We try the breakfast of champions that fuels the night workers of the city.

Japan’s host and hostess industry is often shrouded in mystery, with little known about the people who work in these clubs and what they like to do in their downtime.

We’ve been lucky enough to have been given an in by industry insiders, though, who’ve been sharing enticing snippets of information with us, and today one veteran of the trade revealed what hosts most like to eat after a long night of working in Tokyo’s Kabukicho, a centre of nightlife so vibrant it’s been dubbed “the place that never sleeps”.

▼ Kabukicho is the place to go for host bars, where you’ll find billboards promoting some of the top hosts on the streets.

According to the Kabukicho veteran, who’s been working in the area for over 20 years, there are a few eateries that are popular with night workers, and many of them are situated in the Golden Gai bar district.

The veteran, who declined to be photographed for our story, guided us through the maze of streets for around fifteen minutes until we finally came to a small side alley, where he stopped and said…

▼ …”Bars are nice and all, but the top spot for those in the know is this place.”

We were standing outside an eatery called Meshidokoro Hyottoko, a set meal restaurant located in Kabukicho 1-chome. It was so out of the way we never would’ve stumbled upon this place on our own, and its humble appearance made us feel that this was a joint frequented only by locals.

▼ Their specialty was takeout bento boxes, with other options being onigiri (おにぎり), miso (みそ汁) and assorted simmered food (煮物盛).

As it turns out, Meshidokoro Hyottoko is a long-established store that’s been in business here for over 70 years. With a casual, laid-back vibe, we could see why it was popular with local workers, as the quiet, relaxing space provided a blissful escape from the noise outside, making it seem more like a dining room than a restaurant, with traditional dishes adding to the homely atmosphere.

▼ Simmered food, just like we’d enjoy at home.

Like many places around town, this restaurant opens at 11 a.m., but given that we were here with a local longstanding customer, we were able to buy a takeout bento before they officially opened.

▼ If you aren’t with a regular customer, you’ll have to wait until 11 to try this bento.

▼ Taking it to a nearby park to eat, we lifted the lid on the rectangular box to reveal…

▼ … the Grilled Ginger Bento, priced at 950 yen (US$6.40).

According to our guide, this is the meal that fuels a lot of night workers in the city, who can often work into the late mornings.

When thinking of what might earn the “Meal of Hosts” title, we’d never have guessed it would be a humble noriben (a bento with a sheet of nori over the rice, alongside other ingredients).

▼ Packed in a wooden box, this was an elegant type of noriben that matches the luxury air that hosts exude.

There were plenty of side dishes here, such as sausage, fried egg, cream croquette, and simmered food. It was so luxurious that we couldn’t believe it was hiding out here in the alleyways of Kabukicho for just 950 yen.

The seaweed was wonderfully rich in flavour, spreading its luxurious taste throughout the palate. It was incredibly delicious, and the rice was extremely high quality too.

As the main side dish, the grilled ginger was perfectly well balanced, adding to the overall deliciousness of the bento.

The sausage was slightly peppery too, with all the side dishes keeping the taste buds entertained right until the last bite.

It was a bento as entertaining as the hosts that are known to devour it, and after finishing the meal, we felt fuelled not only by the food but the pleasure of having discovered this secret gem of a find in Kabukicho.

So next time you’re visiting the neighbourhood most famous for its unscrupulous scammers and dangerous reputation, you can rest safe in the knowledge that this haven is tucked away in its backstreets, ready to serve you a wholesome meal.

Store information

Meshidokoro Hyottoko / めし処 ひょっとこ
Address: Tokyo-to, Shinjuku-ku, Kabukicho 1-9-8
Open: 11:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m. (mainly takeout) / 5:30 p.m.-11:00 p.m.
Closed: Saturdays, Sundays, and public holidays
Website (Instagram)

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