Food in Japan: a world to discover

Fukuoka yatai (outdoor food stalls). Photo/Studio VTT via Shutterstock

Tasty and sophisticated Japanese dishes await travelers.

Renowned for its distinguished cooking methods, freshness, and sophisticated simplicity, many Japanese dishes are recreated and enjoyed by people around the world. But how well do you really know the scope of Japan’s food culture and all it has to offer?

With much of Japan’s food scene influenced by local cultures and products, the Japan National Tourism Organization offers this regional guide to the country’s must-see food experiences, spanning its inland rural prefectures, its coastline, and stretches from the wintry north to the warm south.

Yakitori.  Photo/jazz3311 via Shutterstock
Yakitori. Photo/jazz3311 via Shutterstock

Visit Tokyo’s yakitoriya

With the gateway city of Tokyo at its heart, the Kanto region boasts a wide variety of local dishes. A popular dish in Chiba Prefecture could perhaps be described as the seafood version of tartare; name It is a tasty dish of finely chopped fish seasoned with spices.


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And you can’t leave Kanto without trying its popular yakitori. These grilled chicken skewers are typically found in yakitoriya (yakitori specialty shops), restaurants, or outdoor stalls for the perfect on-the-go snack.

Experience the tropical flavors of Okinawa

Goya Champuru.  Photo/Koarakko via Shutterstock
Goya Champuru. Photo/Koarakko via Shutterstock

Located in southern Japan, Okinawa’s cuisine has been shaped by its warm climate where fresh fruits and vegetables are grown year-round. goya shampoo is easily one of the most recognizable Okinawan dishes known for its signature ingredient of bitter melon (goya) that is usually stir-fried with egg, tofu, vegetables, and pork.

During a visit to Okinawa, you also can’t miss the spectacle of ikasumi-jiru (squid ink soup), with its mysteriously thick black appearance that belies a delicious combination of fresh textures and flavors including leafy greens and pork or chicken.

Cook your own “Genghis Kahn BBQ” in Hokkaido

It’s probably not surprising that the colder, northerner part of Japan is known for hearty dishes that include seafood from frozen seas and meats and vegetables grown in lands enriched by the four seasons of the year.

ishikari nabe is a popular dish that promises to set you up well for a cold winter day: a hot pot made with generous chunks of salmon, vegetables, tofu, and konnyaku (devil’s tongue jelly).

jingisukan – also known as “Genghis Kahn barbecue” – is another Hokkaido specialty featuring thinly sliced ​​marinated lamb grilled on a large plate along with seasonal vegetables. Some restaurants in Hokkaido will even allow you to cook it yourself at the table.


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Visit sake breweries and enjoy okonomiyaki in Kansai

Home to two of Japan’s most vibrant cities, Kyoto and Osaka, the Kansai region is known for its many sake breweries and delicious unique delicacies. okonomiyaki – a type of savory pancake – can be found everywhere from urban food scenes to more rural areas.

The pancake is made with cabbage and broth, grilled, and then topped with meat, seafood, cheese, pretty flakes, mayonnaise and of course the signature okonomiyaki sauce.

Takoyaki.  Photo / Martinho Smart via Shutterstock
Takoyaki. Photo / Martinho Smart via Shutterstock

Takoyaki (grilled octopus balls) are another delicacy you’ll find casually on the streets of Kansai or in restaurants. Combine chopped octopus with bits of tempura (tenkasu) and the intense flavors of pickled ginger and green onion, it’s a true taste sensation.

Discover the king of dishes for sushi lovers in Shikoku

As the smallest of Japan’s main islands with easy access to the ocean, it’s probably not surprising that seafood features in many dishes on Shikoku. Kagawa Prefecture is known for its specialized centers udon sanuki – which are wheat noodles served in a seaweed soup with all sorts of delicious toppings.

Meanwhile, Kochi Prefecture is known for beautiful tataki which are seared slices of sashimi, which give an appetizing and delicate charred aroma, served with a ponzo sauce.

Taste a local delicacy that takes up to three years to prepare in Chubu

It is usually served with udon or a light salad, miso katsu is easily a crowd pleaser in the Chubu region: a simple yet flavorful dish featuring a crispy breaded and deep-fried pork chop smothered in miso-based sauce.

Chubu is also one of the few places in Japan where you can try the deliciousness of fugu no ko nukazuke (pickled puffer fish roe). Derived from a poisonous fish, it takes two to three years to ferment the rich roe into edible, which is why it can be challenging to find outside of Chubu.

Enjoy the healthy and nutritious flavors of nature in Tohoku

Blessed with a mountainous landscape, beautiful lakes, and lush scenery, Tohoku is the place to enjoy and appreciate the many bounties of the land. In Morioka, Akita Prefecture, you can enjoy all you can eat soba wanko noodles served in small bowls with fresh mushrooms and radishes.

In Akita Prefecture you will also discover skewered rice cakes (kiritanpo) that can be served with a hot pot of fresh vegetables, while in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, rice cakes are served with soybean puree (zunda mochi).

Feel pampered with the flavors of the deep in Chugoku

Japan is known for its quality seafood, but Chugoku is the place to experience some of the most sumptuous ocean delicacies. Hiroshima is primarily known for its world-renowned delicious oysters, snow crab soup (kani-jiru) and puffer fish (fugu) which is often served as sashimi (thinly sliced ​​and raw) or as part of a hot pot or rice porridge.

Experience an alternative take on Japanese cuisine popular in Kyushu

Nagasaki is known for its hearty style of ramen called champion, which is not only great for a hungry appetite, but is generally affordable and easy to find. Giving you everything you need for a complete diet, champion combine meat, vegetables, kamaboko fish cake and thick egg noodles being cooked in the hot broth.

chicken nanban in Miyazaki is another unique flavor of Kyushu. Offering a flavorful bite, chicken is smothered in a sweet vinegar marinade, pan-fried, then smothered in tartar sauce. And for something a little different from the norm, you can’t visit Kyushu without trying hello jirua cold mackerel, sesame seed and miso soup poured over cold rice, perfect for a hot summer day.

For more information on travel to Japan and current entry requirements, visit

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