11 Best Japanese Foods & Dishes – What to Eat in Japan

by Ella

Japan is a nation renowned for its rich culinary tradition, where food is not just sustenance but an art form deeply rooted in culture and history. From delicate sushi to hearty ramen, Japanese cuisine offers a diverse array of flavors, textures, and aromas that tantalize the taste buds and delight the senses. In this article, we embark on a gastronomic journey through Japan as we explore the eleven best Japanese foods and dishes that showcase the essence of Japanese culinary excellence.

11 Best Japanese Foods & Dishes

1. Sushi (寿司):

A Symphony of Freshness and Elegance


Sushi is perhaps the most iconic of all Japanese foods, revered worldwide for its simplicity, elegance, and unparalleled freshness. Consisting of vinegared rice combined with a variety of toppings, such as raw fish (sashimi), seafood, or vegetables, sushi is a culinary art form that showcases the skill of the sushi chef. From classic nigiri sushi to creative rolls (maki), each bite of sushi offers a harmonious blend of flavors and textures that captivates the palate and leaves a lasting impression.


See Also: Best Sushi Rolls Recipes to Make At Home


2. Ramen (ラーメン):

Nourishing Bowls of Comfort


Ramen, a beloved Japanese noodle soup, is the ultimate comfort food that warms the soul and satisfies the appetite. Featuring chewy wheat noodles swimming in a flavorful broth, ramen comes in a variety of styles, each with its own unique characteristics. Whether it’s the rich and creamy tonkotsu ramen of Fukuoka, the savory miso ramen of Hokkaido, or the tangy shoyu ramen of Tokyo, a steaming bowl of ramen is a comforting embrace that transports you to the bustling streets of Japan with every slurp.

3. Tempura (天ぷら):

Crispy Delights from the Fryer

Tempura is a quintessential Japanese dish consisting of lightly battered and deep-fried seafood, vegetables, and mushrooms. Known for its delicate yet crispy texture, tempura is a testament to the art of Japanese frying techniques, where each ingredient is meticulously coated in a light batter and fried to golden perfection. Whether it’s shrimp, sweet potato, or eggplant, tempura delights the senses with its crispiness, subtlety, and simplicity.

See Also: How to Make Tempura

4. Wagyu Beef (和牛):

A Symphony of Marbling and Flavor

Wagyu beef is renowned worldwide for its exceptional marbling, tenderness, and rich umami flavor. Raised with meticulous care and fed a special diet to enhance its flavor and texture, Wagyu beef represents the pinnacle of Japanese beef production. Whether enjoyed as succulent steak cuts such as ribeye or sirloin, or thinly sliced for yakiniku (Japanese barbecue), Wagyu beef offers a culinary experience like no other, where each bite melts in your mouth and leaves you craving for more.

5. Takoyaki (たこ焼き):

Irresistible Octopus Balls

Takoyaki is a popular Japanese street food originating from Osaka, consisting of savory batter filled with diced octopus, pickled ginger, and green onions, cooked to perfection in a special spherical mold. Served piping hot and topped with tangy takoyaki sauce, mayonnaise, bonito flakes, and dried seaweed flakes, takoyaki delights the palate with its crispy exterior, creamy interior, and bursts of umami flavor with every bite.

6. Okonomiyaki (お好み焼き):

The Japanese Pancake

Okonomiyaki, often referred to as “Japanese pancake” or “Japanese pizza,” is a savory pancake made from a batter of flour, eggs, shredded cabbage, and a variety of ingredients such as pork belly, seafood, or cheese. Cooked on a griddle and topped with savory okonomiyaki sauce, mayonnaise, bonito flakes, and dried seaweed flakes, okonomiyaki is a customizable delight that offers a perfect balance of textures and flavors, making it a favorite comfort food among both locals and visitors alike.

See Also: Okonomiyaki: Origins, Ingredients, Variations & Recipe

7. Sashimi (刺身):

The Art of Raw Fish

Sashimi is a traditional Japanese delicacy consisting of thinly sliced raw fish or seafood, served fresh and unadorned to showcase its natural flavors and textures. From buttery tuna to delicate salmon, sashimi offers a symphony of flavors that highlights the purity and freshness of the ingredients. Served with soy sauce, wasabi, and grated daikon radish, sashimi is a refined culinary experience that exemplifies the essence of Japanese cuisine.

See Also: Sashimi: History, Types, Features & Eating Methods

8. Miso Soup (味噌汁):

Nourishing Elixir of Comfort

Miso soup is a staple of Japanese cuisine, made from a savory broth of fermented soybean paste (miso) combined with dashi (fish stock), tofu, seaweed, and green onions. Known for its comforting warmth and umami-rich flavor, miso soup is enjoyed as a soothing accompaniment to meals or as a standalone dish for breakfast. With its nourishing properties and depth of flavor, miso soup is a beloved symbol of Japanese culinary tradition and hospitality.

See Also: Miso Soup 

9. Tonkatsu (とんかつ):

Crispy Fried Pork Cutlet

Tonkatsu is a classic Japanese dish featuring breaded and deep-fried pork cutlets, served with a tangy tonkatsu sauce, shredded cabbage, and steamed rice. With its crispy exterior and tender, juicy interior, tonkatsu delights the senses with its contrasting textures and bold flavors. Whether enjoyed as a hearty meal on its own or as a filling in sandwiches or rice bowls, tonkatsu is a beloved comfort food that satisfies the appetite and leaves diners craving for more.

10. Matcha (抹茶):

The Essence of Green Tea

Matcha is a finely ground powder made from shade-grown green tea leaves, revered for its vibrant green color, earthy flavor, and myriad health benefits. Used in traditional Japanese tea ceremonies for centuries, matcha has gained popularity worldwide as a versatile ingredient in desserts, beverages, and savory dishes. Whether enjoyed as a frothy matcha latte, delicate matcha-flavored sweets, or savory matcha-infused dishes, matcha offers a unique culinary experience that celebrates the essence of Japanese green tea culture.

11. Onigiri (おにぎり):

Portable Rice Balls

Onigiri, or Japanese rice balls, are a convenient and portable snack made from seasoned rice formed into triangular or cylindrical shapes and wrapped in nori (seaweed). Common fillings for onigiri include pickled plums (umeboshi), grilled salmon, tuna mayo, or seasoned seaweed. With its simple yet satisfying combination of flavors and textures, onigiri is a beloved snack that provides a quick and nourishing pick-me-up for busy days or outdoor adventures.


As we conclude our culinary journey through Japan, it becomes evident that Japanese cuisine is a tapestry of flavors, textures, and traditions that reflect the country’s rich cultural heritage and reverence for quality ingredients. From the delicate artistry of sushi to the comforting warmth of ramen, each dish offers a glimpse into the culinary soul of Japan, inviting us to savor the essence of Japanese gastronomy with every bite. So, whether you’re exploring the bustling streets of Tokyo or dining in the serene countryside, be sure to indulge in the eleven best Japanese foods and dishes that showcase the culinary excellence of Japan.



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