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Michelin Winnows Tokyo Three-Star Restaurants to 15

Michelin Tokyo
The Michelin Guide to Tokyo, Yokohama and Shonan for 2013. Source: Michelin 2012 via Bloomberg

The Michelin Guide cut two Tokyo restaurants from its top rank, reducing the city’s three-star winners for the first time.

Araki and Hamadaya were culled from the list, leaving the capital with 15 three-star holders in the 2013 guide, down from 17 in 2012, the Clermont-Ferrand, France-based publisher said yesterday in Tokyo. The edition goes on sale Dec. 1.

The Japanese capital still has more three-star restaurants than any other city, a distinction it took from Paris starting with the 2010 edition. Diners spent 1.4 percent less at restaurants in the “dinner” category in Japan, where slumping economic growth has damped consumer sentiment, according to Japan Food Service Association data.

“The technique and quality of Japanese cuisine is rising year-by-year,” Michael Ellis, international director for Michelin Guides, said yesterday in Tokyo. “The country is playing a huge role in the world of gastronomy.”

The 15 restaurants left on the guide’s three-star list are all returned from last year.

Three stars mean exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey; two are for excellent cooking, worth a detour; one denotes a very good restaurant in its category. Michelin has produced restaurant and hotel guides since 1900 and published the Tokyo 2008 guide, its first for the city, with eight three-star winners.

Araki, Hamadaya

Araki, a sushi restaurant, is closing in Tokyo, Ellis said. Hamadaya, which serves Japanese cuisine in the Nihonbashi district and in Tokyo’s Midtown, was reduced to two stars, Ellis said without elaborating.

Sukiyabashi Jiro Honten, a Ginza district sushi restaurant, was awarded three stars for a sixth time.

“All we do is make every effort to make sure we don’t go down to two-stars,” Jiro Ono, the restaurant’s owner, said yesterday at the announcement ceremony in Tokyo.

Two-star establishments rose to 58, including one hotel restaurant, from the 57 in last year’s guide, while establishments earning a single star dropped to 215 from 219 on the 2012 list, according to the Michelin website.

Michelin awarded three stars to 12 restaurants in western Japan, which includes Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe, in October. Another 51 venues and one ryokan, or inn, in the area gained two stars, while 210 restaurants and three ryokans won one.

Michelin & Cie., a tiremaker, has been publishing its restaurant and hotel guides since 1900, at the start of the automotive era. Distributed for free until 1920, the guide was originally meant for chauffeurs and included tips on using and repairing tires.

“The Michelin Guide Tokyo Yokohama Shonan 2013” is available in Japanese and goes on sale in Japan on Dec. 1.

Tokyo Area Three-Star Restaurants:

Azabu Yukimura
Joël Robuchon
7chome Kyoboshi
Sukiyabashi Jiro Honten
Sushi Mizutani
Sushi Saito
Sushi Yoshitake
Usukifugu Yamadaya

(Richard Vines is the chief food critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. He is U.K. and Ireland chairman of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards. Opinions expressed are his own.)

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