The best things we’ve eaten in Japan

When it comes to delicious and fresh food, you need not look any further than Japan. The land of the rising sun hits the jackpot every time for die-hard foodies around the world. After spending considerable time living in the country, Jesse and I picked up a few favorites. Here are the best things we’ve eaten in Japan.

mihonoseki grilled squid
Also known as ikayaki, grilled squid is a favorite Japanese fast food. We had our best at a small shop in Mihonoseki where freshly caught squid hung in the sun to dry. The smell is something I’ll never forget. Best served with soy sauce and shichimi (7-spice powder).
Takoyaki or octopus fritter is another incredibly delicious Japanese treat. It’s a fried ball (made in a special pan) filled with diced octopus, tempura scraps, pickled ginger, and green onion and served with a special sauce and bonito flakes.
It doesn’t get any simpler than this. Sashimi is the freshest raw fish or seafood you can imagine sliced into thin pieces. Usually served with grated ginger, wasabi, shiso, shredded daikon, and soy sauce (for dipping).
Bento: a little bit of this and a little bit of that. Perfect for trying different dishes like karaage (fried chicken), Japanese potato salad, tamagoyaki (rolled omelet), and tempura. The one pictured was served in a restaurant but bento boxes can be picked up in any supermarket, konbini, or department store.
donut holes
This may not seem typically Japanese but was one of the most awesome things we had in the country. At a strawberry festival in Shimane prefecture, these donut holes were made on the spot and smothered in fresh strawberry sauce (made from local strawberries)!
We all scream for okonomiyaki! There are two types: Hiroshima style (pictured) and Osaka style. Okonomiyaki can be described as a savory “pancake” that’s grilled in front of you and stuffed with noodles, vegetables, seafood, pork belly, almost any ingredient you desire. It’s also topped with a lip-smacking sweet sauce.
Yakisoba is Japanese stir-fried noodles. It’s a definite crowd pleaser at summer festivals. It can include pork/beef/seafood and vegetables and is seasoned with a sweet and savory sauce.
kaisen don
Kaisendon is a seafood lover’s delight. It’s a rice bowl topped with a decadent range of sashimi. It can include prawns, salmon, salmon roe, tuna, squid, and scallops.
ika kare
Curry and Japanese cuisine may seem to go together like chalk and cheese but Japanese curry does exist. Although not as tongue-numbing-hot as Trini curries or super-spicy as Indian versions, Japanese curry reflects a subtle and milder flavor. Pictured is ika kare or squid curry.
Oki beef
This is beef that literally melts in your mouth. Oki gyu or Oki beef is premium Wagyu from cattle that graze on the mountainous landscapes of the Oki islands in Shimane prefecture. Highly recommended!
ice cream cone
Ice cream in Japan is heavenly. It tastes like real milk/dairy cream and there are lots of weird and wonderful flavors to choose from: sea-salt, squid ink, pear, the ever popular vanilla, and much more.

Other worthy mentions:

sushi – everyone’s favorite Japanese export. Don’t expect any California rolls here. Instead, the most popular version is sushi nigiri.

ramen – noodle soup with lots of vegetables and pork belly. My personal favorite is tonkotsu ramen where the soup stock is made from pork bones.

yakitori – DIY grilled meat/entrails on a stick. Cow tongue never tasted so good!

ozoni – soup usually served around New Year. Can be sweet or savory. Varies across Japan. Includes incredibly sticky mochi (rice dumplings) that some people choke on!

gyudon – cheap but satisfying rice, onion, and beef bowl. Usually topped with pickled ginger.

onigiri – bite-sized triangles of seaweed, umeboshi (pickled plum), rice, and seafood. Perfect for eating on the go while hiking. My favorites are smoked herring and tuna mayonnaise.

gyoza – dumplings that are filled with meat and pan-fried.

miso – standard soup served with almost any meal. Made with dashi (stock), seaweed, tofu, and other ingredients.

chawanmushi – a tiny bowl/cup (chawan) of jiggly, savory custard filled with meat and veggies.

shojin-ryouri – the best vegetarian cuisine you can find in Japan. We had an exquisite meal at a Buddhist temple in Shimane that featured clear, slippery tofu noodles served with a strong soy sauce and wasabi, a clear broth made from mushrooms that tasted of pine trees, and finely roasted bell peppers with bits of candied citrus.

kaki – Japan is blessed with an abundance of kaki (oysters). We had huge grilled ones in Hiroshima and the Oki Islands.

Pocky – everyone’s favorite chocolate-covered pretzel sticks. Try the matcha and almond-encrusted ones!

Japanese cheesecake – so light and fluffy!

Christmas cake – sponge cake served with fresh whipped cream and strawberries. Only served at Christmas.

Japanese crepe – If you think France has the best crepes, I think Japan comes a very close second! One of our favorites was filled with whipped cream and chocolate sauce.

strawberry daifukumochi sweet filled with a whole strawberry and anko (sweet red bean paste). Popular during springtime.

umeshu jelly – If you love Japanese plum (ume), you will love this clear, sweet treat in the summertime! Best served chilled.

yuzu sorbet – so citrusy, so more-ish!

What’s your favorite Japanese food? Did you like our list? Pin it!

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35 thoughts on “The best things we’ve eaten in Japan

  1. I was hoping to find mochi! That’s one of our favorite treats! That ice cream looked really tasty, too! And we like Japanese crepes. We also like savory dishes like ramen and yakisoba. Your photos are making me hungry.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Japanese is my number one favorite cuisine! I will never get tired of eating it on a regular basis! Your list only fuels my love for Japanese food. Those sashimi look amazing and so fresh too!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Now I am hungry! Looks like you had some delicious meals. I love the bento boxes where you can try a variety of foods. My favorite Japanese food is probably seaweed salad. I can’t get enough of that stuff! Those donuts, look good, too!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I love Japanese food but I’m a veggie and it’s quite struggle to find stuff that doesn’t contain fish in any form. So unfortunately it’s usually just sushi I’m eating. The sweet stuff you’ve listed looks really good though, would love to try the little doughnuts!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you for making me hungry! I love Japanese food, and everything you listed makes me want it! My favourite is sashimi, the pancake noodles (I can’t spell it!) and Kaisendon. Hope I get to try it one day for myself in Japan!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Unfortunately I am allergic to certain type of seafood so I always eat with precaution when in Japan. What I prefer though is their noodles with some spicy and sweet savory sauce and as some veggies – nothing beats a well-prepared wok! Your photo makes me want to order take-away now!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. As Jasmin said above, Japan doesn’t seem very vegetarian-friendly.
    I don’t really see anything I would eat here, too bad 😦
    But I’m sure I could live off veggie ramen and sushi!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Japan is at the top of our foodie destination list for all of these reasons (I swear, I just ate, but now I’m hungry again). To chime in on the vegetarian discussion, as a newly minted vegetarian, I think the idea is to select food carefully but not limit yourself. There’s so much in Japan to eat even while veggie. Veggie ramen, strawberry donuts (wish we had those here), shojin-ryouri, and crepes sound amazing! Also, bento boxes for days. I can’t wait to visit and try some of these amazing dishes, especially the sushi, and give the rest to my foodie husband who would eat it all up like CRAZY. Thanks for sharing these mouth-watering dishes with us! Pinning for later reference. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. You literally don’t understand how much I love thissss!!!! I love trying new dishes while traveling. My favorite plate that you listed would definitely have to be the Kaisendon!! I love seafood and just the whole mixture of rice with sashimi and salmon just sounds delishh. It makes me thing of Poke!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. So many delicious options you have got there! I am huge fan of Japanese curry and sticky rice, they are so yumm! I am a vegetarian so I hope O can relish on some aazing Japanese food when I visit the country.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I really shouldn’t have read this before eating – it has my mouth watering! I always typically think of sushi when I think of Japanese cuisine (as do many other people) but from this article, there is obviously so much more to it! I really need to get myself to Japan, even if it is just to try that Oki beef or okonomiyaki.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I shouldn’t have read this before eating – my mouth is watering now! When I think of Japanese food I typically think of Sushi (like I imagine a lot of other people do) but I can clearly see that there are so many more options. I’m going to have to visit Japan even if it is just to try that Oki beef or okonomiyaki

    Liked by 1 person

  13. All that Japanese food looks so yummy, I am a huge fan especially of Sushi. I never knew about all the other options, I definitely like the looks of Kaisendon is a seafood lover’s delight of rice with a decadent range of sashimi. Actually, I like all the food on here.

    Liked by 1 person

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