Neighborhood Watch: Little Tokyo, Mexico City

Cuauhtémoc has become an unexpected epicenter for Japanese culture in Mexico’s capital city 

WORDS Mary Holland
January 2019
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“The Cuauhtémoc neighborhood has always had a Japanese bone,” says Eduardo Zarate of Ryo Kan, a Japanese-style inn tucked away on a quiet street in Mexico’s capital city. Wedged between the leafy Condesa district and the bustling Centro Historico, Cuauhtémoc is Mexico City’s take on Little Tokyo. There have been waves of Asian influence in the city since the early 1940s, when many Japanese relocated during World War II.

In recent years, it’s become more pronounced in Cuauhtémoc, thanks, in part, to the nearby Japanese embassy. “Cuauhtémoc [is located] at an important point along the tourist corridor,” adds Edo Lopez, of the Edo Kobayashi hospitality group. Lopez, who has opened a string of Japanese venues over the past five years, such as the sake bar Le Tachinomi Desu, has been instrumental in the district’s increasing Japanese character. Much like venues in Japan, these spots are discreet and unassuming from the outside, but offer what feels like another world once you step through the threshold.

Animo Ay Caldos

Mexico City, Mexico

This bright blue and yellow Mexico-meets-Japan eatery serves beef ramen as well as traditional Mexican soups. Their most talked-about dish is the birriamen, a beef birria (the classic spicy Mexican dish) with ramen noodles.  

Hiyoko

Mexico City, Mexico

A cozy, dimly lit space with only 15 coveted counter seats available at the bar (plan accordingly), Hiyoko serves an omakase menu of different types of skewers, small Japanese bites and sake. 

Rokai Ramen

Mexico City, Mexico

An easygoing ramen bar that specializes in fresh-made noodles and quintessential Japanese side dishes like gyoza, this eatery boasts a skinny wooden counter where diners sip sake while watching chefs whip up bowls of Wagyu, veggie and chashu ramen.

Ryo Kan

Mexico City, Mexico

This intimate 10-room inn is located in a loft-ish white building with a light-filled Zen garden and communal area. The minimalistic rooms are done up in creamy hues with sliding wooden doors and stone detail. On the rooftop, four round onsen-style bathtubs complete the Japanese ambiance.

Le Tachinomi Desu

Mexico City, Mexico

A standing sake bar tucked into a shadowy brick nook, Le Tachinomi Desu attracts locals who swing by for pre- or post-dinner swigs of premium sake, natural wine and whiskey. During the day, the bar moonlights as Enomoto Coffee bar.

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