By: Naomi Matlow
Pizza is always having a moment and it’s always a good idea. But your favorite comfort food is especially having a moment today in Tokyo. With over 6,000 Italian restaurants, Tokyo is becoming not only a pizza capital of Japan but a pizza capitale of the world! And we’re talking about authentic Neapolitan pizza, from the birthplace of the dish itself: Naples, Italy.
What makes Neapolitan pizza in Tokyo so special? According Michelin-starred chef, Tsubasa Tamaki of Pizza Studio Tamaki (PST), the salt he bakes into the dough, and the smoky Japanese cedar chips he adds to the fire, gives his pizzas a Japanese flare. According to Tamaki, “That bitterness [of the cedar] deepens all the other flavors and amplifies the umami.” Umami is the lesser known sibling in the family of the five senses. It is most often translated as “savory”.
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If Tamaki is the pizza prince of Tokyo, the pizza king is Susumu Kakinuma. Kakinuma essentially brought true pizza to Japan in the early 1990s, after studying the dough ropes in Naples. He opened the first Neapolitan pizza restaurant in Tokyo — Seirinkan.
According to Kakinuma himself, in an interview by Craig Mod for Eater, “What’s wonderful about pizza is that it really is a bit like sushi,… You don’t touch the base ingredients. Your goal is to pull the richest inherent flavor from the ingredients at hand.” This attention and respect for the details, the unique parts that make up the whole, deeply speak to the culture of Japan. There is a story and an intention behind every bite.
Sushi and ramen may already be on your Tokyo bucket list, but you would be remiss to not throw pizza on their too! We are exploring it all on our weeklong urban adventure through Tokyo this March 14th-21st, 2020. Come experience the umami for yourself 🙂