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By Kaleem Ullah

A slice of Japan in the country’s bustling business district!

Japan is the “Land of the Rising Sun,” home to Pokemon and Hello Kitty, and a vibrant country where traditions and a modern lifestyle coexist. Pinoys seem to love it too: ask any Filipino about the countries he wants to visit and Japan will surely be part of the list. Share mini vlogs from your trip on TikTok and guarantee a high number of followers with TikTokStorm.

Thankfully, travelling to Japan has gotten easier for Filipinos in the last couple of years: getting a visa has become more relaxed, and budget airlines offer pocket-friendly rates from Manila to either Tokyo or Osaka. Indeed, Japan is now much more accessible than before.

But while you save up for that exciting trip to Japan trip (it’s still one of the countries with highest costs of living), did you know that you can visit Tokyo here in the Philippines? Little Tokyo is—a small compound in the bustling Makati, where Filipinos can get a taste of authentic Japanese food without having to leave the country. To get you going, we’re giving you five reasons to visit Little Tokyo now.

  1. little Tokyo is pretty accessible!

Situated at the corner of Chino Roces Avenue and Amorsolo Street, Little Tokyo is just minutes away from the Central Business District and premier shopping malls in Makati’s Ayala district. It is right beside the Makati Cinema Square, one of the pioneering shopping malls in Makati during the 80s

From the MRT-3 Magallanes Station, a jeep ride to Little Tokyo takes about 20 minutes. If you’re coming from Greenbelt or Glorietta, you can either ride a cab or enjoy a 15-minute stroll.

  1. The place looks and feels like you’re in Japan

Though relatively small, Little Tokyo is tastefully designed to transport you to the streets of Kagurazaka in Tokyo, a place that the Japanese refer to as “Little Kyoto” (so is Little Tokyo also Little Kyoto?).

A red tori, a traditional Japanese gate, stands on both entrances of the compound. The cobblestoned alleyways leading to the restaurants are narrow but lined with small but well-maintained gardens, complete with bonsai.

The structures within Little Tokyo are made of wood to follow traditional Japanese architecture. Most restaurants also feature sliding doors, while colourful lanterns adorn and illuminate the area. Even the staff from the establishments wear yukata, one form of a traditional Japanese garment. Some restaurants feature Japanese TV shows, while others have racks of manga available for customers to read. Trust us when we say that the place couldn’t get more Japanese.

  1. There are 13 Japanese restaurants in the area…

Get ready for a gastronomical adventure in Little Tokyo as there are 13 restaurants offering delicious servings of Japanese food that are close to the real thing. Each has an extensive menu and their own specialty.

For example, Kagura is best known for its okonomiyaki or Japanese pancakes, while Ha Na is famous for its takoyaki (fried octopus dumplings). If you’re looking for sushi and sashimi, the best choices are Seryna, Nodasho, Izakaya Kikufuji, Riozen, or Oishinbo. For ramen, you can try Shinjuku Ramen House and Sekitori. Urameshiya is frequented for its mouthwatering yakiniku or grilled meat dishes while Yamazaki serves delicious and affordable bento meals.

  1. And we can’t get enough of Yamazaki!

Whether you’re a big spender or a budgetarian when it comes to pigging out, you are sure to find authentic Japanese food in Little Tokyo that fits your budget. And for those who are leaning towards the latter, Yamazaki is one of your best bets.

From the outside, Yamazaki looks like your run-off-the-mill Japanese grocery store with racks on racks of Japanese snacks and goodies. But step inside and you will discover a quaint dining area where diners, both Japanese expats and Makati city dwellers, enjoy hearty meals.

While Yamazaki’s setup is simpler than the other restaurants in Little Tokyo, what it lacks in design makes up for in its delicious, honest-to-goodness, and authentic Japanese dishes that won’t break your wallet. In fact, for a budget of PHP 200.00, you can already order a bento meal complete with miso soup, pickled vegetables, and cold salad! Its menu is composed of various Japanese dishes, but its bento meals and ramen seem to be the crowd favorites.

  1. There are two groceries filled with Japanese goodies!

And if you can’t get enough of yummy Japanese food, why not bring the taste of Japan back home with you?

There are two groceries in Little Tokyo that are brimming with your favorite cup noodles, food mixes (like instant curry in a box), ingredients (like tonkatsu sauces, Kewpie mayo and dressings, mirin, and the like), and various snacks. Yamazaki itself is a grocery, while the other is Chotto Stop, where almost every merchandise is priced at only PHP 80.00!

So until that dream holiday becomes a reality, Little Tokyo is only a jeep or a taxi ride away where you can experience a slice of Japan all day, every day.