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Cafes, craft beer and ramen: a food tour around Tokyo Station

A central-Tokyo tour for the taste buds

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Tokyo is well established as one of the world's most eclectic food cities, boasting a high concentration of restaurants throughout its lively districts that cater to all tastes, purveying traditional and modern Japanese fare to all kinds of international cuisine. As one of the metropolis' major transport hubs, Tokyo Station and the surrounding area boasts a huge and diverse range of epicurean options sure to leave even the pickiest of eaters' mouths watering.

For this tour of Tokyo Station and its surroundings, I was to channel my inner gourmand and explore this area predominantly with my taste buds, enjoying some of the delightful food and drink on offer here. With an empty stomach, I arrived at Tokyo Station raring to go.

My first target on the day's gourmand tour was Nakadori Avenue, a picturesque street that stretches the length of the Marunouchi district on the West side of Tokyo Station, and boasts a number of stylish cafes and shops. I sat down at one of the cafes to begin the day with a morning coffee and a quick bite, and found that the cafes here provide an idyllic vantage point from which to watch the world go by outside. Relaxing and atmospheric, Nakadori Avenue struck me as a great place for visitors to unwind after shopping or exploring the nearby Imperial Palace.

Next up it was time to make my way to the other side of the station and to the next stop on my day's adventure, Hitachino Nest Brewing Lab. Hitachino Nest is one of Japanfs most respected craft beer brands, with their award-winning beer coming from the heart of Ibaraki Prefecture deep in the Japanese countryside. This Tokyo Station branch is currently one of three of the company's drinking holes to have popped up in the Japanese capital, and was somewhere that I couldn't wait to get inside to sip some delicious beer.

Faced with an impressive selection of Hitachino Nest's popular brews, I opted for the signature Weizen and, tempted by the food menu, I ordered a bowl of olives and cheese that paired excellently with the beer. The bar offers additional options for hungry drinkers including a selection of sandwiches plus more light snacks to go with the beer. My taste buds satisfied, it was now time to move on to the penultimate stop on my exploration of this epicurean nirvana.

Ramen is one of the most well-known dishes in Japanese cuisine, enjoying huge popularity among both Japanese people and their foreign counterparts. Ramen fans will be pleased to know that within the Tokyo Station complex is an area dedicated solely to the soupy noodle dish. This area is called Tokyo Ramen Street, and it boasts eight ramen shops in total, all of which purvey different styles of the dish to keep even the most seasoned ramen connoisseurs coming back for more.

I made my way through the basement levels of Tokyo Station and eventually found myself in the area, which I could tell immediately was a hit by the lines at the doors of almost every store. After wandering up and down the food street a couple of times and taking in the delectable aromas and lively ambience, I finally decided on shio (salt) ramen, and lined up at Hirugao Ramen, a shop that specializes in this popular variation.

All the shops here function similarly in that, before sitting down, customers select their desired type of ramen from a machine which then prints a ticket accordingly. While waiting anticipatedly in line for a seat at the busy restaurant, one of the staff took my ticket to the kitchen so the ramen could be prepared while I waited. The best part about all this, of course, was that by the time I was seated, I didn't have to wait long before the noodles arrived in front of me!

Upon receiving my meal, in which vegetables, egg and succulent strips of pork complimented the lightly flavored broth, I took time to savor the delicate interplay of flavors before leaving the restaurant and making my way back up to ground level.

Fast forward a few hours and the sun had gone down on Tokyo as my appetite returned. It was now time for dinner and to explore the nighttime delights on offer in this central part of Tokyo, and I knew of the perfect place in which I could do just this a short distance from Tokyo Station.

Yurakucho is a well-known evening eating and drinking hub, especially the area under the train tracks near Yurakucho Station, which lies one stop south on the Yamanote Line, or 15 minutes on foot, away from Tokyo Station. Locally known as gado-shita, (lit. "below the girder") here lies a network of restaurants and bars within the brick arches under the elevated train tracks. The area is extremely atmospheric and I thoroughly enjoyed walking around and taking in the sights, sounds and delicious smells emanating from the area's many yakitori (grilled chicken skewer) restaurants.

During my exploration of the area I sat down at two yakitori restaurants, enjoying a wide selection of grilled and skewered chicken parts including breast, thigh and heart, in addition to some delicious vegetables including green peppers, onion and mushrooms. A fantastic feast in a place with a unique atmosphere, my time in Yurakucho made for the perfect end to an enjoyable day of epicurean exploration.