A trip to Yakitori Alley

24 Jun

It’s amazing how such a universal thing as meat can be cooked so differently in various kitchens, cultures and countries.

Now, I haven’t traveled the whole world yet, but everyone’s got a unique way of cookin’ up their beef. Where I live in the South, we like a good steak. You order it medium rare with a side of veggies and a loaded baked potato. You eat every bite so as not to offend the poor starving children in Africa. In the Balkans, they thrive on multiple kinds of meat, mostly grilled. I once went to a picnic in Macedonia where all we ate was meat! Huge plates of it covered the table – first come, first grab!

Japanese meat is more, hmm, shall we say refined? It’s made with a focus on flavor and quality rather than quantity. I never had a surplus of meat in any of my meals, yet it was always tender and succulent. The meticulous Japanese culture really makes for fine dining!

All this about meat is a background for my next dish, the intensely complicated Japanese word yakitori. Roughly translated, it means bite-sized meat on a skewer. 

Yakitori with a common Japanese appetizer, edamame.

As my companions and I ventured through Yakitori Alley in Shinjuku, each business owner beckoned us to his own tiny yakitori shop. We chose one at the end of the smoky alley and were seated in the upper room. True to Tokyo’s limited space, only three small tables could fit in the crowded room. We ordered half our yakitori with sauce and the other half plain, or “salty.” My favorite was the saucy meat dipped in spicy flakes.

Chicken, beef, spring onions and peppers…mmm!

Fortunately for you Americans, Japan has one of the most influential cuisines in the world! The yakitori trend has grown so popular that it has trickled into the Western world. So the next time you’re out, if you spy a small shop smelling of smoke and grilled meat, by all means – go!


2 Responses to “A trip to Yakitori Alley”

  1. caseykurlander June 25, 2012 at 4:57 pm #

    I love it! Japan was the most amazing place I have ever been. Totally worth the 21 hour solo flight around the world and $4,000 credit card debt that took almost a year to pay off (I underestimated the value of the yen vs. the U.S. dollar- oops). I just wrote an entry of some of my favorite things about Japan last summer. Here is the link if you want to check it out:




  1. Donuts: an ode and lament « Traveling by Taste - November 1, 2012

    […] to you, Japan: I ate some of the best food I’ve ever tasted among your alleyways. Your ramen is to die for. I mean, you’re the birthplace of sushi! But your […]

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