In Japan, there’s approximately one restaurant for every 266 people. That amounts to a total of almost half a million places for hungry diners to choose from.
From hole-in-the-wall joints to purveyors of Michelin fine-dining, Japan’s culinary landscape is one of diverse color, flavor, and adventure. Celebrity restaurateur David Chang recently named it the world’s ultimate food destination saying “It’s the one place in the world where I have to seek out bad food.”
For travelers to Japan then, there’s no question what the No.1 activity on their bucket list should be: Eat.
And the best way to eat in Japan? Go local. Generally, if you choose the smallest, non-restaurant-looking restaurant you can find you’ll likely discover something so special you’ll be hugging the chef just like Chang did on the yakitori (chicken skewers) episode of his Netflix series Ugly Delicious.
Unfortunately, the language barrier makes eating local in particular a huge challenge for most non-Japanese-speaking visitors. Being faced with a menu all in kanji, utensils that you don’t know how to use and staff that act awkward around you can transform what should be an enriching experience into one that’s stressful enough to drive you straight to the nearest McDonald’s and its sexy cups.
That’s why it’s so important for local organizations, from restaurants to government-level, to empower visitors with the means to find different Japanese foods, and, most importantly how to actually eat them.
Yokohama West Gate Restaurant Guide
One district in Tokyo’s cosmopolitan neighbor of Yokohama, the host city of the upcoming Rugby World Cup final, is keen to make its rich food culture accessible to tourists and has created the Yokohama West Gate Restaurant Guide to do exactly that. “West Gate” refers to the cluster of restaurants, cafes, and bars in and around Yokohama station’s west exit which hides a treasure trove of delicious eats just waiting to be plundered.
The Yokohama West Gate Restaurant Guide connects users to an online map where they can browse over 90 dining options in the area. Unless you’ve got your stretchy pants on, 90 restaurants might be too many to take on in one trip, so you can filter first by what kind of food you want to eat—right down to the individual ingredients.
You can also interact with the AI chatbot for customized recommendations. So if you’re ready to stuff your face with several plates of sushi, type the word “sushi” and the guide will show a list of restaurants where you can harness the competitive eater in you. Then you just have to follow the map to your chosen restaurant’s location.
The cool part is that it doesn’t stop there. Once you’re at your table, you can use the concierge tool to help you read the menu and place your order. Ask the AI chatbot for advice on what to choose from the menu, and even what drinks go best with what dishes.
Available in English, Cantonese and Mandarin, Korean, and Japanese, the map has detailed information on ATMs, convenience stores and tourist information services, too.
To access the map and concierge, you just need to scan the QR code just before Yokohama Station’s west exit and dotted around other locations.
We have to say that the Yokohama West Gate Restaurant Guide is a pretty cool tool for anybody who likes food (um, who doesn’t?!) and would love to be able to eat like a local even though they don’t speak Japanese.
For more information, check out the Yokohama Nishiguchi website.