(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.
(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.
(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)
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.
(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.
This is horrible. It sucks that a few people have to pull stuff like this in such an honest and trusting country.
I agree. We didn’t have any other issues while there, and this definitely put a bit of a bad spin on things.
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 🙂
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.
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!
Me neither, until it happened! I totally had my guard down. Hopefully I can help other people avoid it, because it really is criminal.
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! 🙂
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.
Well i definitely get duped when renting a traditional wardrobe in Asakusa (kimono etc) the bill came to about 56.000 Yen for 4 hours and I return it in 1.5 hours
I dont know the real price but for me that’s a Robbery in a broad daylight …
That’s too bad to hear! Was the cost a surprise?
Oh my goodnesss, good for you for getting this restaurants name out there for future visitors to avoid! Thank you for all of your honesty!
Yeah. I just hope other people don’t end up falling for the same thing. The more people that know, the better.
Sorry you had this experience! I hope you had some other awesome meals in Japan without this happening! Japan food is just so amazing!
Every meal in Japan was amazing except this one! It was the last dinner of our trip as well (after three weeks). So, it was definitely a shock and disappointment.
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!
Good to know about Venice. I’m definitely going to keep my guard up when people are pushy about restaurants from now on. Just not even worth being polite. >.>
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
Yeah! I am really hoping to help other travelers avoid this kind of scam. It is horrible.
This is good to know! Thanks for the post! It’s such a shame that scams like this happen everywhere around the world.
Totally agree! And it can ruin a great trip, even if nothing too bad happened.
thanks for this article and though i’ve never been to japan, this is very unfortunate to hear that the country is becoming a tourist trap! coming from thailand which is a tourist country, i can easily spot scams but this i do not expect from japan! thanks for the heads-up! http://www.crayonized.com
I think it happens everywhere, unless the police are really on top of it. It is really just too bad.
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!!!
As long as I can help other travelers avoid it, I am happy. And yes! The rest of the food in Japan was awesome!
Wow, I had no idea scam restaurants were a thing in Tokyo. The food from the non-scam restaurants looks amazing! Love it
We were not expecting it at all! It was shocking. But the rest of the food in Japan was amazing!
Wow!! That is so frustrating and scary that that happened. Thank you for sharing this!
No problem! I hope other travelers can avoid it.
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?
We didn’t try reporting them. :/ Basically, everyone I knew who was from there said we shouldn’t bother. Plus none of us spoke Japanese.
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.
Same here! It was completely unexpected.
Words of a Texas Nerd
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!
No problem! You will love Japan when you go, and all the more if you avoid stuff like this.
Well that’s annoying to hear. It sucks that people take advantage of tourists. It makes people not want to visit their country!
Yeah, it can really ruin a good trip, sadly. I just hope people avoid it and eat at real restaurants there, which are amazing.
Wow this is so crazy. This is the last thing you think about when going on vacation but best believe I will now be suspicious when traveling. Thanks for sharing this.
No problem! I’m happy to help other people avoid this bad situation!
oh my this is annoying! Why some people do this kind of scams. Why dont they work so hard to earn money. I hate it. I will share this to my friends that worked in Japan. Thank you!
It is really frustrating. But at least we can share information and try to avoid it.
Waldorf Salad & Cottage Fries
We love dumplings in our home; wish could hit the restaurant. Looks delicious
You don’t want to hit this restaurant, believe me. It is was not delicious and was a scam. The other restaurants (with food pictured here) were great though.
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
You might make it out there someday! If it is somewhere you’d like to see. And if you do, I really hope you just have good experiences. Luckily, this was the only negative one that we had.
Sorry to hear you got scammed. It always sucks when you can’t speak the native language of the country you are visiting.
It definitely makes things difficult. Luckily, the vast majority of the people in Japan were very kind to us.
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 !
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. :/
We are heading to Japan in October. Thanks for sharing this useful advice!! Noted!!
Awesome! I really hope I can help other people avoid this place. Have an amazing, and tasty time in Japan. 🙂
I’ve experience the same thing. It was in Udagawa-cho, Shibuya, Tokyo. A man with a menu standing on the street asked if I spoke English. Took me to an elevator to the 4th floor. All the food I ordered looked horrible, worse than the worse sushi you would find in the U.S. I know what I ordered and it should have been around 2000 yen. When the tab came, it was around 3500. I began feeling strange during the meal so I just paid and got out as fast as I could. I’m not sure if they had put something in my drink or food. I took a picture of the menu but it just says “Restaurant Menu” in katakana on the cover so I have no idea what restaurant I ate at.
It would be nice if we could report these guys to the police! I mean, they are doing this to people everyday! I am so sorry it happened to you, because it made me feel so bad and I wish it wouldn’t happen to anyone else.
This is the exact same restaurant that almost scammed us in our recent trip to Tokyo. We were walking around Shibuya looking for a cheap place to eat when this friendly looking dude came up to us aggresively. My boyfriend is too kind to people and said yes too soon (lol) although I was skeptical because their menu seemed to have everything (hmm..) and i wanted to eat on a budget. The guy took us to a basement and my gosh, the moment i stepped into the room, i immediately knew we were about to enter a tourist trap. The room was filled with FOREIGNERS. He ushered us to a table and gave us sparkling water and some starters. I scanned thru the menu and saw the fine print stating the hidden charges 480yen for the starters + taxes and stuff. It’s tiny AF and a normal person wouldn’t bother seeing it on the left corner of the page. I’m like fvck let’s get out of here to my boyfriend. We’re being scammed right in the face. So we feigned an emergency, saying we really need to go sorry to bother, etc. Then this dude turned from Mr. Congeniality to furious. He’s like we’re very busy why are you wasting my time?! I can’t believe this, did you open the water? Touch the food? No? Then go! Go! And he quickly ushered us out into the street rambling about how they’re a business and that we shouldn’t be wasting their time. I didn’t get pissed, just very relieved we were outta there! One table there had a family of 8 and i feel bad i couldn’t save them from that nightmare. I had a beautiful experience during my first time in Japan, specifically Kansai region but Tokyo was too crowded for me and this experience is a bit traumatizing. Imagine, 2 years after your post and this restaurant is still running scamming tourists everyday. It’s very sad. I can only wish Japanese authorities can do something about this.
Yeah, seriously! I am so sad that they haven’t been caught. I wish there was some way to get the word out there to more people.
OMG!! This is the place that scammed my husband and I a few nights ago!!! I recognize the sign. I took a picture of it on our way out. Our experience mirrored yours point by point starting with being approached by a friendly guy, ushered quickly down to the basement, and including when asking for napkins getting a roll of toilet paper. We were given little dishes of seaweed and beans without asking for them (and of course found we were charged). I asked for water and was given a cheap plastic bottle with a straw for which we were charged 600 yen (approx $6 US) and on and on. We were shocked when we got the bill which was about 50% more than we were expecting based on the menu prices. We argued and told him what a con artist he was. The friendly guy wasn’t so friendly any longer. We paid the bill in full (didn’t know what else to do at that point) and literally ran out of there. We have been coming to Japan for many years and this is the first time this has ever happened. Lesson learned…
I am SOO annoyed that this horrible guy is still out there scamming people!! I’m sorry that that happened to you, and similarly, we have traveled to Japan many times and had a wonderful experience. This is the worse group of people that we’ve run into. We really need to get the word out on this place so that people can avoid them. They deserve to be put out of business by the Japanese authorities, but I doubt that will happen.