The City With The Most Michelin Star Restaurants In The World

Restaurants that receive one or more Michelin stars, the highest distinction of quality in the culinary world, don't solely represent their own interests when they achieve this level of global notoriety. They also serve as a boon to the restaurant ecosystem in their city, building upon existing culinary legacies to turn their hometowns into attractions for foodies.

And while plenty of major culinary capitals around the world, from Paris to Hong Kong to New York City, boast dozens of Michelin stars apiece, there is one capital that leaves them all in the dust: Tokyo. The Japanese capital currently holds the greatest number of Michelin-starred restaurants in the world — a dazzling 203. (For reference, that is nearly twice as many as the second-place runners-up, Paris and Kyoto, Japan, which have "only" 108 each). Tokyo currently holds 263 Michelin stars across its restaurants, which include Quintessence, Kanda, Azabu Kadowaki, and Joel Robuchon, making it a culinary powerhouse in fine dining.

Michelin in Tokyo

The Michelin Guide has a complicated relationship with the city of Tokyo. For much of the 20th century, the Michelin Guide held sway over European restaurant culture and didn't expand abroad until 2006, when it launched a Guide in New York. Two years later, the Guide found its way to Tokyo, where it was met with strong backlash from the local community. Several high-profile Japanese chefs declined the opportunity to be included in the Guide, and the general consensus in Japan was that a group of French judges with Eurocentric culinary expectations had no business judging the quality of Japanese food.

But in the intervening years, the Guide has appeared to combat this initial trepidation by lobbing as many stars as possible at Tokyo restaurants. Some feel that this was, at least initially, no more than a tactic to get Japanese restaurants on board with the Guide, while Michelin responded by urging readers to take into account Tokyo's high number of restaurants. At the time, the city had more than six times as many restaurants as New York.

Food culture in Japan

The ubiquity of Michelin stars in Tokyo, and in Japan in general, is enormously impressive when you take into account the cultural dominance of European food in the Guide. While France has the greatest number of Michelin-starred restaurants in the world (625 as of July 2023), this isn't quite as impressive once you remember that the Guide was invented in France and didn't consider restaurants outside of Europe for more than a century of its existence.

Japan in general has the second-highest number of Michelin-starred restaurants in the world, and there's no confusion as to why. The culinary scenes in Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka are fascinating and dynamic. Tokyo has a proportionately high number of restaurants, ranging from elevated high-end white tablecloth establishments to tiny holes in the wall where you can get a late-night bowl of ramen or udon, though most of the Michelin-starred restaurants fall into a few clear categories. Out of Tokyo's 203 Michelin-starred restaurants, 60 are Japanese, 22 are "Contemporary," and a whopping 50 of them are French. So, maybe Michelin tends to support what it knows. But there is so much more to Tokyo's food scene than what you can find in that little red guide.