When you arrive in Japan, your taste buds start to tingle. The smells, tastes and traditions of this unique country are unforgettable. The first thing you want to do is try some Japanese street food. If you are visiting Japan for the first time, you may be overwhelmed by the variety of street food on offer. Many highways are lined with yatai (small food stalls) selling a variety of delicacies. I spent some time in Japan trying as many street food options as possible. Came home with a few kilos extra, but happy!
Now I can’t wait to share my experience with you. I’ve highlighted seven of my favorite Japanese street foods below, along with some of the most common ingredients and garnishes in Japanese cooking. They are a “must-have” if you’re only planning a short stay in Japan. While some of the best restaurants in the world today serve sushi, it actually only started out as working-class in Street food Japan .
According to reports, Japanese street vendors in the early 1800s started rolling vinegared rice into balls and topping them with a slice of fresh fish for people rushing to work. Japan is called the sushi capital of the world for a reason. But I won’t cover sushi in detail in this guide. I’m going to introduce you to some foods that you may have never heard of and may not have had the chance to try before. My personal favorite is takoyaki – delicious dumplings filled with diced octopus (or other seafood) is one of the reasons I fall in love with Japanese street food. Check out what other delicious street food awaits you on your Japanese adventure below!
Why must-try local street food?
Whenever I travel, I like to try local street food rather than going to a family-run franchise. Street Food gives you a real experience of what citizens like to eat and the flavors that influence their daily meals.
I find it interesting to try similar foods in different places and see how each small community adapts and modifies the food to fit their surroundings. A good tip for finding the best street food is to see where the locals like to go. See which cafes or street vendors are frequented by residents. Here you can find the most authentic flavors and street food.
For hygienic reasons, tourists are sometimes apprehensive about trying street food. But I can attest that all the Japanese street food I’ve eaten is well prepared and of high quality.
What’s the best place to find street food in Japan?
If you’re looking for authentic and delicious Japanese street food, head to a local market or plan your trip to coincide with seasonal festivities. The Gion Matsuri is the largest and most famous festival in Kyoto. It runs throughout July, including the parade of floats.
Thousands of locals take part in the festival, and there are plenty of street food options to choose from. Just lookout for signs that tell you where you should and shouldn’t eat.
Before you dive into the variety of mouthwatering Japanese street foods, here are some quick tips on Japanese eating etiquette.
- Never put chopsticks on the plate. Be sure to put them in the specially designed chopstick rest on the table.
- Keep the chair clean and tidy. When you get up from your seat (even at a street cafe), be sure to keep your plate clean and tidy. Don’t crumple napkins and throw them on your plate. Fold it neatly or throw it away.
- It is impolite to lift food over your mouth. Don’t hold your sushi rolls or noodles in the air for a “pretty Instagram photo,” and don’t inspect your food in public. Eat it delicately and respect those who prepare it.
- Did you know that sipping in Japan is actually a sign of appreciation? So feel free to sip as you enjoy ramen or miso soup!
- Don’t waste your soy sauce! Pour only the soy sauce you think you need into the special small bowls that are available at most restaurants and cafes. If you run out, you can pour a little more, but don’t pour too much or leave excess on the plate.
How to order food in Japanese
- Japanese are very polite and respectful. Make sure to end with “please” every time you order.
- Remember, pointing is impolite, so if you don’t know how to pronounce the name of the food you want, wave it with your whole hand.
- When you enter a restaurant or are greeted by a food vendor, you hear “irasshaimase,” which means “welcome.”
- When ordering, please say the item name and end with “kudasai”.
Japanese street food
The Best Noodle Soup You’ve Ever Had: Ramen
Ramen is one of the most common Japan street food. You can get it on street corners or fancy restaurants. Ramen is both street food and gourmet food. What exactly is ramen? This noodle soup is made with a rich broth and a variety of toppings, including scallions, sliced pork, pickled eggs, and even seaweed. It is usually flavored with miso or soybeans. The flavours of the ramen are carefully balanced and each chef takes pride in creating a meal that is fragrant, delicious and satisfying. If you travel in Japan, you will find that each region has its own style of ramen. According to statistics, there are more than 10,000 ramen shops in Tokyo alone!