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Konnichiwa Japan! Pt 1:  What to eat

Japan is an area as rich in its culinary culture as it is in its traditions.

So what can you expect to eat in Japan? We’ve narrowed it down to a few key dishes.


When we say food in Japan, the first thing you’ll think of in sushi. California rolls may be amazing, but the sushi we know and love over here is a far cry from traditional Japanese sushi.

Historically, sushi wasn’t available everywhere, it was something saved for a special occasions. Traditional sushi was a treat, and such those that make it undergo years of training to create bite-sized morsels with an almost obsessive amount of detail.

Traditional types of sushi include nigiri (rice balls topped with seafood), temaki (hand rolled seaweed cones) and norimaki (rolled rice and seaweed). Interestingly the inside out version of norimaki (pictured below) is rarely found in Japan, it’s more of a western dish.

Norimaki sushi

Inside out norimaki isn't really found in Japan


Sukiyari is a theatrical dish that’s the most fun when shared. This dish is cooked at the table, sort of like a hot pot. A heated bowl of broth/sauce (which varies depending on what region you are in is brought to the table alongside thinly sliced beef, a selection of cut vegetables and noodles.

Once you’ve finished adding and eating your main ingredients, typically including beef, mushrooms and leafy vegetables, you add in the noodles to soak up the remaining sauce.


This hot pot style dinner is great with friends!


It’s name, meaning skewered, tells you exactly what to expect. Typically chicken, yakitori are cooked over hot coals in either a salty (shio) or a sweeter/stickier sauce known as tare sauce.

These tiny kebabs are sold by street vendors and small restaurants across japan. Relaxed and casual, these small items most commonly served alongside alcohol as the perfect “bar snack”.

Kushiyaki is a variation of the skewered snack, encompassing a variety of meats and vegetables cooked and flavoured in the same way.

Street vendors and smaller restaurants are the Yakitori masters


Tempura is a light wheat batter used to coat ingredients before frying. Most of you will be familiar with tempura prawns, but in Japan the variety is a lot more varied.

A traditional tempura meal consists of a variety of seafood and vegetables, fried whole. They can be served either over a bowl of rice (known as a tendon) or on top of soba noodles, and come with a selection of hot dipping sauces.


Any of these dishes look tempting? Let us know on our socials!

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Come back next week for The Gap Year Travel Guide's look at Japan's pop culture!