Each year Japan holds more than 100,000 festivals and events. One of the charming features of Japanese events is the traditional street food vendors that appear in great numbers offering both sweets and savory snacks.
Most street food vendors, known as yatai in Japanese, follow an event circuit around Japan. While yatai can be found independently of events, its somewhat rare. Many Japanese cities don’t have much street food at all. Exceptions do exist, for example the Nakasu district of Fukuoka is known for its street food.
Most Japanese street food is based on old classics that have been around since the early 20th century or longer. In many cases, these foods aren’t sold by regular restaurants. In other cases, the foods are available at restaurants but somehow taste different from street vendors. It’s common for vendors to offer extremely salty, sweet and flavorful versions of snacks. Classic Japanese street foods include:
Okonomiyaki are savory Japanese pancakes. They are traditionally prepared to use up leftovers at home. The matsuri version is usually packed with filling items such as thick cut bacon, meat, seafood and vegetables. They can be topped with mayonnaise, katsuobushi, nori, ginger pickles and a sauce similar to tonkatsu sauce. Okonomiyaki are the pride of Osaka. Any self respecting tourist in Osaka heads straight for Dotonbori street for okonomiyaki. Osaka people will tell you that Okonomiyaki elsewhere in Japan aren’t worth your time.
It’s difficult to imagine how many crepe shops there might be in Japan. Certainly over 10,000. Many are trucks or street stalls. Crepe shops are usually surrounded by high school girls seriously contemplating the vast menu. Filled with cream, sugar, custard, and strawberries, these portable snacks are a perfect complement to the buzzy, fluffy, cutesy, hormone-filled streets of this hyper, high-pitched neighborhood. Most of the crêperies are located on Takeshita Street, the main youth culture thoroughfare starting right outside Harajuku station, though there are some in surrounding streets as well.
Imagawayaki is a Japanese dessert made with batter cooked in a special pan with a circular shape. It’s traditionally filled with red bean paste but in recent years ingredients such as custard, fruit jams, meat, potatoes and curry are also common. They are known by more than 20 different names depending on region of Japan, type and brand name.
Japanese Curry Rice
Taiyaki たい焼き are small Japanese cakes that you can watch being baked. The cakes are shaped like a fish and have a sweet filling. Fish shaped cakes filled with custard, chocolate or cheese. Try them fresh and still warm. They are very tasty and a simple pleasure like having fresh pancakes or waffles.
Ramen (ラーメン) is a noodle soup dish that was originally imported from China and has become one of the most popular dishes in Japan in recent decades. Ramen are typically categorized according to their soup base, although variations that combine the different bases are not uncommon. Fukuoka is known for its many excellent ramen noodle yatai.
Takoyaki is a popular Japanese street food, made from grilled balls of seasoned batter with a small piece of octopus meat inside. Originating from Osaka, takoyaki is one of the most common foods you will see there, as well as at festivals and special events all over the Japan. With this easy recipe, you’ll be able to make great-tasting takoyaki any time.
Onsen tamago is a traditional Japanese low temperature egg which is originally slow cooked in the water of onsen hot springs in Japan. The egg has a unique texture that the white tastes like a delicate custard (milky and soft) and the yolk comes out firm, but retains the color and creamy texture of an uncooked yolk. The special texture is cooked by using the difference between the temperature of which the egg yolk and egg white solidifies. The egg is poached within the shell and is served with the shell removed in a small cup with sauce of broth and soy sauce.