Whether you’re visiting Tokyo, Osaka, Okinawa or Hokkaido…
…you’re likely to run across Japanese street food.
So, what kind of Japanese street food are there? Keep reading. This guide covers the 17+ most common ones that you will come across.
Yakitori is one of the most iconic Japanese street foods. It is made by skewering grilled chicken pieces and expertly grilling them on a coal fire. You can find many different varieties of yakitori depending on the part of the chicken and the flavoring. There are two main yakitori styles of either tare, which uses a sweet and savory soy sauce, or shio, which is purely salt and pepper.
This is a savory Japanese pancake that is made of batter, cabbage, and various toppings. “Okonomi” in Japanese means “as you like”, and it is meant to be a dish where you can choose what kinds of ingredients go into it. You can top it with a sweet and savory okonomiyaki sauce, mayonnaise, and bonito fish flakes.
When it comes to Japanese street foods…
…the Osaka-born Takaoyaki is one of the most common and can be found across Japan. It is in the shape of spheres made with batter and includes a large piece of octopus, green onions, and ginger. The reason takoyaki comes out as a sphere is because the ingredients are cooked in a round mold. An expert takoyaki maker will flip them around so that the batter turns into a sphere ball shape. The takoyaki is then topped with takoyaki sauce, mayonnaise, seaweed flakes, and bonito fish flakes.
Taiyaki is a wonderful sweet street food where you’ll find a sweet pancake-like batter cooked inside a fish-shaped mold. It is traditionally filled with a sweet red bean paste. Nowadays, you can find taiyaki with various fillings from custard cream and even ice cream.
Fried chicken is popular all over the world and Japan is no exception. Karaage is one of the most popular Japanese street foods…
…and Japan’s version of fried chicken, with soy sauce marinated chicken pieces in a crispy batter. You can usually find karaage on the streets or in convenience stores. It is also popular as a home-cooked meal and in bento lunch boxes.
You will find yakisoba at almost any major street festival in Japan. Yakisoba is a dish of stir-fried noodles with various vegetables and meats. The sauce is savory and uses a combination of soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce. It is often topped with pickled ginger and mayonnaise. Japanese people love yakisoba so much that you can find yakisoba pan which are bread rolls filled with these noodles.
Takosen comes from the combination of senbei, rice crackers, and takoyaki, which are octopus balls. The octopus balls are sandwiched in between senbei rice crackers giving it a unique crunch. It is usually filled with takoyaki sauce and mayonnaise inside as well.
These are Japanese croquettes which are deep-fried potato mixtures with bread crumbs on the outside. You can find many different varieties of these from curry to corn cream flavor. They are a popular snack you can find on the street. Japanese people like bring them home to eat as a side dish with rice.
This is a popular street food where squid are grilled on sticks. They are flavored with a soy sauce glaze. You can find this often in Osaka which is the capital of Japanese street food!
10. Jaga Bata
Jaga bata is a simple street food which is a baked potato with a large piece of butter on top. What sets this apart from a typical potato with butter is that Japanese people take their ingredients very seriously. You’re bound to be served a delicious locally made potato with a piece of high-quality butter!
11. Yaki Imo
Yaki imo literially means baked potato. But, it’s more so a baked sweet potato.
And, yaki imo is one of the must-know Japanese autumn words to know.
During winter you may find yaki imo being sold on the streets. The soft and sweet potato is perfect on a cold winter day. You’ll find that Japanese sweet potatoes are extremely sweet, almost like a desert.
This is the Tokyo equivalent of the okonomiyaki in Osaka and Hiroshima. Instead of a solid savory pancake, the batter of the monjayaki is a lot softer and liquid-like. It is slowly cooked on a griddle where you’re supposed to take small bites as the edges get crispy.
13. Menchi Katsu
Menchi katsu is a fried ground beef patty mixed with onions and other spices. The outside is made of a batter with bread crumbs. The nice texture of juicy ground beef with the crunch of the bread crumbs is not to be missed.
Dango are small balls of mochi or rice cakes on a stick. It is often grilled and topped with a sweet soy sauce glaze. You can also find other varieties of dango with different flavors. It is a traditional street food that has been around for a long time in Japan!
15. Kaki Gori
During the summer months, you may see kaki gori or shaved ice at street stalls. This is where they take a huge block of ice and shave it using a machine. They will then let you choose a syrup such as strawberry, matcha, or milk to top the ice with. It is a refreshing and cool treat during the summer.
16. Choco Banana
Choco banana is a typical street food you’ll see at Japanese festivals and celebrations. It is a chocolate-dipped banana that is covered with various sprinkles and other ingredients. They typically put it on a stick so that it is easy to carry and eat while enjoying the festivities.
17. Niku Man
Niku man originates from China but it is also a typical Japanese street food. It is a steamed bun filled with either meat or other sweet fillings. You can find these either outside on the street or inside convenience stores. It makes a nice warm snack on a cold day!
This is definitely one of my most favorite Japanese street foods.
Now you know about a bit the types of Japanese street food.
Which one is your favorite? For me, nikuman is always a safe bet.
If you are interested, there are other food guides: