Visiting Japan is a bucket list trip for many foodies like myself. I have yet to visit Japan — where I might just eat my weight in sushi. So, I’ve enlisted food blogger Victoria Giang to share the five Japanese dishes travelers must try in Japan. 

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.


Sushi boat

Sushi, the No. 1 popular Japanese food, is pictured here in a boat in uramaki california style.

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.


Udon, a Japanese specialty rice noodle with umami soupbase and scallion.

Udon is a Japanese specialty rice noodle with umami soupbase and scallion.

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.



Shabu-shabu is a popular hotpot dish in Japan and in Little Tokyo neighborhoods around the world.

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.



Pictured is a full plate of mixed seafood sashimi.

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.


Shrimp Tempura - a popular dish in Japan.

Shrimp Tempura is deep-fried battered shrimp. It’s a popular dish in Japan.

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.


Victoria Giang is a home cooking 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 taste or traditional cuisine. You can follow Victoria on Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+.

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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!