The “salarymen” district of Shinbashi (also known as Shimbashi), is a reflection of the working class in Japan. The area strikes a balance between work and play, a heavily trafficked area during rush hours and an after-work hub for the industrious Japanese. Shinbashi is the location of the first railway terminal and is just a stone’s throw away from the glamorous Ginza district.
For Japanese salarymen and office ladies, nothing relieves the stress of a hard day's work with a beer or a stiff drink in hand at a standing bar, or a dinner at an izakaya or yakitori joint with colleagues. These give tourists the feel of the vibrant, after office life of the Japanese working class. And since Shinbashi hosts salarymen, most of the eateries lined in between the Shinbashi and Yurakucho stations serve authentic Japanese dishes at an affordable price. Due to the fast-paced lifestyle of these salarymen, most of them eat at these food stalls in a fast-paced manner, especially during lunchtime when these places are often jam-packed. Here is our guide to Where to Eat in Shinbashi.
So where do Japanese salarymen go on their off hours?
Here are some of the best places to eat in Shinbashi, where you can find Tokyo's working class enjoying a drink and a bite to eat.
Robatayaki (robata for short) means "fireside cooking" and was said to have originated in Hokkaido. Chefs stand behind a bar-like grilling station as they lay skewers and portions of meat and produce on the smoking hot grill. The rules are simple: point, grill, serve, eat. Diners are encouraged to participate in the cooking process by selecting their choices and once grilled; meals are then served using a robata paddle. A must-visit place for an authentic robata experience in Shinbashi is Musashi, with each item on the menu costing at a flat rate of ¥290. For a fun and interactive dining experience, this is indeed a must-try.
A great after-work izakaya for those craving for inaniwa udon (handmade and aged udon noodles made using traditional techniques) and fresh seafood. Each bowl is served with duck-based dipping sauce and with noodles that are more delicate than usual. Each order costs around ¥1080-1480 and also comes with pickled Chinese cabbage, which is refillable. Other must tries in the menu include the mini donburi sets such as the Inaniwa Udon with Mini Seafood Bowl. If you'd rather have rice, there are also a wide variety of rice meals topped with tuna, marinated salmon roe, scallions, and fatty tuna. It is best to go to Nanakura on weekdays during lunchtime which extends up to 2:00 p.m. or during dinner from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
One could never go wrong with fried chicken. At Karayama, the spotlight is on their karaage, with its juicy and flavorful chicken meat that is deep fried to crispy perfection. A large piece only costs ¥130 per piece while the ginger fried version costs ¥150 a piece. This crispy chicken goodness is also offered either in teishoku or bento meals served with rice and soup.
The Japanese food experience is not complete without a dose of sushi and sashimi. For those who need a quick sushi fix, head up to the standing sushi bar, Tachikui Sushi Tokoro Miyako Shinbashi ("Standing Sushi Bar Miyako, Shinbashi"), which offers 8 pieces of nigiri sushi at an affordable ¥600. Meanwhile, those who are craving for some fresh sashimi should head to Sakanatei, which serves an "Extra Large Sashimi Set" at ¥1000. The fish used in the sashimi set varies depending on what’s available on the menu for that day.
This Japanese sake and shochu haven and museum will educate you about everything and anything sake and is operated by the Central Brewer’s Union. It is located on the ground floor of the Japan Sake & Shochu Makers Association. For ¥315 to ¥500, you can enjoy three to five kinds of sake, which comes at random every day. You can also purchase a bottle of sake or shochu at the Sake Plaza.
While the Sake Plaza is geared toward educating tourists about the staple alcoholic beverages of Japan, at Shinshu Osake Mura, a Japanese bar, you can enjoy sake like a salaryman. And since Japanese workers value rewarding themselves after work, beer and sake is a serious business in this bar. This watering hole serves a variety of beers and sakes that don't break the bank. While it can get quickly crowded on a Friday night, tourists can enjoy the Japanese beer garden experience at any time of the day in this bar.
Another popular drinking joint in Shinbashi is the Shinbashi Dry-Dock. This nautically-themed lager bar boasts state-of-the-art beer dispensers and 60 bottled beer variants, which are continually changing, and imported beers at a reasonable price. One can engage in casual conversations with fellow beer drinkers at the 12-seater bar or reserve a space on the bar’s second floor for ¥500 per head. The brewmaster also offers some house recommendations for those who would like to try beers other than the more familiar brands.
Check out any of these establishments on our guide to Where to Eat in Shinbashi and discover the favorite entertainment district of Japanese workers in Tokyo. And while the Japanese people are world-known for being industrious, Shinbashi reminds visitors to Japan that all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.