48 Foods and drinks to try in Tokyo, Japan
Japan is one of the few countries that you can visit entirely for food. It has even beat France in having the most number of Michelin-starred restaurants. Its traditional dietary culture of Japan , known as Washoku, was added to UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage, and increased its number of assets listed on UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list to 22.
So, what are the foods and drinks that you can try in Tokyo, Japan? Take note that almost any Japanese food is worth a try from simple snack to a regular dish. What are they? Here you go by categories:
Bread lovers will surely enjoy their visit in Japan as the country offers enough variety of bread from French bread to local ones, soft, hard, sweet, stuffed,fried to all shapes and froms. Japanese hard bread may not be a Japanese thing but it surely has entered its extensive cuisine menu. Most of them are French influenced though.
These sweet rolls are mostly filled with red bean paste, if not with other filling such as white beans (shiro-an), green beans (uguisu-an), sesame (goma-an) and chestnut (kuri-an).
3. Daiichipan Melon Bread
It is a popular Japanese bread which is ideal as a snack or sweet dessert that you can purchase in a convenient store. It is called melon since its shape is closer to a sweet melon.
4. Cream Pan
Another type of Japanese soft bread is Cream Pan. This is a sweet bread bun filled with a thick baked vanilla custard.
5. Strawberry Daifuku
Strawberry and mochi in one sweet treat is a real deal. A popular spring dessert, Strawberry Mochi (Ichigo Daifuku) is a soft and chewy mochi stuffed with fresh juicy strawberry and sweet red bean paste.
6. Melon Pan
My Mexican travel buddy really enjoyed Melon Pan. The filling inside is made of vanilla, which originates from Mexico. This sweet bun is also popular in Latin America, Taiwan and China. The bun was big that it can cover my entire face which is covered in a thin layer of crisp cookie dough. Their appearance resembles a melon, such as a cantaloupe.
This classic street vendor snack is ubiquitous in Japan. Taiyaki is a warm fish-shaped cake filled with red bean. The cake is thin and crispy while the inner texture can be full and soft.
This Japanese dessert sells like hotcakes at Japanese festivals. It is filled with sweet azuki bean paste, although lately other filling are also being used such as curry, vegetable, potato, matonnaise fruit custards, vanilla custards, etc.
Dango is a type of dumpling, sweet dumpling that is. It may look like a mochi at first sight though. But mochi is made of mochigome, a short-grain glutinous rice while Dango is made from mochiko, rice flour .
Ningyo-yaki translates to “fried dolls” and has its own interesting history. These small cakes are part of the various types of traditional Japanese sweets (wagashi). The batter is molded into intricate, varying shapes that range from doll figures, Hello Kitty to a lantern or temple and so on and is typically filled with red bean paste but may also be filled with chocolate or custard.
You can find this dessert in every tourist spots especially in Sensoji Temple. Monaka is a sweet sandwich of two thin crisp wafers made from mochi with a type of bean jam filling called azuki.
11. Kakigōri/Shaved ice
Who doesn’t love sweetened, shaved ice? Thus, Kakigōri is a must try when in Japan especially during summer. This shaved ice dessert is flavored with a sweetener or condensed milk and syrup. Flavors are endless which includes green tea,strawberry, cherry, lemon, sweet plum, among others.
12. Japanese Flavored Ice cream
Japanese can get creative with frozen treats with flavors ranging from the common vanilla, fruit flavors and even to the weirdest ones that you could have heard of. Perhaps the most popular is the matcha ice or green tea ice cream.
For me, Beika looks like crumbly shaped cookies. And like other Japanese confections, it is made from rice. There are various types of beika such as senbei ( a type of japanese cracker), okaki, kaki no tane (small crescent-shaped fragments) and arare (bite-sized cracker).
14. Tokyo Banana Candy
Banana in a candy form? Why not? Actually, it is a sort of soft sponge cake covering sweet banana custard cream. Great souvenir though! Kids must love bananas in this form. Cute to look at indeed.
Another summer treat that everybody loves. Cause it pops, popsicles! Love the chocolate and vanilla flavors. But wait. It can also be more refreshing with its summer fruit tastes such as yet not limited to pineapple, kiwi, strawberries, blueberries, watermelon and more!
Crepes, crepes, crepes. In Tokyo, this French-inspired sweet treat is as widespread as the teen culture is in the district of Harajuku. Harajuku’s famous Takeshita Dori is home to many prominent Japanese crepe shops. Unlike regular French crepe, this Japanese version has less butter and most of the fillings are raw.
17. Clam Miso Soup
Whenever one mentions miso soup, one would think it’s a Japanese soup. Yes, you’re right. Japanese just know how to make their soup rich and tasty. Miso soup is made from fermented soybean paste. Soup with clams, just as any Japanese soup does, begins with dashi, a fine broth made from bonito and kombu.
18. Fish Soup
Japan is rich in seafood and most Japanese are into seafood diet. For a cold weather, you can beat that coldness with a warm fish soup. Similar to other good Japanese soup, this chowder is also made from dashi or fish broth which is regarded as an important component in traditional Japanese cooking
Ramen. Who hasn’t tried Ramen? Such a popular Japanese dish. Whoever had gone to a Japanese restaurant should have already tried Ramen. But do you know that this dish has Chinese influence? That’s why its noodles are consist of Chinese-style wheat ones with miso or soy sauce and has sliced pork, seawood, and onions as toppings.
Soba is the Japanese name for buckwheat, thin noodles that are made from buckwheat flour or a combination of buckwheat and wheat flours (Nagano soba). I observed first how locals ate their soba when I was in an eatery in Shinjuku to get it right since it came with a bowl of soup, vegetable side dish and egg. I was unsure whether to pour the soup over the soba but it turned out that I had to soak the soba in the soup.
Udon is also a type of noodles which is in contrast to the thick wheat noodles.Udon is often served hot as a noodle soup in its simplest form, as kake udon, topped with thinly chopped scallions and flavoured broth called kakejiru, which is made of dashi and soy sauce.
Sushi. Who will miss out sushi when in Japan? One of the national dishes of Japan aside from Ramen, Sushi has taken the world by storm. That’s why there are so many variations of sushi around the world as each country has their own take but it will never be a sushi without the sushi rice. It is a Japanese preparation of vinegared rice combined with other ingredients, mostly uncooked seafood, vegetables or fruits.
23. Cone sushi
Cone sushi is a variant of inarizuhi or rice ball that is believed to have been originated from Hawaii. This type of sushi may include but not limited to carrots, green beans, rice , then wrapped in a triangular aburage piece. It is often sold in okazu-ya or Japaneses delis. It might be familiar to you because it is also a component of bento boxes.
Ehomaki means lucky direction roll in Japanese. This roll, normally composed of seven ingredients is considered to be lucky. Said ingredients are the following: kanpyo (dried gourd), tamagoyaki (rolled omelet), eel, sakura denbu ( sweet fish powder), seasoned koyadofu (freeze-dired tofu), cucumber, and shiitake mushrooms. Rolling the filling means good fortune and the mentioned 7 ingredients represent prosperity, good health and happiness. Ehomaki is eaten at sensubun,or the day before the beginning of spring in Japan.
Sashimi means pierced or stuck body. It is another popular Japanese delicacy which consists of fresh raw meat or fish sliced into thin pieces. My very first taste of Japanese food is actually sashimi and I didn’t like it but now I can say I am more openminded and adventurous when it comes to food.
Like cone sushi, onigiri is a rice ball made from white rice that is formed into cylindrical or triangualr shaped and wrapped in nori (seaweed). As a popular tend, it is commonly found in most Japanese convenience stores and are filled with various fillings and flavors. Also known as o-musubi or nigirimeshi, it is traditionally filled with any salty or sour ingredient as a form of natural preservative such as salmon, tarako, kombu or pickled ume.
Can’t get enough of rice? You wouldn’t because when talk about rice, this one is no exception. The Chahan, also known as yaki-meshi, yaki means fried and meshi meaning rice. Yes, you got it right, Chahan is the Japanese word for Japanese fried rice. Like Ramen, this type of rice preparation also comes from Chinese immigrants during the 1800s.
In the Philippines and Korea, Tonkatsu (pork cutlet) is common but I was curious to try the authentic one in Japan. In Korea, this pork cutlet is known as don-gaseu. This Japanese dish is often served with shredded cabbage, boiled rice and miso soup. Then , accompanied by green tea, perfect.
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Katsudon is a combination of the words tonkatsu (pork cutlet) and donburi (rice bowl dish). Like the two dishes, Katsudon is also a favorite Japanese food, or fast food shall we say? If you’re in a hurry and just want something affordable and accessible eats, order a Katsudon. A bowl of rice topped with pork cutlet, egg, and vegetables is surely your on the go type of food.
30. Menchi katsu kare/ burger croquette
Asians love anything with rice. This menchi katsu kare or burger croquette is an example. Menchi kastsu kare is a breaded and deep-fried ground meat patty which is often served in bento and teishoku, a type of Japanese set meal. The fried meat cake can be made from beef, por or a mixture of the two. It is mixed with chopped onion, salt, pepper and is made into patties. While this patty can be appropriately eaten with buns, to an Asian, it is better with rice. Agree?
31. Japanese artisanal beer
Craftsman Created Japanese Artisanal Beer: The Premium Malt’s, a high quality beer with long-lasting foam. For three years straight , from 2005-2007, this beer received top prize in the Monde Selection beer category. When you go out for a beer in Japan, don’t forget to try this favorite Japanese beer, The Premium Malt’s.
32. Japanese Coffee
In a land that is historically known for its green tea, it may be surprising to learn that Japan is third in terms of world’s total consumption of coffee according to the All Japan Coffee Association while Euromonitor puts Japan fourth. Check how they pack their instant coffee. So kawaii!
If you’re into beer, you can never exclude Sapporo on your beer hunt in Japan. Why? Simply because it is the oldest brand of beer in Japan. FYI, this Japanese brewery is founded in 1876.
Aside from mentioned beers above, you can never go wrong trying the leading brewery based in Tokyo, Japan which is Asahi. You can find their unique headquarter that has the shape of a beer foam at the top in Sumeda, Tokyo.
Wanna try something queer? Try this infamous light bulb slush.
Sake, the Japanese rice wine. This is probably the best traditional drink of Japan. Sake has brewing process more comparable to that of beer , where starch is converted into sugars then fermented into alcohol.
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Yakiniku is the Japanese term for grilled meat cuisine or better referred as barbecue. Spend a night and get greasy with yakinuku. Try any of its flavors from beef to vegatables.
38. Seafood sticks
Seafood sticks or also known as crab/krab sticks are seafood made of starch and finely pulverized surimi (white fish). It is shaped and cured to look like the leg meat of a crab or Japanese spider crab.
39. Grilled Oysters/Seafood
A must try when in Tsukiji market. Grilled oyster with hot sauce + beer equals aphrodisiac experience to the highest level.
These jumbo crabs just look so good. What more if they are grilled. Yum!
Yup, this is why I encourage you to visit Tsukiji Market when in Japan. If you like seafood, then this is the place. While strolling around around the market, you will find fresh, huge and endlless seafood options such as these octopuses.
This is my fave Japanese snack. This ball-shaped snack is made of flour-based batter and is filled with diced octopus (tako), tempura scraps (tenkasu),ginger and onion. Then, it is brushed with takoyaki sauce and mayonnaise.
TUNA. Yes, the main reason for my visit to Tsukiji Market. That is to see the big tuna auction. The Atlantic bluefin tuna has been the foundation of the world’s most lucrative fishery business. The bluefin species are highly prized for sushi and sashimi.
Se urchin is called as uni in Japan. To complete your seafood galore experience, you can enjoy sea urchin and scallops at various stalls. They can grill them for you on the spot.
But dumplings are Chinese? Yes, they are. Remember some Japanese foods are inspired or influenced by Chinese. However, there might be some slight differences between Japanese-style and Chinese-style dumplings or gyoza. Dumplings in Japan are garlic-rich in flavor and wrappers are thinner due to the fact that most Japanese restaurants use machine-made wrappers.
Okonomi means how you like and yaki means grill. It is basically the Japanese version of pancake made with flour, eggs, shredded cabbage, meat/ protein and topped with a variety of condiments. This pancake is also known as the Japanese pizza in US is widely available throughout the country.
47. Japanese braised dishes
Some braised dishes in Japan have also Chinese influence. Examples are braised mushrooms,wood-ear fungus, niku-dango with two sauces ( pork meatballs), among others.
48. Themed restaurant foods
Some themed restaurants in Japan is more about their grand show or queer interior design. In short, forget about their food. But there are some where in the food served is as enjoyable as the show. Look at these samples below:
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If you’re more of a visual person, here is a short video of foods to try and things to do in Japan: