17 Weird Japanese Foods: Which One is Your Favorite?

You may be wondering what weird Japanese foods are there…

Well, the word “weird” is definitely subjective.

Everyone eats something that others find weird — whether unusual chicken parts, insects, or processed food loaded with disease-causing chemicals.

That being said here are unusual Japanese foods that may be weird to tourists and foreigners. But, either way, I do recommend you give them a try as many are quite tasty.

1. Fugu

  • Poisonous blowfish

This is the obvious first choice on the list of weird Japanese foods.

Fugu, or blowfish is an extremely dangerous fish to eat which makes this one of Japan’s weirdest foods. It is considered a delicacy because of its exquisite flavor and texture.

It must be prepared carefully by trained chefs or it could end up fatal for the consumer. Fugu has the unique allure of being a thrilling food to eat along with its delicious taste. It is typically served raw as a sashimi or as a part of a hot pot.

2. Basashi

  • Horse meat

This is a traditional Japanese dish from Kumamoto prefecture. Basashi means horse meat sashimi in Japanese. Although it may seem weird to some people unaccustomed to eating raw meats, horse meat is tender and has a unique flavor. It is usually accompanied by soy sauce and wasabi to offset the meatiness of the raw horse.


3. Natto

  • Slimy, fermented soybeans

Natto, or fermented soybeans, is considered an acquired taste that many Japanese people grow up with.

It has a strong smell and sticky, slimy texture. It is usually eaten for breakfast or inside sushi rolls.

Natto is considered a super food because it contains many probiotics that are great for gut health and have numerous health benefits. Natto is usually eaten with a special soy sauce and Japanese mustard.

  • You can learn all about Japanese Natto (health benefits, how to make it, etc.)  by clicking the link.

4. Shirako

  • Fish semen

Shirako which means “white children” in Japanese is made from the sperm sacs of male cod fish. Although this is an unusual food in cultures outside of Japan, it is considered a delicacy because of its delicate texture and mild flavors. It has a subtle taste that fits in perfectly with refined Japanese cuisine.

kazu: shirako

5. Hōtō

Hōtō is probably the most normal item on this list of weird Japanese foods…

  • Noodle hotpot with vegetables and miso base

This is a famous regional food of Yamanashi prefecture. It is a rustic dish compared to many beautifully crafted Japanese noodle dishes like udon and soba. It features miso, or soybean paste, and soup with thick flat wheat noodles that are more like wheat dumplings.

Hōtō is the perfect soup on a cold day and showcases the diversity of Japanese cuisine from the refined noodles made by expert noodle chefs to these very basic thick hōtō soups.


6. Kujira

  • Whale meat

Kujira, or whale meat, is a controversial traditional food that has been eaten for many years in Japan.

It is served as sashimi or inside stews.

It is ingrained in Japanese tradition which makes it difficult to ban in Japan as it has been in other countries.


7. Inago

  • Grasshoppers

Those not used to eating insects will find inago or grasshoppers a weird food in Japan. They are usually flavored with a sweet soy sauce and can be a crunchy protein-rich side dish with rice. It is not as popular nowadays but it is still found in Japan!


8. Shishamo

  • Fish with fish eggs inside

This is a small fish that is grilled and eaten whole, while the fish also carries eggs inside. It is an interesting food because you can experience eating fish and fish roe at the same time. It has a slightly bitter flavor because the whole fish is eaten adding to the unique food experience.


9. Hachinoko

  • Bee larvae

This is a traditional dish that is a bee larvae. It is usually cooked with sweet soy sauce and eaten as a side dish with drinks or rice. The larvae have a unique smoky flavor with a slight crunch.

Hachi no Ko with Rice

10. Yuba

  • Soymilk skin

When soymilk is boiled there is a small film that appears on top that is called yuba, or tofu skin. It has a delicious creamy flavor that is perfect with a touch of soy sauce. Yuba also features a soft texture that is delicate and satisfying.


11. Nankotsu (Chicken Cartilage)

  • Chicken cartilage

This is also one of the tamest entries on the list of weird Japanese foods. And quite tasty in my opinion.

Chicken cartilage is eaten either grilled or fried in Japan. Japanese people love the unique texture of the cartilage which makes it a great snack to be enjoyed with drinks. In Japan, it is typical that the whole bird is eaten and no parts are thrown out. This is why you’ll find a large variety of different chicken parts especially when you go to a grilled chicken restaurant.

Nankotsu [なんこつ(焼き鳥)]

12. Shirasu

  • Little white fish

This can be considered weird for Westerners because fish is not typically eaten whole. Shirasu are tiny whole white fish that are added as a topping on rice. They have a subtle but delicious fish flavor that can add texture as well. Although typically served boiled, you can also find them raw near the coast served on top of rice.

Shirasu Don(しらす丼)

13. Shiokara

  • Fermented seafood

This is a fermented seafood that typically uses whole squid and has a strong salty flavor. It is a condiment that goes with rice and adds a bold flavor to it. For those who have never tried it, it can be an acquired taste because of its strong smell and flavor.


14. Nara zuke

  • Pickled vegetable that smells like alcohol

Narazuke is another type of food with a strong pungent aroma that can be weird to some people. It is a pickled vegetable that is a regional specialty of Nara prefecture. The pickling process gives it an alcoholic smell that can be quite strong for those who have never tried it.

Narazuke (pickles)

15. Uni

  • Sea urchin

Japanese people consider uni, or sea urchin, to be one of the most luxurious high-end foods. It may be considered a bit unusual due to the creamy and briny flavor. You’ll often see it served at sushi restaurants. If you’ve never tried it, it is a must if you visit Japan!


16. Torisashi

  • Raw chicken

Japanese chicken is very fresh and it can be eaten raw if prepared correctly. In Japan, you may find torisashi or chicken sashimi served at some restaurants where the outsides are seared but the inside is raw. It may be a weird concept at first, but chicken sashimi can be more tender than cooked chicken and have a nice clean flavor.


17. Mentaiko Pasta

  • Fish eggs mixed with cream

Mentaiko pasta is a dish made from spicy cod roe, or mentaiko, and mixed with cream. The bold umami flavor of the mentaiko complements the cream perfectly making this an interesting but delicious dish. It is topped with nori seaweed to add to this Japanese-Italian magfusion dish.

Japanized pasta with Mentaiko & Bacon

Weird Japanese Foods Conclusion

Now you a bit about some weird Japanese foods…

Of course what’s considered weird IS subjective.

I don’t find much weirdness there.

But, if I had to choose, the weirdest one for me is Natto. Not because of what it is, but because it’s hard to get used to the taste and texture. Yes, above all, I choose Natto.

How about you?

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