Dining Hiroshima Japan Kinosaki Onsen Kyoto Osaka Tokyo

Dining & Cuisine: Japan

We all know that Japan is known for its sushi, but what other foods can you expect to see and try when traveling to Japan?  Here are some of the foods we tried and what we would recommend! 

Entrées

Sushi 

There are many different kinds of sushi that we tried during our time in Japan. These are the three that we felt like were the most commonly seen at restaurants.

-Nigirizushi: This was our favorite form of sushi. These pieces are formed by hand the rice being pressed into a rectangular shape with a bit of wasabi spread on top and covered by a topping; typically octopus (tako), freshwater eel (unagi), squid (ika), shrimp (ebi), or egg (tamago).

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Nigrizushi at Sushi Hayata | Osaka, Japan

-Makizushi: This is the form of sushi that we typically see at local sushi restaurants in the United States. It is generally a layered roll of rice, vegetables, raw fish, or other ingredients that is wrapped in seaweed (nori) or rice paper.

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Makizushi (top right) at Chijiro | Kyoto, Japan

-Chirashizushi: This style is typically a chef’s special and is commonly formed in a bowl of sushi rice topped with a variety of raw fish and vegetables.

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Eating Chirashizushi and Nigirizushi with our friends in Kyoto

Noodles

This was always one of the top choices as it makes for a delicious, quick, and inexpensive meal.

-Ramen: A soup noodle dish that is made with thin wheat noodles typically served in a meat based broth, and generally uses toppings such as thin sliced pork, green onions, and dried seaweed.

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Ramen from Menbakaichidai in Kyoto

-Soba: A thin buckwheat noodle dish served with a chilled dipping sauce or hot broth.

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We loved these hand created soba noodles hot and cold.

-Udon:  A thick wheat flour noodle served as a hot dish in a mildly flavored broth. Also, it typically comes with toppings such as green onion, tempura prawn and vegetables,  and fried tofu.

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Hot dipping udon served with tempura | Osaka, Japan

 

Tempura

A favorite and must try for all! Typically this is dish of seafood and vegetables that is battered and fried.

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A different way to eat tempura at Kikaru | Kyoto, Japan

Shabu-Shabu 

A dish that features thin slices of pork or beef boiled in water. Although, this dish is different as you cook it yourself piece by piece gently moving it around in the hot broth.

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Shabu-Shabu style meal with vegetables, fish, and pork at Nishimura Honkan (also seen below).

Hot Pot 

A stew consisting of a pot of simmering broth in which you add the ingredients to the pot and they are cooked at the table. Hot pot dishes usually contain a variety of ingredients such as: thinly sliced meat, seafood, vegetables, mushrooms, and tofu.

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King Crab hot pot | Kyoto, Japan

Yakiniku

Grilled meat dishes often referred to as a Japanese version of a “barbecue” as you cook portions of meat over an open flame. Typically the meat choices are beef (wagyu, kobe, and matsusaka) served with soy sauce, wasabi, and salt for dipping.

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Okonomiyaki

Better known as a Japanese pancake, this generously portioned dish became popular in the Hiroshima region. It is typically made with cabbage, egg, noodles, and a choice of meat (pork, octopus, squid). It is fried and topped with okonomiyaki sauce that is similar to Worcestershire sauce (but thicker and sweeter), Japanese mayonnaise, green onion, and bonito flakes.

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At Hassai | Hiroshima, Japan

Yakitori

Typically a piece of seasoned dark or white meat chicken grilled over a charcoal fire and skewered on a bamboo stick.

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Yakitori | Kyoto, Japan

Gyoza

Dumplings filled with meat and vegetables wrapped in a thin dough and often pan fried and served with a dipping sauce similar to soy sauce but sweeter.

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Pork, shrimp, crab, and mozzarella chicken gyoza at Chao Chao | Kyoto

Kaiseki

This is a traditional multi-course Japanese dinner that often features small portioned artistically arranged dishes. We had this style of cuisine when we stayed in Kinosaki Onsen. Our arrangement went as follows:

-Sakizuke: an appetizer consisting of snail, Japanese sweet tomato, small shrimp, pickled seaweed, pickled ginger, white fish with rice (from left to right).
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-Hassun/Mukōzuke: seasonal fresh sashimi featuring sea urchin, snail, squid, fatty tuna, and sea bream. Ours was also served with a light soup that contained mushroom and crab and to the far right you will see a small dish with baby sardines inside.
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-Shiizakana: A sustainable hot pot dish featuring a variety of leafy vegetables, mushrooms, fish, and pork.

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-Yakimono: a variety of meats, seafood, and tofu flame-grilled on pottery. Ours contained wagyu beef, scallops, prawn, red bean tofu, and potato. Served also with dipping seasonings and sauces.
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-Mizumono: a seasonal dessert ours being a fresh fruit gelatin served with green tea.

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Snacks

Takoyaki

This popular dish is famous in Osaka. It is a ball-shaped wheat flour based snack that is typically fried and cooked inside a special Takoyaki pan and usually filled with dried Octopus, tempura, and green onion. Then it is topped with a sauce similar to Worcestershire (but thicker and sweeter) and Japanese mayonnaise. We would say that this was the only dish we didn’t care for in Japan, as the octopus had a strong flavor and the inside was rather gooey. However we only tried them from one stand so that could have been why we didn’t have a pleasant experience.
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Fish Cake 

We don’t know what these are technically called in Japanese but they taste similar to fish sticks made with a cod type fish and other ingredients fried in a light batter. Definitely not our favorite, but worth a try!

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Cheese Bun 

Again, we honestly don’t know the exact name of these awesome snack from 7/11 but it was basically a bread bun baked with cheddar cheese. Finding cheese or something with cheese is a rarity in Japan.

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We loved the Melon Buns and Cheese Buns from 7/11 stores

Tako Tamago

Octopus with a quail egg in the head. Yes, it is as weird as it sounds but if you get the chance to visit any local markets while in Japan you can make a meal out of all of the interesting street vendor food there is to offer.

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Sweets

Taiyaki

A fish shaped cake commonly filled with sweet red bean paste, custard,  chocolate, or cheese. In Hiroshima, the Taiyaki we had was shaped like a maple leaf and was more of a dense cake with the fillings. In Tokyo, the Taiyaki was more of a crispy pancake filled with red bean paste.

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Taiyaki in Tokyo

Wagashi

A Japanese confection made with azuki bean paste and fruit. It is commonly served with tea. This is truly a cultural experience and while we truly enjoyed it, we knew that wagashi might not be for everyone as it has a very mild flavor and a distinct texture.

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Two varieties of wagashi on left and right.

Dango

A Japanese dumpling (similar to mochi) made from sweet rice flour and commonly found on a skewer.

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Dango we found at 7/11.

Mochi

A chewy rice cake made out of sweet rice flour often containing red bean paste, peanut paste, sesame paste, or fruit gelatin on the inside (see photo of shaved ice below as it contained mochi).

Ice Cream

Japan has a large variety of soft serve flavors. We could honestly write an entire blog post on ice cream alone! Our favorites were pineapple, strawberry ice, black sesame, vanilla & green tea, melon, and vanilla cookie.

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Ice Cream on Miyajima Island | Hiroshima, Japan

Kakigōri

Also known as “Japanese Shaved Ice,” kakigōri was a rather delicious and refreshing treat! Like the soft serve ice cream, kakigōri has many different flavors including strawberry, grape, melon, green tea, cherry, and lemon.

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A refreshing treat! Strawberry coconut milk shaved ice with mochi.

Crêpes

These are very thin pancakes made from wheat flour served with a large variety of fillings. In Japan, crêpe stands were nearly on every corner. Remember how we said we could write a whole blog post about ice cream in Japan? Well we could make a new blog solely dedicated to these scrumptious treats! Many of the flavors are sure to send you into sugar shock but they are quite worth it.

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Many sweet crepes are served with custard or ice cream, cheesecake, fruits, and chocolate syrup.

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Crepeojisan | Osaka, Japan

Parfaits

Mainly made of ice cream and other sweet ingredients served in a tall glass. It is one of Japan’s most popular desserts and are often found in coffee shops or maid cafés.
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Donuts

Oh for the love of donuts! While donuts are typically known as being a delicious cake, in Japan they are even better and often very cute!

Melonpan

Best described as a sweet bun cooked with enriched dough and covered with a sugary crust. Don’t be deceived by the name there is nothing melon about it besides the appearance.

Cheesecake

First and foremost, Japanese cheesecake is nothing like Western-style cheesecake. The best way we can describe it is that is a marriage of angel food cake and cheesecake and because of that, it is unlike anything you’ll ever try and often is sold as a whole cake for roughly 800-1000¥.
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Drinks

Coffee

Much like in other countries we have visited or lived coffee is served hot or cold. We enjoyed sipping on espresso drinks from local coffee shops and selecting a Boss iced coffee from a nearby vending machine.
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Tea

Being the most common drink in Japan there are many varieties to choose from. If you are interested in learning more about tea in Japan we found this article helpful. We personally enjoyed Matcha (powdered green tea), Kocha (black tea), and Hojicha (a sweet roasted green tea).

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Matcha Green Tea

Sake

Before visiting Japan the only sake we had tried had been rather strong. While in Japan we tried many different kinds of sake and were pleased with each one that we tried. We learned that when buying a brand of sake it is best to find one that includes only ingredients in Japan as it is the purest form.

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Our friend Shin sharing his finest Sake with us!

Beer

The four most popular beers include Kirin, Sapporo, Asahi, and Suntory. We tried each and found that they were all similar in taste. Asahi seemed to be the driest brew, followed by Kirin and Sapporo. Another interesting fact is that Japan has vending machines that you can purchase alcohol from as they have no open container laws.

Soft Drinks

Japan carries Coke and Pepsi products although they are limited to choices. For instance, we didn’t see Dr. Pepper while in Japan. It is also uncommon to have ice with your beverages, something that we commonly have in the U.S. but we did find that they sold a cup with ice at 7/11’s freezer section.

Ramune

Ramune is a carbonated soft drink found widely around Japan. It is known for its unique bottle design and large variety of flavors. While in Kinosaki Onsen we tried the Onsen specialty flavor only sold there. It was comparable to Sprite in the U.S. but a lighter flavor. Other popular flavors include: strawberry, lychee, melon, grape, muscat, pineapple, watermelon, and orange.
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We hope we gave you some insight on that Japanese cuisine is truly like. We never tired of the food or trying new things!
What are some of your favorite Japanese foods and beverages?

We all know that Japan is known for its sushi but what other foods can you expect to try in Japan? Check out this complete dining guide for Japan to find out more!

29 Comments

  • Reply
    Kinosaki Onsen, Toyooka, Japan – Pages of Travel
    January 24, 2016 at 8:27 PM

    […] salted dried sardines or anchovies). For more information about this kaiseki style meal check out this blog post on Japanese […]

  • Reply
    erinklema
    September 13, 2016 at 9:14 PM

    Nice round up of the food you’ll find in Japan. After reading your post, I’m so hungry. I want sushi now. I’ll take some of those adorable doughnuts too, and I’d love to try dango since it is an emoji. 😉

    • Reply
      kallsypage
      September 13, 2016 at 9:28 PM

      Thank you Erin! We loved the food in Japan. After walking nearly 25 miles a day you’d think we would have lost weight… Instead we broken even! I wonder why? HAHA! The doughnuts were seriously awesome, almost too cute to eat and you can get dango at any 7/11 there. 🙂

      • Reply
        erinklema
        September 13, 2016 at 11:00 PM

        Haha. I’m not surprised! I mean, basically I’d want to live on sushi, noodles, and sweets in Japan … not exactly the healthiest of foods. But, tasty, for sure!

        • Reply
          kallsypage
          September 16, 2016 at 6:31 PM

          Just drink a gallon of green tea a day and it off sets it! 😉
          Pretty sure I had a crepe or two everyday! HA!

          • erinklema
            September 17, 2016 at 11:07 PM

            Haha. Great tip about green tea!

  • Reply
    Julie Cao
    September 25, 2016 at 11:47 AM

    Japanese Ramen is my favorite. The sushi plate looks so exquisite and so healthy. Thanks for the round-up for the delicious Japanese food.

    • Reply
      kallsypage
      September 25, 2016 at 2:36 PM

      We loved the Ramen too! Thanks for visiting, glad you enjoyed! 🙂

  • Reply
    10 of the Wackiest Foods to Try From Around the World | Pages of Travel
    November 7, 2016 at 11:37 AM

    […] -Logan & Kallsy, Pages of Travel […]

  • Reply
    The Glutton's Guide to the World's Best Cuisines - Eternal Arrival
    January 23, 2017 at 6:27 AM

    […] back. As ridiculously fresh and delicious as Japanese sushi is, there’s so much more to Japanese cuisine than just that. The Japanese take doing things to perfection so seriously that there’s […]

  • Reply
    screamfmlondon
    January 29, 2017 at 9:04 PM

    Yum! Fabulous and thorough post. There’s so much more delicious food in Japan besides sushi!

    • Reply
      kallsypage
      February 4, 2017 at 8:54 PM

      Thank you very much! I couldn’t agree more but obviously having sushi there is out of this world! 😉

  • Reply
    Sanne - Spend Life Traveling
    January 29, 2017 at 11:32 PM

    Oh how much I miss the food in Japan! I had a hot pot with a local family, in their home, when I was in Japan. That was probably my favorite food experience there.

    • Reply
      kallsypage
      February 4, 2017 at 8:54 PM

      Oh the hot pot! We loved those so much. We have since tried recreating that with our fondue pot but it’s not the same.

  • Reply
    Kari (Happy Coconuts Travel Blog)
    January 30, 2017 at 9:03 PM

    Holy YUMM that all looks so good! I have always wanted to go to Japan just for the sushi alone! But every single thing looks so good, here I came Japan!

    • Reply
      kallsypage
      February 4, 2017 at 8:55 PM

      I’m pretty sure I turned into a walking piece of sushi while there! We ate SO. MUCH. FOOD!

  • Reply
    wheninmyjourneys
    January 31, 2017 at 11:10 AM

    There are lots of choices made me hungry. I love the mochi and gyoza.

    • Reply
      kallsypage
      February 4, 2017 at 8:56 PM

      Same here! We recently found some decent gyoza at Trader Joe’s Grocery Store in the States and some Mochi Ice Cream. It’s satisfying us for the time being!

  • Reply
    Bhushavali
    February 1, 2017 at 6:20 AM

    OMG! That’s a long long list. That’s actually a very educational post with so many technical terms!!! I’ve never had Japanese food so far and I know, its high time, I should get into an authentic restaurant and try a few dishes!

    • Reply
      kallsypage
      February 4, 2017 at 8:58 PM

      It is a rather lengthy list but all of them are worth trying! If you like any type of Asian cuisine you will most likely LOVE authentic Japanese.

  • Reply
    Anna Sherchand
    February 3, 2017 at 10:48 AM

    Great list guys! I tried home made Okonomiyaki at a japenese friend’s house in Kyoto and absolutely loved it :
    http://www.annasherchand.com

    • Reply
      kallsypage
      February 4, 2017 at 8:59 PM

      Thank you Anna! Okonomiyaki is so delicious and not to mention, a LARGE portion every time!

  • Reply
    Snigdha
    February 4, 2017 at 9:04 AM

    I love Japanese food. Although it’s an acquired taste but I find it simply yummilicious. My favorites are tempura, soba, and okonomiyaki. Love your read. I’m still drooling.

    • Reply
      kallsypage
      February 4, 2017 at 9:00 PM

      Thank you very much Snigdha! Tempura became a fast favorite of mine as well. In fact, I’m kind of obsessed with ALL Japanese food. 😉

  • Reply
    mohitarts
    February 5, 2017 at 11:53 AM

    The moment your page loaded I was like wooww…food..but being a veggie I was more interested in getting some drinks and as I scrolled down finding one and that too something new …will definitely have to look more about the sake..

  • Reply
    ADAM DOOLITTLE
    February 5, 2017 at 11:57 AM

    Officially hungry now! For a long time I’ve wanted to travel to Japan, mostly for the culture but now after reading your post I definitely wanna go for the food, too! There are so many delicious look dishes here from the dumplings to the sushi to the noodle dishes…and of course, the crepes! Those look absolutely amazing 🙂

  • Reply
    8duffels2mutts
    February 5, 2017 at 1:45 PM

    I think I would get really fat if I went to Japan! All of this food looks so, so, so good. I’m sure that I would be eating nonstop just to get the chance to try it all 🙂 The Japanese shaved ice looks especially awesome!

  • Reply
    Brigitta
    May 9, 2017 at 6:16 AM

    *drooling* I want to try EVERYTHING on this list! 😀

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