Last Updated on February 29, 2024 by Ezra Matiasi

To simply answer the question: What food do they eat in Japan? Here is a list below:

  • Rice


  • Sushi
  • Sashimi
  • Tempura


  • Ramen
  • Udon
  • Soba

Street Food:

  • Yakitori
  • Takoyaki
  • Okonomiyaki
  • Taiyaki
  • Japanese Crepes

Tea Culture:

  • Matcha

Traditional Desserts:

  • Mochi
  • Dorayaki
  • Anmitsu
  • Wagashi

Regional Specialties:

  • Hokkaido Seafood
  • Kansai Kaiseki
  • Tokyo’s Culinary Scene
  • Kyushu Tonkotsu Ramen
  • Okinawan Cuisine

Rice: The Pillar of Japanese Cuisine

Rice holds a central role in Japanese cuisine, representing not just a staple food but a cultural symbol deeply intertwined with the identity of the Japanese people.

The cultivation and preparation of rice reflect the country’s rich agricultural heritage and the meticulous attention to detail that defines Japanese culinary traditions. 

With its subtle yet distinct flavours, rice serves as the foundation of many traditional meals, providing a satisfying and nourishing base. From the perfectly cooked, fluffy grains accompanying delicate slices of sashimi to the flavorful rice balls known as onigiri, rice takes on various forms and flavours in Japanese cuisine. 

Additionally, different types of rice, such as short-grain or sticky rice, offer unique characteristics and are chosen based on the desired texture and taste. 

Whether enjoyed as a standalone dish or as a complement to other ingredients, rice showcases its versatility and serves as the canvas for a diverse range of flavours in Japanese culinary creations. 

Traditional rice dishes, like donburi with its delectable toppings or takikomi gohan with its blend of seasonal ingredients, further exemplify the artistry and depth of flavour that can be achieved with this cherished grain. 

In Japan, rice represents not just sustenance but a profound connection to the land and a celebration of the country’s agricultural heritage.

Seafood: A Sea of Flavors

Japan’s coastal geography blesses it with an abundance of seafood, which plays a prominent and revered role in Japanese cuisine. The proximity to the bountiful oceans ensures a steady supply of fresh, high-quality fish, shellfish, and seaweed that serve as the backbone of many traditional dishes. 

The Japanese approach to seafood highlights a deep appreciation for its natural flavours and textures. Sashimi, thinly sliced raw fish, allows the purity of the seafood to shine, while sushi combines vinegared rice with various types of seafood, creating a harmonious marriage of taste and texture. 

Tempura, a beloved Japanese delicacy, showcases the art of deep-frying seafood to achieve a delicate, crispy coating while preserving the tenderness and succulence within. 

Additionally, seafood is often used to enhance the umami, the coveted “fifth taste,” in various broths, stews, and simmered dishes, infusing them with a depth of flavour that is distinctly Japanese. 

From the silky smoothness of uni (sea urchin) to the delicate sweetness of amaebi (sweet shrimp), Japanese seafood dishes offer a tantalising array of flavours that celebrate the natural bounty of the ocean.

Noodles: A World of Variety


Ramen, perhaps the most famous Japanese noodle dish, features wheat noodles served in a flavorful broth. The broth can range from rich and pork-based (tonkotsu) to clear and soy-based (shoyu), with various toppings like sliced pork, soft-boiled eggs, and vegetables. Regional styles of ramen offer unique variations and culinary experiences.

Udon noodles

These are made from wheat flour, are thick and chewy. They are commonly enjoyed in hot broths with toppings like tempura or served cold with a dipping sauce. The versatility of udon noodles allows for a range of flavours and textures.

Soba noodles

Crafted from buckwheat flour, it has a distinct nutty flavour and a delicate texture. They are often served chilled with a dipping sauce or in hot broths. Soba is appreciated for its unique taste and is a popular choice during different seasons.

These noodles are just a glimpse of the vast variety found in Japanese cuisine. Each noodle dish has its own regional specialties, and toppings and accompaniments further enhance the flavours. 

Noodle lovers will find themselves immersed in a world of culinary delight as they explore the many noodle options that Japan has to offer.

Sushi: The Art of Delicacy

Sushi is a dish that combines vinegared rice, known as shari, with a variety of toppings. The most common topping is raw or cooked seafood, such as tuna, salmon, or shrimp, but vegetarian options and other ingredients like egg or tofu are also used.

Nigiri sushi 

is a classic form of sushi, where a small mound of rice is shaped by hand and topped with a slice of seafood. The balance between the tender rice and the fresh, flavorful seafood is key to a perfect bite.

Maki sushi

Also known as sushi rolls, they consist of rice and fillings wrapped in seaweed called nori. These rolls are often sliced into bite-sized pieces and can be filled with a wide range of ingredients, including seafood, vegetables, and even fruits.

Sushi showcases the importance of using only the freshest ingredients to ensure the highest quality and flavour. The selection and sourcing of ingredients are done with great care, emphasising the appreciation of seasonal offerings.

The artistry of sushi extends beyond taste to presentation. Sushi chefs meticulously arrange each piece, considering colours, textures, and shapes to create a visually stunning plate that is as pleasing to the eyes as it is to the palate.

Sushi represents a harmonious balance of flavours, textures, and aesthetics. It embodies the Japanese philosophy of simplicity, allowing the natural essence of each ingredient to shine through.

Whether enjoyed at a high end sushi restaurant or a casual sushi bar, the experience of savouring sushi is a testament to the culinary mastery and cultural significance that Japan has infused into this iconic dish.

Street Food: The Vibrant Culinary Scene


This is skewered and grilled chicken, and is a popular street food choice. These savoury bites of tender chicken are often seasoned with a sweet and savoury glaze and cooked over charcoal, resulting in smoky and flavorful morsels.


A beloved street food originating from Osaka, are spherical-shaped snacks filled with diced octopus, scallions, and tempura scraps, all encased in a light and fluffy batter. Takoyaki is typically topped with a tangy sauce, mayonnaise, and bonito flakes, creating a delicious and satisfying snack.


Often referred to as Japanese savoury pancakes, is a versatile street food dish that combines a savoury batter with various ingredients such as cabbage, seafood, meat, and vegetables. It is cooked on a griddle and topped with a sweet and savoury sauce, mayonnaise, and bonito flakes.


 A fish-shaped pastry is a popular street food sweet treat. It is made from a pancake-like batter and filled with sweet red bean paste, custard, or other delightful fillings. Taiyaki is enjoyed piping hot, providing a comforting and nostalgic experience.

Japanese crepes

These have gained popularity as a trendy street food option. These thin and delicate crepes are filled with an array of sweet fillings such as fresh fruits, whipped cream, ice cream, and sauces, offering a delightful combination of textures and flavours.

Exploring the vibrant street food scene in Japan allows one to experience the local flavours and interact with the energetic atmosphere of bustling food stalls. The wide range of street food options reflects the creativity, diversity, and culinary prowess of Japanese cuisine, making it an exciting and memorable part of any food lover’s journey through Japan.

Tea Culture: A Tranquil Ritual

Tea holds a special place in Japanese culture, celebrated not only for its soothing properties but also as an art form and a symbol of hospitality. The tea ceremony, known as chanoyu or sadō, embodies a harmonious blend of mindfulness, aesthetics, and social interaction. Here are the key elements of tea culture in Japan:


A finely powdered green tea takes centre stage in the Japanese tea ceremony. The vibrant green hue and distinctive flavour of matcha are achieved through the meticulous shading, harvesting, and processing of tea leaves.

The tea ceremony is a ritualistic and meditative experience that follows a prescribed set of movements and gestures. It emphasises mindfulness, tranquillity, and appreciation of the present moment, creating a space for reflection and connection.

Tea houses, designed with natural materials and serene surroundings, provide an intimate setting for the tea ceremony. The architecture and aesthetics of the tea house, including the garden and interior design, contribute to the overall atmosphere of harmony and tranquillity.

The tea master, or chajin, plays a central role in the tea ceremony. With years of training and expertise, the tea master not only prepares and serves the tea but also guides guests through the ceremony, ensuring a memorable and meaningful experience.

The utensils used in the tea ceremony, such as the tea bowl (chawan), tea scoop (chashaku), and tea whisk (chasen), are meticulously selected and crafted. These tools are appreciated for their aesthetic beauty and functionality, adding to the sensory experience of the tea ceremony.

Beyond the formal tea ceremony, tea is an integral part of everyday life in Japan. Green tea, including sencha and genmaicha, is commonly consumed and enjoyed for its refreshing taste and health benefits.

The tea culture in Japan reflects a deep appreciation for nature, mindfulness, and hospitality. It provides an opportunity to slow down, savour the moment, and engage in a tranquil ritual that has been cherished for centuries.

Traditional Japanese Desserts: Sweet Delights

Japanese cuisine is not only known for its savoury dishes but also for its delightful array of traditional desserts. These sweet treats, often rooted in centuries-old culinary traditions, showcase unique flavours, textures, and presentations. Here are some highlights of traditional Japanese desserts:


A beloved Japanese sweet, it is made from glutinous rice pounded into a smooth and chewy texture. It is often filled with sweet red bean paste (anko) or other flavours such as matcha, sesame, or fruit. Mochi is enjoyed during special occasions and festivals throughout the year.


A pancake-like dessert, consists of two fluffy pancakes sandwiched together with a sweet red bean paste filling. Its simple yet satisfying combination of flavours and textures has made it a popular choice among both children and adults.


A powdered green tea is not only used in the tea ceremony but also finds its way into various desserts. Matcha-flavoured cakes, cookies, ice cream, and even parfaits offer a rich and distinct green tea flavour that delights the taste buds.


This is a traditional Japanese dessert composed of a colourful assortment of agar jelly cubes, sweet red bean paste, fruits, and mochi, all served with a drizzle of syrup. It is a refreshing and visually appealing dessert enjoyed during the warmer months.


Is mentioned earlier as a street food, and also doubles as a sweet dessert. The fish-shaped pastry is filled with sweet fillings like custard, chocolate, or sweetened azuki bean paste, offering a delightful combination of crispy exterior and soft, sweet filling.


Is a general term for traditional Japanese confections, come in various shapes, colours, and flavours. These delicate sweets often feature seasonal ingredients and are enjoyed with a cup of tea. Wagashi embodies the artistry and attention to detail that is highly valued in Japanese culture.

Traditional Japanese desserts not only satisfy the sweet tooth but also reflect the harmony between flavours, aesthetics, and nature. 

They offer a glimpse into the cultural heritage and culinary craftsmanship that has been passed down through generations, providing a delightful ending to a Japanese meal or a standalone treat on their own.

Regional Specialties: Culinary Diversity Across Japan

Japan’s culinary landscape is not only diverse in terms of dishes but also influenced by the regional specialties that showcase unique ingredients, cooking techniques, and flavour profiles. Each region of Japan boasts its own culinary treasures, creating a rich tapestry of flavours and traditions. Here are some notable regional specialties:


The northernmost island of Japan, is known for its seafood, dairy products, and hearty comfort food. Hokkaido’s cold climate lends itself to delicious seafood dishes like fresh sashimi and succulent crab. The region is also famous for its dairy products, including rich butter, creamy cheese, and decadent milk-based desserts.


Which includes the cities of Osaka, Kyoto, and Nara, is celebrated for its refined and traditional cuisine. Kyoto, in particular, is known for its kaiseki, a multi-course meal highlighting seasonal ingredients prepared with meticulous attention to detail. Osaka is famous for its street food culture and iconic dishes like takoyaki and okonomiyaki.


The bustling capital city offers a vibrant culinary scene with a wide range of dining options. From Michelin-starred restaurants to humble street food stalls, Tokyo is a food lover’s paradise. The city showcases a variety of regional Japanese cuisines as well as international influences, making it a melting pot of flavours.


The southernmost of Japan’s main islands, is recognized for its bold and robust flavours. Fukuoka, the largest city in Kyushu, is renowned for its tonkotsu ramen, featuring a rich and creamy pork bone broth. The region also embraces Korean and Chinese culinary influences, resulting in unique dishes like mentaiko (spicy cod roe) and champon (a noodle soup dish).


A tropical paradise, it has its own distinct cuisine with influences from China, Southeast Asia, and the United States. 

Okinawan cuisine emphasises fresh ingredients like local vegetables, seafood, and unique ingredients such as bitter melon and purple sweet potatoes. Specialties include dishes like goya champuru (stir-fried bitter melon) and taco rice (a fusion dish combining taco fillings with rice).

These are just a few examples of the regional specialties found throughout Japan. Exploring the culinary diversity across the country provides a fascinating journey through unique flavours, local ingredients, and the rich cultural heritage that defines each region’s cuisine.


Japanese cuisine is a captivating tapestry of flavours, traditions, and cultural significance. From the delicate artistry of sushi to the comforting bowls of ramen, the culinary landscape of Japan offers a delightful journey for food enthusiasts.

Exploring the diverse array of dishes, ingredients, and cooking techniques reveals the deep-rooted connections between food and Japanese culture.

Whether you have the opportunity to visit Japan or simply wish to explore Japanese cuisine in your own kitchen, embracing the flavours and techniques of this rich culinary heritage allows you to appreciate the country’s traditions, values, and artistry. 

From the humble street food stalls to the refined dining experiences, Japanese cuisine offers a truly immersive and unforgettable gastronomic adventure.

About the Author

Ezra Matiasi

Head Content Writer

Hello! My name is Ezra Matiasi, and I'm the enthusiastic mind behind Travello, a captivating travel blog that takes you on remarkable journeys around the world. With a passion for exploration and a love for sharing captivating stories, I curate the best travel experiences, hidden gems, and breathtaking landscapes. Through vivid descriptions and captivating photographs, Travello aims to inspire wanderlust and help fellow travelers make the most of their adventures. Join me as we embark on exciting virtual voyages and discover the wonders our beautiful planet has to offer. Let's explore the world together, one adventure at a time!

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