How to Avoid Scam Restaurants in Tokyo

Yummy spicy dumplings- department stores in Japan are great places to find nice restaurants. (Not from the scam restaurant).

(With mostly pictures of yummy food in Japan- see specific section below for pictures of the scam).

Signs that you are falling for a Tokyo restaurant scam (aka what happened to me when I got swept into a basement restaurant in Skinjuku).

(1) A man with a menu catches you on the street; when you express interest in the menu, he ushers you very quickly into the restaurant.

(2) Your waiter asks you if you speak Japanese first thing, testing you. In every other restaurant, people just spoke Japanese to us and gave us an English menu when they had it.

Most Japanese restaurants have AMAZING food. Beautiful and delicious. (Not from the scam restaurant).

(3) When you ask for water, you are informed that there is only sparkling water, in other words, only water you have to pay for. Every other place that we went served us free water or tea right when we got there.

(4) The “Kobe” beef on the menu is only priced at 1600 yen. But everything else looks insanely expensive.

(5) NONE of the pictures on the menu match what you get (e.g. sashimi picture has 5-6 pieces, but the waitress informs you that there are only four when you go to order; picture of gyoza has 12 pieces but they only serve six; your soup looked like it had meat, but it comes out meatless). This is very odd for Japan, as most places have pictures that reflect what they will serve.

Japan loves whipped cream. (Not from the scam restaurant).

(6) Every thing that you order is tasteless and seems to have come from the frozen aisle at a second-rate grocery store.

(7) When you get your tab, you are slammed with the most expensive meal of your trip (by far). If you are lucky enough to get a hold of a menu to calculate how much you spent, and try to contest the cost, the waiter will tell you something about added taxes. In EVERY other restaurant that we visited, the price on the menu is what you paid.

(8) You will notice the staff treating Japanese customers and foreigners differently. They will give their Japanese customers wet clothes, but you, a foreigner, will literally get a toilet paper roll to use as napkins.

Want to know where we got scammed? Here is the address, name and pictures. I would love if you avoided this thieves’ den.

Doracon Asian Dining  (Link is to Tripadvisor, where you can see other people’s experience with this place.) 3-21-2 Shinjuku | B1F Nanae Bldg., Shinjuku 160-0022, Tokyo Prefecture (Formerly Panda Kitchen)

Sign for scam restaurant doesn’t tip you off at all.
Entrance to the scam restaurant, along with the waiter (owner?) who is very snide about stealing your money. I didn’t even realize that he was in this picture when I took it, but he did know that I was pissed about his little scam.
Look out for anyone carrying this with them.


How to avoid getting ripped off:

(1) Avoid any place that fits this description.

(2) Don’t be afraid to just get up and leave if you are brought into a restaurant, and you end up not feeling right about the menu or wait staff.

(3) If you start to feel worried, you can ask about taxes and extra fees as this was the preferred method of this scam house to triple or quadruple the cost of what you are eating (and which is already overpriced). Take note of all prices.

Of course food from Base 5 Mt Fuji needs a little Mt Fuji naruto! (Not from the scam restaurant).

(4) Don’t be afraid to contest the receipt. Japanese law states that menu prices should include taxes, and furthermore, there are laws against misrepresentation and false pricing. That being said, I have heard that the Japanese police will not really help you out if you bring up a problem like this to them. Best thing is to avoid or leave the scam restaurant before you order anything.

Sometimes a restaurant only has ONE item, but that just means it is extra delicious. (Not from the scam restaurant).



48 thoughts on “How to Avoid Scam Restaurants in Tokyo

  1. Sorry to hear about this scam in Tokyo. From the other reviews it seems like many tourists are on the same boat with you. Places like this shouldn’t exist! When we go Japan, we tend to eat at “specialty” restaurants – e.g. ramen shop that basically only serve ramen, yakiniku restaurants, izakayas, etc. Usually these would be authentic and at least decent quality 🙂

    1. We didn’t have any problems for the whole five weeks that we’ve been there total, but for this place. Come to think of it, your point about the specialty restaurants is pretty true. This one had the biggest menu, but it was all Japanese. There wasn’t anything “American.” So, it really didn’t ring any alarm bells, sadly.

  2. I had no idea that this was even a thing. Thank you for writing about this! It’s always nice to be aware of what scams are out there. Definitely going to remember this one for upcoming trips. Keep up the good work!

  3. Marvi

    I’ve always wondered why there’s a different treatment between foreigners and locals at certain places (good or bad). This type of scams will surely throw away prospective travelers and puts a negative impact to tourism.
    Nice helpful tips btw and your photos of the food are great! 🙂

    1. I agree! Even though it is extremely rare, it just makes you feel bad and after that we were a little shell shocked for a few days. At least it was nothing dangerous, but it makes you feel bad for sure.

  4. I had no idea this was even a thing! Now I know to be wary when I visit Japan, and I definitely will never be visiting this restaurant! Feels somewhat similar to the pushy feeling I got in Venice from certain establishments, we had a terrible experience there like this!

  5. I have read a lot about good restaurants or not so good restaurants. But for the first time, I came to know about scam in restaurants. It’s really a very useful information to avoid those tourist traps.Will keep it in mind from now on

  6. Ana Ro

    Oh my, I didn’t even know it was a thing in Japan. Will keep it in mind for my travels, thanks for such an informative post. On the positive note: the photos from not scam restaurants look yummy!!!

  7. suziik

    I’m sorry to hear that you went through this. It must have been scary! It sucks when people try to rip off tourists. I know you said the Japanese police aren’t very helpful but did you try reporting them?

  8. Kat | Memoirs of a Globetrotter

    Wow, I wouldn’t have expected a scam like this to happen in Japan! Thanks for letting us know about it.

  9. Super glad to have read this! My dream is to visit Japan. And I would hate to be caught up in a place like this during the trip. Especially since I’m not a very nice person when taken advantage of. Thank you so much!

  10. ohmummymia

    I don’t know if I will ever be visiting Tokyo (obviously I would love to) but hope to never be in a restaurant like that scam one. hope it was only one bad memory from Tokyo

  11. Ute Roppelt

    Oh man! We just got done by this restaurant/ guy tonight. We googled it afterwards and found your site. A cheap meal ended up costing us ¥6014. Very disappointing! Keep an eye out for this guy, he is still using the same tricks as mentioned above !

    1. Oh no!! I am so sorry! It seriously ruined our last night in Japan. But hey, we are here for you! Spread the word on him, comment on Tripadvisor, etc. Really frustrating to hear that he got you too. :/

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