Despite the relatively small size of this island nation, Japan is home to a fascinating culture and a diverse array of delicious foods. From shinto temples to the bustling streets of Tokyo, there are plenty of sights to see. When visiting, be sure to sample as many of the unique delicacies as you can. A few of the top foods to try are listed below.
A far cry from the square packages of instant noodles Americans have come to know, authentic Japanese ramen is a hearty soup with homemade noodles, meats, vegetables, and other assorted toppings. This soup can be topped with nori (seaweed), soft-boiled eggs, slices of pork, bean sprouts, and more. With so many varieties of ramen, this is a staple for tourists visiting Japan.
Though less familiar to tourists than ramen, okonomiyaki is another tasty treat to try. It is much like a savory pancake and has sometimes been referred to as a “Japanese pizza.” They are certainly worth trying if you visit Osaka or Hiroshima. Be warned, however, because both regions cook their dishes very differently. An Osaka-style okonomiyaki features a number of ingredients (including flour, cabbage, and eggs) being mixed together before being cooked; it is then topped with things like Japanese mayonnaise and seaweed flakes. The Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki features layered ingredients as opposed to mixed ones, and this style begins with noodles as the base. Both varieties are worth sampling!
Another regional favorite that has become popular across the nation, takoyaki is a ball of fried octopus and dough that is drizzled with sweet sauce (often the same used to dress okonomiyaki) and Japanese mayonnaise. Takoyaki is considered a festival food, but it can be enjoyed on the streets and is commonly purchased from small stands or stalls. The balls are served on sticks for easy consumption.
For the sweet tooth in all of us, dango is an excellent and unique dessert option. Much like takoyaki, these sweet dumplings are also served on sticks. They are first roasted over a flame and served with a coating of sweet miso sauce.
Additional foods to try while in Japan are tempura-battered vegetables, mochi (sweet rice dough filled with red bean paste), and yakitori (meat kabobs). Japan’s rich cuisine has certainly influenced other cultures, but when in Japan, you should try to sample the authentic dishes to get a true taste of Japan.