Japan is a beautiful country to visit. The people are friendly, everywhere is clean, and the sites are beautiful. But, what people talk about the most after a trip to Japan is the food. Japanese cuisine is fantastic, and, in particular, Japan knows how to do elegant fine dining incredibly well. Do yourself a favor and consider booking a Michelin star restaurant during your visit. In total, Japan has over 400 Michelin star restaurants (as of 2022) to choose from. While all 406 restaurants could impress, we found the top six that truly deliver on taste, ambiance, and service.
1. Sukiyabashi Jiro (3 stars)
If you research the "best restaurant in Japan," you'll probably find most of the results directing you to Sukiyabashi Jiro. Run by famous sushi chef Jiro Ono, Sukiyabashi Jiro was the first sushi restaurant globally to receive three stars from the Michelin guide. The sushi here is fresh, innovative, and carefully made. The chef is able to give each dish his undivided attention because the restaurant only sits 10 people.
The restaurant skyrocketed in popularity after Jiro Ono participated in a documentary called "Jiro Dreams of Sushi." Celebrities and influential people have dined here throughout the years, including President Barak Obama.
Interestingly, Sukiyabashi Jiro lost its Michelin star ranking (after earning three stars every year since 2007) in 2019. Sukiyabashi Jiro stopped taking reservations from the general public and now only takes reservations through an exclusive, luxury hotel. According to the Michelin Guide, this makes the restaurant inaccessible and therefore doesn't qualify for a rating.
Still, this is, in fact, a three-star Michelin restaurant that would otherwise maintain its ranking. If you can afford to do so, you absolutely must try to get a reservation here. Not only is it quite possibly one of the best restaurants in Japan, but it's also one of the best in the world!
2. Ginza Kojyu (3 stars)
Ginza Kojyu has received three stars from the Michelin guide consistently since 2008. Chef Toru Okuda likes to bring a unique and innovative twist to traditional Japanese cuisine. His menu explores the four seasons and uses the finest delicacies from around the world.
There is both a lunch and dinner menu, and guests can upgrade to a version that uses more luxurious ingredients.
At Ginza Kojyu, while food is what brings people in, it's often the experience that captivates diners. Thought and detail have gone into every aspect of the restaurant. A meal at Ginza Kojyu is "not just about the food, but is a cultural experience." The counter is made from a 270-year old hinoki tree, the private rooms have views of a Japanese garden, and the tableware is inspired by the work of Klate artist Kojyu Nishioka.
Come here for a plated tasting menu that will shock and intrigue you with every dish. Not to mention a dining experience that will give you a real taste of Japanese culture.
3. Hajime (3 stars)
Located in Osaka, Hajime was opened in May 2008 by Chef Hajime Yoneda. The cuisine at Hajime is a gastronomy experience that takes you through food and nature. The menu tells stories about architecture, biology, astronomy, and neuroscience. Chef Hajime Yoneda's signature dish is "chikyu," which translates to planet earth. The plate speaks to the fragility of life and the relationship between life and nature.
While everything is delicious here, it's the presentation that stuns people. Hajime's kitchen uses technology to be precise to the millimeter and a tenth of the degree Celsius. It's truly impressive watching your tasting menu tell you a story of life, nature, and the earth.
4. Tempura Kondo (2 stars)
As the name implies, Tempura Kondo is a restaurant all about the art of tempura. Chief Chef Fumio Kondo elevates tempura beyond the side dish or appetizer to the main entree status that it deserves. He is thought to be a key player in bringing domestic and international attention to tempura.
Unlike the tempura you've probably had at your little local Japanese restaurant, the tempura here is exceptionally light. The type of flour used doesn't absorb too much oil and keeps the batter airy.
And don't be fooled into thinking that a restaurant focusing on tempura will be casual in any way. Tempura Kondo is bringing its guests a luxury, elevated dining experience. The dishes focus on using local, unique vegetables and seafood, and guests experience a tasting menu focused on tempura without it feeling repetitive. This tasting menu is a unique and wonderful way to embrace one of Japan's most delicious dishes!
5. Tapas Molecular Bar (1 star)
Tapas Molecular Bar is a one-star Michelin restaurant focusing on the theatre of food. Chef Kento has an Art degree and presents diners with "an art gallery of 14 dishes that stimulate the five senses and the imagination." The focus of every dish is combining taste, texture, and temperature in a way that's creative.
The menu is Japanese and Western fusion offering tapas-sized portions for 14 courses. This is a fun and unique dining experience, with guests often being surprised by the presentation of every dish.
6. Imafuku (1 star)
Most people visiting Japan have a desire to try Wagyu beef. Imafuku is a one-star Michelin restaurant in Japan focused on serving Wagyu beef in two classic styles: Shabu-shabu and Sukiyaki.
Sukiyaki is a Japanese dish of meat and vegetables cooked at the table and served in a shallow iron pot with sugar, mirin, and soy sauce. And Shabu-shabu is a hot pot dish served with meat and vegetables boiled in water and served with several dipping sauces.
The appeal of Imafuku is the quality of the meat. The restaurant was opened by a meat wholesaler that wanted to spread the popularity of Wagyu beef. And, they have never strayed from this commitment and only serve thick, fresh cuts of meat.
Imafuku is an excellent way to experience Wagyu beef cooked in two traditional Japanese styles.
We have to warn you - these six restaurants are on our list because they're some of the best places to eat in Japan. You'll need to make reservations well in advance because we aren't the only ones to sing the praises of these establishments!