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Travel Series: Tokyo, Japan, Torifusa

This place is not for everyone, and perhaps it will be too big a hurdle if you don’t speak Japanese, but I want to write about it because it was one of the most memorable and unique eating experiences we had in Tokyo, and because it saddens me to think that places like this will probably soon disappear.

Tateishi is a few train stops outside of the main Tokyo area, and it is full of cheap eats. A “salaryman’s heaven” because you can find good food at affordable prices. Among the most popular are places like Uchida, which specializes in motsuyaki (stewed innards). We walked by but (as expected) there was a long line a couple of hours before closing time (7:30pm). Sakae Sushi is the other famous spot- it’s a standing sushi bar that has sushi for 100-300 yen each. They also close early, at around 7pm.

I did some extensive research on eateries in Tateishi, and the place that caught my attention the most was Torifusa. I was certain that we would have to wait in line to eat there, but at 5pm, we were able to get a table without waiting at all. I can’t remember the last time I felt this nervous walking into a restaurant. There are many rules you have to follow when eating at Torifusa, as a first timer, I wasn’t sure if I could pull them off or not.

  1. You are not allowed to enter the restaurant if you are already intoxicated
  2. Each person has to order half a chicken
  3. Wait to be approached to place your order
  4. Shoes must be put where they tell you to put them
  5. Bags must be placed under the table

The list goes on…

I thought they would be nicer to us since I was with three foreigners, but it didn’t matter to these ladies. They yelled at my tall friends because they took up too much space (we sat on a tiny table at the zashiki section and had to sit on the floor), and also for putting their bags behind themselves instead of under the table. But these bickering ladies at Torifusa have no bad intentions, and it’s almost like an act that customer’s have to play along with. I could see that some of the customers there (especially salarymen) really enjoyed being scolded!

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We ordered some beer and to start, they served us this amazing braised chicken skin (cooked with ginger). Very tender and bursting with flavor.

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We ordered the ponzu sashi, which is a chicken breast sashimi (cooked on the outside but completely rare on the inside) topped with a spicy ponzu sauce with lots of scallion. This was amazing!

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When this tori karashi (chicken with Japanese mustard) came out, I thought to myself that we would get sick of chicken by the time the half fried chicken came… but this chicken dish was so different from the last chicken dish, that it wasn’t making me sick of chicken. This chicken was served cold yet it was not tough at all. The fat on this chicken tasted so good.

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The main event: half fried chicken. When we placed our order, they presented the different sizes of the chickens available that day by listing the prices. We ordered the smallest, which was 580 yen that day. They fry these to order, so it’s the last dish that gets served. The chicken is fried without any sort of flour or batter, which is the way I like it (called “su-age” in Japanese). The chicken had a crispy skin with very juicy flesh. It wasn’t overly meaty, which made it a perfect portion to end our meal.

As one would expect, this is a cash only spot, and it’s best to head out as soon as you finish eating and drinking because you will be greeted by a line of hungry customers eagerly waiting outside.

Torifusa is not for the faint hearted or non-Japanese speaker, but if you have the opportunity to go to Tateishi, you most certainly should pay a visit to the nagging ladies!

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