)
Closed public holidays
Omotesando, Harajuku, Meijijingumae-Harajuku
Yes (in warmer weather)
:: Read customer reviews of t.shizen on TripAdvisor
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