Some of the most delicious foods that I have eaten on this earth have been in Japan. The country boasts a wide array of delicacies including everything from the well-known dishes sushi and ramen to the lesser known sukiyaki and okonomiyaki.
If you are traveling to Japan and you are looking to try a variety of cuisines, here is a good list of Japanese food to get you started.
Bento: Food in a Box
Bento boxes in Japan are much more than just a packed lunch prepared by loving Japanese mothers for their children or spouses; they are also a quick meal that you can have at a sit-down restaurant or purchase at a convenience store or supermarket.
Bento boxes can be prepared in a variety of ways and typically consist of rice, meat or fish, and vegetables. The food can come in anything from throwaway plastic containers to decorated lacquerware (like the Shōkadō bentō pictured above).
Interested in learning more about Japanese bento boxes? Check out this article from Japan Info.
Takoyaki: Octopus Balls
Takoyaki is a Japanese street food that is comprised of minced octopus, tempura, ginger, and scallions which are rolled up and packed into a ball of flour-based batter.
The famous octopus balls, which originated in Osaka, are typically covered with fish flakes, a sweet brown sauce, and mayonnaise. Some restaurants offer different variations of the popular street snack such as shrimp takoyaki, takoyaki covered in kimchi, or even chocolate filled takoyaki!
While takoyaki can be found all over Japan, the best place to try the food is in its birthplace: Osaka. If you are heading to Osaka and you are looking for places to try takoyaki, check out this article by Tsunagu Japan.
Sushi: Rolls of Joy
One of the world’s most well-known Japanese foods is sushi, and in Japan, the sushi certainly does not disappoint.
There are over 100 different kinds of sushi available in Japan and during my second trip to the country I decided to take a sushi making class where I learned about most well-known styles sushi including nigirizushi (fish on top of rice), gunkanmaki, and makizushi (sushi rolls).
If you want to enjoy good sushi in Japan, there are numerous places to go that will not break the bank. You can find delicious and cheap sushi at conveyor-belt style restaurants and I have a great recommendation here for Tokyo.
If you are not into mass-produced sushi and want a more refined experience, check out the Japanese website Tabelog for suggestions (scores of 4 and up are considered the best).
Ramen: Noodles of Happiness
If you are picturing ramen as a food that only broke college students eat, think again and let your mind be transformed by Japanese ramen which is delicious, delectable, and dare I say one of the most amazing comfort foods in the world.
Ramen in Japan comes in a variety of styles and varies by region. There are also a number of different kinds of broths that you can find in Japan also ranging from vegetable based, to fish stock, to your typical beef and pork broths.
Okonomiyaki: Japanese Pancakes
Okonomiyaki is a Japanese savory pancake that contains ingredients including a flour-based batter, cabbage, egg, scallion, and meat.
Although okonomiyaki has not taken off and become as popular as sushi and ramen outside of Japan, it is a popular comfort food inside of Japan and one that is definitely not worth missing!
Gyoza: Stuffed Dumplings
Gyoza are Japanese fried dumplings that are filled with vegetables and/or meat. Gyoza is a food that was modeled after Chinese Jiaozi dumplings.
There are several types of gyoza that can be consumed in Japan including pan fried (yaki) gyoza, sui (boiled) gyoza, and deep fried (age) gyoza. Personally, I am a huge fan of the popular pan-fried yaki gyoza, which are crispy on the outside and chewy on the outside.
If you find yourself in Tokyo and you are feeling adventurous, head over to the Namja Gyoza Stadium located inside of Namja Town in Ikebukuro (*note: there is a 500 Yen entry fee into Namja Town).
Sukiyaki: Comfort Food
Sukiyaki is a Japanese home-prepared hot pot meal that consists of beef, vegetables, noodles, and tofu. Due to the high cost of the thinly sliced beef needed to prepare sukiyaki, the meal is typically enjoyed during special occasions in the winter season.
Check out my recipe to learn how to make sukiyaki at home!
Udon: Thick Noodles
Udon noodles are similar to ramen noodles in that they are made out of wheat, however, the glaring difference between udon and ramen is that udon noodles are much thicker and shorter than ramen.
Udon noodles in Japan can be served hot or cold and may come dry, in water, in broth, with a raw egg, or even in curry. Learn all about the various types of udon that can be found in Japan with this handy guide to udon noodles by Japan Guide.
Kaiseki Ryori: Haute Japanese Cuisine
Kaiseki is a traditional Japanese meal that consists of multiple courses. It is often referred to as haute cuisine and can be found in restaurants that specialize in making Kaiseki or at a traditional Japanese ryokan.
A Kaiseki meal is the most expensive kind of meal in Japan and will set you back quite a few pretty pennies, however, the experience of dining on a traditional Japanese meal is definitely worth it.
Yakiniku: Succulent Grilled Meat
Do you love grilled meat? Then you will absolutely love Yakinuku, which literally translates to ‘grilled meat’ in Japanese.
During your experience at a Yakinuku establishment, you will be served small chunks of delicious and tender meat. Typically, yakiniku restaurants serve beef and the grilling will be done by either you or your chef.
Soba: Gluten-Free Noodles
Soba is the gluten-free cousin of ramen that is made out of buckwheat noodles. When you have a bowl of soba noodles, you might think that you are eating brown spaghetti, as the noodles have the same texture and thickness as their noodly friends.
Soba noodles are served one of two ways: chilled with a dipping sauce, or in a broth of steamy soup (as pictured above).
Note: If you are gluten-free and want to eat soba noodles, make sure to ask if your noodles are pure soba noodles (made solely out of buckwheat) or if they are Nagano soba noodles (made out of a mixture of buckwheat and wheat flour which is not gluten-free).
Have you ever had a meal in Japan that you absolutely loved? Share below!