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Eating is the major fun of traveling in Japan.
Apart from western style cuisine, you can spend a month in Japan only to sample different specialty restaurant every night. Japanese food is far more than worldwide-known Sushi or Tempura. Even though you have already tried Japanese specialties in your own countries, you will be likely to be shocked by how delicious the food prepared with the original recipes is!!
If you love eating, you will love Japan without a doubt!!

You can sample most of the types of Japanese food across Japan. However, one important thing to remember is that the tastes differ depending on the area and it is very important to know where you should eat what you want to eat.
For example, Udon can be eaten everywhere in Japan, but Udon in Sanuki area of Shikoku is very popular with the Japanese and is particularly special and delicious. Also, Okonomiyaki can be eaten everywhere in Japan, but Hiroshima style Okonomiyaki is special and different.
You shouldn’t try Sushi or fish in the mountain areas which are far from the ocean or the sea as in Nagano. Nagano has different delicious food such as Sansai (wild vegetables) or Soba (buck wheat noodle).

To get the big picture view of food in Japan, Dashi (soup) tastes in the west Japan and the east Japan are totally different. Even pot noodles of the same brand in the west Japan and the east Japan vary a great deal in the tastes.
Dashi between Kansai and the western Japan is tasty; in the eastern Japan, soy sauce taste is pronounced. Therefore, it’s commonly said that food with Dashi (soup) such as Kake-Udon is more delicious in the western Japan. So to speak, Dhishi in the west has a lot more Umami.
Try fresh seafood near the coast lines.
Try Sansai (wild vegetables) in the mountain area.

Types of restaurants and cafes

Types of restaurants in Japan: Syokudo; Izakaya (Japanese style tavern); Yakitori-ya; Ryotei; Yakiniku-ya; Okonomiyaki-ya; Gyudon-ya; Kare-ya (Japanese style curry and rice restaurant); Sushi-ya; Kaiten-sushi; Tempura-ya; Tonkatsu-ya; Soba-ya; Udon-ya; Ramen-ya; Yakiniku-ya(BBQ restaurant); Yoshoku-ya (Western style restaurant); Family Restaurant; Chinese restaurant; Italian restaurant; Ethnic cuisine restaurant; French cuisine restaurant; Fast food restaurant.

Syokudo (食堂)
It is a restaurant which serve Japanese home-style dishes.
Izakaya (居酒屋)
This type is rare in the world. It is a Japanese style tavern. There are a variety of small dishes on the menu and one dish costs about 300yen to 1000yen. It is a normal style that more than two people at the same table order and share lots of dishes. (One person can go alone as one portion is small.) It depends on how much you drink, the total cost is likely to be about 3000yen to 5000yen.
It is the Izakaya style to eat a lot, drink a lot and talk a lot! Izakaya is vibrant and a must-try when you visit Japan!
There are many Izakaya chains and family-run Izakaya all over Japan.
Yakitori-ya (焼き鳥屋)
The atmosphere is similar to the Izakaya’s, but a variety of Yakitori, grilled chicken skewers, are on the menu. About 100yen to 300yen/one skewer.
Ramen-ya (ラーメン屋)
Ramen-yas are scattered across Japan. 500yen-1000yen/dish.
Udon or Soba-ya (うどん・そば屋)
Basically they are throughout Japan, but depending on an area, Udon can be more popular instead of Soba and vice versa. Also, the taste and the level of the daintiness
are totally different, depending on the area.
Ryoutei (料亭)
It is an expensive and formal restaurant which offer Japanese cuisine. A good kaiseki dinner costs about 5000yen to 10000yen, but it’s possible to find a good kaiseki lunch for about 2500yen.

Types of cafes in Japan: Western style café; Cya-ya (Japanese style café); Kissaten.
Other types: Yatai; Roten; Tachigui (a place to eat while standing); Ippai-tachi-nomi-ya (a place to drink while standing and eating).

Cya-ya (茶屋)
Japanese style café. There are Matcha, Japanese-style confection and some snacks on the menu.
Kissaten (喫茶店)
A cup of coffee at kissaten in Japan is expensive, but some of them are dedicated to the quality of coffee and the way to make coffee.
A cup of coffee: about 300yen to 600yen. A breakfast set meal called “Morning Set” which comes with the expensive coffee costs about 400yen to 700yen and is a good value indeed. They also offer some snacks.
Manga-kissa (漫画喫茶)
There are tons of Manga (comic books) in a manga kissa. One can read any of those comic books. The systems of charge vary: One drink order and reading manga is free of charge; some are time charges. However, most of Manga-kissa has changed into internet cafes. To see lots of manga at internet cafes in Japan is in large part due to this.
Some signboards of internet cafes still say “Manga-kissa (漫画喫茶)”. (Details about Internet Cafés--see Internet Cafe)

Sample Menu

Sushi (寿司 or すし)
Even though you have already tried Sushi in your own countries, the image of the real Japanese sushi might be slightly different. Most of westerners tend to regard Maki-zushi (Sushi roll) such as California rolls as Sushi. However, the basic image of Sushi for the Japanese is “Nigiri-zushi (small portion of rice with fish on top)”.
Apart from Nigiri-zushi, there are Maki-zushi (sushi roll), Inari-zushi (ed bean-curd stuffed with boiled rice), Chirasi-zushi (vinegared rice with thin strips of egg, pieces of raw fish, vegetables and crab meat arranged on top), Oshi-zushi (lightly-pressed piece of sushi topped with cooked ingredients) and so on.

To sample Sushi at a moderate price, it’s a budget option to go to a kaitenzushi (sushi-go-round restaurant). Its quality in Japan is good, it’s fast and a good value indeed in Japan. However, one thing to remember is that those at a real sushi restaurant is MUCH better than that. You will understand why if you know it takes about 10 years to be a good sushi chef at a real sushi restaurant, while a machine or a temporary worker is making sushi at most of the kantenzushi restaurants.
You can be stuffed for about 1000yen to 2000yen.
Two pieces of sushi on a different colored palate are going around the counter.
Its price depends on the color, you can take whatever you like as much as you want.
A worker will count how many palate you took after you finish eating and you will bring the bill to the cashier to pay.

If your budget permit, it’s highly recommended to try a real sushi restaurant.
One of the most expensive restaurants in Japan is a sushi restaurant, the others being French cuisine restaurants, kaiseki cuisine restaurants (ryotei) and so on.
Its mesmerism is its artistic beauty a sushi cook create and its delicate and delicious taste. Probably you will be likely to wonder what kind of sushi you were eating in your own country after you try a really good sushi restaurant in Japan.
About 3000yen to 10000yen per person.

Dip the fish side of sushi into soy sauce (this is the manners of eating sushi in Japan) before you pop it into your mouth. Some wasabi (green horseradish paste) are between the fish and the small rice bed. You have to order sushi without wasabi, if you don’t like it. At a real sushi restaurant, they ask you when you order if you like it. “Sabi-nuki” means “without wasabi”.
If you are not good at using chopsticks, especially eating small tiny pieces of sushi is harder, don’t worry, sushi is one of a few dishes in Japan that is perfectly acceptable to eat with your hands.

Sushi restaurants can be found anywhere in Japan. However, as its freshness of the fish declines in the mountain area, try to find a place closer to the coasts.

Dip the slice of raw fish into soy sauce before you pop it into your mouth.
Put some wasabi on the top of sashimi before you dip it into soy sauce, if you like. This is the manners of eating sashimi in Japan, but most Japanese people add some wasabi into soy sauce and mix it, instead of putting wasabi on sashimi, which is supposed to be bad manners.
As the same as sushi, sashimi can be found anywhere in Japan. However, as its freshness of the fish declines in the mountain area, try to find a place closer to the coasts.

Tempura is a fritter-like dish of fish, shellfish and vegetables dipped in a flour-and-water batter and deep-fried in vegetable oil.

Ten-tsuyu (a light brown sauce) and yakumi (grated daikon (Japanese radish), grated ginger or chopped green onions) to mix into the ten-tsuyu are served with tempura.
Dip each piece of tempura into the sauce before eating it.
Tempura is best when it’s hot, so don’t leave it too long.

Donburi (丼もの)
Una-don Ten-don Ikura-don
It is a Japanese "rice bowl dish" consisting of fish, meat, vegetables or other ingredients simmered together and served on the top of rice.
Donburi menus vary.

Gyu-don (牛丼):  rice topped with thin slices of cooked beef
Una-don (うな丼): grilled eel over a bowl of rice
Oyako-don (親子丼): rice topped with egg and chicken
Ten-don (天丼): rice topped with tempura (see Tempura)
Katsu-don (カツ丼): rice topped with tonkatsu (see Tonkatsu)
Tekka-don (鉄火丼): rice topped with thin-sliced raw tuna over rice
Negitorodon (ネギトロ丼): diced toro (fatty tuna) and negi (green onions) on rice.

To list types of Donburi can go on forever. There are large chains such as Yoshinoya (吉野屋), Sukiya (すき屋), Matsuya (松屋); They offer Gyu-don (牛丼), Buta-don (豚丼, rice topped with thin slices of cooked pork), Care-don (カレー丼, rice topped with Japanese curry) at a low price; About 300-400 yen per dish.
For the Japanese it is one type of fast food restaurants.


Ramen dishes are bowls of noodles in a meat broth or fish broth. The Japanese imported this dish from China a long time ago and put the own spin on it. Now, it’s a very delicious Chinese food-like fast food in Japan. The testes of the soup and the types of the noodles are totally different, depending on the area. It is fun to discover your ramen.

Types of Ramen (categorized by the soup)
Syoyu Ramen (soy sauce)
Tonkotsu Ramen (pork bone)
Tonkotsu Syoyu Ramen (pork bone and soy sauce)
Miso Ramen (Miso)
Shio Ramen (salt)
Gyokai-kei Ramen (fish)
Wafu Ramen (Japanese taste)

Ramen noodles come in various shapes and lengths. They may be fat, thin, or even ribbon-like, as well as straight or wrinkled.

Representative and famous ramen
Sapporo Ramen (札幌ラーメン): It started from Shio ramen (salt) and Miso ramen is also famous now.
Kitakata Ramen (喜多方ラーメン): The base of the soup is made from pork bones and dried fish (niboshi). It is soy sauce flavor. The noodles are fat and wrinkled.
Tokyo Ramen (東京ラーメン): Orthodox Shoyu Ramen (soy sauce).
Takayama Ramen (高山ラーメン): Basically Soy Sauce flavor only and mild.
Wakayama Ramen (和歌山ラーメン): Tonkotsu Syoyu broth.
Onomichi Ramen (尾道ラーメン): Soy sauce flavor, fish broth and clear soup. Plain taste.
Tokushima Ramen (徳島ラーメン): Tonkotsu Syoyu. It’s sweet, pronounced and sukiyaki taste.
Hakata Ramen (博多ラーメン): It has a rich, milky, pork-bone tonkotsu broth and rather thin, non-curly and resilient noodles.
Kumamoto Ramen (熊本ラーメン): It is a tonkotsu based, white colored broth, but where it differs from Hakata style ramen is its milder flavor.

It may be no exaggeration to say that there is a different type of ramen in each city in Japan.

Udon and Soba
Udon are thick, white wheat noodles and Soba are thin, brown buckwheat noodles.
Udon and soba can be eaten anywhere in Japan, but it is remarkably recommended that you should choose a place for udon or soba.
The basic idea of them is that there is no good udon where there are good soba and that there is no good soba where there are good udon.
There tend to be many soba restaurants in the east and many udon restaurants in the west.
The flavor of broth (dashi) and topping vary from region to region. Usually, dark brown broth, is used in the eastern Japan, and light brown broth, is used in western Japan. Therefore, it’s commonly said that food with Dashi (soup) such as Kake-Udon is more delicious in the western Japan. So to speak, Dhishi in the west has a lot more Umami. This is even noticeable in packaged instant noodles, which are often sold in two different versions for east and west.

There are some types depending on its ingredients and how to serve.

Zaru-udon/soba (ざるうどん・そば): Chilled udon noodles topped with shredded nori and served on a zaru, a sieve-like bamboo tray. Accompanied by a chilled dipping sauce,
Kake-udon/soba (かけうどん・そば): Hot udon/soba in broth.
Su-udon (素うどん): The same as kake udon. People in the west call kake-udon su-udon.
Tempra-udon/soba (天ぷらうどん・そば): Hot udon/soba in broth topped with tempura, especially prawn, or kakiage, a type of mixed tempura fritter.
Chikara-udon (力うどん): "Power udon". Topped with toasted mochi rice cakes.
Kitsune-udon/soba (きつねうどん・そば): "Fox udon/soba". Hot udon/soba in broth topped with Aburaage (sweetened deep-fried tofu pockets).
(Tsukimi-udon/soba (月見うどん・そば): "Moon-viewing udon/soba". Hot udon/soba topped with raw egg, which poaches in the hot soup.

Don’t try udon in Kanto area (including Tokyo). It is famous for bad tastes of udon.
Udon noodles in Sanuki (Kagawa prefecture) area of Shikoku are very popular with the Japanese and are particularly special and delicious.
There are about 900 udon restaurants. The low prices and the best tastes of udon noodles have a reputation second to none. Almost all the udon in Kagawa are homemade and it’s well worth going to Kagawa only to try Sanuki-udon.
It is no exaggeration to say that there are an udon restaurant every 10m, from self-service restaurants serving a bowl of udon for 70 yen to 250 yen, to general udon restaurants serving a bowl of udon for 500 yen to 900 yen.
Also, Inaniwa udon in Akita prefecture is famous for the good taste.

Shinshu soba in Nagano prefecture, Izumo soba in Shimane prefecture and Wanko soba in Iwate prefecture are famous.
It’s said that Togakushi soba in Togakushi village, Nagano prefecture are the best of the best among the soba in Nagano.
In Togakushi village, many soba restaurants are lined up, forming a village of soba restaurants. It’s worth going there to try Togakushi soba.
Pick up a small amount of soba from the tray and dip it in the cold tsuyu (a dark brown sauce) before eating it.
In Shinshu (the former name of Nagano), soba-yu (soba broth) in a special tea pot for soba-yu is served with soba. Add some soba-yu into the tsuyu after finishing eating soba and drink it for a cup of tea. The aroma of soba is good.

Soba is traditionally eaten on New Years Eve in most areas of Japan, a tradition that survives to this day: Toshikoshi soba. Toshikoshi means to pass the passing year.

Yakitori are skewers of grilled chicken and vegetables on charcoal.
At a yakitori restaurant, choose vegetables and the parts of chicken you like, and order one skewer of yakitori or one set which comes with two ore three skewers.
If you are sitting at the counter, you can see the cook is grilling your yakitori.
The Japanese are enjoying beer or sake while eating yakitori as an accompaniment of drinks.
Yakitori menus.

Negima (ねぎま): Pieces of white meat alternating with leek
Sasami (ささみ): Skinless chicken-breast pieces
Hatsu (ハツ): Chicken heart
Sunazuri (砂ずり): Chicken gizzard
Kawa (皮): Chicken skin, grilled until crispy
Tebasaki (手羽先): Chicken wings
Tsukune (つくね): Chicken meatballs
Reba (レバー): Chicken lever
Tan (タン): Ox tongue, sliced thinly
Shiitake (しいたけ): Japanese mushrooms
Piman (ピーマン): Small green peppers

Kansai Okonomiyaki Hiroshima style Okonomiyaki
Okonomiyaki are described as Japanese pizza or pancakes, but the resemblance is in form only.
The batter is made of flour, grated yam, dashi, eggs and shredded cabbage, and usually contains other ingredients such as green onion, meat (generally pork or bacon), squid, shrimp, vegetables, or cheese. It’s served after mixing them all, cooking it on an iron hotplate and putting okonomiyaki sauce on top of it.
The smell of the sauce being cooked on the hotplate will sharpen your appetite!!
Okonomiyaki is widely available throughout Japan, but especially in Kansai (Osaka) area, it is famous as the same as takoyaki (octopus dumpling which tastes like okonomiyaki).
This okonomiyaki is usually referred as “Kansai style okonomiyaki” and basically it is a snack rather than a real meal. Hiroshima style okonomiyaki being eaten in Hiroshima is different. It has been accomplished as a real meal. Its way of making okonomiyaki is different and it’s special among those okonomiyaki in other parts of Japan.
It is a product of constant effort by Hiroshima people to survive after bombing. Hiroshima people made okonomiyaki better, cheaper, healthier, and more filling.
Even for the Japanese outside Hiroshima, real Hiroshima style okonomiyaki in Hiroshima is one of the things they want to try when visiting.

In okonomiyaki restaurants, it’s almost done when it’s served on the iron hotplate in front of you. Cut it with spatulas and eat the piece.
At self-service restaurants, only ingredients are served and it is expected that you cook it yourself. If it happens, don’t panic. Mix all of the ingredients in the bowl and place it on the iron hotplate, except for slices of pork. Shape it like a pancake and cook it for 5 minutes. While waiting, spread slices of pork on top of it. Then, flip it with spatulas and wait for another 5 minutes. Last, apply okonomiyaki sauce on the top and put some toppings such as chopped green onions, aonori (seaweed flakes), katsuobushi (bonito flakes) and mayonnaise. Don’t forget to turn off the stove before eating. Otherwise your okonomiyaki might be burnt by the time when you finish eating it.
You don’t need to be worried too much, as stuff will take care of you before a real disaster happens.

In case of Hiroshima style okonomiyaki, there is no case to make okonomiyaki by oneself. If there existed a restaurant like that, it would be hard for inexpert to make such good okonomiyaki professionals make. Even Japanese people outside Hiroshima don’t know how to make it.

Kushiage or Kushikatsu
It is a Japanese-style of deep-fried kebab with panko (bread crumb).
Dip it in kushikatsu sauce and eat it.

Tonkatsu is a deep-fried breaded pork cutlet.
Usually it’s served with shredded cabbage as salad. Dip tonkatus in tonkatsu sauce and eat it.

Kaiseki-ryouri (会席料理)
It is a traditional multi-course Japanese dinner.

Kaiseki-ryouri is usually served in this order:
Sakizuke (先付): an appetizer similar to the French amuse-bouche.
Hassun (八寸): the second course, which sets the seasonal theme. Typically one kind of sushi and several smaller side dishes.
Mukouzuke (向付): a sliced dish of seasonal sashimi.
Takiawase (煮合): vegetables served with meat, fish or tofu; the ingredients are simmered separately.
Futamono (蓋物): a "lidded dish"; typically a soup.
Yakimono (焼物): Broiled seasonal fish.
Su-zakana (酢肴): a small dish used to clean the palate, such as vegetables in vinegar. Hiyashi-bachi (冷し鉢): served only in summer; chilled, lightly-cooked vegetables. Naka-choko (中猪口): another palate-cleanser; may be a light, acidic soup.
Shiizakana (強肴): a substantial dish, such as a hot pot.
Gohan (御飯): a rice dish made with seasonal ingredients.
Kou no mono (香の物): seasonal pickled vegetables.
Tome-wan (止椀): a miso-based or vegetable soup served with rice.
Mizumono (水物): a seasonal dessert; may be fruit, confection, ice cream, or cake.

A dinner usually costs about 5000 yen to 10000 yen, but it’s possible to find a lunch meal for from about 2500 yen. To see a dish prepared beautifully like an art is as if you were seeing a beautiful Japanese garden in a bowl or a plate.
If your budget permits, it’s recommended.

It is not enough to describe Japanese “bentou” as just boxed lunch.
Japanese lunch box is not packed only with peanut butter sandwiches or bread.
A bento basically consists of rice, fish or meat, one or more pickled, cooked vegetables, salad or dessert, and it has better nutritional balance.
Especially Koraku-bento (bento for picnics) are served beautifully and it is like a small kaiseki-ryori in a container.
Bento are readily available in many places throughout Japan, including convenience stores, bento shops (弁当屋, bentou-ya), train stations, and super markets.
If you don’t have enough budget to dine out, to have bento should be the best way to sample Japanese food.
The price is about 350 yen to 800 yen.
Bento at convenience stores are boring, but there are good bento at super markets, bento-ya (bento shop) and department stores.
The types of bento vary: Sushi bento; Tonkatsu bento: Yakiniku bento and so on.

Other sample menus

Natto Tonjiru Umeboshi
Satsuma-age Gyoza Kaki (Oysters)
Japanese Sake

Where do you want to go in Japan?

What you need in Japan and before/after in Japan

Things you need once you are in Japan!?
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