Top Foodie Destinations You Need to Visit in Japan
For many travellers, the cuisine is the main reason why they come to Japan where they can enjoy a wealth of gastronomical delights as well as an abundance of seasonal dishes. Each region offers its own regional specialities with unique culinary traditions. Here are the best places in Japan that food lovers should definitely bypass.
Often considered the “Kitchen of Japan”, Osaka is, without doubt, happy heaven for food lovers to Japan, with various local dishes at economical fares. Besides the international fame of takoyaki or the fried octopus balls that can be found on any streets, the city offers a wide range of restaurants specialized in a dish or a variety of dishes, from mobile food stands to aged ryotei, cheap chain shops to luxury theme restaurants. The most popular area for tourists is Dotonbori district near Namba Station, where you can experience all types of eateries along its streets, while the Shinsekai district with its kushikatsu shops is great for those seeking a nostalgic atmosphere.
In Osaka don’t miss:
• Takoyaki: A fried crispy batter containing octopus slices formed into small balls and covered in sauce and mayonnaise.
• Okonomiyaki: A pancake-like dish that consists of batter and shredded cabbage. Other ingredients can vary greatly, from octopus, squid, prawn or meat to cheese and wasabi.
• Kushikatsu: Meat and vegetables are battered and deep-fried on skewers.
In the more northern area of Japan, Hokkaido prefecture is a perfect place for foodies that is renowned for the high quality of seafood and agricultural products from its wide farmlands. You can easily sample the freshest seafood by visiting a fish market like Sapporo's Nijo Market, Kushiro's Washo Market or Hakodate's Morning Market. Meanwhile, cheese addicts will find Hokkaido like a paradise with many delicious world-class pieces of cheese and other dairy products like butter, yoghurt and ice cream as the prefecture supports a massive dairy industry, about half of the country's milk.
In Hokkaido don’t miss:
• Seafood: fresh uni (sea urchin), hotate (scallops), ikura (salmon roe), kani (crab), ika (squid)…
• Hokkaido cheese tart: A crispy, buttery pastry with gooey sweet cheese lava
• Genghis Khan (Jingisukan): A dish consisting of mutton and vegetables cooked on a dome-shaped metal grill
• Sapporo Beer: visit the Sapporo Beer Museum or Sapporo Factory shopping centre
As Japan's former imperial capital, Kyoto has a diverse food culture and a rich culinary tradition. From traditional establishments that look to the past to fusion restaurants with unique cooking styles from other countries, you can always enjoy famous Japanese food, such as ramen, sushi and udon in famous areas like Pontocho district, Gion district or Nishiki Market. If you want to experience something special, let’s try Kawayuka or Kawadoko, a unique Japanese culture of building temporary platforms overflowing water where you can enjoy outdoor dining in the summer. The best places to try kawayuka are restaurants along the Kamogawa River in central Kyoto as well as platforms in Kibune and Takao.
In Kyoto don’t miss:
• Kaiseki ryori: An elaborate dining style with a prescribed order of courses popular among ryokan and restaurants
• Shojin Ryori: A simple dining style following the austerity of Buddhist monks with strictly vegetarian dishes can be enjoyed at a temple or restaurant. The common ingredient is tofu.
• Obanzai Ryori: The traditional home-style cooking of Kyoto, with multiple small dishes.
Tokyo is a paradisiacal playground for food fans with a lot of dining styles, from local and regional to international or themed dining. Good food can be found at any corners and every price. Many regional Japanese foods from across the country like Okinawa, Kagoshima or Hokkaido are available around train stations and entertainment districts, while fine dining with Michelin-starred restaurants is often located on the top floors of skyscrapers and high-end hotels in Shinjuku, Shiodome, and Tokyo Station. Don’t miss out a visit to Tsukiji Outer Market or Toyosu Market where you can savour fresh sushi for breakfast.
In Tokyo don’t miss:
• Nigiri-zushi: A popular type of sushi consisting of seafood pieces put onto a small ball of rice.
• Tempura: A deep-fried vegetable and seafood dish in tempura batter
• Chankonabe: A hot pot dish for sumo wrestlers’ diet, containing mainly fish or chicken and seasonal vegetables.
• Tsukudani: Small pieces of food simmered in a mixture of soy sauce and sweet sake
Fukuoka has a unique and interesting food culture with much influence of Korean and Chinese cuisine as it is one of the closest spots to the Asian mainland. Local specialities are diverse and best sampled at yatai food stalls on the southern end of Nakasu Island. Yatai is the city's best-known symbol that offers an atmospheric outdoor dining environment with simple and various food. These stands open from 6 pm to 2 am with available alcoholic drinks, making it an interesting place to get in touch with the locals. You can also enjoy the best delights around downtown Tenjin, Hakata Station or Nakasu entertainment district.
In Fukuoka don’t miss:
• Hakata Ramen: A famous local ramen dish, consisting of thin noodles in thick tonkotsu soup, topped with chashu slices.
• Mentaiko: Spicy salted cod roe (tarako) that is used as a seasoning in pasta dishes or filling for rice balls.
• Motsunabe: A local hot pot dish containing beef or pork tripe, garlic, chives, cabbage and togarashi peppers in a miso-based soup.
• Tetsunabe Gyoza: A pan-fried Chinese style dumpling, stuffed with ground pork, cabbage and green onions.
Japan is a foodie’s place to go with a varied set of local foods from area to area. If you are planning a food trip in Japan, let consider the above-suggested destinations and check out our best Japan Tailor-made Tours for food lovers. You can also talk to one of our Asia Private Tours experts to design your own trip plan. Get started.