We here at Americurry have already shown you some of the curry chains you're most likely to come across in Tokyo or elsewhere in the world, your Coco Ichibanyas and your Go Go Curries. But of course, curry is so popular in Japan's cultural epicenter that you'll see it in many more places.
Here, for your viewing enjoyment, are many more photos of a few different kinds of Japanese curry -- from smaller chain restaurants, cafeterias, and out-of-the-way places.
Above, the standard katsu/cheese combo at Curry Kitchen, abbreviated karekichi. Like Go Go Curry, it uses the ticket system -- you walk into the shop and use a vending machine to buy tickets that have your order printed on them, then hand the tickets over to the staff behind the counter when you sit down.
Combined with the fact that curry takes about five minutes to eat, it's a marvelously effective system: You go in, grab your tickets, sit down, are quickly served your food, then get out of there ten minutes later, max.
This is especially helpful when you consider that there's a Karekichi located right in the middle of Akihabara, making it a perfect quick lunch in the middle of a day full of videogame shopping.
It's a run-of-the-mill Japanese curry: Nothing special, but tasty, convenient, and infinitely customizable (provided you can read Japanese and work the ticket machine, I mean). It would win raves in the U.S., but compared to what's out there in the rest of the country, it's average.
I know what you're thinking: Kohler, does Japan make below-average curry? Of course. Here's an example. This is the katsu curry at Central Cafeteria, the eatery inside the Makuhari Messe convention center. This is where you go to escape the Tokyo Game Show for half an hour and recharge for the next half of the day.
It's not very good. You can tell just by looking at it. The sauce tastes like it came out of a can printed with the image of Chef Boyardee's Japanese uncle. Even the fukujinzuke pickles on the side are bland. The hile-katsu ("filet," as opposed to the fattier rosu that most pork cutlets are made from) are alright.
And really, what you need to know is that nothing in the Messe is very good to eat. That's one of the best things about Japanese curry: If you're faced with a selection of bad food, you can be pretty sure that the curry will be the least bad thing.
There's actually a food court of festival-type food stands on the Tokyo Game Show floor, if you want to eat really truly bad curry.
Here's a more upscale, but still convenient and affordable, curry. You may have heard legends about the basement floors of Japanese department stores, about how they are massive food-malls where delicacies of every concievable type are arrayed before you, where affluent Japanese housewives go to purchase gourmet ingredients for a lavish dinner.
All of these stories are completely true. Tokyo Roux, pictured above, sells to-go curry in the basement of a few different stores (this one is in tony Ebisu), with a variety of totally different sauces: Standard, spicy, flavored heavily with seafood, etc.
I was introduced to Tokyo Roux by the game designer Kenji Eno, and we ate it together in his office. While I did notice a couple of tables set up by Tokyo Roux's stall in the Ebisu department store, you probably would only want to buy this if you had somewhere else to go and eat it. I recommend Kenji Eno's office.
The reason I went there a little over a year ago is because it's one of the highest-rated curry shops on Japan's Curry Database web site. Apparently, a friend told me, it's only rated that high because of how much food you get for the money -- not because it tastes very good. He was right. Manten is okay, and the lines out the door during the lunch rush (easily the longest I've ever waited for curry) clearly illustrate that there's an appeal here for the salarymen of Jinbocho, but I wasn't really impressed.
Finally, there's Homemade Curry Time, which will probably also be familiar to Tokyo Game Show travelers as there's one in Akihabara right by the Electric Town exit and one in the Kaihim-Makuhari train station near the show itself.
Much like Curry Kitchen, it's a decent if unspectacular ticket-based curry shop that hits the spot when you need it, but not the sort of place you'd visit if you weren't under pressure to find curry immediately so you can get back to videogames.
Homemade Curry Time also has "spicy black curry," a hot roux that's so deep brown it looks black. Interesting if you're looking to experiment -- or if you've eaten the normal stuff every day and want to change it up a little.