What better way to start the New Year than by looking back? After all, how can we move ahead if we don't know the past? Here are five classic Tokyo ryoriya (restaurants) where tradition rules and the roots of today's food culture live on.

These are not high-end ryoriya serving the refined kaiseki cuisine of the old capital, Kyoto. They are rough-hewn, cheerful places where the values of shitamachi (the "low city" of the ordinary people) rule. As such, they represent a tangible link back to the time (up to 1868) when the city was ruled by shoguns and still known as Edo.

When winter winds whip down from the north, the best strategy for keeping out the cold is to stoke up a nabe hotpot — exactly the way people have been doing for the past 185 years at Isegen (1-11-1 Kanda-Sudacho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo; 03-3251-1229; www.isegen.com).