Foods from Japan food on table

With its vibrant street food scene, Michelin-starred restaurants, and unique flavour combinations, Japan will take your taste buds on a wild ride. From sushi to ramen, tempura to takoyaki, every bite is an explosion of flavour and a culinary adventure you’ll never forget!

Get ready to drool as we take a closer look at 20 dishes from Japan that you must try!

1) Sushi

Foods from Japan - Sushi

Sushi is a traditional Japanese dish that has become a global sensation.

Sushi consists of vinegared rice combined with raw fish, seafood, or vegetables, often wrapped in nori, a crunchy seaweed paper with an excellent source of nutrients. Sushi is not just a dish, but it is also an art form that requires precision and expertise to create.

It’s no wonder this dish is loved by so many – the combination of flavours and textures is unbeatable.

2) Ramen

Foods from Japan - Ramen
Ramen is the classic food of Japan!

Ah, ramen, the delicious noodle soup that has captured the hearts and taste buds of foodies worldwide!

In Japan, ramen is not just a meal, it’s a way of life. It’s a piping hot bowl of goodness that can be enjoyed any time of day or night, and it’s one of the country’s most beloved comfort foods.

So, what is ramen exactly? It’s a bowl of steaming hot broth filled with chewy noodles and an array of toppings, such as sliced pork, eggs, green onions, and seaweed. The broth can be made from pork bones, chicken, fish, or even vegetables, and it’s simmered for hours to extract all the flavour and goodness.

Each bowl of ramen is unique, with its distinct flavour and style, and it’s a genuine culinary adventure for the taste buds!

It’s no surprise that Japan was featured on my list of 10 Best Food Countries in the World; the cuisine is exceptional.

3) Takoyaki

Foods from Japan - Takoyaki

These bite-sized octopus balls are a popular street food in Japan. They’re made from a batter of flour, eggs, and dashi broth, with a piece of octopus added in the centre.

They’re then cooked in a special takoyaki pan until golden and crispy.

These delicious balls are brushed with takoyaki sauce and kewpie mayonnaise (Japan has the best mayonnaise I’ve ever tasted), and then sprinkled with seaweed flakes and shavings of dried bonito (katsuobushi).

4) Tempura

Foods from Japan - Tempura

No country does tempura quite like Japan. It’s always perfect!

Tempura is the ultimate crispy and crunchy treat that originated in Japan. It’s basically a dish of battered and deep-fried seafood, vegetables, or sometimes even sweet treats like ice cream. The batter is made of flour, water, and sometimes even egg, and it’s fried to golden perfection in hot oil.

But why is tempura so popular in Japan? Well, for starters, it’s a dish that’s both delicious and fun to eat! There’s nothing quite like biting into a crispy shrimp or a perfectly fried vegetable and hearing that satisfying crunch.

Plus, tempura is incredibly versatile, and it can be enjoyed as an appetiser, side dish, or even a main course.

5) Udon

Foods from Japan - Udon

Udon is one of the popular noodle dishes from Japan, and it’s beloved by locals and tourists alike. I can still remember my first bowl of Udon noodles at a small restaurant in Kyoto, it was wonderful. 

These thick, chewy noodles are made from wheat flour and water, and they can be served in a variety of dishes, including soups, stir-fries, and salads.

Udon noodle soup, for example, is a classic comfort food that’s perfect on a cold day or when you’re feeling under the weather. The broth is typically made from dashi (a type of Japanese stock), soy sauce, and mirin, and it’s often topped with sliced meat, scallions, and tempura.

Another popular way to enjoy udon is in stir-fry dishes, such as yaki-udon. This dish consists of stir-fried udon noodles with meat, vegetables, and a savoury sauce. It’s a hearty and filling meal that’s perfect for lunch or dinner.

6) Okonomiyaki

Foods from Japan - Okonimayaki

I love to sit and watch the chef prepare this dish. Okonomiyaki is a savoury pancake and a very popular street food in Japan.

Okonomiyaki is a mouth-watering Japanese dish that’s as fun to make as it is to eat! The word “okonomiyaki” roughly translates to “grilled as you like it,” which means you can customise it with all your favourite ingredients.

At its core, okonomiyaki is made with a batter that’s usually made from flour, water, eggs, and shredded cabbage. From there, you can add just about anything you want, such as shrimp, pork belly, bacon, or even cheese. Some people even like to add ramen noodles or octopus to their okonomiyaki – the possibilities are endless!

One of the best things about okonomiyaki is that it’s typically cooked on a griddle or hot plate right in front of you, which makes it an interactive and exciting dining experience.

Don’t miss tasting all the fun foods of Japan like this one!

7) Yakitori

Foods from Japan - Yakitori

This dish consists of bite sized pieces of meat from many different parts of a chicken, such as the thighs, breast, liver, and skin.

The pieces are threaded on a skewer, marinated in a sweet and savoury sauce and cooked over charcoal. Yakitori is usually made to order and it’s a popular dish in Izakayas, or Japanese pubs.

Yakitori tastes best when enjoyed with a cold beer.

8) Miso soup

Foods from Japan - Miso Soup

Miso soup is one of Japan’s classic foods that’s both delicious and healthy. It’s made with dashi, a type of Japanese stock, and miso paste, which gives the soup its unique flavour. Other common ingredients include tofu, spring onions, seaweed, and sometimes mushrooms.

Miso soup is so beloved because it’s a comforting and nourishing dish that’s perfect for any time of day.

Whether you’re looking for a light breakfast or a warming lunch, miso soup is a great choice. Plus, it’s easy to make at home, so you don’t have to be a master chef to enjoy it.

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But miso soup isn’t just tasty – it’s also good for you! Miso paste is made from fermented soybeans, which is packed with probiotics that can help promote good gut health. Plus, it’s high in protein, vitamins, and minerals, so you can feel good about eating it.

9) Matcha

Foods from Japan - Matcha

Matcha is a vibrant green powder made from finely ground green tea leaves, and it’s a staple in Japanese cuisine and culture.

Unlike traditional green tea, which is steeped in water and then discarded, matcha is consumed whole, which means you get all the nutrients and antioxidants from the tea leaves.

One of the reasons matcha is so beloved is because it has a unique flavour that’s both earthy and slightly sweet. It’s often used in traditional Japanese tea ceremonies, but you can also find it in other dishes, such as matcha lattes, smoothie bowls, and desserts.

But matcha isn’t just tasty – it’s also incredibly good for you! It’s packed with antioxidants. It’s also a good source of caffeine, which can help improve mental alertness and focus.

10) Tonkatsu

Foods from Japan - Tonkatsu

Tonkatsu are breaded and deep-fried pork cutlets.

It’s made by taking a juicy pork cutlet, dipping it in egg and panko breadcrumbs, and deep-frying it until it’s crispy and golden brown.

One of the reasons tonkatsu is so popular is because it’s the perfect combination of crispy and tender. The crunchy exterior gives way to a juicy interior, satisfying any craving.

It’s typically served with a sweet and savoury sauce and can be enjoyed with a small bowl of perfectly steamed rice or sliced and placed into a sandwich with fresh lettuce and smothered with delicious kewpie mayonnaise.

11) Soba

Foods from Japan - Shabu shabu

Made from buckwheat flour, these long, thin noodles have a nutty flavour and a slightly chewy texture that’s perfect for slurping up in a big bowl of broth.

They’re packed with fibre and protein, so they’ll keep you full and satisfied for longer. They’re naturally gluten-free, so they’re a great option for people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.

But soba noodles aren’t just good for you – they’re also super versatile! You can enjoy them hot in soups and stir-fries or serve them cold with a dipping sauce or in a salad.

12) Gyoza

Foods from Japan - Gyoza

We can thank Japan for gyoza, the best snack food you can now find worldwide! These pan-fried dumplings are typically filled with ground pork, cabbage, and garlic.

They’re crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside, making them a popular appetiser or snack.

Or if you’re like me – order 10 to 12 at once and saviour every bite.

13) Shabu-shabu

Foods from Japan - Shabu shabu

How much fun is the name? Shabu-shabu is a popular Japanese hot pot dish that consists of thinly sliced meat (usually beef) and vegetables cooked in a pot of boiling water. The name “shabu shabu” comes from the sound the meat makes as it’s swished back and forth in the hot pot.

To eat shabu shabu, you dip the meat and vegetables into a dipping sauce (usually a mix of soy sauce and citrus) before eating. The broth in the pot becomes more flavourful as you cook the meat and vegetables, so you can also sip it like soup.

Shabu-shabu is a social dish often enjoyed with family and friends, and it’s a great way to experience the freshness and quality of Japanese ingredients. It’s a healthy and fun way to eat, and it’s worth trying if you’re ever in Japan or at a Japanese restaurant that serves it!

14) Onigiri

Foods from Japan - Onigiri

These rice balls are typically filled with pickled plum, tuna, or salmon and wrapped in seaweed. They’re a popular snack or lunch option in Japan’s convenience stores.

Furthermore, convenience stores are next level in Japan; they’ve got more than you could need!

Onigiri is one of my go-to snacks when I visit Japan; however, this snack is distributed throughout convenience stores in other countries, such as Thailand and Australia.

15) Wagyu beef

Foods from Japan - Wagyu beef

Wagyu beef is a premium type of beef that comes from four specific breeds of cattle in Japan. The meat is known for its exceptional marbling and melt-in-your-mouth texture, resulting from the cattle’s genetics, diet, and care.

In Japan, wagyu beef is typically served in small portions as part of a multi-course meal, and it’s often grilled or cooked on a hot plate. One of the most popular ways to enjoy wagyu beef is as a steak cooked to a rare or medium-rare temperature to preserve its juicy and tender texture.

Another popular way to eat wagyu beef is with Shabu-shabu. The high quality of the meat makes it perfect for this type of dish, as the texture of the meat becomes even more tender and delicious when cooked in this way.

16) Mochi

Foods from Japan - Mochi

This sweet treat is prepared from glutinous rice pounded into a sticky paste.

It can be filled with sweetened red bean paste, ice cream, or other sweet fillings and is commonly served during New Year’s celebrations.

You can buy mochi fresh or by the boxful in supermarkets and convenience stores.

17) Katsu curry

Foods from Japan - Katsu curry

Yum! Katus curry is one of the foods from Japan that feels so comforting, like a warm hug. This dish combines crispy breaded chicken or pork with a rich and delicious curry sauce.

Many restaurants and small cafes have their secret to preparing the best curry sauce. So when you find a curry recipe you love, it’s like winning the lottery.

It’s a popular dish in Japan and can be found in many Japanese restaurants worldwide.

And, if you’ve got a specialty Asian supermarket close to your home, they’re likely to have a good curry paste so you can recreate this dish at home.

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18) Sashimi

Foods from Japan - Sashimi

Did you know that Japan (and Korea) have some of the healthiest diets in the world? Yes, and it’s because they eat sashimi or raw fish.

This dish consists of thinly sliced raw fish with soy sauce and wasabi. It’s a popular delicacy in Japan and is known for its fresh and delicate flavours.

19) Yakisoba

Foods from Japan - Yakisoba

This stir-fried dish has soba noodles, vegetables, and meat or seafood. It’s one of the popular street foods of Japan and is often topped with mayonnaise and dried bonito flakes.

It’s often served at festivals and other outdoor events, where it’s cooked on a large grill and then served hot in a paper container.

20) Chawanmushi

Foods from Japan - Chawanmushi

Chawanmushi is a popular dish in Japanese cuisine.

This savoury egg custard is typically flavoured with dashi broth. It can be filled with various ingredients, such as shrimp, mushrooms, and chicken and served as an appetiser or side dish in Japanese restaurants.

It has a delicate and silky texture, and it’s usually flavoured with soy sauce, mirin (a sweet Japanese rice wine), and other seasonings to give it an umami-rich taste.

The dish is typically served hot and can be enjoyed as part of a multi-course meal or as a standalone dish.

So, whether you’re a fan of savoury custards or just looking for a new and exciting dish to try, chawanmushi is worth adding to your list.

Some Useful Travel Tips in Japan

If you plan to visit Japan, we recommend you buy a Japan Rail Pass to get around the country.

Don’t miss reading our Food Map of Asia – Delicious Food to Try in 39 Countries and this ULTIMATE Packing List for Asia.

We love travelling in this region of the world, and to be honest, the cuisine is a significant motivator for our travels here.

One destination that reminded us of Japan was Taiwan. Perhaps it was the cuisine, the people, the sights, or all these things combined. The bottom line is that we LOVED Taiwan and highly recommend you consider visiting before or after your trip to Japan.

You may even be inspired to visit the beautiful Taiwan Islands if you watch our 5 short Travel Vlogs about the Taiwan Islands. 

And for the foodies out there, you’ll appreciate our Food Lovers Bible to Taipei.

Southeast Asia is an AMAZING region to explore

If you’re interested in visiting Southeast Asia, we recommend visiting Thailand. We’ve got a list of helpful tips for travel in Thailand to help you on arrival. Some of our favourite places include Kata Beach, on the island of Phuket (here are 10 awesome things to do in Kata Beach).

Our other favourite place in Thailand is Chiang Mai. Please learn more about where to stay in Chiang Mai; our accommodation guide includes what neighbourhoods will suit individual needs. Our Complete Food Guide to Chiang Mai is unmissable!

For more of our best travel tips and helpful advice, visit our Travel Resources Page.