What to Eat in Japan, and Where?

Posted April 29th, 2011 in Japan 6 Comments »

When planning a trip to Japan, you might wonder where the best tourist destination is.  It totally depends on what you want to do there, and when you are going.  But, anywhere you go, one of the highlight of the trip will be experiencing delicious Japanese food.  Here  is a list of places and foods Japanese people enjoy when they travel within their own country.

Hokkaido Island

As the biggest prefecture in Japan and having many farms across the island, Hokkaido has many speciality food that are locally produced.  Dairy products, lamb meat, potatoes, corns, and seafoods…  There are so many choices of food to explore in Hokkaido, but Ramen Noodles (Miso Ramen in Sapporo, Shio Ramen in Hakodate, and Sho-yu Ramen in Asahikawa), Jingisukan (grilled mutton dish prepared on a convex metal skillet), crabs (Zuwai, Taraba, Ke-gani), Jaga-Butter (baked potato with melted butter), Soup Curry (Japanese curry with soupy consistency and lots of Hokkaido vegetables), Kaisen Donburi (sashimi donburi), Nama Caramel (raw caramel) are the must to try.  And, there’re well-known brand beer breweries such as Sapporo Beer and Asahi Beer (both originated in Hokkaido).  Even if you don’t drink beer, I recommend to visit beer gardens – they serve lots of local foods and they are cheap.  Although it’s not a Hokkaido beer, I’ve been to a beer garden inside the Kirin Beer brewery and I enjoyed all-you-can eat for almost all the foods I listed above.  Unlimited crabs and meat…. and of course freshly brewed beer.

Main Island

As a main island there are 34 prefectures and each prefecture has its own speciality food.  For example, Ise Ebi in Mie prefecture, Kobe beef in Hyogo prefecture, pickles in Nara prefecture, and Hiroshima-yaki in Hiroshima prefecture.  But, I think Kyoto, Osaka and Aichi prefectures have the most unique foods to enjoy.

Nagoya in Aichi prefecture is famous for Tenmusu (rice ball with tempura), Kishimen (flat udon noodle), Tebasaki (deep-fried chicken wings immersed in sweet sticky sauce), Miso Katsu (pork katsu with sweet red miso sauce), and An-kake Spaghetti (spaghetti with starchy tomato sauce.  The foods there are very well-seasoned, and thick taste.

On the other hand, Kyoto offers very traditional, thin taste foods.  The finest dining experience is kaiseki, a set meal where every course has been planned out to compliment and balance the others. Tofu foods are also famous in Kyoto, and is one of my favourite Kyoto food.  There’re some Japanese style restaurants offering a set menu of tofu foods, and that’s one of the food I recommend if you want to experience Japan!  And, don’t forget the sweets. You’ll probably find many cafes almost everywhere in Kyoto, offering some traditional Japanese sweets (wagashi).  Matcha green tea sweets are the most popular among all ages.

Osaka’s speciality foods are, needless to say, Takoyaki and Okonomiyaki. Some people say that you’ll find takoyaki shop every 3 minutes in Shinsaibashi and Nanba, the centre cities of Osaka.  They are more like take-away food, but there’re many eat-in takoyaki/okonomiyaki restaurants as well in Osaka offering a wide selection of menu items to choose from.  A takoyaki restaurant I’ve been to had more than 30 takoyaki menus.  Fugu and Kushi are also nice food to try.  Kushi is a skewered and deep-fried food, and the experience of deep-frying and eating the various foods at your table in a Kushi restaurant may be fun.

Shikoku Island

Shikoku, meaning “four countries”, has some famous speciality foods too.  Sanuki Udon in Kagawa prefecture, Katsuo-no-Tataki (seared raw bonito eaten with special tangy sauce along with garlic slices and condiments) in Tosa prefecture, and Mikan Orange in Ehime prefecture.

Kyushu Island

Kyushu island has unique food items thanks to Nagasaki port.  This port in Nagasaki prefecture was the first port where a foreign ship arrived in Japan in 1550, and the only port where trade with foreign countries was permitted during Japan’s period of isolation.  Nagasaki prefecture is famous for Chanpon (noodle dish with white soup, thick egg noodle, and lots of seafood/pork/vegetables) and Kasutera (Japanese sweet sponge cake).  I must say Chanpon is one of my favourite food in Japan.  Kyushu is also known for a wide range of Sho-chu.  Especially, Kagoshima prefecture is famous for Potato Sho-chu.  The sho-chu is very strong alcohol, and people in Kyushu are thought to be strong drinkers.

Okinawa Island

As an island located in the South, this prefecture has tropical climate and very unique culture.  You can read about this place here, but the famous Okinawan food are  Go-ya chanpuru, Rafuti, Mimigaa and Saataa andagi. (non of them sound like Japanese, are they?)  Awamori (alcohol made from rice) is also famous Okinawan item.


6 Comments on “What to Eat in Japan, and Where?”

  1. 1 jim said at 9:04 pm on August 22nd, 2011:

    actually japan food is no good HK is best

  2. 2 umepontarou said at 2:05 am on August 23rd, 2011:

    Jim

    Hmm, I think it depends..

  3. 3 Anna said at 9:42 am on August 23rd, 2011:

    Japanese food is definitely our (mine and my husband’s!) favourite cuisine.. the visual presentation alone is good enough to get us all excited! We still have to wait a few more years before Isabelle’s big enough to travel (AND enjoy) the next trip to Japan but it’s definitely going to happen. :)

  4. 4 umepontarou said at 6:33 am on August 24th, 2011:

    Anna,

    Wow so exciting! Where are you planning to go, if you are travelling to Japan?
    I love other cuisines like Indonesian, Chinese, Italian and Thai, but to me, Japanese food is the best. :)

  5. 5 Anna said at 8:55 am on August 24th, 2011:

    We’ve visited Tokyo, Kyoto, Takayama, Osaka and Hiroshima during our first trip in 2008 so next time we hope to be able to visit other parts of Japan – I would love to go to Okinawa Island! We only did a day trip into Osaka whilst staying in Kyoto so we will definitely stay a few nights there next time. There are some good guides in your blog here so I will definitely refer to your write-ups for recommendations. ;)

    Hopefully our next trip to Japan will be more of a ‘gastronomic’ adventure (lots of food!). :D

  6. 6 umepontarou said at 7:06 am on August 25th, 2011:

    Anna

    You’ve been to many places! D even hasn’t gone to Takayama and Tokyo :)
    Okinawa is a great destination. Summer is the season over there. Beautiful beaches, food, people, and culture.
    In Osaka, you will have to make your stomach ready as Osaka is called “a place where you eat until you pass out” , hehe ;)


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