One of the things that I loved about Japan- the food! And I’m not just talking about the sushi (but you MUST try the sushi).
Japan actually has a very diverse menu of delicious food to try. Here is a list of things you MUST when visiting Japan.
This obviously goes without saying. If you want to make the most of your sushi experience try finding a sushi train. First off, it is just way more fun this way, and secondly it allows you to be more adventurous and try many different types of sushi.
Unfortunately, sushi is surprisingly expensive in Japan so with a sushi train you also have the option of just trying a few pieces of sushi for the experience.
When my Japanese friend told me that we were going for pancakes for dinner I was a little eerie of the idea. I soon found out that this was not the Canadian pancake covered in maple syrup like I’m used to. Okonomiyaki is a savory pancake made out of many different containing ingredients (none of them including flour, sugar or maple syrup).
As a vegetarian I ordered the kimchi (Korean spiced and pickled cabbage) pancake. They bring the mix to your table/grill and mix it in front of you before laying it on the grill. After it is finished cooking you smother it in your choice of delicious sauces. It’s mouth watering!
Fact: The world okonomiyaki come from the word okonomi, which means “what you want”, and yaki meaning “grilled.”
In case you don’t know what tempura is, it’s seafood or vegetables battered and deep fried. In other words- it’s amazing. Also, you have no excuse not to try tempura since you can find it all over Japan at food markets and vendors. It also makes a good snack if you need something to keep your energy up between temples. The pumpkin tempura was at the top of my list.
4. Takoyaki (Octopus Balls)
As a vegetarian I did not try these balls but according to my Japanese friend they are very tasty ( I will let you be the judge). This is a traditional snack in Japan and certainly not something that you would find in your local supermarket. The process of them cooking the balls is very interesting to watch- it takes some serious skill to flip 5 dozen balls in 30 seconds with nothing but chopsticks.
5. Yaki Imo
The Japanese see sweet potatoes more as a dessert than as a vegetable. Yaki Imo involves chopping up a sweet potato into pieces, frying it and then sprinkling it with sugar. See Mom, I eat my vegetables.
6. Noodle Soup
Noodles are easy to find in Japan- from street food to vending machines to proper restaurants. When ordering your soup you will have a choice between two types of noodles soba (buckwheat) or udon. My personal favourite is udon- they are more thick and soooo much more delicious.
The best noodle place that I visited was a whole in the wall restaurant that had no chairs and everyone just stood around the counter as they quickly slurped down their tasty noodles. My tip for finding the best noodles- follow the locals.
7. Rice Cakes/Desserts
The Japanese turn rice into noodles and even into alcohol- but now dessert? Yes rice is a prominent part of deserts in Asia and I have grown to accept this- even enjoy it. Throughout Japan you will see many variations of rice cakes and desserts.
My personal favourite was the Ichigo Daifuku (Strawberry Mochi Rice Cake). You can find street vendors selling this surprisingly delicious snack .
8. Kit Kat
Did you know that the Kit kat bar was invented in Japan!? Just kidding!
But for some reason you can find every flavour of kit kat imaginable in Japan. I’ve seen pumpkin, matcha, wasabi, red bean and sake flavoured Kit Kats (to name a few). So make sure to drop into a convenience store to taste a silly flavour for yourself- and bring a couple extra home for your friends.
9. Matcha Flavoured…Anything
Matcha- it’s everywhere! …and not just kit kat bars. This isn’t a taste that everyone enjoys but I feel like you have to try it at least once in Japan. Matcha flavoured ice cream is very popular and at almost every tourist hot spot. Of course you can also enjoy a cup of matcha tea if you aren’t into the flavoured sweets.
You wouldn’t go to I know I’m not very good at sticking to the rules- first Kit Kat’s and now a drink? But sake it just as important to try in Japan as sushi. If you really want to get serious about experiencing this traditional drink you can visit the Sake Museum in Kyoto.