One of the most important parts of traveling in Japan is tasting local street food! Once you learn to accept the local food, you learn to accept the uniqueness of the place. I have been living in Japan for 2 years now and I am in absolute love with the place. Accepting and liking the Japanese cuisine is hands-down the major contributor to this. Here are some dishes which helped me relish the flavors of Japan.
- #1 The Most Popular Street Food in Japan – Ramen
- #2 Yakitori – A Yummy Take-away
- #3 Okonomiyaki – Create Your Own Dish with This Tasty Street Food in Japan
- #4 Takoyaki – Let a Fried Octopus Caress Your Mouth!
- #5 Soba – Traditional Japanese FAST Food, Eat While You Wait for Your Train
- #6 Bento – It’s Not Just a Lunchbox! It’s an Art!
- #7 Karaage – Popcorn Chicken for Fried Food Fanatics
- #8 Oden – A Cozy Treat for The Winter Days
- #9 Nikuman – A Chinese-influenced Delicacy
- #10 Shioyaki – Quintessence from the Sea
#1 The Most Popular Street Food in Japan – Ramen
Ramen is definitely one of the most loved Japanese street food in Japan. Originally a Chinese dish, it is adopted quite well in Japan. This wheat noodle soup is oishi (delicious) and inexpensive at the same time. Ramen is differentiated based on the soup. The common ones are Shoyu (soy sauce), Shio (salt), Miso , and Tonkotsu (pork stalk). You also get to pick the type of noodles you prefer. The noodles are differentiated based on their thickness and firmness.
Now comes the best part, the toppings! Each bowl has at least 3-4 toppings amongst chashu (pork slices), menma (salty bamboo shoots), moyashi (bean sprouts), kamaboko (fish cake), tamago (boiled egg), corn, butter, spring onion, etc. I usually look for the chef’s recommendations and have not been disappointed even once. My favorite still remains tonkotsu ramen and Hokkaido miso butter ramen.
Ramen shops are clustered around the train station and its basements and almost at every corner around the station. Ramen is a fast food so you are meant to eat quickly and leave 😛 It is not a place for relaxed conversations or dates. At busier locations, you’d find only standing ramen places. Although the tourists’ flood to Ippudo or Ichiran for the novelty of it, the locals prefer the regular outlets. These ramen shops are the ones who use a vending machine for placing an order. If you loved your ramen, you can finish all your soup as a compliment to the chef (Be aware, ramen soup usually contains a lot of salt!). The most important thing! It is fully acceptable to make a slurping sound your noodles while eating 🙂
#2 Yakitori – A Yummy Take-away
Simply put, Yakitori is a grilled chicken skewer. It can be made from different chicken parts, such as thighs, breasts, liver, or innards. Each skew comprises several small bite-sized pieces and is grilled over a charcoal fire.
Savory seasoning flavors all twist together while sitting on the top of the flame of charcoal. It gives such a strong kick to the taste that caresses your mouth at every single bite.
There are some variations of this mouthwatering finger food though. The most common type of Yakitori is Negima, a skewer of grilled chicken thighs featuring a few leeks in between.
Other than that, Tsukune is another must-try style of Yakitori, a mixture of minced chicken balls, eggs, and veggies. A glass of ice-cold beer is the best companion to pair with Yakitori. This Japanese street food is widely available at the festive food stands and sold at a very reasonable price.
You can also find it in a Japanese specialty restaurant called Yakitori-ya. You can check out Torishiki, one of Japan’s most sought-after Yakitori spots with a remarkable Michelin star achievement.
For those who are intimidated by the Japanese dining etiquette, rest your worries because all you need to do is eat Yakitori straight from the skewers.
#3 Okonomiyaki – Create Your Own Dish with This Tasty Street Food in Japan
If you’re looking for a hearty bite to get your day started, Okonomiyaki is that one street food you’ve got to try in Japan! As a signature street food in Hiroshima and Osaka, Okonomiyaki is a round pan-fried dish with a bed of cabbage and a full-on mixture of toppings.
“Okonomi” literally translates to “as you like”, which indicates that you can decorate the batter with a wide range of ingredients to your liking. Meat, seafood, and cheese are the most common toppings that you can choose from.
Okonomiyaki is a fun, crowd-pleasing cuisine in Japan, as you can cook the dish yourself in some of the specialty restaurants. Sakuratei is a great place in Japan that allows you to test your cooking skills on a personal “teppan,” a traditional Japanese iron griddle.
#4 Takoyaki – Let a Fried Octopus Caress Your Mouth!
Speaking of the best street food in Japan, Takoyaki never falls out of the chart! Thanks to how tasty and chewy every bite is, this summer dish has taken the world by storm. The best part of the food comes from the grilled octopus nesting inside every pan-fried ball.
The gooey interior plays its role as the backbone for the crispy exterior. All that’s left is a lingering blissful aftertaste that gets you to ask for more.
Watching the chef swish the ball batter atop the hot griddle before they are doused in the tangy rich sauce is another fun part of the dish. Last but not least, the Katsuobushi fish flakes are then sprinkled all over to invite you to grab some more!
Kougaryu is a top-class restaurant in Japan offering authentic Takoyaki dishes. The restaurant is located in Amerikamura, Osaka, and is widely featured in many travel magazines and TV shows.
#5 Soba – Traditional Japanese FAST Food, Eat While You Wait for Your Train
These buckwheat noodles are enjoyed hot as well as cold. Soba dishes are served with a soup or with a dip. Mori soba, boiled cold noodles, eaten with soya-based dips. However, kake soba is dipped in hot soup, usually dashi (fish stalk). There are different varieties which can be enjoyed hot as well as cold. Amongst these my favorites are tororo soba, kitsune (topped with deep fried tofu) soba, and tanuki (topped with tempura bits) soba.
Soba is simple, light and fresh street food and it’s popular as it can be handy and eaten quickly when you are a little hungry. Soba stalls can often be found on the platforms at train stations!
#6 Bento – It’s Not Just a Lunchbox! It’s an Art!
Bento is a sensational Japanese lunch box that usually comes in a well-crafted decoration. This is a perfect example of how smart and attentive the Japanese can be.
Bento lunchbox is a complete meal with a variety of ingredients, tastes, and shapes. Essentially, each bento box includes daily food such as rice, meat or fish, and vegetables. It is inspired by Japanese mothers whose sole purpose is to prepare a full-on and eye-catching meal for their husbands and little ones.
Each box is neatly packed to take full advantage of the inner space. It’s not hard to find ready-made bento boxes in every convenience store in Japan today. This type of bento is known as Marukonouchi bento, divided into two sections. One side contains rice, while the other side is filled with side dishes to accompany the rice.
#7 Karaage – Popcorn Chicken for Fried Food Fanatics
Who wants some chicken fritters? Karaage is one of Japan’s most fabulous fried foods to have taken the world by storm. You may find it similar to American chicken popcorn but this originated entirely in Japan.
The best part about Japanese fried snacks is that they’re not that greasy compared to what you have sampled in the West. Japanese fried food is crispy to make you indulge your crunchy cravings but light enough to retain the intended flavor of the dish.
In Japan, karaage is dipped in potato starch before sliding into a pool of boiling oil. Plain karaage often gives off ginger and garlic notes when served plain. Karaage also comes along with miso soup and rice.
#8 Oden – A Cozy Treat for The Winter Days
If you ask me what kind of street food you’ve had in Japan to warm you up from the inside during the chilly winter months, my answer is definitely Oden.
As the favorite winter treat in this land of sunrise, Oden is a steaming hot mixture of fish cakes, tofu, eggs, vegetables, and konnyaku (thread konjac).
Oden is a comfort food that uses the savory, simmered dashi broth to treat frostbites. This delicacy comes in multiple variations from region to region.
In Tokyo, for example, the broth is salty, as it is simmered with dark soya sauce. The Osaka version is inclined towards a hint of sweetness as light soy sauce is used for the base.
You’ll find Oden offered by a street food vendor, at a convenience store, or an Izakaya restaurant (a Japanese-style pub).
#9 Nikuman – A Chinese-influenced Delicacy
You can refer to Nikuman as meat bun in English, inspired by a Chinese steamed bun that was once sold exclusively in Chinatown.
Not until 1927 did the Japanese inherit this delicious dough bun and turn it into the famous street food in Japan.
Like Oden, Nikuman becomes a hot seller in winter, even though you can grab a bite of this steaming hot piece at any time of the year. Most people head straight to a convenient store and order Nikuman as a quick take-away. However, if you’re looking for an authentic traditional type of bun, we highly recommend that you choose a specialty restaurant. All the buns are freshly made and the stuffing will blow you away.
Along with these, there are onigiri, curry, udon, and many more you can enjoy. Japanese cuisine (和食, washoku) offers an abundance of gastronomical delights with a boundless variety of regional and seasonal dishes as well as international cuisine. A foodie will not return disappointed after trying all these street foods in Japan!
#10 Shioyaki – Quintessence from the Sea
Simple and flavorful, Shioyaki is a grilled fish skewer that often uses mackerel as the most common variation. This Japanese cuisine is a healthy and fresh treat, as it is seasoned with salt only to enhance the pure flavor of the fish.
Like many other street foods in Japan, Shioyaki is a festive, crowd-pleasing food. Mackerel is usually seen as the main ingredient of the dish because of its wide availability off the coast of Japan. Yet there is another hearty variation known as Taino Shioyaki.
Taino Shiokyaki can be translated into “salt-grilled sea bream” and served as a delicious part of Japan’s traditional New Year’s Eve party. If you’re a fish lover, we highly recommend Sabar restaurant if you want to find a good serving of Shioyaki. This specialty restaurant is located between Daikanyama Station and Ebisu Station.