History buff, hungry traveller or theme restaurant aficionado? Whoever you are, Tokyo’s samurai-themed restaurant executes a dining experience that is on the cutting edge.
Have you ever found yourself watching a Kurosawa film depicting bloody battle scenes and warring samurai while thinking, “Man … I’m hungry”? Well, hunger no longer. Your dream of mixing Japanese food with a sprinkle of history and a whole lot of samurai is about to come true.
How? Well, if you find yourself wandering around the Shinjuku district of Tokyo with time on your hands and a hankering for some remnants of Japanese antiquity served up in a totally unique style, drop in to Sengoku Buyuden (a.k.a. Tokyo’s samurai-themed restaurant). The restaurant is named for the Sengoku period of Japanese history, a time ranging from the later 15th century through to the early 17th century. Now, you might be thinking, “but what does this have to do with samurai?!” The short answer is: everything. The Sengoku era represents a time in Japanese history when the country was rife with brutal conflict— where warlords battled each other, vying for the supreme position of Shogun. What’s the connection? Well, even samurai have to eat sometimes. If I gently close my eyes, I can hear their swords clashing….
Open for supper, the restaurant offers the average diner some decent Japanese nosh served up in traditional styles. From sashimi to chicken dishes to Japanese hot-pot, the menu meets a variety of tastes and uses Japanese flavours like miso to conjure an illusion of authenticity with each bite. Meal prices run above average, because, like all theme restaurants, you’re paying for the experience—the food is really a supporting character. That being said, we are there to enjoy the whole show … so, kick back with a birru (or “beer,” as many of the staff members are fluent in English) that you sip from a large mug complete with an actual samurai’s coat of arms—or try one, or two, of the sakes that are on hand. I’m sure that after a long day on the battlefield, samurai probably kicked back a bit too.
So, what is it that makes this theme restaurant amazing? It really comes down to the homage to Japanese history. Guests can expect to be greeted throughout the restaurant by life-size replicas of famous samurai armour, and can look through the myriad of flags complete with family crests from the period. Although replicas, the detailing is pretty magnificent, deserving more than a quick glance. The dimly lit atmosphere is a perfect place to plot out conversations with friends, or take a new boyfriend whose eyes don’t light up when you suggest going for a romantic meal at a regular restaurant. Aside from that, if you’re a tourist with a packed schedule, stopping in at this samurai hangout offers a bit of everything: Japanese food, a taste of the culture and history, and friendly wait staff. And, despite all the samurai talk, the only chopping happens in the kitchen. It is, after all, a familyfriendly place.
Being prepared for battle (or mealtime) means knowing something about the enemy. Wow your dining companions with these samurai facts:
- Samurai are more commonly referred to as bushi in Japanese
- Samurai were members of the nobility
- They are known today as having valued loyalty, respect and self-discipline
- Shinjuku is also the home of Tokyo’s Sword Museum, where you can catch up on even more samurai history
- Japan has over 100 castles up for exploring, with 12 original surviving structures—you can bet some pretty epic battles occurred on these grounds
- Famous Japanese director Akira Kurosawa is the go-to guy for samurai flicks. Checking out his films is a must-do!
Just a three-minute walk from the Shinjuku train station, the restaurant is located in the T-wing Building. Open for dinner, reservations are recommended.
T-wing Building 4F, 1-6-2 Kabuki-cho,Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
Mon–Thurs: 5 pm–12 am | Fri–Sat: 5 pm–3 am | Sun and holidays: 5 pm–11:30 pm