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3 Grand Prix-Winning Donburi Restaurants in Tokyo: Try Japan’s Tasty Rice Bowls

3 Grand Prix-Winning Donburi Restaurants in Tokyo: Try Japan’s Tasty Rice Bowls

Date published: 25 December 2021
Last updated: 4 January 2022

Donburi are Japanese dishes where you eat rice topped with various ingredients together. It’s loved and recognized worldwide as a dish originating in Japan.

Here we will introduce restaurants in Tokyo that won the national Donburi Grand Prix, a competition that chooses donburi dishes to represent Japan. With options such as tendon (tempura donburi), katsudon (pork cutlet donburi), and kaisendon (fresh seafood donburi), you won’t want to miss out on these popular spots!

Table of Contents
  1. What is the National Donburi Grand Prix?
  2. Shitamachi Tendon Akimitsu in Asakusa: The Look and Taste of this Dish is Superb!
  3. Tonkatsu Takeshin in Yoyogiuehara: Enjoy the Original, Fresh and Light Shoyu Katsudon
  4. Tsujihan in Nihonbashi: A Kaisendon Specialty Shop Offering Seafood Bowls with a Special Surprise!

What is the National Donburi Grand Prix?

What is the National Donburi Grand Prix?
Photo Provided by: All Japan Donburi Union

The national Donburi Grand Prix is an event organized by the All Japan Donburi Union. According to the All Japan Donburi Union's official website, this is a competition that’s held with the intent to introduce incredible donburi dishes found throughout Japan. The dish deemed best-suited to represent Japan, such as tendon or katsudon, is awarded a gold medal.

The competition is split into nine categories so that many types of donburi, such as tendon or katsudon, can enter. It takes applications for recommended donburi dishes, whether the recommendations are made by the person who makes the dish or by others. After this, the gold-winning dish is selected by the Donburi Committee. Starting in 2014, the competition has now welcomed its eighth run in 2021.

Photo Provided by: All Japan Donburi Union

As a quick side-note, the All Japan Donburi Union is a union where donburi-lovers gather from all over Japan. This organization manages the annual Donburi Grand Prix and shares information on donburi dishes to spread donburi culture.

Here we will introduce gold-winning donburi restaurants we want to especially recommend to foreign visitors. This will be done with the help of the All Japan Donburi Union’s director, Ms. Don Ito.

Shitamachi Tendon Akimitsu in Asakusa: The Look and Taste of this Dish is Superb!

Shitamachi Tendon Akimitsu in Asakusa: The Look and Taste of this Dish is Superb!

Our recommendation for tendon is Shitamachi Tendon Akimitsu’s Godaime Tendon.

Ms. Ito told us, “This is a popular tempura shop that has been passing down its traditional recipe since 1889. Every year, it wins the gold in the tendon category. The carefully made sauce and tempura, as well as the splendid ingredients, make for a special dish where no other tendon has compared! This is both in how it looks and how it tastes.”

▶Godaime Tendon/2,750 yen

The tempura toppings almost overflow from this donburi! Even when looking at it from every angle, you are greeted by main-dish-worthy toppings.

The tempura in the Godaime Tendon changes daily depending on what’s in season. We had an extravagant bowl filled with seven types of tempura during our visit, including conger eel, shrimp, smelt fish, komochi konbu (herring roe on kelp), oyster, and sweet potato.

Shitamachi Tendon Akimitsu puts special effort into their sauce. The secret to this umami bomb is the carefully made broth from bonito flakes, shitake mushrooms, and kelp.

Tendon is the only dish where you can delight in the flavors of the ingredients combined with the sauce and the combination of just the rice and sauce! Hitting you with a waft of sesame oil, the crispy texture of tempura goes perfectly with the sauce’s sweetness. All though it is a voluminous dish, we guarantee that you won’t be able to put down your chopsticks!

In addition to this, we highly recommend trying the shop’s optional chili sauce! Specially made by the head chef to go with tempura, it's a sauce only available at this restaurant. You won’t get enough of this delicious chili sauce that has a slight kick but is also filled with umami flavor. Please try it and discover a new way to enjoy tempura!

You can order easily from the tablet available in multiple languages (Japanese, English, and Simplified Chinese).

Although you can find Akimitsu restaurants overseas, we recommend enjoying the flavors offered at the main shop in Japan. Its convenient location in Asakusa, a popular destination for foreign visitors, makes it easy to get to. Even though Asakusa is known to be a battleground for restaurants, Akimitsu boasts unwavering popularity due to its superb technique and high-quality flavors. Please try checking out this wonderful tendon shop!

Health & Safety Measures
・Indoor disinfection measures taken
・Sanitizer installed
・Disinfected after each guest leaves
・Ventilation measures in place
・Coin trays used
・Plastic partitions installed
・Staff wear masks, gargle, wash hands regularly, and monitor body temperature
・Limited capacity/increased space between seats
・Entry declined to anyone who is feeling unwell
・Guests are required to wear masks
・Guests’ temperatures are measured
  • Tempura Akimitsu
    天麩羅 秋光
    • Address 2-15-1, Asakusa, Taito Ku, Tokyo 111-0032
    • Phone Number 03-6231-7444
    • ・Hours: 10:30 a.m.~9:00 p.m. (last orders are at 8:30 p.m.)
      ・Closed: Open all throughout the year

Tonkatsu Takeshin in Yoyogiuehara: Enjoy the Original, Fresh and Light Shoyu Katsudon

Tonkatsu Takeshin in Yoyogiuehara: Enjoy the Original, Fresh and Light Shoyu Katsudon

Our katsudon recommendation is Tonkatsu Takeshin’s Shoyu (Soy Sauce) Katsudon.

Ms. Ito shared, “A standard Tokyo katsudon is usually topped with an egg, but the way to make katsudon can differ depending on the region. The Shoyu Katsudon is topped with a pork cutlet, a soy sauce-based sauce, grated daikon radish, and bonito flakes. This is a dish that will have you reaching for more and more rice! It's a unique and original katsudon you can’t find anywhere else!”

▶Shoyu Katsudon Hire (Take)/1,870 yen

This is Takeshin’s specialty, known as
Shoyu Katsudon. The meal comes with cabbage, miso soup, and oshinko (various pickled vegetables). The Japanese pork used for the pork cutlet is from the famous Chiba Prefecture brand, Hayashi SPF Pork.

Also, all the ingredients are carefully selected, including the original and specially-made fresh breadcrumbs, rice bran oil used for frying the cutlet, and organic rice.

For the Shoyu Katsudon, you can also choose from three different cuts of meat. This includes pork loin, pork tenderloin, and minced pork. The pork loin is served in the three serving sizes of 170 grams, 130 grams, or 100 grams.

When choosing a tenderloin meal, you get the choice of either 160 grams, 120 grams, or 90 grams. We chose the Take meal which serves you a cutlet made from 120 grams of pork tenderloins.

The pork cutlet is topped with a generous helping of bonito flakes, a soy sauce-based sauce, and grated daikon radish.

Since this dish is already topped with sauce when served, all you have to do is dig in! Be sure to have a little bit of the bonito flakes and grated daikon radish when taking a bite. The tender and juicy pork cutlet, along with the crispiness of the breading covered in sauce, is sublime! Neither too sweet nor salty, the sauce and cutlet meld together beautifully.

In addition to this, the grated daikon radish adds a freshness that will take away from any heaviness you might experience when eating fried food.

Japanese people love the taste of bonito flakes on rice! Since it’s a dish usually enjoyed at home, being able to experience these flavors at a restaurant is a rare experience. However, the true star of this dish is the pork cutlet! This is a meal where you’ll easily finish your rice in no time.

Due to the owner, Mr. Takeda, having studied in the States while a student, you can also easily order in English! Additionally, the restaurant is striving to expand globally.

This is done by opening up restaurants abroad or partaking in charity work in the Philippines. Tonkatsu Takeshin is able to offer such an original katsudon because it’s recognized as a delicious pork cutlet specialty shop.

Besides the Shoyu Katsudon, we introduced in this article, any of the many pork cutlet meals offered at this restaurant are sure to be delicious! Please try visiting more than once to taste everything that Takeshin has to offer!

Health & Safety Measures
・Indoor disinfection measures taken
・Sanitizer installed
・Disinfected after each guest leaves
・Ventilation measures in place
・Coin trays used
・Plastic partitions installed
・Staff wear masks, gargle, wash hands regularly, and monitor body temperature
・Limited capacity/increased space between seats
・Entry declined to anyone who is feeling unwell
・Guests are required to wear masks
・Guests’ temperatures are measured
  • Tonkatsu Takeshin
    とんかつ武信 代々木上原店
    • Address 1F, T's Place,3-1-7, Nishihara, Shibuya Ku, Tokyo 151-0066
    • Phone Number 03-3466-1125
    • ・Hours: 11:30 a.m.~2:30 p.m. (last orders are at closing)/5:30 p.m.~9:00 p.m. (last orders are at closing)
      ・Closed: Monday (Open on holidays but closed the next day)

Tsujihan in Nihonbashi: A Kaisendon Specialty Shop Offering Seafood Bowls with a Special Surprise!

Tsujihan in Nihonbashi: A Kaisendon Specialty Shop Offering Seafood Bowls with a Special Surprise!

Located in Nihonbashi, the kaisendon we recommend is Tsujihan’s Zeitakudon.

“This kaisendon specialty shop was opened by the owners of the famous tendon shop-Kanneko Hannosuke and the famous tsukemen shop (a shop that serves noodles dipped in a savory broth), Tsujita.
With the two owners being childhood friends, they wanted to recreate and share the special kaisendon they had growing up with the rest of the world.
Since it’s not a sushi shop, Tsujihan focuses on making incredible kaisendon, resulting in exquisite flavors! What’s more, you can enjoy the look and taste of one bowl in two separate ways! On top of being entertaining, this kaisendon is very reasonably priced,” Ms. Ito explained.

With admirable dedication, the only items available on the menu are kaisendon! Here you can find seafood bowls that are topped with a selection of nine main ingredients. This includes tuna, nakaochi (tuna back meat), squid, herring roe, cucumber, whelk shell, giant clam, shrimp, and salmon roe.

You can choose from three types of kaisendon: Ume, Take, and Matsu. Depending on the donburi you choose, there might be additional toppings such as extra salmon roe or crab!

While you wait for your kaisendon, you get a small appetizer of sea bream sashimi! It’s advised that you eat half before your meal and leave the rest for later.

▶Zeitakudon Ume/1,100 yen

The number-one popular dish is the Zeitakudon Ume shown in the photo above and below.

With salmon roe cascading down this large seafood mountain, the beauty and volume of this dish are truly awe-inducing! Fresh seafood is finely chopped and mixed together, making it very easy to eat.

The umami flavor of the tuna envelops each ingredient, the herring and salmon roe offer a fun popping texture, and the cucumber is a much-needed garnish. Also, the roasted sesame seeds sprinkled on top of the rice add a depth in flavor!

But wait! Tsujihan has even more to offer! After you’ve eaten about three-quarters of your kaisendon, you hand it back over the counter to the chef and...

...a donburi filled with a hot broth is placed before you! If you put the rest of your sea bream sashimi on top, it becomes a seafood chazuke (a dish that boils rice in a stock or Japanese tea), with a sea bream stock.

You can even enjoy the slight aroma of yuzu citrus coming from the bowl. Furthermore, the stock is so creamy, it will remind you of a thick soup found in ramen. Only available at Tsujihan, this is a delightful way to finish your meal!

Due to welcoming many foreign guests before the spread of Covid-19, the shop has an English menu and directions on how to eat this special donburi.

Both Kaneko Hannosuke and Tsujita are very popular restaurants. With the two owners of these restaurants coming together to open Tsujihan, it has had unwavering popularity to the point where you’ll always find a line outside.

However, the key to its success doesn’t stop at name value. Many have attested to the fact that this restaurant has delicious food at undeniably reasonable prices. The authenticity of the dishes, as well as the affordable price range, is realized thanks to the restaurant having a strong foundation of the two owners running their own successful businesses.

No matter how long you have to wait in line, this is a one-of-a-kind luxurious kaisendon that’s absolutely worth trying!

Health & Safety Measures
・Indoor disinfection measures taken
・Sanitizer installed
・Disinfected after each guest leaves
・Ventilation measures in place
・Coin trays used
・Plastic partitions installed
・Staff wear masks, gargle, wash hands regularly, and monitor body temperature
・Limited capacity/increased space between seats
・Entry declined to anyone who is feeling unwell
・Guests are required to wear masks
・Guests’ temperatures are measured
  • Nihonbasi Kaisendon Tsujihan
    日本橋海鮮丼 つじ半
    • Address 3-1-15 Hisaei Bld.1F, Nihonbashi, Chuo Ku, Tokyo 103-0027
    • Phone Number 03-6262-0823
    • ・Hours: 11:00 a.m.~9:00 p.m. (last orders are at 8:30 p.m.)
      ・Closed: Open all throughout the year

In this article, we introduced donburi restaurants voted as highly recommended and most delicious by many people in Japan. Any of these restaurants are sure to be a hit, pulling you further and further into the charm of donburi culture!

About our Interviewee

  • Ms. Don Ito
    Ms. Don Ito

While working as a company employee, she has been serving as a director of All Japan Donburi Union, an association established in 2014 to organize donburi fans and revitalize local communities through rice bowls. She has eaten over 600 kinds of donburi, mainly in Tokyo.

* All Japan Donburi Union (http://don.or.jp/)
An organization of donburi lovers from all over Japan, which exchanges information on rice bowls on Facebook and organizes the annual Don Grand Prix to promote donburi and develop the donburi industry.


*The information in this article is from November 2021.
*Due to the spread of Covid-19, shops may make changes to the hours and services available or may close temporarily. For details, please refer to each official website or social media account.

Written by:

Miyuki Yajima

Miyuki Yajima

After working in planning, editing, and business development/sales at a continuing education business, she is currently working as a writer, yoga instructor, and traveler in pursuit of a multi-career lifestyle that combines hobbies and work. She also likes fashion, Japanese culture, and music.

*This information is from the time of this article's publication.
*Prices and options mentioned are subject to change.
*Unless stated otherwise, all prices include tax.

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