What would you say is the food capital of the world? You probably guessed Paris or New York, didn’t you? Well, you would be wrong because the answer is Tokyo. Tokyo has more Michelin starred restaurants than any other city in the world. So naturally, Japan would be filled with super luxurious foods for both locals and tourists to try. It would be easy to spend over $100 USD on a single meal for one person, and it wouldn’t be impossible to spend over $1,000 on a single meal for one person – and that’s even before drinks and the 8% sales tax in Japan.
Japanese chefs take extreme pride in their work, and it takes well over a decade of training for many disciplines of food preparation in Japan. The best sushi chefs in the world are all senior citizens who have been making mouth-watering nigiri for many, many years – some for over 70 years! In Japan, ingredients of the finest quality must undergo rigorous daily maintenance to produce the best meals. Japanese farmers are meticulous when it comes to growing and raising livestock and produce. Some fruit is only grown during a small growing season, and imperfect specimens never make it to the supermarket. Japanese wagyu is famous for the care that is taken to raise the prized cattle, and the effort shows in the final product. Here’s a look at ten of the most luxurious foods in Japan. Have you ever tried any of these delicacies?
10. Edomae Sushi
Tokyo has numerous sushi restaurants with three Michelin stars. Reservations are hard to come by and because the sushi masters are so skilled, the meals come with exorbitant price tags. Expect to spend over $300 USD for an omakase of 20 to 30 pieces. Even the Edomae sushi restaurants without Michelin stars are not cheap. However, this is the price you pay for excellence.
These masters have skills with a knife that are unprecedented. They know how to cut a piece of fish precisely to get the best flavor. Edomae sushi refers to the method of preparing sushi in the classic way of the Edo period, so you won’t be seeing any “fake” sushi like spicy tuna rolls on the menus here. Only authentic stuff is served to guests. However, the chefs don’t limit themselves to using only Japanese produce. If there are better ingredients from China, Canada or New Zealand that are showing up at Tsukiji market during their daily excursions for ingredients, they will definitely use those instead.
Blowfish, or fugu, is a delicacy in Japan that comes with a terrifying reputation. If not prepared properly the dish can be deadly. Today fugu is so popular that farmed fugu is becoming increasingly common, but even that isn’t cheap because the breeding procedures required to create a harmless fugu fish aren’t a walk in the park. To prepare fugu, chefs must pass a rigorous test to obtain a license.
Fugu is commonly served as sashimi, but karaage, nabe and yaki fugu are also popular choices. Japanese families typically only eat fugu once or twice a year because of the high cost. A full course fugu meal could easily cost between $100 and $200 USD, and sometimes it could be much more. Wild fugu will cost even more than farmed fugu.
Japan’s whaling industry has received a lot of hate in the media over the years, but whale meat is still a delicacy in Japan. However, even most locals don’t eat it on a regular basis. The cost may be one of the reasons this delicacy is not an everyday food.
Most of the whale restaurants in Japan will even have signs in English stating: “we are a whale meat restaurant.” This is so tourists don’t unexpectedly walk in only to be shocked and outraged by the menu. The most precious cut of whale is called onomi. This is a piece of muscle which goes from the dorsal fin to the fluke, and it can cost as much as $200 per kilogram.
Horse meat is not commonplace in North America, and it’s not eaten in many places in Europe either, but it’s a delicacy in Japan. The Kumamoto prefecture on the southern island of Kyushu is famous for raw horse meat, which is known as basashi.
Just like any other type of livestock, the highest quality means the highest prices. A mere $10 USD will get you a small portion at just about any izakaya in Japan, but the highest quality cuts will cost much more than that. Don’t be surprised if the bill comes out to well over $100 for a mere sampling of the choicest cuts including the rump, mane, belly and filet.
You probably heard the story of Kobe beef being massaged and fed beer to increase the quality of beef. While this certainly isn’t commonplace, Japanese cattle farmers do take great pride to produce the highest quality of beef possible. Wagyu is famous for its high fat content and the famous marbling seen throughout the meat. It’s the exact opposite of what you see in AAA Angus cattle in North America with large chunks of fat in areas of a steak.
The three big names in Japanese wagyu are Kobe, Matsusaka and Ohmi. These types of wagyu get their name from the region they were raised, and a cut of beef with a labeling from one of these areas has the same prestige as a Rolls Royce car, Rolex watch or a Gucci hand bag. A Kobe beef steak could set you back upwards of $500 USD. Even high end and award winning wagyu brands that aren’t part of the big three like Yonezawa and Miyazaki can set you back a pretty penny.
5. High-End Fruit
You might have heard about square watermelon. Not only is it real, but it’s super expensive, too. Some sell for as much as $200 USD. The best looking fruit is usually the best tasting, and that’s why even the smallest imperfections make the fruit plummet in price. Even a bushel of grapes can typically sell for $50 USD.
The Yubari melon from Hokkaido is another high-end Japanese fruit that fetches a pretty penny because of the incredibly short growing season in an area that sees heavy snowfall for months at a time in the off-season. These fruits typically sell for about $200, but in 2008 a pair of Yubari King melons fetched an insane amount at auction. The succulent fruits were sold for over $20,000!
If you dine at one of the best sushi spots in Tokyo, you will be served this mouth-watering piece of fish. The fat content from this cut of tuna belly is so high that the heat in your mouth will literally cause it to dissolve on your tongue. You won’t even need to chew. When it’s combined with the most intricately prepared rice to make a piece of nigiri, it is something truly special.
Otoro is expensive for many reasons, and it’s not just the skill of the sushi master who uses this cut of tuna to make your sushi. Bluefin tuna is becoming increasingly rare, and that’s why it’s not uncommon to see one of these massive fish fetch insane prices during the early morning hours when the auctions are held at Tsukiji market. Then of course it has to be cut, aged and stored in perfect temperature as to not let the moisture damage the meat. All that, plus the effort it took the fisherman to catch one of these massive 500 to 1,000 pound beasts, adds to the price.
A sushi restaurant owner named Kiyoshi Kimura paid $1.76 million USD in 2013 at a Tsukiji auction for a bluefin that weighed 489 pounds. Kimura had paid $736,000 for a 593-pound tuna at Tsukiji just a year earlier.
3. Kaiseki Cuisine
The ancient art of kaiseki cuisine dates back hundreds of years, and it is just that – an art. The delicate preparation and plating of this multi course traditional meal is truly a site to behold. Of course, if only the finest ingredients by the best chefs are used then it is going to be expensive.
A high quality meal will cost over $100 USD and sometimes as much as $340 USD. This is the Japanese version of haute cuisine. It’s particularly popular in Kyoto, which is quite fitting seeing as both the city of Kyoto and kaiseki cuisine are famous for being similar to what you would see in Japan in the Meiji era or Edo period.
You wouldn’t think of tempura as being a luxurious item on the dinner table, and perhaps you have even made it at home. However, you aren’t a tempura master with 40 years of training with the freshest and most high quality ingredients on hand.
A tempura restaurant with a Michelin star might even cost near $100 – that’s incredibly expensive since tempura is something many associate with being akin to fast food. This is what you can expect from a food-obsessed nation of Japan. Even something not seen as being fancy can become luxurious when skill and world-class ingredients are added to the mix.
Suppon is the Japanese name for soft-shelled turtle. These creatures certainly look weird, but they sure are tasty. The fatty gelatinous meat from these river dwellers makes it a prized delicacy. It’s said to be great for a person’s skin because of the collagen in the meat.
The heart is often mixed with sake and the eggs are even eaten raw. Japanese say both these parts of the suppon will greatly increase sex dive and improve a man’s virility. A full suppon set meal is not cheap. Expect to pay over $100 USD to partake in trying every bit of this creature in numerous dishes, such as nabe or yaki suppon.