Japan is a paradise for food lovers, with an emphasis on high-quality ingredients and a dedication to both its washoku heritage and culinary innovation. Every region and even individual towns boast specialty products or foods that differ from anywhere else in the nation. Tokyo itself may seem rather uniform, but the city of Ota in southeastern Tokyo can satiate travelers with a range of unique edible treats. Follow the itinerary below for a taste of the best Ota has to offer!
Any serious foodie will want to start their day at the Ota Wholesale Market. Akin to Tsukiji Market in central Tokyo, Ota Market dwarfs the former in size, and allows visitors to observe the action at the morning vegetable and fish markets. There is also a flower market on site, considered to be the largest in Japan. Many of the stalls near the market serve up fresh sushi breakfasts.
Ota City was once a major producer of nori (dried seaweed), which was cultivated in the waterways that lace the region. Today, that heritage is preserved at the Omori Nori Museum, where visitors can learn more about the production of this staple in the Japanese diet as well as participate in hands-on classes (reservations required). Nearby, the Mihara shotengai – once a section of the old Tokaido highway – still boasts a number of establishments selling nori and other related products.
Head to Den-en-chofu on the western side of Ota City. Osushi-dokoro Daigo (literally “sushi place Daigo”) attracts visitors with their unique Haneda-maki, a sushi roll made from local anago (saltwater eel) caught in the waters just off of Haneda. A stroll along the Tama River, lined with cherry trees that bloom cotton-candy pink in early spring, is the perfect way to walk off the meal and make room for more!
The quiet grounds of Ikegami Honmonji temple make for the perfect wander away from the crowds, but hungry travelers should head straight for the sweets shops in the temple town at the south end of the site. The specialty here is kuzumochi, a traditional dessert made of arrowroot and starch. It’s best topped with either kinako (soybean powder) or kuromitsu (brown sugar syrup). Three shops – Asano-ya, Ikeda-ya, and Sagami-ya – have all been selling the specialty to pilgrims and visitors since the Edo Period.
Kamata is a central hub of Ota, with its two major train stations and multiple shopping arcades. The backstreets are filled with numerous delicious eateries, but foodies will want to seek out one of the 30+ restaurants that serve shio-yakisoba, a stir-fried noodle dish that highlights local Ota ingredients such as clams and nori (dried seaweed). Hokaen is particularly memorable, as the chef will prepare the dish right in front of you.
If there’s still room to indulge after a bowl of yakisoba, the Kamata area is the perfect place for visitors to enjoy a typical izakaya (Japanese pub) crawl. These friendly local hangouts not only offer various beer, sake, and food standards like edamame, a number of them will even serve up hanetsuki, the area’s famed winged gyoza. These dumplings, made fresh in the neighborhood every day, are the perfect local snack to finish off a food-focused exploration of Tokyo’s largest ward.