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  • Frank Striegl

Why Japanese Don’t Give 5 Star Reviews to Restaurants

With so much wonderful food in Japan, why don't Japanese give 5 star reviews to restaurants on Google? Why exactly does this happen?

A 3.7 Score on Google is Good in Japan

Japan is home to some of the world’s most delicious food. Tokyo is at the center of this deliciousness, with everything from Michelin star sushi restaurants to hole in the wall noodle shops.

Miso Tsukemen (Dipping Ramen)
Miso Tsukemen (Dipping Ramen) in Tokyo

Amidst this delicious backdrop, visitors to Japan are understandably surprised at how low Google restaurant reviews are. In most countries, quality restaurants are ones with Google review scores of 4.3 or more. This is not the case in Japan.

Google Reviews - Local and Touristy

In Japan, the Google review sweet spot is actually from about 3.8 - 4.1. Furthermore, a restaurant that has a score of 4.5+ is likely a touristy one. This in itself isn’t a bad thing. Such a tourist-friendly place might serve amazing food.

Sushi in Tokyo

But the point is - don't dismiss a restaurant on Google if the score if below 4. You could be missing out on something great.

But why is it like this? Why do Japanese give restaurants low review scores in the first place?

Humble Pie

Humility is a valued trait in Japan; to the point that Japanese don't go out of their way to praise each other. This is extended to the world of food and restaurant reviews.

A Japanese person on Google might write something along the lines of 'I've been eating at this restaurant for 10 years and love it"...only to give them a 3 star review.

Tonkatsu (Pork Cutlet)
Tonkatsu (Pork Cutlet)

That's just the way it is in Japan. Even if locals love a meal, they may be reluctant to give the restaurant a glowing review.

Inside a Tokyo Ramen Shop

Branching off this, some restaurants in Japan may have amazing food but mediocre service. In the West, restaurants like this have a lower chance of survival.

But in Asia, such places tend to thrive. As long as the food is good, service is secondary. But the those bad reviews in Google remain.

Takoyaki in Tokyo
Takoyaki in Tokyo

Summing It Up

In summary, if you're visiting Japan for the first time, don't overlook restaurants that have a lower Google review score than you're used to. Tokyo has over 150,000 restaurants. If you limited yourself to the ones with a score of 4.5 or above, you'd truly be missing out.

Tokyo Billboards


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