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Japanese cuisine is one of the world's most famous and amazing cuisines. The Land of the Rising Sun is a foodie's dream come true! My husband and I spent 3 blissful weeks traveling and eating our way through Japan back in 2020.
My intention was to try as many famous foods in Japan that I could while I was there. I managed to enjoy quite a few!
And now, here I am excited to share with you 51 foods that YOU MUST try when in Japan!
Here are my top 10 foods that you MUST try when in Japan. These are all considered quite famous foods in Japan.
Top Ten Foods You Must Try When In Japan
1) SUPER SPICY Ramen
Japanese ramen is out of this world delicious. Ramen broth has the most amazing flavor and the noodles and various toppings typically including pork, make this a fantastic one dish meal. The lead picture and picture above is no ordinary ramen though! This ramen, from Gashoken Sannomiya, in Kobe, Japan, is the SPICIEST soup I have ever had! This particular restaurant also has non spicy versions, but if you like spicy food you MUST give this a try!
Sushi is one of Japan's most popular dishes. There is no better place to enjoy sushi than when you are in Japan! Pictured here is some sushi topped with mayonnaise, and a scene from the UOBEI restaurant in Tokyo. Sushi is everywhere in Tokyo, and if you'd like to have a delicious, inexpensive, and fun sushi meal then try UOBEI. See the stack of plates in the picture? Basically you can order plate after plate of delicious sushi (or miso soup) delivered to you via a "model bullet train." And you can order to your hearts content because it's so affordable!
3) Miso Soup
Here is the miso soup that was delivered to me via the "model bullet train" at UOBEI. Miso soup is made from dashi stock and miso paste. Try a version with clams and sliced scallions if you can!
What's not to love about battered and deep fried food? Tempura is an absolute delight! Seems like you can tempura almost any food! Here is a plate of tempura including pickled ginger, okra, and avocado tempura. Dip the tempura into a delicious sauce comprised of soy sauce and grated daikon radish and it's heavenly!
TIP: sit at the counter and enjoy tempura one by one as it comes out fresh from the fryer!
5) Shabu Shabu
Shabu shabu is Japanese hotpot. It's typically served with slices of vegetables and meats, including the delectable Wagyu beef! The term "shabu shabu" means swish swish (the sound you make when you gently move the food around in the broth to cook it.
We dined at Momo Paradise when we were in Tokyo, and this restaurant is highly recommended for your shabu shabu! Our dinner here was one of the highlights of our trip to Japan. You will absolutely love a dining experience at Momo Paradise. Bring your biggest appetite!
Soba noodles are made from buckwheat flour and they are similar to spaghetti. You can enjoy them served both hot and cold. Here is a hot steaming bowl of soba with tempura. Soba is absolutely delicious and extremely popular. You can find soba restaurants throughout Japan so be sure to have some soba and slurp slurp!
Okonomiyaki is a Japanese style savory pancake. In Japan it is usually cooked on a teppan (iron griddle) and it consists of flour, a protein, and various other ingredients, which may include copious amounts of mayo as seen here!
We had ours in Hiroshima. Hiroshima okonomiyaki differs from Osaka okonomiyaki in that in Hiroshima the ingredients are layered rather than mixed together. Try both kinds if you get a chance as this dish is not to be missed!
8) Yakiniku A5
If you love grilled meats, then you have to make a beeline to a Yakiniku restaurant! Unfortunately this particular restaurant that we went to in Osaka is now closed, but there are many quality Yakiniku restaurants that you can enjoy.
A Five refers to the superior quality of the Japanese Wagyu beef that's on the menu. The beef is melt in your mouth tender, and A5 is the highest quality beef you can get!
This was one of the BEST dining experiences we had while in Japan. Don't miss it!
Takoyaki is one of the most delightful foods we discovered while in Japan! These are Japanese octopus balls! They are a popular street food, and pictured are the ones we enjoyed from a food stall in Osaka.
Basically they are round balls of dough which house some octopus meat in the center of the ball. Here they are topped with takoyaki sauce, bonito flakes, and drizzled with loads of mayo.
These are so delicious and it's super fun to watch them being made as well!
10) Yurinchi Chicken (Japanese Fried Chicken)
We discovered this dish on our last evening in Japan.
Yurinchi chicken is the Japanese version of Chinese style fried chicken. It is usually made with chicken thighs with the skin on, coated with potato starch, then deep fried to a crunchy and crispy golden brown. It is served on a bed of lettuce, with a superb tasting Yurinchi sauce poured over it, and then topped with loads of sliced scallions!
We have never had crispier chicken and the soy sauce based Yurinchi sauce was a total delight.
Try this accompanied by some sake or Asahi beer for a deliciously satisfying meal!
Now I move on to some foods that fall in the "unusual" category. They are still delightful and interesting though. I hope you will give them a try!
Some Unusual and Interesting Japanese Delights!
11) Tako Tamago
Tako Tamago is a candied baby octopus, stuffed with a boiled quail egg inside the head. I tried this and it was really good! It's chewy with a combination of salty and sweet flavors, and a MUST try food when at Nishiki Market in Kyoto !
This market is a 5 block long street in central Kyoto. It is comprised of more than 100 shops, stalls, and restaurants, and is also known as Kyoto's Kitchen.
You will have an AMAZING time sampling incredible food at Nishiki. This market is not to be missed!
12) Grilled Sparrow
So my husband tried the grilled sparrow. I think once was enough for him. 😅 You can also find these at Nishiki Market in Kyoto.
These grilled sparrows are definitely not for the faint of heart but why not give it a try if you have the opportunity when visiting Kyoto?
13) Fresh Wasabi
You'll see fresh wasabi root, also known as Japanese horseradish, for sale in market stalls and grocery stores. If you love the head clearing taste of wasabi as much as I do, you MUST give fresh wasabi a try!
Cooks and chefs use wasabi graters to grate the root. Guess what? The grater is made of sharkskin! Grating the root produces the paste. It's my understanding that once grated, you want to consume it ASAP...as the longer you leave it the less heat there will be.
You'll love telling your friends and family that you got to try fresh wasabi root when in Japan!
14) Fried Noodle Sandwich
I did a double take when I first saw these! Genius!
You can find these at 7 Eleven in Japan. Japanese 7 Eleven is nothing like 7 Eleven in the United States. These convenience stores seem to sell absolutely EVERYTHING!
Be sure to visit 7 Eleven while in Japan and hunt down the Fried Noodles Sandwich for your enjoyment!
Natto is fermented soybeans. It's a very popular food in Japan, and as you can see it's slimy.
What you can't see (or smell) is how STRONG smelling this food is! It's typically sold with a small quail egg, so here you can see the cooked egg in the cup. Honestly I could not finish it, but at least I tried it!
Kit Kats are extremely popular in Japan and you won't believe how many different flavors they have!
One of my favorite Japanese Kit Kats was the Wasabi flavored one. It's not overpowering so I think most people would find it palatable. You can see the wasabi root pictured on the package, as well as the sharkskin grater!
Fugu is also known as puffer fish, and this is considered a delicacy in Japan. The thing is...parts of the fugu are poisonous. So if it is not prepared properly, people who eat it can become sick or even die!
The good news is that now Japan now requires chefs to go through extensive training to get a license that allows them to prepare fugu for diners.
Take a deep breath and try fugu when in Japan!
18) Gold Leaf Ice Cream - Kanazawa
This one is a no brainer! Soft serve ice cream topped with gold leaf is an incredible treat! We enjoyed ours in Kanazawa, which is famous for gold leaf.
Gold leaf ice cream is both beautiful and delicious. Be sure to treat yourself to this amazing dessert when in Japan!
19) Hakone Egg
Be sure to take a day trip from Tokyo to amazing Owakudani in Hakone and seek out their black eggs. Owakudani is an active volcanic zone, and you can take a tram over this area and see the sulfuric vapors and hot springs from the tram!
The eggs are cooked in the sulfuric hot springs at Owakudani and the sulfur is what turns them black. They say that eating one of these eggs will extend your life by 7 years, so maybe eat 2 or 3!
20) White Strawberries
Japan LOVES LOVES strawberries! I was so surprised when I saw white strawberries and just couldn't wait to try them!
They are a little on the expensive side, and they pretty much taste like regular strawberries 😄. However, it's super fun to try them when you are in Japan! They are sold in many grocery stores and markets.
These next few foods are some of my personal favorites which I hope you will enjoy when visiting Japan!
Be sure to enjoy some sake, the national drink of Japan, when visiting this amazing country!
You can find sake throughout Japan, however if you are visiting Kanazawa I highly recommend trying some sake crafted in this region.
Kanazawa’s Fukumitsuya brewery, the oldest living brewery in Kanazawa, would be a great place to try some high quality sake! This brewery offers sake tasting experiences of their range of premium sakes. So, this would be the perfect place to enjoy Japan's national drink!
22) Senbei (Japanese Rice Crackers)
Senbei are Japanese rice crackers. Many of us are familiar with the cylindrical shaped rice cracker wrapped with nori (seaweed). But just imagine indulging in a freshly baked senbei!
You can enjoy this awesome experience at Nishiki Market in Kyoto. A warm and delicious senbei is not to be missed!
23) Grilled Eel (Unagi)
Unagi is Japanese freshwater eel. This eel is perfect for grilling, and is usually served basted with a sweet and savory sauce.
Many restaurants specialize in selling unagi and they are called unagi-ya. But you can also buy them in a prepared Bento (called Ekiben) from Japan rail stations, as pictured here.
I enjoyed mine while traveling on a Japanese train...now that's the life!
24) Tamagoyaki (Japanese Omelette)
A Japanese omelette, or tamagoyaki, is a thing of absolute beauty. It's rolled to create layers which are light and fluffy, and utterly delicious.
I had mine for breakfast, but I think it's perfect for anytime of the day! Be sure to try this delicious egg dish when in Japan!
25) Lotus Root
The first time I tried lotus root was when I visited Japan. Here you see a very colorful and beautiful lotus root, included in a bento.
I can still remember the satisfying CRUNCH of biting into the lotus root! You will be able to find prepared lotus root in grocery stores and in Japan Rail Bento (Ekiben)...as seen here!
26) Gyoza (Japanese Dumplings)
Gyoza are Japanese dumplings filled with a variety of delicious ingredients. We nibbled on gyoza at a wonderful izakaya on our last night in Japan. You can get them steamed, or fried as you see here.
This was one of my favorite treats during our trip! Enjoy with soy sauce and wasabi!
27) Melon Pan Bread
One thing that surprised me when I went to Japan was how much the Japanese love baked goods and breads!
A popular and delicious bread to try is the Melon Pan Bread. It sort of looks like a cantaloupe to me, but doesn't taste like a melon. Melon Pan is a sweet bread that you can find in the grocery and convenience stores, as well as at food stands that sell it freshly baked.
Be sure to indulge in this one of a kind sweet treat!
28) Pork Katsudon
I am salivating just thinking about Pork Katsudon! This is a pork cutlet (tonkatsu) which has been breaded and fried. It's then combined with onions which have been simmered in a sweet and savory broth and egg, then placed atop rice in a rice bowl to make Katsudon.
This is a serious Japanese comfort food dish! You can easily make it yourself at home, however it's best enjoyed at a Tonkatsu restaurant in Japan!
29) Gyudon (Japanese Beef Bowl)
Gyudon, literally "beef bowl", is a Japanese dish consisting of a bowl of rice topped with beef and onion simmered in a mildly sweet sauce flavored with ingredients including sake, soy sauce and mirin. The finishing touch is some pickled ginger on top.
It's absolutely delicious! I actually made this myself for dinner one night at an AirBnb in Japan. It's super simple to make at home, but even better when made in or eaten when in Japan!
30) Snoopy Themed Food at Snoopy Cha-Ya!
Cute food abounds in Japan! We didn't actually eat here but I spotted this Snoopy Cha-Ya in Kyoto in Nishiki Market. Their restaurant serves Snoopy themed snacks and food and when you visit the menu may have changed from what you see here. However, if you are a fan of Peanuts or Snoopy you MUST check out their offerings and spend some time in their fun shop!
I especially love the look of the Woodstock Curry!
31) Katsutera (Castella Cake)
Katsutera, also known as Castella Cake, is a light and airy sponge cake that has Portuguese influences.
Japanese cuisine prizes simplicity, and this beloved Japanese dessert showcases simplicity at its best.
Treat yourself to a slice of katsutera, perhaps with a cup of matcha tea, when in Japan!
32) Onigiri (Japanese Rice Balls)
Onigiri are absolutely delightful! These are Japanese rice balls. This one is a triangle shape, but it's still onigiri. 😊.
These are perfect picnic fare, and just great to snack on! They come in many shapes and you can many varieties to choose from and enjoy.
I bought the one pictured here (seasoned with soy sauce and wrapped in nori) from 7 Eleven in Japan, which had a very nice selection!
Try as many different onigiri as you can!
33) Hida Beef (Shirakawago)
Shirakawago is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and home to Hida Beef. From KyotoGram.com: "Hidagyu (Hida Beef) is known to be the finest beef that comes from the Black-haired cattle raised in Gifu Prefecture."
Visit beautiful Shirakawago and see their amazing Gassho-style houses, and enjoy some melt in your mouth Hida beef when there!
Yuzu is a very sour citrus fruit that is mainly cultivated in Korea, China, and Japan. Therefore it's the juice and the rind that are used in cooking and the fruit is not normally eaten like you would an orange or tangerine. It's also highly aromatic with floral overtones. Yuzu is such an amazing fruit!
Try yuzu in a prepared food such as the package of Cheese Marinated Yuzu that I found in a grocery store in Japan.
Or...bathe with it! There is an article from Nippon.com, which discusses the joys of bathing with Yuzu. Please check out "Soaking and Seasoning: The Aromatic Pleasures of Yuzu" where you can also see some great pictures of a bather bathing with yuzu!
35) Japanese Curry
I can remember the mouthwatering aromas when walking past a Japanese curry house in Japan. Japanese curry is very different from Indian curries and if you've never tried it you are in for an amazing treat!
Enjoy a Japanese Curry at a curry house. Or make your own using one of the many instant curry roux's available in Japan. These roux's are typically sold in block form, such as Vermont Curry.
You can also find a plethora of vacuum sealed curries, that you simply heat and eat, like the one pictured above! Serve it over rice to make curry rice (karē raisu), one of the most popular dishes in Japan!
36) Crown Melons
So, these Crown Melons look like cantaloupes, but they are not priced like cantaloupes. My eyes about popped out of my head when I saw these melons on display, the one on the left priced at 5000 Yen, which is about $38 USD as of this writing.
The Crown Melon, also known as the Japanese King of Fruits, is the highest quality of muskmelon produced in Japan. Only melons that have passed the strictest of instructions can be labelled as Crown Melon.
I have a confession...I didn't get to try this when I was in Japan, but I'm saving up my pennies to be able to try it on my next visit!
37) Japanese Pickles
Japanese pickles are a mainstay of Japanese meals. Pictured here is Japanese pickled cucumber, carrots, and daikon radish.
I purchased these in a grocery store and enjoyed them as an accompaniment to our main meal. The pickles are so light and refreshing, and once you get a taste for them you'll want them to enjoy at every meal as well!
Kamameshi is a dish of steamed rice with various vegetables, chicken, meat, and/or seafood. It is typically served in a pot which is set into wooden blocks for serving.
If you watch the YouTube video, you will catch a glimpse of kamameshi at the very beginning of the video, when I lift the lid off the pot to reveal the steaming rice. I had my kamemeshi at a restaurant in Kanazawa, with a view of Kanazawa Castle. 😊
Kamameshi translates to "kettle rice." It's delicately seasoned and absolutely delicious!
39) Kanazawa Snow Crab
Crab so fresh, it's still alive and moving in the market! I spotted these crabs in a market in Kanazawa, and I LOVE crab, but unfortunately these were out of my budget at the time! 14,000 yen is around $107 USD at the time of this writing so crabs definitely were not cheap!
Seafood from Kanazawa comes from the Sea of Japan. If you are in Kanazawa, Japan in winter, be sure to check out the snow crab there. It is considered the winter seafood champion!
Kanazawa-uminosachi.jp explains that the black dots that you see in the picture above are "the eggs of a type of leech called kani-hiru and indicate a particularly good catch. The more eggs on the shell, the more flavor is packed into the crab!" So now we know why these are so expensive!
40) Sakura (Japanese Cherry Blossom)
It is an absolute delight to be in Japan during the height of their Sakura season (cherry blossom season). Japanese Sakura are stunning to behold, and they can also be edible when preserved!
Here you see a pastry that is created to look like a Sakura, and in the middle are some edible cherry blossoms.
Be sure to treat yourself to some edible Sakura when in Japan!
Last But Not Least!
Edamame are young soybeans that are harvested before they are ripened or hardened. We were served this edamame at an izakaya (a Japanese bar that serves drinks and snacks) to nibble on.
The Japanese love edamame, so take the time to enjoy some as the Japanese do, eaten from the pod with a little salt. And don't forget the cold Asahi beer to go along with it!
42) Yaro Ramen MegaTon Ramen
Yaro Ramen has locations around Tokyo, and there you can find the MegaTon Ramen for your enjoyment!
It's described as "Speciality Ramen with a all topping and large serving, based pork bone broth." It's basically a monster bowl of ramen, absolutely delicious, and a definite challenge to finish!
If the MegaTon is too much for you, you can grab one of their other delicious bowls of ramen. But why not try the MegaTon when you have the chance? 😄
43) Nasu (Japanese Eggplant)
Nasu, or Japanese eggplant, is quite different from our American eggplant. The nasu is slender, smaller, and not as bitter as our American eggplant. This versatile eggplant is great baked, broiled, steamed, stir fried, and grilled!
Here are some ways that the Japanese serve nasu. For instance:
- Dengaku - the eggplant is cut in half and cooked with miso paste
- Miso itame - eggplant stir fried with miso, sugar, and onions
- Nasu zuke - pickled eggplant
I hope you get the chance to try all of the 3 dishes listed above!
44) Ekiben (Japan Rail Bento)
I had mentioned Ekiben earlier when I discussed grilled eel and lotus root. Ekiben is Bento which you can buy from Japan Rail. Bento is a meal in a portable box.
As you can see in these pictures, there are so very many beautiful ones available from Japan Rail! Honestly, a great day out for me would be eating Ekiben and traveling on Japanese trains all day!
I had rice ball bentos, sushi bentos, and grilled eel bentos (among others) on my rail travels. They were all beautiful, delicious, and very affordable!
You will have the opportunity to sample so many different Ekiben if you travel on Japan Rail!
45) Other Kit Kat Flavors
I kid you not, we came home from Japan with a suitcase full of Kit Kats! Here in this video you can see some of the various Kit Kats that Japan has to offer.
What's so fun is that there are regional varieties only available in different areas. So when traveling be sure to pick up the Kit Kat speciality of the region you are visiting!
46) Matcha Tea
Matcha is the powdered form of green tea leaves, and is very popular in Japan. You will have many opportunities to try matcha in Japan.
You can have a cup of matcha in a restaurant, as I did. Or even better, enjoy it in a special tea ceremony. These ceremonies will involve preparing, serving, and drinking the tea in a ceremonial and ritualistic way. Consider taking part in this wonderful ceremony when in Japan!
47) Condensed Milk Bread From 7 Eleven
I had mentioned 7 Eleven in Japan earlier when discussing the Fried Noodle Sandwich. 7 Eleven actually also has quite a selection of breads, including this Condensed Milk Sandwich bread!
So this is like a French baguette with condensed milk cream inside the baguette. Genius combination and a MUST try, don't you think? 😃
48) Marion Crepes
I dare you to walk past this Marion Crepes display without stopping to peer at it! It's impossible! These are French inspired crepes, but Japanese style!
There are so many delicious versions to choose from and the combination of whipped cream and ice cream on a crepe is really hard to beat!
The crepes and shop are super cute and of course are delicious. By the way, if you are not a sweets person, Marion Crepes has you covered with savory crepes! They can be seen on the bottom row of the picture above with the green "lettuce" background.
49) Udon Noodles
Udon noodles are thick noodles made from wheat flour, and eaten extensively in Japan. Here you see them in a special broth called Jibuni, which is a speciality of Kanazawa.
Usually udon noodles are served in a hot broth (such as above), or they can also be served cold with a dipping sauce.
Be sure to enjoy some udon when in Japan!
50) Wild Grass Tea in Shirakawago
Shirakawago (mentioned earlier when discussing Hida beef), is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. When touring the village and visiting the beautiful Gassho-style houses, you have the opportunity to drink some wild grass tea.
Visit Kanda House, and when you enter you will see an iron kettle on a hearth. The tea is made in this iron kettle, and you can sample some at your leisure.
Oh...and the tea is FREE!
51) The FRESHEST and MOST DELICIOUS Seafood!
So the last item on my list is not a specific food, but it's generally fresh and delicious seafood that I want to mention here.
You can walk into so many grocery stores and find an enormous selection of seafood. If you watch the video below, you can see a huge assortment of seafood at a grocery store I visited in Tokyo.
Japan truly is a seafoodie's paradise! I urge you to enjoy as much seafood as you can when in Japan!
I Hope This List Whets Your Appetite For A Food Adventure In Japan!
Japan is a food lover's paradise! The list I presented here is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to foods to discover in Japan.
But I hope that this list gives you some solid ideas of food to enjoy when visiting the Land of The Rising Sun!
You will absolutely love it!
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