Travelling is one of the best ways to expand your knowledge of the world. But it’s not the only way to embrace a new culture. Exploring local communities and experiences are eye-opening in their own right. I’m fascinated by Japan and there are plenty of Japanese related activities in my home city of Manchester. There’s restaurants, bars, societies and exhibits dedicated to celebrating the Land of the Rising Sun. It’s why I’ve put together a guide for anyone who wants to explore Manchester through the lens of Japanese culture.
Look for local events with the Japanese North West Society
The Japanese Society North West (JSNW) is one of the UK’s leading Japanese culture organisations. Founded in 2004, the JSNW hold a variety of events across the north west of England, with many of them taking place in Manchester. This includes Taiko drumming events, language exchanges and meet up nights at Japanese restaurants.
I’ve been to a couple of meet up sessions and it’s great to chat to other people who have an interest in Japanese culture. The groups are relaxed and informal, giving you the opportunity to make new friends. At the very least you’ll get to enjoy some amazing Japanese food!
The JSNW also offer membership programmes, which provide discounted prices for different events.
Embrace Japanese culture at The Doki Doki Festival
Manchester’s Doki Doki Festival is one of my favourite events of the year. Held in November at the Sugden Sports Centre, Doki Doki brings together Japanophiles from all over the world. The event features presentations from scholars, historians, authors, writers and fans. Some of the most popular panels include advice about travelling to Japan and Japanese history.
Every year, Doki Doki is attended by charities such as Aid for Japan, which is committed to helping orphans whose lives were devasted in the wake of the 2011 Great East Earthquake and Tsunami. There’s also a range of food, anime, manga and pop culture stalls to enjoy. Doki Doki is must-see festival for people of all ages.
Learn Japanese with local language groups
I’ve been told Japanese is one of the most difficult languages to learn, so it’s a good thing there are a few language groups in Manchester. The Manchester Japanese Study Group and Manchester Japanese Conversation Meet Up are two societies that come to mind. By attending the groups, you’ll have the opportunity to learn Japanese and practice with like-minded individuals.
Become a sushi master at Sapporo Teppanyaki
Sushi is among the best Japanese food to eat, but how exactly it is prepared? Manchester restaurant Sapporo Teppanyaki gives you the chance to find out with regular sushi making master classes. For £25 you’ll learn about the origins of sushi and how to make it from scratch.
Buy Japanese ingredients at Oseyo
Are you planning on cooking some Japanese food at home? Head on over to Oseyo on Oxford Road and find what you’re looking for. Although Oseyo is branded as a Korean supermarket, there are plenty of Japanese products to purchase such as matcha and soy bean paste. Keep your eyes open for the legendary Japanese drink Pocari Sweat.
Learn the art of bushido at Manchester Martial Arts Centre
Japan is famous for spawning a range of fighting styles, such as aikido and ninjutsu. Both styles are taught at the Manchester Martial Arts Centre and you’ll be able to develop your self-defence skills.
Sip traditional Japanese tea at Cha-Ology
Matcha is one of my favourite drink ingredients and the preparation of it is central to Japanese tea ceremonies. Instead of travelling all the way to Tokyo to appreciate the ritual, stop off at Cha-Ology in Manchester. Found in Ancoats, the café specialises in preparing traditional Japanese teas and sweets. Some of the drinks available include Usucha, Koicha and Matcha soy.
The décor of Cha-Ology is meant to replicate the tranquility of traditional Japanese tea houses and the drinks will be prepared in front of you. In order to preserve the calm atmosphere, there’s a limit of two people per table. Making a reservation is essential.
Stuff yourself with ramen, gyoza and sushi at Manchester’s best Japanese restaurants
Manchester has earned a reputation for having some of the best Japanese restaurants in the UK. Whether you’re craving a hearty bowl of ramen broth or sushi, Manchester accommodates all tastes. Below is a list of some of my favourite Japanese food destinations:
Located in Piccadilly Gardens, Shoryu is at the top of my list for Japanese food joints. The ramen broth is everything you’d want in a dish: warm, filling, light and wholesome. The restaurant has a good mix of booths and tables for diners who want a quick eating experience. The service is speedy and the menu is reasonably priced. I’m never disappointed by Shoryu’s signature Ganso Tonkotsu ramen so I’d highly recommend you stop in for lunch.
Cocktail Beer Ramen + Bun
Sometimes, simplicity works best and everything CBRB offers is in the name. Found on Oldham Street in the Northern Quarter, CBRB is the perfect mix of late night dining and cocktail drinking. If you’re craving ramen in the wee hours, then the restaurant will give you your food fix. Try the soft shell crab ramen. It. Will. Blow. Your. Mind.
Cottonopolis go for an Anglo-Japanese approach, pairing the best of Japanese cuisine with a British style. Cottonopolis offer a versatile menu with dishes such as seabream karaage with ginger and lime, pork harumaki spring roll, wagyu wasabi kewpie and chive and tiger prawn gyoza. The restaurant also provides Japanese inspired Sunday Roasts, such as roasted wagyu rump with salt and pepper roast potatoes, black garlic greens and glazed carrots. Cottonopolis can be found on Newton Street.
Considered to be something of a hidden gem, Umezushi offers high-quality sushi and a cosy dining experience. Some of their specialities include king crab gunkan, salmon teriyaki and negitoro quail egg gunkan. Look for Umezushi on Mirabel Street.
If you’re a fan of Japanese desserts, then you should try Sweet Octopus, a Tokyo style patisserie that specialises in bespoke cakes. They frequently trade at the Manchester Doki Doki festival and I’ve had the pleasure of eating one of their incredible matcha red bean buns. Sweet Octopus are located on Moss Lane in Hale, Altrincham. Stop by and try some of their famous kawaii cake style desserts!
Travel out of Manchester and into the suburbs to find this Japanese gem. Located on Barlow Moor Road in Chorlton, Yakisoba has a cosy feeling to it. The restaurant operates between a sit in and takeaway service, offering a general Asian dining experience with miso soup, pad Thai curry and pork sui mai.
Samsi is the kind of restaurant that will appeal to casual diners and Japanese cuisine enthusiasts. The venue has been a Manchester staple since 1993, serving a range of meals like bento boxes and grilled skewers. It’s worth stopping by for lunch as you get a pork katsu bento box for the reasonable price of £8.50. You can find Samsi on Whitworth Street, which isn’t too far from Canal Street or Oxford Road.
Oishi-Q is great for anyone who wants to eat Japanese food on a budget. For £3.99 you can eat small dishes like chicken karaage and spicy squid karaage. A more expensive dish is the seafood tempura at £7.95. Either way you’re not going to break the bank. Oishi-Q can be found on Hulme Street nearby the Manchester universities.
Tucked away on Church Street, this restaurant taps into the image of a traditional ramen joint. Small and intimate, Tokyo Ramen specialises in Tsukemen noodles and Japanese fried chicken. Once all the broth has been sold for the day, the restaurant closes. Be sure to arrive early so you don’t miss out!
For anyone who wants to explore Manchester’s Chinatown and find a decent Japanese venue, Yuzu is a place that needs to be visited. The food is made with a tremendous amount of care and attention, so you won’t be disappointed. Look for Yuzu on Faulkner Street.
Another suburban hotspot, Sushi Marvel is a Japanese deli found on Manchester Road in Chorlton. Sushi Marvel offers dishes such as deli sushi platters, Red Dragon uranagi with eel and seared salmon and Purple Rain, which is made up of tuna, cucumber and purple cabbage. Sushi Marvel has a online takeaway service that makes it even more convenient for satisfying your Japanese food cravings.
Embrace Japanese inspired nightlife
There are various places in Manchester to enjoy Japanese drinks, décor and nightlife. Head to the Northern Quarter and party in Lost in Tokyo, a bar that stocks the best of Japanese alcohol. Whether you’re into sake, Asahi or Kirin, Lost in Tokyo will be able to quench your thirst. If you’re looking for something stronger then stop off at the Whisky Jar on Tariff Street for some Hibiki whisky.
Enjoy a luxurious Japanese themed night in The Ivy in Spinningfields. The second floor, called Ivy Asia, offers an incredible dining experience with small plates and larger portions. Enjoy a range of Japanese cocktails like the Kyota Lavender, a drink that features Kinobi gin, apple juice, lemon and lavender foam. There’s also the Hibiki Highball, which consists of the whisky, chamomile soda and plum bitters.
The Ivy Asia also boasts The Geisha Room, a private space with customised Japanese mirror artwork. It accommodates 18 guests on one long table or 20 guests across two rounds of 10.
Want to feel as if you’re sitting in a Japanese jazz bar? Check out sound plaza 33 Oldham Street. The first floor is inspired by Japan’s omakase joints, jazz cafes that became popular in the 1950s.
Whether you’ve recently discovered your love for Japan or have been a fan for years, Manchester has something for everyone to enjoy.