At The Urban List, we would dine in Tokyo every weekend if we could. While taking a weekly trip to Japan might not be on the cards, finding a slice of Japanese culture right here on our doorstep is the perfect alternative.
We’ve teamed up with Sapporo Draught Beer to bring you Japan On Tap, a guide to the best Japanese everything in Melbourne. Because some days, nothing beats a sashimi platter, some origami, and a freshly poured beer.
We’ve tracked down the best Japanese restaurants, shops and cafes in Melbourne - for those days when you feel like saying ‘Sayonara’ and taking an impromptu trip to Tokyo!
#1: Little Ramen Bar
One of Melbourne’s best-kept Japanese secrets, Little Ramen Bar’s no-frills approach to ramen and gyoza makes it one of the best small Japanese restaurants for a taste of bustling Tokyo life. Squeeze up next to the stranger beside you (the venue is tiny by Melbourne standards!), order a happy hour $5 Sapporo Draught, and slurp down some of the most delicious noodles in town.
Serving some of the most expertly prepared sushi in Melbourne, Akachochin on the Southbank is a fantastic spot for an evening meal that will have you turning Japanese in no time. With traditional sharing tables and some fantastic sashimi platters on the menu, it’s our go-to for a city-side evening meal with a couple of beers after a busy day.
#3: Mr Miyagi
If you’re more about the cocktails-and-karaoke side of Japanese life, you’ll love Chapel St bar-restaurant, Mr Miyagi. The kitchen here combines delicious raw ingredients with quirky influence—um, sashimi and nori hard shell tacos, anyone?!—making for some tasty sharing dishes that will definitely have you ordering seconds. It’s the perfect neon-lit Japanese experience, before hitting a nearby karaoke booth.
#4: Comme des Garcons Pocket
If you’re all about the latest Japanese fashion, check out the tiny Comme des Garcons Pocket store on Rankins Lane. The ‘blink and you’d miss it’ shop keeps the latest fragrances, accessories, basics and publications from the famous Japanese fashion house, and is our pick for the ultimate credit card spree.
#5: Made In Japan
When it comes to homewares, the Japanese really know what they’re doing - and you won’t find a better selection of traditional and modern Japanese ceramics, enamelware, glassware and home accessories in Melbourne than in Made In Japan. It's the perfect place for picking up a gift for a fellow Japanophile, or for kitting out your own home with everything, from one or two feature pieces, to an entire dining set.
#6: Ichi Ni Nana
It might not be a Tokyo skyscraper, but spend an evening getting lost in five-story building at 127 Brunswick Street and we can guarantee you won't even notice the difference! The recently opened destination brings together coffee, street food, cocktails and Japanese food, with Ichi Ni Nana (yes, by the Ichi Ku and Ichi Ni team) serving delicious teriyaki, tempura, sushi and more. A fantastic taste of the Japanese metropolis.
Tucked off Flinders Lane, Hako is a petite izakaya that makes for the ideal worker’s lunch or bento box. Like many traditional eateries you can see right into the kitchen, making it one of the best Japanese restaurants in Melbourne CBD for getting up close and personal with the signature techniques of the trade.
Origami paper? Check. Japanese stationery? Check. Tiny bottles that couldn’t possibly have a practical use but you want to buy them anyway? Check. Muji is a minimal homewares and clothing haven for fashion basics, stationery, home storage, some textiles and a fascinating selection of things you never knew you needed. It really does prove that the Japanese have a utensil for everything...
#9: Kimono House
Japan’s history of producing beautiful textiles dates back centuries and, luckily for us Melburnians, Kimono House in the Nicholas Building has collected some prime specimens. Along with other Japanese fabric craft, you'll find traditional fashion items in what feels like an Aladdin’s Cave of patterns and colours. As well as selling fabrics, the Kimono House team run workshops about woodblock printing, flower arranging and other Japanese arts, making for a fascinating insight into their traditional skills.
Calling all Japanese denim fiends and ceramics obsessives! If you haven’t yet discovered café-cum-retail space, Cibi, you’re in for a treat. The Collingwood venue serves delicious traditional Japanese food - including matcha muffins and a full Japanese breakfast - as well as selling imported workwear, denim, textiles, ceramics, kitchenware and children’s toys. We want it all, especially the wind-up tin robots. Kawaii!
For more Japan On Tap finds, check out Melbourne's Most Authentic Japanese Eateries.
Editor's Note: This article is proudly sponsored by Sapporo and endorsed by The Urban List. Thank you for supporting the sponsors who make The Urban List possible. Click here for more information on our editorial policy.
Image credit: Akachochin, Sabine Legrand for The Urban List