A Short Guide to Food in Japan

Eating while in other countries can be daunting for some people, so I put together a quick guide to food in Japan with picky eaters in mind. Learn about the most common traditional foods that you will find, as well as more familiar foods.

Traditional Japanese Foods

Here are some of the most common kinds of traditional Japanese foods that you will run into while visiting.

Tempura udon (c) ABR 2017

We ate udon EVERY DAY in Japan, and I learned to crave this salty dish after hiking. It is the best way to re-hydrate and get some energy after being outside. Udon comes with a few different things, but most common is shrimp, thin cuts of meat, and various kinds of veggies.

Ramen from the 5th Station on Mt Fuji (c) ABR 2017

Ramen is a thinner noodle than udon, and is common as well, as is soba, which is made from buckwheat! That colorful object in the picture above is naruto, which is made from cured fish.

Poke (c) ABR 2017

As a sushi lover, eating poke and sushi is #1 on my list of things to eat in Japan. However, you should be aware that the laws in Japan concerning raw fish are a bit different than in the US. In order to keep the fish as fresh as possible, most Japanese restaurants do not flash freeze their fish, while in the US fish must be flash frozen first if it will be eaten raw.

Katsu (c) ABR 2017

Katsu is breaded meat, most often pork, although that is steak up above. It is served with rice, and miso soup, and often sauce as well, because it can be a little dry otherwise.

(c) ABR 2017

While many restaurants have similar menus, if you keep your eyes peeled, you will find an endless array of foods in different places around the country.

Foreign Foods

For those picky eaters among you, or people looking for a little reminder of home, the cities have a nice array of foreign foods.

Italian pasta (c) ABR 2017

Italian food is really common, because Japan has a love for noodles!

Dumplings (c) ABR 2017

Japanese takes on Chinese dishes are also pretty easy to come by in the city.

Naan and curry (c) ABR 2017

Indian food was also something that we ran into more than once. They always made the naans HUGE.

Denny’s breakfast in Tokyo (c) ABR 2017

Of course, American food makes its appearance! Our style of breakfast is not the norm in Japan, so it was nice to eat some as a treat once in a while. Their style of scrambled eggs was a little runny, but I had to love the little breakfast salad. XD

Steak (c) ABR 2017

More American classics, which the Japanese chefs plated in a nice, minimalistic style (while maintaining the homey, American look).

Lunch from DisneySea (c) ABR 2017

DisneySea has food choices from around the world (including Latin America as seen above), but all have a Japanese spin that makes them pretty interesting to try.


Japan does desserts VERY well, so I will provide the following pictures without comment. Enjoy and do your best to not run out for a sugar fix.

Banana and strawberry crepe with lots of whipped cream (c) ABR 2017

Tea time and cream puffs in Kyoto (c) ABR 2017

Cheese cake (c) ABR 2017

I don’t know what this was, but it was delish (c) ABR 2017

A treat for hiking a mountain (c) ABR 2017

Of course, CUTE desserts too! (c) ABR 2017

If you’d like to know more about where we’ve been in Japan and how to DIY your own exploration of this beautiful country, check out Nightborn Travel’s Guide to Japan.


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  1. I much prefer Udon to Ramen these days as I have had plenty in NYC. I could go for good shrimp Udon!

  2. I LIVE FOR RAMEN!!! Have been obsessed ever since I visited Toyko. Thank god it’s big in the US now.

    • waitingforrain28

      Oh gosh, yeah! I am so happy that we have a great Japanese restaurant near us here in AZ. I would be so sad without it.

  3. Japanese food is my absolute favourite! My stomach was growling by the end of this post, lol. Thanks for putting this together 🙂

  4. Yum!!

    This is my kind of post! I LOVE food in Japan!!

    The only big one you missed is Okonomiyaki. I know it’s not that big outside of Japan, but I don’t know many non-Japanese that have tried it and didn’t love it. The thing I miss most is unagi. I see it occasionally here in Canada, but it is never quite as good…

    I love chirashi sushi (I guess it is a bit like poke – i’d never thought of that!)

    Argh, your post has made me want to eat Japanese food!! 😀

    • waitingforrain28

      Oh yes! Okonomiyaki is SO good! But I didn’t see it around as much as sushi, udon, etc. I could really go for some right now though!

  5. China is a big country. There are many food But some food are special for any one. I read your full post and I know some food and I already test it. There are best famous food is Foreign Foods. I think this food but can you told me what is the famous food in china?

    • waitingforrain28

      Not quite sure what you are asking, I am afraid. This post is about Japanese food, although I mention Chinese food because it was available in the cities. 🙂

  6. What an interesting and thorough guide to Japanese cuisine. Your clear photographs really helped to make the article come to life and now my tummy is now rumbling 🙂

    • waitingforrain28

      Glad my pictures got you hungry! I know it was hard to put this together on an empty stomach!

  7. Absolutely adore Japanese noodles and was lucky enough to live by a Japanese grocery store so had the great advantage of being taught how to serve them and the incredible variety of noodles available was mind boggling. Could happily live on noodles for the rest of my life.

    • waitingforrain28

      Oooo! I would just love to learn how to make more of the dishes myself. Although we don’t live near a Japanese grocery store. That is really cool!

  8. Christine

    Omg! This all looks SO good! I think I could eat just ramen and desserts the entire time in japan! Haha

    • waitingforrain28

      Udon would be my go-to, but the desserts… yes, I love sugar way too much.

  9. Jewels

    So much great food to choose from! I want all of that dessert! Do they use a lot of nuts in their dishes? I have a really bad nut allergy which can be super limiting at times.

    • waitingforrain28

      Hmmmm. I don’t think that I noticed any nuts, but it sounds like you would have to be extra careful. As far as I know, udon would be a safe bet, or sushi… unless you are allergic to seeds as well. D:

  10. Angela

    Great photos and this post was very informative!

  11. Caroline (packthesuitcases)

    I feel sorry for any picky eaters missing out on all the amazing food in Japan. Did you have any okonomiyaki? That’s my favourite dish I think! I thought it was good you included Japan’s take on Western dishes – even though it’s a bit silly to eat what you can get in Europe, it’s actually very interesting to see how they do it… usually a million times better than wherever it’s from because they’re SO good at food 🙂

    • waitingforrain28

      It is hard to be a picky eater, as far as I can tell. But I think Japanese food might be worth a try for alot of them! And I agree about Western food, although I gotta say, once in a while it was nice to have a little taste of home. 😉

  12. I loved Ramen and ate it nearly every day when I was in Japan. And Matcha icecream! Unfortunately, I’m not the experimental foodie and try the very exotic stuff…

    • waitingforrain28

      I not experimental either, but there are definitely some cool, safe options in Japan. Something for everyone!

  13. Highly descriptive article, I enjoyed that bit. Will there be a part 2?

    • waitingforrain28

      Unfortunately, there won’t be a part two until I return to Japan. 🙂

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