Eating your way through Japan: A beginner's guide to Japanese food

  • Bunnik Tours
  • 25 Mar 20

One of the great joys of visiting Japan is getting to try lots of different Japanese foods! Each region has its own specialty, so we’re going to look at the must-try foods in a few of Japan’s top travel destinations so you can try the best of the best!

Photo credit: Songshu888 by Pixabay

Tokyo: Sushi

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that one of fast-paced Tokyo’s favourite foods is the super convenient, ever faithful and always tasty sushi! At its core, sushi is a dish of specially prepared rice seasoned with vinegar, sugar and salt which is then combined with a variety of ingredients, commonly seafood, egg and vegetables. There are many different types of sushi such as makizushi (rolled sushi), nigirizushi (hand-pressed balls of rice with a topping draped over the top), and temakizushi (hand-rolled sushi, which is more rustic and cone-like in appearance).



Photo credit: Hiro Kobashi/Flickr/ CC (

Kyoto: Yudofu

This is quite simply, hot water tofu. Sound simple? Well, this is one of the few times you’ll come across a dish that is as simple as it sounds (the Japanese go to great lengths to make difficult things look simple!). Essentially it is a block of tofu warmed up in a bowl of hot water seasoned with a strip of edible kelp called kombu and served with an array of condiments. It’s a staple in Buddhist monk cuisine, which Kyoto is renowned for so if you’re going to try it, where better?


TakoyakiPhoto by Amy Suraya / Unsplash

Photo by Nick Yeh / Pixabay

Osaka: Takoyaki

Despite how they look, these little balls of battered goodness aren’t actually deep fried—they’re cooked in a specially-molded pan. So what are they? These tasty little street snacks (though, if you eat enough they can certainly be a meal) are made of wheat flour-based batter filled with diced or minced octopus (tako), pickled ginger and green onion. But wait … it gets better! The balls are brushed with takoyaki sauce (a thick, sweet Worcestershire sauce) and mayonnaise, and then sprinkled with seaweed flakes and shaved dried fish flakes called bonito, which have a lovely smokey flavour. Yum!


Photo by pen_ash / Pixabay

Hiroshima: Okonomiyaki

Often called a Japanese pizza, if you ordered okonomiyaki thinking it was a pizza you’d probably fall off your chair when it landed in front of you. No, okonomiyaki is almost better than pizza. It’s a savoury pancake containing a variety of different ingredients. The most common variation is a batter made of flour, grated yam, water or dashi (cooking stock), eggs, shredded cabbage, green onion and meat (anything from thin strips of pork to octopus). The pancake is then topped with okonomiyaki sauce (very similar to the takoyaki sauce), mayonnaise, seaweed flakes and bonito flakes. Hey, I said almost better than pizza!


Photo by Sharon Ang / Pixabay

Sapporo: Ramen

Ok, you’re going to find ramen everywhere you go, and you should be ok with that because it’s warm and delicious. It’s pretty much the best of Japan, but in a bowl. Very basically, ramen is a noodle soup. The soup’s base falls into one of four categories: soy sauce, salt, miso or curry. In addition to the noodles, other common ingredients are pork, egg, green onion, corn and seaweed; however, ramen can vary dramatically from region to region, and trying the local variation is usually a safe bet if you’re unsure of what to eat!