The first Michelin Guide for Tokyo was recently released and has awarded more stars to Tokyo than Paris and New York combined. According to this article in the Guardian, its too few stars. With 300,000 restaurants in Tokyo and only 3 French inspectors and 2 local inspectors – its physically impossible to get to all the top-notch restaurants. Plus many of these restaurant are very selective about their customers.
She is seriously connected. She has eaten her way around Tokyo. How could I go about securing reservations, I asked. She laughed, and not in a good way. “They won’t let you in,” she said. “You’re a round eye.” In short, gaijin are not welcome.
Hell, even being Japanese won’t necessarily do it. Many places regard the right to be a customer as a privilege to be bestowed rather than bought for the cost of dinner. The very least you need is a personal introduction by an existing customer, and ideally a blood relationship, a certificate bearing the thumb prints of three European popes, and a winning smile. Oh, and shed loads of cash: £500 a head for dinner in one of these places is really not extraordinary.
For all these reasons I had serious doubts when I heard that Michelin was scouring Tokyo for worthy recipients of its stars. The three French inspectors wouldn’t have a hope in hell of making it inside the serious Japanese places, and the two local inspectors might not fare much better either.