The iconic ramen is a must-eat-at-least-once meal for visitors to Tokyo. <i>Photo: Getty</i> The iconic ramen is a must-eat-at-least-once meal for visitors to Tokyo. <i>Photo: Getty</i>
Life Travel Chef Michael Ryan shares his tips for a first-timer in Tokyo Updated:

Chef Michael Ryan shares his tips for a first-timer in Tokyo

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Having visited Tokyo about 24 times since 1997, award-winning Beechworth chef Michael Ryan considers the city something of a muse.

He regularly takes groups of food lovers there, and has just co-written a guide to some of Tokyo’s most appealing places to eat and drink.

He shares his top tips for Tokyo travellers as the city enjoys an influx of visitors to the Rugby World Cup.

What should every traveller bring to Tokyo?

Access to Google Maps ( the address system in Tokyo is challenging), and a sense of culinary adventure (it is not reflected in the Japanese food we see in Australia, but the Japanese are masters of nose-to-tail eating).

How do you choose an area to stay?

When you first go to Tokyo, you want to stay in the really busy, energetic parts of Shinjuku and Shibuya, but now I tend to head to areas that are more quiet, a little more suburban, but still have a wonderful depth in terms of local eating and drinking options.

Tomigaya and Yoyogi Uehara are great choices. The areas around Azabujuban are fun, Koenji or Kichijoji for something a little more edgy, and Asakusa for a more traditional area, but with a bit of an upcoming vibe.

The bright lights and bustle of Shinjuku draw in first-time visitors to Tokyo. Photo: Getty

Got any favourite hotels or places to stay?

Trunk Hotel in Shibuya is a very cool, new boutique hotel. Plus, Nohga Hotel in Ueno. I have had the good fortune to stay many times at the Park Hyatt – I really love this place. The newly renovated Okura hotel looks amazing.

Your essential Tokyo experiences?

An old school kissaten (tea house), a vinyl bar, a yokocho, (a laneway or alley).

You must eat…

Sushi, ramen, yakitori and an izakaya meal at least once.

The iconic ramen is a must-eat-at-least-once meal for visitors to Tokyo. Photo: Getty

Be brave enough to try…

Shirako, or cod’s sperm. A very popular ingredient in the winter months.

Favourite non-food places to visit

Mori Art Museum, Nezu Museum, the garden at the Heian Shrine, Yoyogi Park on a Sunday.

Breakfast is tricky in Tokyo … where do you recommend?

Path is always a favourite. It’s an effortlessly cool place producing perfectly crafted dishes.

Path restaurant consistently churns out good breakfasts. Photo: Luke Burgess, Only In Tokyo

Best advice for first-timers to Tokyo

Don’t try to do too much. Stick to one part of the city – it is far too massive to cover all of it. Leave some gaps in your itinerary for the unexpected –often these are the most memorable experiences.

Five favourites in Tokyo?

tokyo food drink
The tea counter at Sakurai tea experience. Photo: Luke Burgess


Sakurai tea experience. A stylish tea shop offering a modern take on the tea ceremony, in Minato. Every time I’ve had the gyokuro (the most luxurious of all green teas), it’s blown my mind with its intensity of flavour.


World Breakfast Allday in Shibuya opens at 7.30am. It offers a monthly rotating breakfast plate from somewhere around the globe, as well as a standard menu offering a full English breakfast and porridge. Breakfast is served until 8pm.

tokyo food drink
Barman Hiroyasu Kayama in action at Bar Benfiddich. Photo: Luke Burgess


Bar Benfiddich, Nishi Shinjuku, is a kind of cross between the interior of a pirate ship, an apothecary and a bar from the set of a fantasy movie. There is no menu; you are asked what sort of cocktail you might be after. Try the house-made “Campari”.


Uoriki Sushi is the cheapest way to eat quality sushi. It’s in the basement food hall of Tokyu Department Store in Shibuya. Have the chirashi don.


For brilliant kaiseki (a seasonal, beautifully presented multi-course menu) that’s worth every yen, head to the little-known Yamamoto in Shibuya.

tokyo food drink
Chef Michael Ryan. Photo: Colin Page

Michael Ryan hosts tours through Epicurious Travel.

Only in Tokyo, 2 chefs, 24 hours, the ultimate food city, by Michael Ryan and Luke Burgess, published by Hardie Grant, is available now for $39.99.

Ryan’s restaurant is The Provenance, Beechworth.

The 2019 Rugby World Cup runs in Tokyo until November 2.