If you’re into your food, then Japan is definitely the place for you. With an abundance of Michelin star restaurants, there are so many must-try Japanese foods. Even Unesco recently added Japanese cuisine to its Intangible Cultural Heritage list. While Tokyo has everything you could ever want to eat, there are so many other places to try when it comes to washoku (which is what Japanese cuisine is known as in Japan) while traveling around with your JR pass.
Sushi in Tokyo
Of course, we should start with the most common Japanese foods and most popular and well-known place, and while Tokyo has loads of different food to offer, it is definitely the place where you should go for sushi. Tokyo has the most Michelin starred restaurants than any other city in the world, but long before that, it was known for inventing the famous dish named as sushi, however in Tokyo, it is known as Edomae-zushi, after Edo, which is the old name for Tokyo. If you want to have the best sushi Tokyo can offer, then try the different stalls within Tsukiji, the famous fish market which you will find in Tokyo Bay.
Takyoyaki in Osaka
Takyoyaki, also known as ‘octopus balls,’ is what people mainly travel to Osaka for. Although there’s a lot going on in Osaka, but it’s the Takyoyaki that people love to have on the go, when they’re drinking, after drinking or just whenever they feel like it. Osaka is where the recipe for these golfball-shaped bites, covered in fried crispy batter and containing tiny chewy pieces of octopus, covered in sauce and mayonnaise comes from. Other Japanese foods to try here are okonomiyaki and yakiniku.
Kobe Beef in Kobe
Probably the most famous beef in the world, Kobe Beef is a prized Japanese delicacy. It is one of the many breeds of Wagyu and is always tender. The most common way that people enjoy Kobe beef is in shabu shabu, which is a soup filled with boiled meat, sukiyaki, which is a Japanese hot pot or teppanyaki, where the chef grills the meat in front of you.
Ramen in Yokohama
Yokohama is only 40 minutes from Tokyo, so if you’re visiting the capital, then it’s definitely worth a visit, even if it’s just for a bowl of ramen. Legend has Yokohama was the first place to have a Japanese ramen shop, and it is now home to the most food museums in the country, one of which includes the ramen museum. Over time, the city’s ramen scene has developed a lot, and now there’s not just a museum but also a dedicated ramen festival every year.
Yuba in Nikko
If you’re travelling to Nikko on Japan Rail, then one food that you must try is yuba, which is a version of tofu. It is technically tofu skin, as when soy milk gets hot, it forms surface skins and this is what yuba is made from. It might not sound too appealing but it tastes delicious and even better in a bowl of hot noodles.
Fugu in Fukuoka
A bit of an urban legend, Fugu is a blowfish and is one of the specialty foods of Fukuoka which is one of the main cities of the southern island of Kyūshū. Fungo is best eaten in a hot pot, sashimi-style, or fried at a yatai which is a street stall and you’ll find them dotted all over Fukuoka. This is one of the Japanese foods to try if you’re very adventurous!
Cheese in Hokkaido
While Japan may not be well known for its cheeses, it should be, and if you’re in Hokkaido, then you should definitely want to try some of its locally produced delicious world-class cheeses. One food you cannot miss is the Hokkaido cheese tart, which is similar to a cheesecake but smaller and with more flavour. It is a warm bed of gooey sweet cheese lava in a crispy, buttery pastry. Is your mouth watering yet?
Unagi in Nagoya
Unagi or grilled eel is what you want to try in Nagoya. Book yourself a table at Atsuta Hōraiken which is the city’s most famous restaurant for hitsumabushi. Hitsumabushi is a great way to try unagi as you can eat it in three ways. The strips of eel are bastes in savory sauce and then eaten in the traditional style atop a bed of rice; with a sprinkling of dried seaweed, spring onion and wasabi paste; or mixed in with soup.
Soba noodles in Matsumoto
There is a very attractive castle town called Matsumoto, which has several famous places for Soba noodles. One place, in particular, is called Nomugi, where you will find customers lining up before they sell out.
Yakitori in Tokyo
Found all over Japan, yakitori is a cheap but delicious eat. You’ll see it in the streets of Tokyo being grilled wherever a BBQ will fit. It’s skewered chicken cooked over a charcoal fire and the meat is typically seasoned with tare sauce or salt. Find yakitori on the streets are at izakaya restaurants.