All About Sukiyaki and Where to Have it in Tokyo
In its history and today, sukiyaki is a celebratory and communal meal shared with family and friends on special occasions. Sukiyaki is a nabemono, or Japanese hot pot, consisting of thinly sliced beef and vegetables cooked in soy sauce, sugar, and mirin in a shallow cast iron pot.
History of Sukiyaki
Sukiyaki became a part of Japanese cuisine towards the end of the Edo period in the 1860s and popularized during the subsequent Meiji period. There are various stories regarding the history of sukiyaki. The name “sukiyaki” comes from “suki” meaning spade, or even “sukimi” meaning thinly sliced meat, and “yaki” means grilled.
Edo farmers would cook their fish and tofu with their spades, known as suki. During this Edo period in Japan, beef was banned because of Buddhism beliefs and because cattle, which were brought in from Korea and China, were highly regarded for their cultivation of the rice paddies.
There were only 2 exceptions to eating beef during the Edo period. One, when you were sick, such as the ailing soldiers. And two, for special events like the year-end parties which explains why sukiyaki is a popular meal at the end of the year.
In the 1860s, western foreigners introduced new cooking styles as well as cows, milk, and eggs. Yokohama opened the first sukiyaki restaurant in 1862 with Kanto style sukiyaki which simmers the beef and vegetables in a stew of the sauce. In 1872, the Emperor celebrated the new year by eating meat. This popularized meat dishes among the Japanese people.
The 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake migrated most people to Osaka. This is when they were introduced to the Kansai-style of sukiyaki in which the beef is first seared in the pot to caramelize with a little sugar and then the vegetables are cooked afterward in a little sauce. When the people of Kanto returned to the Tokyo area, they also brought the Kansai style of sukiyaki with them.
Today, sukiyaki is still considered a meal for special occasions because of its price and the premium quality of the beef.
Best Sukiyaki in Tokyo: Moritaya
Moritaya is one of the original sukiyaki restaurants in the country. It was founded in 1869 in Kyoto and remains on the best places to enjoy sukiyaki in Japan.
In Osaka, Moritaya is located in the Osaka Station up in the Lucua department store restaurant floor. The food is amazing and a great experience in the city. However, compared to Tokyo, the service is rather rushed and often times lacking. Perhaps it is because Osaka is more casual and that the restaurant caters to a clientele that of tourists or locals in-transit at the train station.
If you are in Tokyo, Moritaya is a must, as are reservations. The restaurant only allows a certain number of takes for lunch and dinner to allow sufficient time for the servers to cook the meal at your table. The meals are priced slightly higher than Osaka, but you feel the worth and value of the additional appetizers and the more attentive and refined service.
Plus, in Tokyo, Moritaya is located on the 35th floor in Marunouchi for the most premium views overlooking the Imperial Palace gardens and the city.
Food Photos from Moritaya in Tokyo
The Table Setting
The Premium Japanese Wagyu Beef
Watch the video below featuring my dinner at Moritaya in Tokyo. And subscribe to my YouTube channel for my latest travel vlogs
Address & Hours
35F Marunouchi Building
2-4-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
Monday to Saturday, 11am to 2pm and 5pm to 9:30pm
Sunday and Holidays, 5pm to 8:30pm
Reservations highly recommended
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