Tamagawa Izakaya Sushi in Shibuya, Japan: There is a spirit in every grain of rice

The specialty here is Anago (eel). Try the variety of raw rice wine (sake) as well.

As we sat on the one-piece blonde wood counter in the 20-something seat sushi restaurant just past the Hyakkendana red arch on Dogenzaka in one of Shibuya’s most Shibuya-like neighborhoods, the Ita-mae Sushi Taisho Mr. Yamaga speaks of eating Sushi in one piece, the intricacies of inter-customer translation, the taste of brisk Nihon Shu raw rice wine from Japan’s northern territory and the many moments of laughter in his accidentally international sushi bar.

I step in through the white “Noren” cutains hanging outside that let me know the shop is open for business and feel immediately welcome by Sushi Chef Yamaga’s smile and bright “Come in!”. “How Many?” he asks and I sheepishly point to just myself…because that is who I am with tonight.

He points gently to a spot at the counter right in front of him so he can guide me with broken, very friendly English and me with my guidebook learned messed-up pronunciation Japanese through my first experience at real Japanese sushi, in Japan. In fact, in Shibuya, famous for its scramble crossing where countless pedestrians simultaneously flood a crisscross walk and navigate out to opposite sides of a four-cornered sidewalk shopping heaven. On a rainy day, the multicolored umbrellas swaying and flowing among hundreds in the limited space and time for a stoplight, as seen from above, is truly unique.

Today, though, for my walk and discovery of Tamagawa Sushi, the autumn sun shone bright on the green trees that line Dogenzaka Street. This street is one of the four that branch out from Scramble crossing. Following up to the left side of infamous 109 and on past Hooters on the right and Toho Cinema on the left. A huge, red, entrance gate displaying “Hyakkendana” in English letters looms overhead and Tamagawa is just through that on the right.

Across the street is a lady’s paradise store with floors and floors stocked in perfume from everywhere possible. Today, the perfume preferred by Princess Grace of Monaco was on display and I felt the strings of my purse getting magnetically pulled open. The perfume will have to wait. Today is Sushi and Tamagawa is the place to be. A laminated English menu tells me there is a special set for me to try a whole bunch of different sushi. They come “Gunkan” style, which literally means “warship” and connotes the shape of those little ships of heavenly sushi taste the Ita-mae so carefully creates.

The specialty here is Anago (eel) and you should definitely try the variety of raw rice wine (sake) as well. Even for someone travelling alone like me, after a few minutes, you might be able to strike up a mish-mash conversation with your neighbor. Mr. Yamaga laughs that his regular customers often ask about the international guests at the counter, “Where are they from?” “Do they like Japan?”, etc. Yamaga-san says the conversation might not always be smooth, but that the smiles, welcoming aura to the place and delicious sushi delight speaks volumes…and communicates perfectly in any tongue.

My friend and fellow Deep Japan Senpai Yoshihide Hagimoto gives his review here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6dMeaW6CKQk


Former Deep Japan Writer

You might also like

Portable ashtray images

Portable ashtray

Cigarette butts constitute a huge amount of the garbage that fills our streets, parks, and oceans, all over the world. Japan is no exception to this, as although there is a small amount of littering,…

KurtisW image


Shinsen near Shibuya images

Shinsen near Shibuya

There is an area "Shinsen" which is close to Shibuya on the Keio train line. This area is well known for housing many Japanese celebrities both television and movie. While it may be difficult to actu…

KurtisW image


Enjoy Japanese Chu-hi drink ! images

Enjoy Japanese Chu-hi drink !

You will see an overwhelming numbers of Chu-hi cans lined up in a rowbesides beer and wine in every convenience stores. Chu-hi is aJapanese-shochu-based cocktail, which has now become a widely ac…

fujimorison image


Ride The Tokyo Metro Like A Boss With These Apps images

Ride The Tokyo Metro Like A Boss With These Apps

To people new to Japan, the Tokyo subway system, stylishly called "Tokyo Metro" is a confusing labyrinth of lines going every which way. Orderly thought and planning, it would appear, seem to be the…

jdlawrence image




A trip to Japan would not be complete without a little sake tasting! But unless you are an avid sake drinker, it can be hard to know where to begin.To help you navigate the world of sake, we’ve d…

Andres Zuleta, Boutique Japan image

Andres Zuleta, Boutique Japan

Tokyo's Yamanote Line: More Than You Ever Wanted To Know images

Tokyo's Yamanote Line: More Than You Ever Wanted To Know

Cruise through the pages of Deep Japan, and you'll find tons of advice on how to ride the trains and get to where you're going. But, did you ever stop to think about *how* and *why* the train system…

jdlawrence image