Japan has firmly made its mark on the global food scene, with sushi being the star of the show. Sushi can be found all around the world, but eating sushi in the place it originated is a completely different experience!
You don’t even have to look for sushi; Japan serves it all over, from marketplaces to high-end restaurants to conveyor belt-style eateries. There’s good sushi all throughout the country but what if you’re looking for the absolute best sushi in Japan?
This isn’t a definitive list but we (the MACHIYA INNS & HOTELS local staff) have decided to round up our top picks. Whenever we visit these cities, we always go for sushi! If you want to know where to get some of the best sushi in Japan – as picked by locals – keep reading below!
In Tokyo, sushi can be found at every turn. One district in Tokyo that has a high concentration of high-quality sushi restaurants is Ginza. If you go to a Michelin-starred restaurant here, you’re bound to be satisfied. They do, however, tend to be very exclusive and very expensive.
If you’re looking for something a little more affordable, we recommend making a visit to a kaiten-zushi (conveyor belt sushi) restaurant. They’re quite unique to Japan and are great for groups and families! Kaiten-zushi restaurants have a slow-moving track, or conveyor belt, looping through the restaurant besides each table. Sushi is placed on this track for customers to take freely. You can also order specific sushi and other side dishes, and it will be delivered to your table via the conveyor belt. Besides being a fun way to eat sushi in Japan, the prices of each dish in a kaiten-zushi restaurant is very reasonable.
There is, however, one place where you can be sure to get great sushi at equally great prices. Tsukiji Fish Market has been renowned as home to some of the best sushi in Japan for decades. The Tsukiji Fish Market is one of Japan’s largest wholesale fish markets that is constantly bustling with locals and travelers alike.
Many of the restaurants and stalls at the market open very early and close in the early afternoon, so be sure to check the opening times before heading over. In Japan, sushi can even be enjoyed for breakfast, so we recommend heading over early in the morning!
When trying to think of where to find the best sushi in Japan, Kyoto might not immediately stand out. Make no mistake, though. When it comes to sushi, Kyoto is not to be underestimated! Kyoto has a surprisingly vibrant sushi scene if you’re in the mood!
While Kyoto Prefecture sits along the coastline, Kyoto City (the former capital of Japan) sits quite far inland within the prefecture. Because of this, Kyoto City’s local specialty became saba sushi (or saba-zushi): preserved mackerel sushi. Thought to have been invented during the Edo period (1603-1867), saba sushi is made with salted and preserved mackerel fish. As transporting fish from the seaside towns and villages to Kyoto City took time, fish needed to be salted and cured before making the long journey. With little to no access to fresh fish, saba sushi and other preserved-style sushi were invented.
Though fresh sushi is now the standard, you can still find saba sushi and other traditional preserved-style sushi in Kyoto. This is especially the case at high-end ryotei (traditional Japanese restaurants).
If you’re looking for affordable sushi that you can grab relatively easily, we recommend heading towards Nishiki Market. Known by locals as “Kyoto’s Pantry,” Nishiki Market is a 5-block long street in Kyoto City with over a hundred restaurants and shops, and has a history of over 400 years! You can find some amazing sushi here without hurting your wallet.
If you’re visiting Kyoto City and looking for delicious sushi at a reasonable price, try Kikyo Sushi. Operating for over 60 years, this family owned sushi restaurant also serves tempura and grilled fish, great if you’re traveling with children and need more options. They can take reservations online through their website, which is partly in English, and have an English menu available as well!
Name (English): Kikyo Sushi
Name (Japanese): 桔梗寿司
43 Daimonji-cho, Aburaokoji-marutamachi-sagaru, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto, 604-0071
10 minutes walk from Subway Marutamachi Station and Subway Nijojomae Station
When you’re hungry for sushi, Kyoto and Tokyo make good starting points to satisfy that craving. In either city, you’ll no doubt find great sushi.
Japan’s sushi scene, however, expands far beyond Kyoto and Tokyo. When it comes to sushi, Japan is the gift that keeps on giving. If you’re really looking for the best sushi in Japan, you’ll want to visit these three prefectures.
The island of Hokkaido is the northernmost region of Japan. If you’re up for the trip and are looking for delicious sushi, we think it’s absolutely worth it. The region is famous for having exceptionally fresh seafood!
Hakodate, a port town in southern Hokkaido, is home to some of the best sushi in Japan. Hakodate-Asaichi (Hakodate morning market) is a must-visit location. Just around the corner from the main Hakodate Station, there are over 250 stores at this morning market. Sushi restaurants here, as well as all around Hokkaido, are affordable yet amazing. Two of Hakodate’s specialties are tuna and squid, so be sure to try sushi made with these ingredients while you’re there!
You can also find Michelin-starred restaurants all throughout Hokkaido, especially in the capital, Sapporo City. Compared to high-end restaurants in other parts of Japan, the ones in Hokkaido are often surprisingly affordable and have a relatively low barrier to entry.
The local specialty throughout Hokkaido is uni (sea urchin roe). Tip: one of the best ways to enjoy uni, besides sushi, is served atop a donburi (rice bowl), so look out for that on menus!
Though it’s not that well-known amongst international travelers, Japanese people know that Ishikawa Prefecture is the place to be for sushi. The capital, Kanazawa City, is especially famous among Japanese sushi fans. Luckily, it’s easily accessible from Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto.
A survey in Japan found that Kanazawa City has the highest fresh fish consumption per household in all of Japan. It’s not surprising; the sheer abundance of fishing grounds in Kanazawa is impressive!
As you might imagine, the options here are practically endless. However, nodoguro (blackthroat seaperch) is particularly popular and prized here. Snow crab, prawn, and yellowtail are also common choices for fresh seafood dishes.
You can get high-quality sushi at low prices at Omicho Market, the largest fresh food market in Kanazawa. Kaisendon (fresh seafood rice bowl) is also an extremely popular offering at the market and all throughout the city. With over 300 years of history, Omicho Market is the best place to find fresh fish in Kanazawa City.
Kanazawa City also has many preserved historical districts, with remnants of samurai and geisha culture. The Higashi Chaya District, for example, has quite a few intimate, traditional sushi restaurants nestled among the traditional architecture and preserved teahouses. It’s one of the best places to go in the city if you are looking for great quality sushi!
Kenrokuen Garden and nearby Higashi Chaya District are just a couple of must visit places while in Kanazawa City. Sushi Takashima is just a quick walk from both, making it an amazing option for both lunch and dinner. You can find reasonably priced and delicious sushi at this restaurant, which has operated since 1964. Three generations of sushi chefs have perfected the art of sushi making here, and you’ll be sure to have a delicious meal!
Name (English): Kanazawa Higashiyama Sushi Takashima
Name (Japanese): 金沢 東山 鮨処 たかしま
1 Chome-1-33 Higashiyama, Kanazawa, Ishikawa 920-0831
Access: 10 mins by taxi from JR Kanazawa Station, a quick walk from Kenrokuen Garden and Higashi Chaya District
Have you heard of Toyama Prefecture? Toyama Prefecture is a gorgeous coastal prefecture with, arguably, some of the best sushi in Japan. You can get to Toyama easily from Kanazawa, Kyoto, and Osaka.
Most sushi fish in Toyama come from Toyama Bay. The topography of the bay is quite unique, in that it has three very distinct layers within a small space. It’s been called a “natural fish tank.”
In the heart of Toyama City, you can visit the Shinminato Kitokito Market, a lively fish market with the freshest fish in Toyama. There are also restaurants where you can enjoy delectable sushi made from fish delivered promptly from the bay. The great thing about Toyama is that you can go virtually anywhere and get awesome sushi. This even applies to inexpensive restaurants!
Be sure to try the baby white shrimp sushi (shiro ebi / 白海老) while you’re there — the ones available in Toyama are especially sweet and juicy! Many people from around Japan travel to Toyama specifically to have a taste of the shiro ebi! Trout sushi and firefly squid are also two equally fantastic options.