One of the main reasons to love staying at an Airbnb apartment is that you get lots of great recommendations for shops or restaurants around you. When we rented a small house in the Shinjuku area in Tokyo, we were lucky to have a great host that provided us with printouts to the best restaurants in the area, one of them being the Shinagawa-tei.
After a rainy day in Tokyo, exploring the Imperial Palace Gardens, lunching at the Kyorakutei and going to the National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo, we decided to try out one of the recommendations given to us by our host.
First of all, it wasn’t easy to find the Shinagawa-tei. If we didn’t have the free pocket wi-fi from our Airbnb hosts, I would surely have just walked by it. The entrance is very discreet and only small sign points to the Shinagawa-tei. It’s located in the middle of the neighborhood, with not many other restaurants or bars around.
One important thing that I should mention here is this: The owner doesn’t speak English or at least only rudimentary. You should only come here if you understand and speak a little bit Japanese or have friends here who can speak. However, the owner is an incredibly nice guy who will do anything he can to make you feel welcome and comfortable.
The Shinagawa-tei is, like many other neighborhood eateries in Japan, tiny. It only fits up to 6 people, 4 at the bar and two at a small table just right to the entrance (I think, you could probably seat about 4 short Japanese people there, but definitely not Western). The first thing you will notice are the many, MANY, dolls, masks and little statues all around the place. They all represent the seven lucky gods but I confess that when I walked in, my first reaction was to walk out backward. I really do not like dolls, I don’t know why, but most of this kind of dolls and masks, they creep me out.
My friends seemed intrigued, though, so we decided to stay. And that was one of the best decisions ever because we ended up having so much fun in this place!
The owner of the Shinagawa-tei sits right behind the bar inside his tiny kitchen and was so surprised to find so many Westerners walking into his tiny bar. We had a little chat about how we found this place and then (because I couldn’t read many of the Kanjis on the menu) we asked him to prepare anything for us. He consulted his mother (who also works there!) and then prepared some small dishes while still maintaining a lively chat with us. In the meantime, his mother served some beer and since I don’t drink beer, she gave me some of the best Umeshu I have ever tasted (Umeshu is a Japanese liquor, made from putting Japanese plums (Ume) in alcohol and sugar).
Even the high-quality Umeshu that I had at the Isshin or the Hassunba in Kyoto was not as good as this homemade Umeshu. I liked it so much, I asked the owner how he made it. He told me it’s a family secret but they mainly use brandy for this liquor. He then fished out some of the ume for me to taste and wheeeewww they were strong! You can get drunk just by eating one of these!
We were then served some edamame (green beans, boiled and salted), tempura (fried vegetables and seafood), grilled mackerels, yakitori (grilled chicken on skewers) and other small and delicious dishes. The food was quite traditional, very Japanese and while it may not have been the best quality, it was still carefully prepared and delicious.
I love these tiny neighborhood restaurants/bars where you can have a lovely chat with the owner in Japan. I wish we had these in my hometown in Germany, too!
Did you like this post? Don’t forget to check the other posts in my Tokyo Foodie Tour to see more of my reviews of great restaurants in Tokyo. If you’re planning a trip to Kyoto as well, head over to my Kyoto Foodie Tour series!
Planning your trip
There are a lot of good hotels or hostels around in Tokyo. I prefer to stay at an Airbnb apartment. In my experience, it has often proven to be much more affordable and comfortable as well. If you haven’t signed up for Airbnb yet, you can use this link and get 18 € (or 20 $) off of your first booking! If hotels are more your thing, I’ve been told that the Toyoko Inn Hotels are good, so feel free to check their rates!
If you are planning a longer trip through Japan, consider getting the Japan Rail Pass! Read here to find out more about the pass!
To help me plan all my trips and itineraries in Japan, I mostly used the Lonely Planet Japan (Travel Guide)*. I’ve used it a lot when I was living in Japan and found it a great help this time as well!
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