This post is Part 3 of the Series: Planning your trip to Japan focusing on FOOD 🙂 It is my favorite part of the series, hope you enjoy reading!
Click on below links to read other parts of the series (opens in new tab).
Part 1: When to visit and how to travel
Part 2: Where to stay and what to see
Part 3: What to eat in Japan
Part 4: What to pack (and not to pack)
Part 5: Twelve cultural must-knows
Japan for me was food heaven. I had Japanese cuisine every single meal because there was just so much to explore. I am a non-vegetarian who loves seafood. For vegetarians, it might be difficult to find good options easily, but its not impossible. Its difficult mainly because the basic stock in which food is cooked ‘dashi’ is made of fish. Hence, even a veggie ramen might be cooked in this fish stock. There are vegetarian/vegan restaurants in every city, but you might have to do a bit of research and reserve beforehand by email.
Japanese food has so much variety, unfortunately typical Japanese restaurants in metro cities around the world don’t do it enough justice.
I would suggest not to research on restaurants too much beforehand, as Japanese food is usually of very high quality whether you buy it from a high-end restaurant or from a small stall (think ‘street-style udon noodles’ – yum!!) However, if you want to go straight to restaurant recommendations, or look at pics of the food, go ahead and scroll down to the end of the post.
Below is a list of most popular Japanese dishes you have to try in Japan. I usually had one meal everyday at a local restaurant and one from the convenience store. The meals available at the convenience stores probably need another post in itself, but I’ll tell you the gist here itself.
So there are 2 main convenience stores in Japan – 7 Elevens and Family Mart, and omg, they are not like any other convenience stores you have ever been to. They have bento boxes with proper meals like sushi/ramen, hot drinks section, cold drinks section, bakery section, tasty egg sandwiches, nuts, sweets and so many amazing treats. You can also ask the staff at the check-out counter to microwave the bento boxes at most places. Usually at the checkout, there are also options for freshly prepared ‘to-go’ hot food like chicken skewers and pork buns. You can even get coffee (cold/hot) from the machines near the counter.
However, please remember that people do not eat or drink on the streets especially while walking. The correct etiquette is to take away the food in the plastic bags provided at check-out, sit down and eat, and then dispose the leftovers and packages in the correct bin.
To be very honest, I was a bit upset on the use of plastic all over Japan, but another post on that at another time. Now its time to provide you my list of best Japanese foods of all time 🙂
- Nabe (Japanese hotpot)
- Gyozas (dumplings with meat and veggies)
- Ramen (noodle soup cooked in Dashi broth with meat and vegetables)
- Soba/Udon (noodle dishes)
- Yakitori (chicken skewers)
- Omurice (omelette with rice filling topped with tomato sauce)
- Tempura (deep fried seafood and vegetables)
- Sushi (Nigiri, Maki, Temaki) and Sashimi (raw fish)
- Tamagoyaki (cooked eggs)
- Onigiri (rice balls wrapped in Nori/seaweed)
- Miso soup (dashi stock with miso paste)
Street foods and bites
- Dango (rice balls in soy sauce)
- Takoyaki (minced octopus and tempura balls)
- Okonomiyaki (savory Japanese pancakes)
- Kushikatsu (fried meat and vegetable skewers)
- Taiyaki (fish shaped cakes with sweet fillings)
- Mochi (Japanese rice cakes)
- Matcha cheesecake
- Green tea ice cream
- 200 flavors of kitkats
- Asahi (Japanese beer)
- Sake (rice wine)
- Highball (Japanese whiskey and soda water)
- Oolong tea
- Green tea
Most of these dishes can be found all over Japan. But some places are known for particular kinds of dishes. Osaka is the food capital of Japan with lots of different street food varieties and popular food tours. Hiroshima in my opinion has the best Okonomiyaki, while I found the best ramen in Tokyo.
Some restaurant recommendations
- Ichiran for ramen (chains all over Japan)
- CoCo Curry House for Japanese curries (chains all over Japan)
- Torikizoku for Yakitori (chains all over Japan)
- Shinjuku Kakekoni for gyozas in Tokyo
- Hokkyokusei for the original omurice in Osaka
- Okonomimura for Okonomiyakis in Hiroshima
If you are travelling to Osaka, a must try is Uncle Rikuro’s fluffy cheese cakes.
Japan has a 90 million dollar replica food industry, which is a sight in itself. You will see lots of plastic food (sampuru) featured in restaurant windows in Japan.
This ends Part 3 of the Series: Planning your trip to Japan!
Continue reading Part 4: What to pack (and not to pack)
Japan Food Gallery
If you would like to see a glimpse of what Japan has to offer (under 4 minutes), check out the video below 🙂