After a long day of exploring, what’s the one thing you need? Food. And you want it to be good.

When you head off travelling it’s easy to end up missing out on a place’s culinary scene, quite simply because you don’t know where the best places you’d be dying to try are. If not, you might get to indulge in some sought-after restaurants, but you might still miss out. You need to know about the most authentic flavours and local delicacies to avoid overlooking them.

This guide on finding the best places to eat in Japan aims to make it simple, so that you can savour your time in Japan in every sense.

what to eat in Japan

Where to go

Using local guide books or asking at your hotel is always a good way to find a reliable restaurant for your first night. Beyond that, though, you want to get out and see more. As you wander through the city by day – whether that’s Tokyo, Kyoto or Osaka – you’ll pass plenty of places you could eat. If they are pouring out mouth-watering aromas, are in your price range and have a tasty selection on the menu displayed outside, perhaps they are worth a try? There will often be benches outside for people to wait at if the restaurant is busy. If it’s a favourite with the locals, you can bet it’ll be worth the wait.

You’ll find a huge range of restaurant styles, from sushi restaurants with more communal vibes and busy bars to more traditional eateries where you’ll sit on the floor or on sunken benches at low tables. There are also countless restaurants in the enormous shopping malls. These will typically offer some more global cuisines too, but you’ll find places to serve up Japanese specialities, too.

what to eat in Japan
what to eat in Japan

What to eat

Ramen is a staple here and it should be top of your list when shortlisting the best places to eat in Japan. A delicious noodle dish served in a broth, it packs in a mighty level of flavour. You could spend your entire trip just eating ramen, there are so many variations in the ingredients and flavourings that go into the dish!

The obvious choice for what to eat would be sushi. Even if you can’t stomach the idea of chowing down on raw fish, try it once. You’ll never experience it so authentically again. And if you don’t love it? Switch to vegetable sushi instead. You’ll find plenty of cucumber and avocado based options to please your palate instead.

Eels are also a delicacy, so if you’re brave enough, give them a try. You’ll find restaurants dedicated to exclusively serving this fish in a multitude of ways. Fish is big business on Japanese menus being an island nation, so if you’d rather give the eels the slip, you’ll still find plenty of opportunity to taste their local produce and flavours.

The final thing on our bucket list of the best places to eat  in Japan? Anything from the bakery! The culture for bakeries, both independent and chains, still thrives here, so you’ll find plenty of irresistible breakfast spots. Take a camera, as these bakeries are as much a feast for the eyes as they are for the stomach. The shelves are often piled high with breads twisted into pretty shapes, decoratively iced or even turned into teddy bears! And make sure you try the milk bread, as it is or as part of a breakfast dish – it’s heavenly!

Japanese bakeries come with one word of warning. Some products may look similar to those in the UK, but they won’t always taste it. Doughnuts are more likely to be filled with a semi-sweet bean paste than jam, for example, but they’re well worth a taste.

what to eat in Japan

What to know

Menus aren’t often translated, so when you’re trying to choose between some of the best places to eat in Japan, you may find yourself relying on pictures. Menus are usually full of these though, which is helpful for tourists. There are also often plastic replicas of the dishes displayed out the front of the restaurant to give you an idea, too.

 

Wherever and whatever you choose to eat in Japan, make your next stop a karaoke bar for a real taste of Japanese culture. Once you’ve had your fill of singalongs and sushi, why not explore Japan’s mountainous regions too? We share four reasons why you should.

What to eat in Japan

45 COMMENTS

  1. YUMMY!!! I would LOVE to eat my way through Japan one day! There are so many delicious types of food in that country. Japanese food is my favorite next to Indian food. I’ve got a layover in Tokyo in a few months and now I’m upset that I didn’t book more time there!

  2. Ramen, sushi, and baked goods? Sold! Being from Vancouver, we have a lot of that here, but I truly would love to go to Japan. My daughter really wants to go there, so perhaps it’s time to start planning a trip!

  3. I love this!! Food! If I was in Japan I’d be wandering around just trying everything haha. And how did you set up your website so perfectly? I need some help with mine. 😋

  4. Giving eels the slip… 😂 lol seriously though the eel is delicious! You’re so right about lots in the post. You can go through the entire trip just trying different kinds of ramen. I might encourage that actually, being a big fan of the famous Japanese film “Tampopo”. However, if I were to do such a trip, I’d make an exception for 2 things:

    1. Sushi of course, and

    2. Kobe beef!!! Oh my god is Kobe semi-divine. I don’t think I saw anything about Kobe in this post, but that may make sense if you’re a vegetarian. If you’re not though, gotta try Kobe beef, in Kobe! It’s a short train ride from Osaka. Seriously. Go.

    • Tom such a good point I am not a vegetarian so will definitely be taking you up on the idea of heading to Kobe for some authentic Kobe beef!

  5. This post is super helpful! I always feel like I end up missing out because I don’t know where to find the authentically local food, thank you so much for sharing!

    • Awesome, I would be happy to make some recommendations and I will be posting my itinerary of my upcoming trip in October/November.

  6. good to know. not one for sushi but i will wait til i visit Japan to try it. lol. but i like Ramen so i guess i will survive there. cool post

  7. OMG this ramen looks absolutely to die for! I love your tip for asking for referrals the first night and then observing and scoping out for places to eat the next few nights. Also, I would be so nervous in a city where I cannot understand the language – but it looks so adventurous! Thanks for the tips!

    • Very true about visiting a country where you don’t speak the language; however, isn’t part of the fun getting lost in the culture and city and exploring places off the beaten path?

  8. I’m pretty confident I could survive solely on ramen and sushi so Japan sounds like a dream. I had no idea that bakeries were such a tradition in Japanese culture though! Definitely adding this to my culinary bucket list. Thanks for sharing some great recommendations!

  9. Yum, I totally need some Sushi right now. I also had no idea that the Japanese had great bakeries, thanks for sharing. Japan is somewhere I have yet to visit, but as a sushi lover I can’t wait.

  10. I love the food in Japan so much! I’ve never eaten better in my life. I could write the longest list about all of the foods I love haha. Now I can’t stop thinking about it! 🙂

    • The food is definitely one of the top things on my list that I am looking forward to in Japan! What is your favourite Japanese food?

  11. Pinned!! I’m going to Japan in November for the first time and I’m sure I’ll be at a loss. Thank you, this will definitely come in handy!

  12. This is such a good overview. It’s good to know that they won’t have English menus there (I mean obviously I realized it’s Japan but I know in Honolulu we have Japanese menus at lots of restaurants).

  13. I went 3 times in Japan and the cool thing is that everywhere you go you eat so well! This is an amazing country with long culture for food and fresh ingredients…. the things I love.

  14. This post got me drooling! I love Japanese food but not too keen about the sushi. And I didnt know that there is a vegetable sushi! I only eat maki and ramen. Also, good to know that they have pictures and displays of the food they are selling. Thank you for this post, I hope to visit Japan soon!

  15. Thank you so much for those vegetarian options. The Vegetable sushi with avocado definitely sounds like a dish I can try out. And it does look yummy too. Will bear that in mind when I head there.

  16. One day I’ll go to Japan, I always loved Japanese food and I am sure it is even better when in the country. I like making sushis and ramen at home though!

  17. Its such as you learn my mind! You appear to know a lot about this, such as you wrote the e-book in it or something. I feel that you just could do with some p.c. to pressure the message home a little bit, but other than that, that is excellent blog. A fantastic read. I will definitely be back.

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