Visiting Japan is a bucket list trip for many foodies like myself. Though I have yet to visit Japan, I’d certainly like to visit and eat my weight in sushi. Since I haven’t visited yet myself, I’ve enlisted food blogger Victoria Giang to share the five Japanese dishes travelers must try in Japan.
Disclosure: This guide to Japanese food in Japan contains some affiliate links. When you click on some of these links, I may earn a small commission as an affiliate partner. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Of course, this is at no extra cost to you.
Five Dishes To Taste When Traveling In Japan
Japan is truly a magical land full of fantastic history, culture, people and, of course, delicious food. Each of the Japanese islands has its own unique flavors and flair, often so much so that they almost feel like different countries. There is really no end to the number of amazing sights, sounds and tastes you can experience throughout the country. However, no matter where you end up traveling, no trip to Japan can truly be complete without sampling all five of these famous Japanese foods.
No list of Japanese foods could really be complete without sushi. Probably the most famous of all Japanese foods, sushi can now be found all across the globe. However, nothing really compares to the experience of eating fresh, traditional sushi in Japan.
In the west, most people tend to think of sushi as raw fish. However, sushi is actually an old-fashioned Japanese word that means sour and refers to the special vinegary sushi rice that forms the basis of the dish. In Japan, you can find hundreds of different varieties of sushi, featuring cooked fish, vegetables, meat, and the ubiquitous raw fish.
Sushi is available on almost every street corner, which means tourists will have no shortage of opportunities to try a huge number of different types. Whether you have a taste for something like sea urchin, roe, octopus, and eel, or prefer more traditional delicacies like tuna, shrimp, or even cucumber— you’ll have no problems finding all sorts of sushi that surely appeal to any palate.
Another incredibly popular and varied food is udon, which is a thick noodle made from wheat flour. Although udon noodles can be served in a number of ways, one of the most popular is a simple soup known as kake udon. This soup features a quite mild-tasting broth called kakejiru, but the flavor of the broth can vary quite widely from region to region.
The soup generally comes topped with chopped scallion, but often it also includes deep-fried tofu, shrimp, beef, fishcakes, and other toppings. Although kake udon is the most common method of preparation, you’ll see udon prepared in a many different ways throughout the country. You’ll even see it in both cold salads and hot dishes.
Popular amongst both tourists and locals, shabu-shabu is not only delicious but also an experience unto itself. The dish is a hotpot-style meal, where thin slices are lightly boiled in a pot of broth or water directly at the table. Along with sukiyaki, it is the most popular hotpot dish in Japan, especially in tourist areas. As well, shabu-shabu is also a common feature of many ‘Little Tokyo’ neighborhoods around the world.
After cooking, the meats and vegetables are typically dipped in a sesame seed sauce and eaten with a bowl of steamed rice. Towards the end of the meal once everything has been cooked, the remaining broth is then poured into each bowl with the rice and eaten as a soup.
Sashimi is another popular Japanese dish that many people are at least partly familiar with. However, some people confuse it with sushi. The term sashimi itself refers to extremely thin slices of fresh raw fish or meat.
Japanese people tend to eat sashimi along with daikon radish, shoyu, and wasabi. As with sushi, you can find a huge number of different styles of sashimi. However, one that is not to be missed is Kobe beef sashimi, which literally melts in your mouth. It may just be the tastiest bite of beef you’ll ever have.
Tempura is another Japanese food where the name technically refers to the method of preparation. In this case, it means dipping the food into a traditional tempura batter and then quickly deep-frying it in hot oil.
Many people are familiar with tempura shrimp. However, the Japanese are huge fans of tempura, and you can find a wide range of different seafood and vegetables prepared in this way. As with other foods, you’re sure to have a fantastic time treating your taste buds with as many different tempura creations as you can find.
About The Guest Blogger
Victoria Giang is a home cook, mom, and food blogger behind How Daily. Her passion is creatively cooking and seeking new flavors. She also loves to take pictures and write about her experience on the journey through authentic, original flavors of traditional cuisine. You can follow Victoria on Twitter and Pinterest.
Planning a trip to Japan?
If you will be visiting Japan, below are some helpful resources for planning your trip. I’ve thoughtfully selected travel guidebooks, tours, and booking services for you — all of which I would use myself.
Resources To Inspire Your Japan Trip
- Find more than 200 articles and blog posts about travel in Japan on my Travel Japan board on Pinterest!
- When I begin travel planning, I love to browse Lonely Planet’s guidebooks. For Japan, Lonely Planet offers guidebooks covering Japan (convenient for a broad overview), Tokyo with a pull-out map, Best of Tokyo highlighting the city’s top sights, Discover Tokyo 2018 for an easy-to-use guide to the city’s attractions, a pocket-guide to Tokyo with a pull-out map, a pocket-guide to Kyoto & Osaka, and a Japanese phrasebook and dictionary.
- For travelers interested in learning the native tongue, Living Language offers a full course from beginner to advanced levels. The course comes with a reading and writing guide, audio CDs, three textbooks, and free online learning tools.
Hotels & Tours For Your Japan Trip
- Already know where you will be traveling in Japan? Browse Japan hotels, read reviews from previous guests, check rates for your travel dates, and then reserve your lodging via TripAdvisor.
- Taste the aforementioned five Japanese dishes with a Tokyo dinner package or at one of these Tokyo food tours or cooking classes.
- Or by diving into the Kyoto culinary scene with one of these foodie activities!
- Or by exploring Osaka’s food at one of these tours or cooking classes!
If you liked this post on food in Japan, you should also read …
- Five Foods You Need To Taste While Traveling In China
- Four Pakistani Foods You Have To Taste
- Seven Traditional Irish Foods To Taste In Ireland
Save this post to your Travel, Asia, Japan, or Food board on Pinterest!
Which of these five Japanese foods would you like to eat?
Are you a fan of sushi or sashimi? Have you already traveled to Japan and tasted these foods? Are there any other Japanese dishes you would consider a “must eat” for foodie travelers in Japan? I’d love hear your thoughts in the comment section!