BENTO BOXES AND SUSHI ON THE HOP
Breakfast: Many hotels offer buffet breakfasts, but if you prefer to eat out, try one of Tokyo’s chain cafes, such as Doutour (black and yellow signage), Cafe de Crie (orange awnings) or Excelsior (green Starbucks look-alike) for a light morning meal with coffee, tea or fresh juices. Most offer breakfast set deals for Y=300 ($2.95) to Y=500 a person.
Lunch: Impress the children with a trip to a kaiten-zushi (carousel sushi) restaurant. Choose from dozens of seafood varieties, but beware the hot wasabi that accompanies squid and octopus. Side dishes such as udon noodles, rice, fresh fruit and ice cream are also available. Shion, near Kirin City on the west side of Shinjuku Station, is one of Tokyo’s cheapest and best run. Expect to pay Y=100 a sushi serve, Y=200 for larger dishes.
Another idea is a bento box picnic lunch. Department stores such as Daimaru, Jusco and Takashimaya have basement food courts where you can buy freshly made bento for Y=500 to Y=800. Grab a bottle of green tea at a street vending machine and you have lunch to go.
Dinner: Izakaya restaurants are the mainstay of the Tokyo family who dines out. These are local eateries serving typical Japanese dishes such as yaki-tori, simmered fish, tofu, fresh salads and steamed or fried rice with pickles and miso soup.
The restaurants range from ancient to modern in decor (and staff), but nearly all are welcoming to families, though sometimes dining areas are a little smoky. Individual dishes are usually small, so ordering a selection is a great idea if everyone wants a taste.
For drinks, Kirin and Asahi lager beers are always available by the bottle ( bin-biru ) or off the tap ( nama-biru ), as are flasks of warm and cold sake. Popular nonalcoholic drinks include oolong tea, fruit juices and Calpis, a yoghurt-flavoured soft drink Japanese kids love.
Nuts and bolts: Restaurant hours are generally 11am to 11pm, though izakaya open their doors about 6pm. Sumi-masen (excuse me, I’d like to order) is the most useful phrase for getting a waiter’s attention. Tipping is not necessary but when you pay (at the cash register) a 5 per cent consumer tax will be added to the bill. More: www.bento.com/tokyofood.html. Simon Rowe
Child’s play: Keep the youngsters happy in the Japanese capital with Pokemon-themed trains and kimono-clad Mickey Mouse at Tokyo Disneyland or there’s always time for Frisbee or a fun swim