Traditional Japanese Foods And The Best Places In The World To Eat Them

In the Japanese culture, there is honor in honing one’s craft and perfecting one’s art. The Japanese people take great pride in perfecting every detail and showcasing their proficiency and skill. It is a culture of subtle, elegant, and well-executed art. This emphasis on cunning execution extends to their cuisine as well. So much so that focusing on the perfection of only one particular dish in a Japanese restaurant is not uncommon.

Japanese food has a wide selection of subtle flavors that are finely crafted together to build a rich profile. To those in the West, the customs and traditions of Japanese cuisine may seem very different, but once you dive in, you will fall in love with their wide world of flavors and learn to admire the skill and care that goes into crafting the Japanese art of food.



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Udon noodles are thick wheat flour noodles that are a staple of Japanese cuisine. Udon is served as a hot noodle soup. It may come with a variety of different toppings that often include some tempura, prawn, or a tempura fritter. This soup differs in not only toppings but in taste as well, depending on the region in Japan.

1. Metsu-dan

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At Mentsu-dan in Tokyo, you will experience the freshest udon you can imagine. Dishes are so fresh that you can watch them make the noodles right in front of you. Each dish is freshly prepared with skill and precision. You will be surprised at how quickly your food will be ready and in your hands.

2. Yamauchi Udon-ten

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If you happen to find yourself in the Kagawa prefecture, you need to stop by Yamauchi Udon-ten. This noodle shop has hand stretched noodles that are boiled over a wood fire. The noodles found here have soft and full bodies, just as they should. Unlike udon you may find elsewhere, the udon served here is made from iriko (dried sardine bouillon). They will serve you a classic and traditional bowl of udon that you will not forget.



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Sushi is likely one of the most iconic of the Japanese foods. Many people picture sushi as bits of colorful raw fish laid over rice or wrapped in a piece of seaweed. While not entirely incorrect, there is much more to sushi. Sushi can vary in style, in flavor, and in execution; sometimes bordering on art. The art of sushi is visual but also an art of taste. No other category of food can blend fish rice and vegetables into such a dining experience.

1. Sukiyabashi Jiro

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Without a doubt, Sukiyabashi Jiro is the most well renowned and famous sushi destination in the world. The sushi here is so good that a documentary on the sushi artist, Jiro, is critically acclaimed. You can expect the sushi here to be top of the line, as Jiro has dedicated nearly 90 years to perfecting the art of sushi. If you plan to visit Tokyo, make sure to book a reservation with a Japanese speaker a few months in advance. This place is fully booked for months, and they will only serve people who speak the language.

2. Sushi Santo

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In a parking garage in Akasaka is another sushi restaurant that is as difficult to locate as it is to reserve a spot. This place is called Sushi Santo, and it has been called one of the best sushi restaurants in the world. It ‘s hard to get in, not only because it is famous, but because it only seats seven people. The price is amazing for its class, so reserve a seat and wait a few months to get some delicious sushi.



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In the United States, there are lots of foods that we refer to ramen while in reality these instant noodles do not hold a candle to traditional ramen noodle soup. Ramen consists of thin wheat noodles in meat or fish broth that is enhanced with a variety of spices. Different regions in Japan have different toppings that are customary to their ramen. These toppings can include sliced pork, seaweed, and green onions. There are so many different configurations of ramen it would be impossible to list them all here.

1. Fuunji

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In the Shibuya-ku district of Tokyo is a crowded ramen shop known as Fuunji. The wait at the door may be long, but the food inside is well worth it. The ramen they serve is Tsukemen style. This method consists of a bowl of delicious noodles and another bowl of rich broth to dip each of your bites of noodles. No matter if you order a small, medium or large dish, you will pay the same amount. But make sure to eat all that you are given; it is only polite, and you don’t want to upset these talented noodle artisans.

2. En

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In the Hachioji region of Tokyo is a shop that was built in 2009. This shop is called En, and it can be found a bit off of the beaten path. The ramen offered here comes prepared in shoyu style, meaning that it is a soy sauce-based broth soup with some fantastic toppings. Along with the fabulous and delicious bowl of ramen, you can also have a bowl of raw egg and rice. You can even select your egg from a variety of different eggs. Sometimes these eggs include duck, araucana, and brown cochin.



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Unagi is a freshwater eel that is cooked and often served as a dish called unadon. This dish consists of a bed of rice topped with slices of eel. This dish has grown in popularity, and more and more restaurants have dedicated themselves to the perfection of this dish. The eel is often prepared in a grilled style, known as kabayaki.

1. Obana

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Obana is a Tokyo-based restaurant that is easy to reach with public transportation. They are known for serving stunning unagi that will leave you satisfied. You will pay for the experience as they tend to be on the higher end of the price scale, but it is certainly worth the money.


2. Myojinshita Kandagawa

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Myojinshita Kandagawa is a highly popular restaurant in Tokyo known for their premium unagi dishes. You may have to set reservations ahead of time, but it will be well worth experiencing the pleasure of this spectacular eel dish.



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Sukiyaki is a served in a hot pot style presentation. The meal consists of various ingredients including thin slices of meat. The pot is a shallow iron pot with a mix of sauces where you place the elements to slow-cook and simmer right at the table. As the ingredients cook, you take them out and dip them in a bowl of raw and beaten egg before eating them. It’s a meal that is not only delicious but a unique experience as you participate actively in the preparation of your food.

1. Ishibashi

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If you are looking for some history to go along with your meal you have to go out Ishibashi. This restaurant offers some of the greatest sukiyaki in Tokyo and dates back over 140 years when it opened as a humble butcher’s shop. They have had many years to perfect their craft, and it shows in the quality and flavors they can with their signature dish.

2. Ningyocho Imahan

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Ningyocho Imahan is a location that is a famous throughout all of Japan. This restaurant offers sukiyaki that includes beef that has been cultivated by themselves. This assures that the ingredients are the highest possible quality. This shop has a wonderfully relaxed atmosphere that is perfect after a day of exploring the ins and outs of Tokyo.



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Tempura is a splendid treat that can be found all over Japan. Tempura is a method of deep frying seafood or vegetables, providing a lightly crisp and delicious crust to all varieties of ingredients. Many dishes include these crispy treats, but some are dedicated to featuring the golden fried tasty tempura.

1. Tempura Nakasei

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If you are looking for a fantastic serving of tempura, you should travel to Tempura Nakasei. Located in Taito-ku Tokyo, this shop was started in 1870 and is famous for its crispy prawn and clam dishes that are sure to please. They are well worth the money you will put down on the experience.

2. Tenmatsu

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If you are looking for lightly fried treats that will delight, Tenmatsu is the destination for you. If you are lucky enough to get in line early and get a place to sit, you can experience the delight of fresh and delicious tempura from these masters of the food. Here you are served tempura fresh out of the oil, so you are guaranteed they are hot, fresh, and delicious!



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If you are looking for a filling meal that is in the traditional Japanese style, you will find that in kaiseki-ryori. This meal is a traditional multiple course Japanese dinner that starts with bite-sized appetizers, then moves through many different dishes and courses, and ends with a lightly sweet dessert to finish. The meal has many different kinds of soup, fish, and vegetables prepared meticulously in a variety of ways to give a broad assortment of flavors and textures.

1. Kichisen

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If you want to go all in on the traditional kaiseki-ryori experience, Kichisen is the place for you. The owner and head chef of this establishment has defeated iron chefs in cooking competitions and runs a dojo for dedicated chefs to learn the skills of food. Mr. Tanigawa has such a high standard for quality that he only lets the best touch his tables. If you are an aspiring chef, know that his training program is seven years long, and is so difficult to complete that only 1 in 10 students who take up the journey finish.

2. Gion Hatanaka

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For something a bit more lighthearted, you can check out Gion Hatanaka located in Kyoto. You will find yourself well fed and quite entertained. Along with dinner, you will get an incredible dinner show. The fantastic food is punctuated with a fun atmosphere that includes drinking games. The show does have English translations, so it is quite tourist friendly.



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Yakitori consists of a piece of grilled chicken on a skewer that is seasoned with a tare sauce. This easy-to-carry treat is the perfect street food. You can get it from a cart or stand and be on your way, eat while you walk. If street food is your thing, you have to pick up a skewer or two of this delicious chicken as you travel through the streets.

1. Omoide Yokocho

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While not a particular location, Omoide Yokocho is a network of alleyways in the heart of Tokyo that make up a district of little eateries and shops. These crowded streets are the perfect place to pick up a skewer of yakitori. The food is informal so that you can sit on one of the few stools placed outside of the many food windows, or you can get your skewer and be on your way.

2. Imai

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You can also find yakitori that has more substance. Locations such as Imai in the Bunkyo-ku district of Tokyo serve an entire yakitori experience. There, meals include appetizers, wine, and skewers of all types of birds, ranging from duck to chicken, as well as the main dish. The friendly service and selection of wines from around the world are sure to have you smiling.

Shabu Shabu


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Shabu shabu is a hotpot dish where the components are cooked at your table. With a pot of boiling water in the center of the table, you stir in thinly sliced meat and vegetables. After the components are cooked you pull them out and eat them with dipping sauces. The name of this dish comes from the sounds that are made when you stir the ingredients in the hot pot.

1. Seryna

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Seryna is a three-story restaurant with private rooms and a stunning Japanese garden that is sure to inspire you. But their main feature is the delicious shabu shabu that is offered here. They provide you with high-quality morsels for cooking along with delicious dipping sauces. The shabu shabu meal comes with sashimi and other appetizers. Image

2. Kisoji Shinjuku

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If you can find it, Kisoji Shinjuku is a splendid place to get shabu shabu. The staff here is both helpful and English-language friendly for those who struggle with the local language. With fantastic service, a welcoming atmosphere, and high quality of food, this destination is one that should not be missed if you are looking for great shabu shabu.



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Soba noodles are traditional Japanese buckwheat noodles. There are two primary ways to serve soba. It can be served either cold with dipping sauces or hot like udon noodles. Cold udon is often served in a bamboo basket, sometimes with additional green toppings.

1. Namiki Yabusoba


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For an authentic and traditional meal of soba, your best bet is Namiki Yabusoba in eastern Tokyo. This small space is floored with tatami mats and has a classic feel that will transport you back to the old days of Edo. The space inside Namiki Yabusoba is nearly silent save for the sounds of the patrons slurping their noodles. Soba here is served both hot and cold, and each version is a treat.

2. Minatoya

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On the more modern side of things, there is Minatoya. This hip and stylish building has such a modern look that you are barely able to tell it’s a soba shop from the outside. While this space may appear ultra-modern and minimalistic, the noodles are still handmade with skill and the food does not disappoint.



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This type of Japanese pancake is made from a variety of ingredients, including shredded cabbage. After the pancake itself is well cooked, it is topped with mayonnaise and a variety of other components. These pancakes are sometimes cooked right in front of customers on griddles. Some people have dubbed the Okonomiyaki ‘Japanese pizza,’ and while the ingredients are far from the pizza you may be familiar with, the comparison does make sense.

1. Mizuno

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If you are looking to experience this Japanese soul food in all its glory, you have to venture to Osaka and eat at Mizuno. The lines may be long, but you will be glad you waited for this perfected version of okonomiyaki. You will never forget your experience at this small but famous eatery.

2. Houzenji Sanpei

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Another fantastic shop in Osaka that will serve you fabulous okonomiyaki is Houzenji Sanpei. This shop sits in the middle of a perfect sightseeing area. Houzenji Sanpei piles toppings high on their fluffy batter for the most delicious okonomiyaki possible.



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Tonkatsu is a delicious and crispy meal that consists of double deep fried pork. When prepared correctly, the pork on the inside is nice and juicy while the outside is superbly crispy. This is a favorite dish that can be easily learned at home, but like all things, Japan has those who have dedicated their lives to perfecting the preparation of this meal.

1. Maisen Tonkatsu

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Maisen Tonkatsu in Tokyo opened in 1965 and uses the highest quality cutlets of pork to fry perfectly to order just for you. You may never have thought that a piece of fried pork could be art before, but Tonkatsu will change your mind. This location is steeped in historical significance and filled with happy customers.

2. Butagumi

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Butagumi is a specialist in tonkatsu, with one of the largest and most comprehensive tonkatsu menus you will find. They have over a dozen different kinds of pork, all prepared to perfection. They have everyday pork portions as well as very high-end premium pork. The atmosphere is very traditional, where you take off your shoes upon entry and relax in the old style booths. You will be in ultimate comfort and transported back in time, all while tasting the product of many years of perfecting tonkatsu.

Helen Harris

Helen’s your eternally cheerful, next-door suburban mom that genuinely enjoys sharing with the whole neighborhood her latest fresh-from-the-oven culinary creations. She’s also a treasure trove of kitchen hacks and DIY advice if you have the patience to listen to her life story on repeat and the latest news on her son, Marv, and on how great he’s doing on the college football team. Fortunately, she agreed to leave her kitchen wisdom in writing as well when one of our editors with saintlike patience asked her to.

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