Tokyo Understanding

Understanding Tokyo

We often think of Tokyo as a single city, but it’s actually a lot more complicated than that. It’s a metropolitan prefecture. (Wait, what? Uhm, let me explain.) It’s not a single city but not your usual Japanese prefecture either. It’s something that is unique to Tokyo. Think of it as a cluster of cities, municipalities, and special wards. It’s vast and dense. Together, it is the most populous metropolitan area in the world, with over 37 million residents.

Tokyo’s Michelin-star ramen restaurants—of which there are three in 2019, including Tsuta and Nakiryu—prove that being in the highly acclaimed Michelin Guide doesn’t mean that a restaurant is expensive or exclusive. You can easily afford a bowl of piping hot ramen noodles made of fresh, quality ingredients at these establishments.

Nakiryu

Nakiryu was awarded a Michelin Star in 2017. Chef Kazumasa Saito’s years of experience working in a Chinese restaurant inspired him to create the perfect tantanmen (a spicy noodle dish originating in southern China), the restaurant’s bestseller. Nakiryu’s ramen bowls all use the same base soup—a rich blend of chicken, beef-bone broth, oyster, and vegetables—but are distinguished by the sauce and other ingredients. Everything, from noodles to sesame paste, is handmade.

To ensure that there’s enough ramen for everyone, customers can only order one bowl, but can request a larger serving of noodles for an additional payment.

But let’s focus on one area in particular — the 23 special wards. What many refer to as Tokyo is actually what used to be Tokyo City, which is now broken down into 23 Special Wards, each operating as an individual city. (If you’re familiar with Metro Manila, it’s a similar concept. What we call Metro Manila is actually composed of separate, independent cities.) There’s a big chance that most of the attractions you want to see are confined within the collective boundaries of these 23 special wards.

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