Anthony Bourdain in Japan: The Complete Country Guide

We all know some of Anthony Bourdain’s favorite destinations… His favorite country? Vietnam. His favorite city? Tough choice… maybe Glasgow or London. But if there’s one place we can put our finger on the map and say “this place made Tony into a world traveler” it would have to be Japan.

You see, Anthony Bourdain visited Japan many, many times. It was the first far-flung destination he visited – even before writing Kitchen Confidential – and was the place where he discovered those secret holes-in-the-wall he became famous for showing us on the screen later in his career. For many of us, it’s hard to imagine visiting Japan and not seeking guidance from “Uncle Tony” on where and what to eat.

Anthony Bourdain in Japan Hero

If you’re planning a trip and seeking a complete guide to the cities, prefectures, restaurants, and bars visited by Anthony Bourdain in Japan, you’ve come to the right place. Below you’ll find a list of the destinations – cities and prefectures (regions/states) – that he explored, and for any with multiple spots he ate, there’s a link with more detailed information.

Whether you’re planning to visit Japan’s bustling cities or striking out to escape the crowds, Anthony Bourdain is the perfect guide to discovering Japanese cuisine and culture. 召し上がれ! Meshiagare! (Bon appetit!)

In this post, I promote travel to destinations that are the traditional lands of the Ainu and Ryukyuan peoples. With respect, I make a formal land acknowledgment, extending my appreciation and respect to the past and present people of these lands. To learn more about the peoples who call these lands home, I invite you to explore Native Land.

This post was originally written in January 2023 and was updated most recently in January 2024.

Atami

As part of his first trip to Japan filming season 1 of A Cook’s Tour, Anthony Bourdain visited Atami (as well as Tokyo, but more on that below…). He takes the train from Tokyo to Atami, enjoying a bento box of unagi, sticky rice, and pickles.

Once there, he visits Sekiyo Ryokan Inn, which is famous for its hot springs (onsen). There he starts with a treat of candied dates and hot green tea, followed by a meal of Kaiseki cuisine. His “sampler dish” meal includes dried mullet eggs with radish, oyster cooked in soy sauce, smoked trout with lotus root, and sea cucumber seasoned with its own liver, followed by dishes of fish filets dipped in fish liver, soft shell turtle soup, grilled local lobster, and fresh local mushroom and miso soup.

On his way back to Tokyo, Tony and crew also stop at a highway rest stop for a surprisingly good meal: udon noodles with dried fish, fries from a vending machine, and a cheesecake ice cream cone and coffee.

Hokkaido

Anthony Bourdain in Hokkaido Hero

As part of No Reservations, Anthony Bourdain visited Hokkaido in the northern part of Japan. This gave him a chance to experience different aspects of Japanese life, including indigenous culture and skiing – not things most people associated with Japan.

He also ate at the following places:

Be sure to check my full guide to the places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Hokkaido if you’re planning a trip to this region.

Ishikawa Prefecture

Anthony Bourdain in the Ishikawa Prefecture Hero

While small and far from the big cities, Anthony Bourdain actually made two trips to the Ishikawa Prefecture: first for the “Cook It Raw” food competition (and released as part of No Reservations as “Japan: Cook It Raw”) and again with chef Masa Takayama (as “Masa’s Japan” for Parts Unknown).

Here are the places he ate during those trips:

For more details on the great meals he had in this part of Japan, read my full guide to where Anthony Bourdain ate in the Ishikawa Prefecture.

Kiso Valley

As another part of his trip to film the “Asia Special” for No Reservations in 2005, Tony also visited the Kiso Valley. Here, he has a number of experiences, followed by a great meal – though you’ll find it hard to reproduce during your own trip.

After a waterfall purification experience at Ontake Mountain and a guided walk among the hinoki cypress, Bourdain takes part in the Obon festival including dinner with his local host’s family; this festival honors one’s ancestors and includes family time as well as a visit to the cemetery.

Kyoto

Anthony Bourdain in Kyoto Hero

Kyoto was one of several large Japanese cities that Anthony Bourdain visited during his many travels to the country. Despite this, he only ate at two places:

While I don’t normally write guides for destinations that Tony didn’t visit for long, I thought that this city – home to 1.5 million people – was worth having its own guide since many people visit it during their own trips to Japan.

Nasushiobara

As mentioned, one of Tony’s last trips to Japan was to experience “Masa’s Japan” with chef Masa Takayama. During this trip, the pair also visit Takayama’s family home in Nasushiobara. There, he dines with Takayama, his mother, Ishi, and his daughter Catherine, then pastry chef at The French Laundry (in Napa Valley, California) to enjoy motsuni (tripe stew) and sashimi (thinly sliced raw fish) including uni (sea urchin roe), and otoro (tuna belly).

Bourdain also eats at the restaurant Sugimura with Catherine Takayama and Kazuo Takayama, Masa’s brother and chef-proprietor of Sugimura. They eat kimoyaki (grilled eel liver), umishi-tamago (eel and egg custard with bean curd, bonito broth, and kelp), hitsumabushi (eel over rice), and wash it all down with sake.

Finally, Tony joins Takayama and some lifelong friends from high school at a mountain onsen resort for a bonfire meal of sukiyaki (meat slowly cooked, tableside, in a broth), Tochigi beef with maitake (type of mushroom), and home-brewed sake.

Okinawa

Anthony Bourdain in Okinawa Hero

Located in the far south, Bourdain spends time exploring both the food and history of Okinawa. There he discovers a very different cuisine than in other parts of Japan – in part influenced by the American presence in the city following World War II.

Among other places, Tony eats at the following spots in Okinawa:

Be sure to check out my complete guide to the places Anthony Bourdain ate in Okinawa if you want the full list and the details of what he ate.

Osaka

Anthony Bourdain in Osaka Hero

If you love food and want to try as much as possible in Japan, Osaka is the city for you. Tony clearly loved his visit to “the nation’s kitchen” early in his television career – and ate many, many foods you can find in other places, but which are best tried in Osaka. Here’s a list of where he ate:

Gosakudon Tennoji-koenmae

Obviously, if you want more details on exactly what Tony ate to plan your own trip, you should check out my complete Osaka guide.

Tokyo

Anthony Bourdain in Tokyo Hero

Unsurprisingly, Japan’s largest city is the one that Bourdain visited the most often; by my count, he filmed 7 episodes there in the course of his television career, making it one of the most filmed too!

There are LOTS of places that Anthony Bourdain ate in Tokyo, so instead of listing them all here, I’m going to share some of the dishes he tried – be sure to check my guide for a full list of where he ate these and how you can do the same.

  • Chanko
  • Okonomiyaki
  • Ramen
  • Sashimi
  • Soba
  • Sushi
  • Yakitori

Sounds delicious, right? Click the link above for all the details!

And there you have it – a complete list of the destinations visited by Anthony Bourdain in Japan. Have any questions about where Anthony Bourdain traveled in Japan? Let me know in the comments!

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Valerie is a travel writer currently based in Cleveland, but her favorite destinations are Alaska, London, and Jordan – only one of which Bourdain ever visited! You can find her writing on Lonely Planet, Forbes, and her travel blog, Valerie & Valise.

3 Comments

  • Biraj M Mandal

    Hi Valarie,
    In the blog you mention the below, but i am unable to find your guide with the list of places Anthony ate in Tokya

    There are LOTS of places that Anthony Bourdain ate in Tokyo, so instead of listing them all here, I’m going to share some of the dishes he tried – be sure to check my guide for a full list of where he ate these and how you can do the same.

    Thanks,
    Biraj

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