Introducing Japanese Cuisine – 10 Foods You Must Try in Japan

I know that we are still under the COVID-19 epidemic, and we need to stay away from going to crowded places. However, travel is my passion and I love making future travel plans (even if I can’t) to stay positive. Maybe some of you may feel the same way, so that’s why I decided to continue posting on this blog. I hope you enjoy 🙂

Did anyone know that Washoku, traditional Japanese cuisine, has been added to UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list since 2013? Yes, that’s right. Japanese Food is much more than you ever expected!!! In Japan, you can enjoy wide range of foods from raw fish to rice burger! Sushi has become very popular food all over the world, but I want you to know that it is not the only dish we have. In this article, I have picked 10 must-try dishes in order to fully enjoy the Japan’s Washoku culture.


Here we go!

10 Foods you must try when traveling Japan

1. Sushi

I know what you’re thinking… Yes, Sushi. It is my first choice. Don’t get bored.
Because I can hardly discuss Japanese food without sushi! It is a dish made of vinegared rice with raw fish, shellfish or vegetables on top. Look at how beautiful the color is in the picture below.

You can enjoy sushi from 100 yen per plate (with 1 or 2 pieces of sushi) at cheapest Kaiten-zushi, conveyor belt sushi, restaurant. Or, you can find a number of Michelin star sushi restaurants in Tokyo, if you feel like treating yourself. Or even better, if you are planning to go to Toyosu fish market, you will most likely be able to enjoy the most fresh sushi in the world!!!

Sushi restaurant info
  • You can find sushi restaurant almost every town in Japan
  • Price range differs depending on restaurants
    -probably from 2000-3000 yen to over 50000 yen per person
  • My favorite kaiten-zushi restaurant is Nemuro Hanamaru in Ginza. It’s really good!

2. Ramen

This is probably the second most popular Japanese food: Ramen…!
Frankly, you are fool if you don’t taste ramen at all during your stay in Japan! I love ramen, and it is always my first dish I have every time I come back to Japan from overseas. I love how quick they serve, the taste, and the price too.

Ramen is a wheat noodle soup dish which is served in a meat or fish broth and often flavored with shoyu, soy sauce, flavor. The most common toppings are chashu (sliced pork), menma (lacto-fermented bamboo shoot), leeks, dried-seaweed, and boiled eggs etc. You can enjoy unique local variations in almost every region in Japan, such as Tonkotsu (pork bone broth) ramen of Hakata and Miso (Japanese seasoning also used in miso-soup) ramen of Sapporo. As your side dish, I also recommend you to order Gyoza, dumpling filled with meat and vegetables. Yum 🙂

Ramen restaurant info
  • You can find ramen restaurant almost every town in Japan
  • Price range is around 1000 yen for a ramen
  • No need to make slurping sound on purpose
  • One of my favorite ramen restaurants is SOBA HOUSE in Shinjuku. So tasty golden soup!

3. Shabu-shabu / Suki-yaki

Shabu-shabu is a Japanese hot-pot dish of thinly sliced meat and vegetables boiled in broth and served with dipping sauces. The word shabu-shabu is derived from the sound made when meat is stirred in the hot-pot. So, once the broth starts to boil, it’s time for you to use chopsticks to do shabu-shabu move!

The meat is ready to be eaten when its color changes. It doesn’t take much time (usually just a few secounds) till it is cooked thoroughly. After you’ve finished the meat and vegetables, you can add ramen or rice to the soup to finish off the meal. If I were to guide you, I would definitely take you to a good shabu-shabu place!

Shabu-shabu restaurant info
  • You can find a number of all-you-can-eat shabu-shabu restaurants
  • Price range is around 3000-5000 yen per person (for dinner)
  • I literally go to Shabu-Yo, all-you-can-eat shabu-shabu restaurant, every month!

4. Yakitori

Yakitori, grilled chicken on a skewer, is a very popular dish in Japan especially with middle aged men. You can either go to speciality yakitori restaurant or izakaya, a type of casual Japanese bar, to order yakitori. When you visit these places, please look around and you’ll see a lot of middle aged men ordering a mug of beer, edamame and yakitori!!! LOL, JK 😀
Just so that you won’t be misunderstood, kids and women also love yakitori, too!

Yakitori restaurant info
  • You can order yakitori at specialty yakitori restaurant or izakaya, a type of casual Japanese bar
  • Price range differs depending on restaurants
    -Average price would be 100-300 yen per skewer
  • My favorite yakitori place is Niwatsudori in Gotanda

5. Yakiniku

The direct translation of yakiniku is grilled meat.
As you can see in the picture below, it is Japanese style barbecue!

Yakiniku meat is usually thinly sliced and cut into bite-size. So, you can see it is totally different from steaks. The taste and texture of the meat vary depending on the cut of beef, so please try different types of cuts to fully enjoy yakiniku.

Yakiniku restaurant info
  • You find a number of speciality yakiniku restaurants in Japan
  • Also, all-you-can-eat yakiniku restaurants is getting popular too
  • Price range differs depending on restaurants
    -Average price would be 3000-5000 yen per person (for dinner)
  • At high-end yakiniku restaurants, you can enjoy fancy meat such as Kobe beef and Matsuzaka beef

6. Okonomiyaki / Monjayaki

Okonomiyaki is Japanese pizza-like dish made from egg, flour and water with toppings! The name okonomi-yaki‘s direct translation is cooked whatever (however) you like. So, as toppings, you can put whatever you like on it.

Basically, there are two styles of okonomiyaki: Kansai-style and Hiroshima-style. They look pretty similar on the outside, but they are different in many ways such as food preparation, grilling method, seasoning, cabbage cutting and so on. But, the biggest difference is, Hiroshima-style has noodles (often yakisoba) in it 🙂

Okonomiyaki restaurant info
  • Okonomiyaki is very popular food nationwide, but if you are planning to go to Osaka or Hiroshima, you should definitely taste one in those regions!
  • Monjayaki (semi-liquid okonomiyaki), on the other hand, is from Tokyo (Asakusa) region
  • Okonomiyaki is available at speciality restaurant or most of izakaya
  • Average price range is around 1000-2000 yen

7. Tempura

Tempura is lightly-buttered and deep-fried seafood and vegetables. It is said the dish was introduced by Portuguese in the 16th century. Ingredients differ depending on seasons, and my favorite is sweet potato tempura! You can eat tempura with salt or mentsuyu, a dipping sauce.

Tempura restaurant info
  • You can order tempura at specialty tempura restaurant or udon/soba restaurant
  • Price range differs depending on restaurants
    -Average price would be 100-300 yen for a tempura

8. Curry Rice (Katsu Curry Rice)

Japanese style vegetable curry rice is very popular dish in Japan. You can order curry rice almost everywhere. Most basic ingredients are onions, carrots, potatoes and beef.

Curry rice restaurant info
  • You can order curry rice at specialty restaurant, or a lot of places like izakaya, cafe, family restaurants etc
  • Average price range would be 1000-2000 yen
  • Katsu curry rice is curry rice with tonkatsu, a breaded deep-fried pork cutlet, as topping.

9. Oden

Oden is a type of stew made with boiled eggs, radish, konjac and fish cakes. It is very popular food especially in winter. You can even see oden being sold at convenience store during the winter!

Oden restaurant info
  • You can order oden at Washoku restaurant
  • During winter, oden is available in a lot of places such as convenience store and izakaya
  • Average price range would be 100-500yen

10. Traditional Breakfast at Ryokan

Lastly, I would recommend you to experience traditional breakfast at Ryokan (Japanese inn). In order to do that, you need to stay at Ryokan at least 1 night, but I’m really hoping that you can squeeze it into your itinerary…! I would recommend you to stay at Onsen Ryokan (Japanese inn with hot spring) if possible.

Ryokan breakfast often includes rice, miso soup, broiled fish, chawanmushi (steamed egg custard), tofu, natto (Fermented soybeans), pickled vegetables and so on. Enjoy breakfast with your yukata (a casual kimono) on! Relax and enjoy onsen in the morning again!
This is the holiday that we Japanese people love so much…! Hope you like it too 🙂

Ryokan info
  • You can find Ryokan, Japanese inn, literally anywhere in Japan
  • Regions famous as “onsen town” has the most amazing Ryokan
    (Some Ryokan has private onsen if you don’t want to share bath with stranger)

This was my list of 10 Japanese food you must try! I hope this post will give a good idea of what to eat in Japan 🙂