japanese food

Japanese culinary is not only special for its delicious dishes but also for the decoration and service. In this Japanese food guide, you’ll find the list of 10+ Japanese food you should try when traveling to Japan.

 

1. Sushi (寿司)

Sushi is probably the first dish that people will mention about Japanese food. It has become a symbol of Japanese cuisine, and you can find sushi restaurants in many places around the world.

japanese food sushi

In Japan, you can try sushi from different prices, from Running sushi stores with 100 Yen to expensive sushi dishes in luxury restaurants. If you have a chance to visit Fish Market in Tokyo, you should try the freshest sushi with the ingredients taken directly from the market.

 

2. Ramen (ラーメン)

Ramen is a familiar dish to the ones who love Japanese culinary. It presents the beauty of Japanese cuisines and culture because it requires the patience in cooking, and also presenting the beauty of each region.

a) Ramen noodles

Ramen noodles are a combination of wheat flour, water, salt and salt water (Kansui). Depending on each region, ramen noodles have different size, color, and taste.

 

b) Ramen soup

Ramen soup is not only sophisticated but also varied according to the creativity of the region. Salt, water (Shio ramen), tunnel boned pork (tonkatsu ramen), Japanese soy sauce (Shouyu ramen) and miso (miso ramen) are important ingredients to make a delicious ramen broth. The sauces used in ramen vary based on region and type.

A bowl of ramen usually contains vegetables (green onion, bean sprout), Chashu pork, dried bamboo (Menma) and Japanese Marinated Soft Boiled Egg (Ajitsuke Tamago).

japanese food ramen

c) Ramen in different regions

You can try different Ramen type in each part of Japan: Sapporo Ramen, Hakata Ramen from Fukuoka, Hiroshima Ramen, Kitakata Ramen from Fukushima, and Toyama Ramen.

 

d) Service

The most common ramen restaurant have one long row of seats, so customers can eat freely even when they go there alone.

In some restaurants, customers don’t pay after eating but pay at the machine first. Then, they will bring the ticket to the waitress or a cook and get their meals.

japanese food ramen restaurant

 

Do you know that there is a Ramen theme park in Japan?
This park is Aqua City Odaiba and you can try different ramen in booth stands there.

 

3. Udon (うどん)

With Udon noodles, Japanese cook can make different types of Udon. The most popular Udon types are Cold Udon, Udon and Yaki Udon.

a) Cold Udon

With Cold Udon, Udon is put in cold water first and then in a bowl, served with sauce and chopped scallions. You can choose the topping to make your dish more delicious.

b) Udon

The simplest form of Udon (Kake Udon) is served hot with Udon noodles and broth (Kake Udon), with thinly chopped scallions. You can choose different toppings to eat with, such as Tempura or meat.

Japanese food udon

c) Yaki Udon

Yaki Udon, or Fried Udon, is stir-fried with vegetables, sauces, and different ingredients according to your choices (meat, eggs, etc.)

 

How to make Udon?

If you’re interested in making Udon at home, here is a great video!

 

4. Soba (そば)

Soba noodles can have yellow colors, or gray or green (if it’s made from broccoli).

Japanese food Soba

You can eat soba with some toppings or try Yakisoba (Fried soba). Ingredients for Yakisoba are usually Soba noodles, cabbage, meat (chicken, pork or beef), and sauce. Although it’s so easy to make Yakisoba, its taste is amazing.

How to make Soba?

 

5. Sashimi (刺身)

Sashimi is one of the most famous Japanese dishes. Fresh raw meat or fish are sliced into thin pieces and served with delicate decoration.

Even though the most common sashimi are seafood (fish, octopus), there are other types of meat (horse, beef) as well. If you visit Kumamoto, you should try their specialty which is horse sashimi.

Japanese food sashimi

How to eat sashimi?

You can eat sashimi by dipping each one into a small dish of soy sauce. Sometimes people also add wasabi and ginger slide to eat with sashimi.

 

6. Miso Soup (味噌汁)

Miso soup is one of the most common dishes that you can find in Japan. It consists of “dashi” stock, wakame (a type of seaweed), 1/2-inch cube soft tofu, drained and sliced scallion greens.
Miso soup is very healthy as it improves digestion and provides beneficial probiotics.

Japanese food miso

Miso soup is usually served in a meal set

 

7. Takoyaki (たこ焼き)

Takoyaki is a Japanese octopus cake. It is normally served with fried fish, Takoyaki sauce and chopped green onion.

You can make your own Takoyaki with Takoyaki machine, by mixing Takoyaki flour, eggs, water, and octopus, and adding green onion and cheese according to your preferences.

 traditional Japanese food to try

Takoyaki topped with fried fish and Takoyaki sauce

Also, you can buy Takoyaki in Japanese restaurants or stands in the festival. It is recommended to try Takoyaki in Osaka.

 

8. Okonomiyaki (お好み焼き)

Another Japanese food that you should try when visiting Japan is Okonomiyaki.

Japanese food okonomiyaki

It’s a Japanese style of pancake and made of eggs, water, flour, cabbage, and meat. You can choose the topping as your preferences but the most common toppings are dried fish and okonomiyaki sauce.

 

9. Tempura (天ぷら)

Tempura is a common name for Japanese fried dishes of seafood or vegetables. Usually, Tempura is served with Udon, miso soup or in rice set.

Japanese food tempura

Tasty tempura rice set

 

10. Karaage (からあげ)

Karaaage is a Japanese version of fried chicken. There are various types of Karaage with different ways of cooking, but commonly is marinated and then coated in potato starch.

Biting a piece of Karaage, you can feel the crispiness outside and soft, juicy and yummy chicken inside.

Japanese food Fried chicken karaage

Crispy Karaage

 

11. Yakitori (焼き鳥)

Another chicken dish in Japanese culinary is Yakitori. Yakitori is the combination of Yaki (Grilled) and Tori (Chicken), so Yakitori is grilled chicken.

Yakitori is a common name for all grilled parts of chicken: skin, leg meat, heart, etc. It’s common to eat Yakitori in Izakaya and drinking.

Japanese food yakitori

 

12. Gyoza (餃子)

Gyoza is a Japanese dumpling which is filled with vegetables and ground meat, then wrapped in a thin dough. People usually eat Gyoza as a side dish.

Japanese food gyoza

 

13. Yakiniku (焼肉)

Yakiniku, which is a combination of 2 words: Yaki (Grilled) and Niku (Meat),  is generally used for grilled meat in Japan.

If you visit Japan, you can try Yakiniku buffet where you pay for the buffet according to the amount of time such as 1 hour, 1.5 hours or 2 hours.

what to eat in Japan

In Yakiniku All you can eat, you can choose your favorite meats and vegetables based on your favorite choices. Sometimes in Yakiniku buffet, there are sushi, udon, ramen, soba, and free drinks as well. Eating the grilled meat in cold weather is one of the best experience in the winter in Japan.

 

14. Sukiyaki (すき焼き)

The best thing to do in Japan in the winter is having Sukiyaki. Sukiyaki is a name for Japanese hotpot (Nabemono style)

Japanese food guide

In a shallow iron pot, meat is slowly cooked or simmered together with vegetables and other ingredients.

 

15. Japanese curry

Japanese curry is really tasty!

You can find curry in almost every restaurant in Japan. There are three main forms of curry: curry rice, curry udon, and curry bread. You can try curry ramen as well.

The most common ingredients in Japanese curry are meat, potatoes, carrots, and onions. It’s really easy to buy curry base at the supermarket, so it will be a nice gift to remind you about Japan.

Japanese curry food to try in Japan

Japanese curry rice

 

16. Takikomi Gohan (炊き込みご飯)

Takikomi Gohan is made of Japanese rice dish, dashi (Japanese fish stock), soy sauce. You can try with different vegetables, meat or fish.

traditional Japanese food

 

17. Tonkatsu (豚カツ) & Katsudon (カツ丼)

Tonkatsu (Japanese deep-fried pork cutlet) consists of a breaded and deep-fried pork cutlet. It can be served alone with sliced cabbage or in rice bowl – Katsudon.

Katsudon (Japanese pork cutlet rice bowl) is a bowl of rice topped with Tonkatsu, egg, vegetables, and spices. It’s a very common Japanese food and can be found in several restaurants.

traditional Japanese food

 

18. Mochi (餅)

Mochi is a Japanese rice cake which is not only delicious but also cute. There are various forms of Mochi such as strawberry mochi, matcha mochi, mochi ice-cream, but the most popular ones are with red bean.

what to eat in Japan

Have you ever tried mochi ice-cream?

 

19.  Matcha related products (抹茶)

As a healthy and delicious green tea powder, Matcha is used in various products in Japan. There are matcha tea, matcha ice-cream, matcha cake, matcha caramel, matcha mochi, etc.

Japanese matcha

 

20. Japanese Cheesecake

You can find cheesecake in every supermarket, restaurant or souvenir shop. Japanese cotton cheesecake is so soft that you can feel it melted in your tongue in your first bite.

Japanese cheesecake

My favorite cheesecake brand in Japan is Pablo

 

I went on a Pablo cheese hunt during my first trip in Tokyo too!

Pin it for later!

Read 10 Must-try Japanese food here! You will know what to eat in Japan and best Japanese food to try here! Ramen, udon, sushi, okonomiyaki, yakiniku, soba, takoyaki, okonomiyaki, tempura, matcha tea, and more! You'll definitely want to save it in your Japan Board so you can try when you're in Japan! #japan #japanesefood #yummyfood #foodguides #sushilovers #ramen #udon #tempura #foodlover #food #cheesecake #yummy #delicious #deliciousfood #foodie #foodiegram

*This article was updated on May 6th, 2018.

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  1. Bri says:

    One of my favorite things about traveling is trying the local foods – sadly, I have yet to try authentic Japanese cuisine but it all looks soooo good.

    Reply
    • Expatolife says:

      I think you can also try Japanese food around your place as well. There are Japanese restaurants everywhere.

      Reply
  2. Kim says:

    I’m proud to say I’ve tried everything on this list! Love Japanese food, my favorite has to be udon (because it reminds me of banh canh haha). Do you have your own takoyaki machine?? Jealous!

    Reply
  3. Bianca Malata says:

    Yaki Udon and Gyoza are my go to meals. My know and trusted meals especially if I am in a new Japanese resturant and dont know what to order. Now all I have to do is finally purchase a ticket and visit Japan seeing as I love the food.

    Reply
  4. Eloise says:

    Awesome list! I’ve tried the first three but I don’t know the rest. I’d like to visit Japan next year so hopefully I’ll get a change to try these different foods!

    Reply
    • Expatolife says:

      Normally people try the first three only, so don’t worry! You can try the rest in many Japanese restaurants around the world :)

      Reply
  5. Nicole Anderson says:

    Reading this post brought back a few memories. Like you, I spent some time living in Japan and I have grown to appreciate the cuisine very much. Aside from tasting so good, it is usually very healthy and is presented so well. The eyes enjoy the feast as much as the tongue and stomach! Lovely post, great list of choices and photos.

    Reply
  6. Melissa Smuzynski says:

    I have yet to find a Japanese food I didn’t like. I’ve tried most of these with the exception of 2 or 3, however I’m sure they are much better in Japan than elsewhere. All of these foods look incredible!

    Reply
  7. Danielle Jones says:

    You’ve made everything sound so delicious. I’m such a fussy eater though so I struggle with food when I’m travelling. Lovely post!

    Reply
  8. Alexa says:

    Ahhh I love Japanese food so much! How good is all the dairy there? But I can never understand why they don’t make cheese! I live in Hokkaido for the winter every year. I can’t wait to get back there. What a great summary of all the delicious Japanese delights you have put together!!!

    Reply
    • Expatolife says:

      They made cheese too. I saw some brands in the supermarket. However, I personally think Japanese cheeses are terrible :o

      Reply
  9. Genie | Gallivanting Bean says:

    omg I love all of the above especially sushi, udon noodles, soba. but for something new I would absolutely love to try the takoyaki. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it. actually had sushi yesterday haha

    Reply
  10. Soraya says:

    I am absolutely in love with Japanese food, and this post has just made me so hungry! I have only recently found my love for ramen, and I am starting to realise how many different varieties there actually is! I have also grown a love for cold soba – I find it fascinating that they actually put ice into it!

    Reply
  11. Yukti says:

    I can try Japanese rice and Japanese bakery. As I am vegetarian I have to customize the dishes if any hotel wants to help me on that. Very few choices for me. All your food pictures make me hungry.

    Reply
  12. Natasha Haley says:

    This post made me really hungry! The juicy crispy chicken looks delicious and now I really want to go get it haha. Yum! Looks like Japan has more to offer foodwise than I thought!

    Reply
    • Expatolife says:

      This list only contains popular ones, and I think you can find more Japanese foods than you’ve ever thought!

      Reply
  13. Momma To Go says:

    I’m vegetarian and I don’t eat fish. When I went to Japan I ate a lot of Indian food & veg tempura. I loved my visit but the food not so much!

    Reply
  14. ljlegend says:

    I love the Japanese culture and your food has made me hungry, can’t wait to try these out on a Japanese food theme night although would be better in Japan.

    Reply
  15. Christie says:

    Yum! It wasn’t a good idea to read this while I’m hungry haha! I LOVE Japanese food and have tried most of these things. My favourites are ramen and sushi and I’m also a big fan of gyoza and pork katsu. I’ve had some great Japanese style curries too! Japan is one of the top places I want to visit so I can’t wait to try all the food there!

    Reply
    • Expatolife says:

      Japanese foods are really good! That’s why I wrote this post haha. I hope you can visit Japan one day :)

      Reply
  16. Judy says:

    what a lovely list that takes me back! I love Japanese food and just when I think I’ve eaten all that I can eat I find more to try. And the standards of quality in these foods are just astounding. Ramen and soba are such favourites!

    Reply
  17. This Epic World says:

    Being a vegetarian, Japan has always been a scary thought for me when it comes to food. LOL . Would love to know whether one can easily find vegetarian food in Japan.

    Reply
  18. Mimi & Mitch says:

    We love Udon – can’t decide if we love the cold or in hot broth more, need to have some now to decide haha! Takoyaki is our other favorite as well. Tempura.. well who hates tempura really? :P

    Reply
    • Expatolife says:

      It’s so true! No one can hate tempura ;)! They have veggie ones and also meat related ones, so everyone can try it!

      Reply
  19. CHAPTERTRAVEL says:

    Yum! Japanese food is one of my fav. Actually been to Japan two weeks ago, and it was amazing. And had some ramen yesterday at a local restaurant. It was pretty good, but not the same of course. I tried most of these, but not everyone – so have to go back I guess!

    Reply
  20. Page_Traveller says:

    Oh my gosh, I love Japanese food! This made my tummy rumble so much! I visited just over a year ago and can’t wait to go back again some day. The British imitation of sushi in particular in NOT the same!

    Reply
  21. Steele Honda says:

    Wow, I love sweets and I had no idea that there is such thing as a Japanese Cheesecake! The description is so tasty that I cannot wait to try it. I am going immediately online to find a Japanese restaurant so that I can feel this taste myself!

    Reply
  22. Kristina says:

    It took me awhile to get used to mochi, but now I adore it. Aw man now I’m craving it too! haha. Having lived in Japan before, this is really bringing back so many memories. Ah delicious nostalgia!

    Reply
    • Ha Truong says:

      Mochi was quite strange at first I would say, but it is so yummy when you get used to it. I still live in Japan as an expat, and wow I love food here <3

      Reply
  23. Mike says:

    Great guide. Japanese food in particular Sushi is one of my favorite things to eat! I haven’t heard of all the foods you have suggested so will have to try some next time I go to a Japanese restaurant or if I make it to Japan!

    Reply
  24. Nele says:

    I’m going to japan for the first time at the end of this year and cannot wait to try as many of these as possible! They all sound delicious!

    Reply

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