Asia,  Food,  Japan

Japan: Must Try Foods You Need to Know

Excuse me, hold my sake while I recover from how much I ate while in Japan. I am out here living my best food life. From all the hiking, sweating, and sun, I worked up quite an appetite every day to have a huge meal and eat it all by myself. One of the best parts about Japan was how accommodating they were for solo travelers to eat alone. A lot of people eat alone there and it is totally normal, which I loved. Another perk about being alone: you never have to settle for something that everyone likes.

My first meal in the Osaka airport.

Ramen –

A classic, I could not go to Japan without eating this on several occasions. Besides the obviously high sodium amount (which seemed to exist in most Japanese food but overall it was healthy), ramen is a pretty healthy option if you get one which is full of veggies. One ramen place I went to you had to order from a vending machine and take a number after picking what you want. Actually, a lot of budget places have this system. Once you picked what you wanted, you got a ticket and chose how spicy, brothy, etc. you want your ramen. The dining area was insane, you had your own little cube and they served you from a curtain in the back of your cube. Solo foodie paradise.

Ramen in Osaka.
Ramen in Kyoto.

Takoyaki –

Oh, takoyaki, I could write a poem about how much I love you. Takoyaki is a circular flour-based street food filled with octopus, onion, ginger, and topped with bonito flakes or, Katsuobushi. Bonito flakes are dried, fermented, and smoked tuna flakes that I think I had almost daily. They are very thin so they move because of the air which makes them seem alive. The first time I had takoyaki I was starving and after collecting my loot I went to sit on a bench. I was in the middle of Dotonbori which is the extremely crowded night district of Osaka. I was waiting to eat because they were hot but in my hangry state I made a mistake and bit into one too early. I can confidently say I have never eaten something that hot. I tried to get it down because I was in the middle of this busy street but real tears started to come down my face. I then proceeded to, not at all discreetly, spit out the takoyaki and quickly run away from where I was out of embarrassment. Still delicious and my favorite.

Takoyaki in Osaka.

Okonomiyaki –

This is a savory pancake. It is made with egg, green onion, meat, flour, and a lot of cabbage. It is famous in the Osaka region but I also had it in Hiroshima where they put soba noodles as a fried base. The first time I had this was in Nara, which is a small town full of deer near Osaka. I found this little shop with just the owner/cook and a local. They were watching the national high school baseball championship game, baseball is huge in Japan. I spent the next few hours eating and watching with them even though we didn’t speak the same language.

Hirsohima-style Okonomiyaki.

Kobe –

I couldn’t be in the area without a trip to go eat some Kobe beef. Was it delicious? Yes. Was it overrated? Yes.

Kobe beef in Kobe.
Me being a fancy backpacker.

Soba/Udon –

MORE NOODLES. Yum, this was my go-to “I am feeling poor” dish. Cheap, delicious, and filling.

Spinach Udon in Tokyo.
Udon in Osaka.

Tea –

Dear Korea, I love coffee but I miss Japan and all the tea! In Japan you never got water at the table, they always brought you green tea. I am telling you, I felt like a healthy goddess every time with my tea. Another common occurrence were tea drinks. This was my go-to hydration and I bought them all the time at vending machines for a buck.

Tea in Kyoto.
Last tea I had in Japan.

Bento Box –

When I took the Shinkansen, or bullet train, from Hiroshima to Tokyo I had to buy a bento box after seeing them so often in the media. It came in this little wooden box and was so cute.

Sushi –

Another classic, I had sushi so much I honestly have only like one photo of it. Sushi is everywhere and is delicious. I had the best sushi of my life in Kyoto. I also went and had revolving sushi which was a fun experience, cheap, and amazing. You can buy sushi in the supermarkets like the USA but here even that sushi is just as good, if not better, than sushi restaurants in the states. Fish for the win!

Revolving sushi in Kyoto.

Unagi –

Eel, oh my YUM. I had a spiritual experience with this meal.

I obviously ate a lot more and have a lot more pictures, but those were the main food groups I ate. Also, not pictured, but I had miso soup as a starter with every meal, a lot of times it was provided. I recently spoke with another solo traveler who told me he never went out to eat at restaurants in Japan since he was alone. I was in disbelief because, first, how can you go to Japan without eating enough for three. But also, when you travel solo, eating alone is inevitable. I have gotten a few confused looks a few times when I say its just me but honestly, less than expected. I feel lonely only in the company of others who don’t truly want to be with me. When I am alone, I am not lonely. I am in my own company, recharging my social batteries, eating until I take off my belt (no shame).



  • Andrea Lindberg

    YUM! I want to try all of that having read this! Reading this was like listening to you!

    We’re going to Red Sushi with Gpa on Thursday. I’m going to try hard not to think about Japanese grocery store sushi being better than any suchi you’ve had here, but it makes sense that it does. The takoyaki sound heavenly.

  • Richard

    “Kobe –

    I couldn’t be in the area without a trip to go eat some Kobe beef. Was it delicious? Yes. Was it overrated? Yes.”

    When I read this, I was done. Japan was my favorite! The A5 Ghost Wagyu – the true top of the line wagyu (kobe) beef. OMFG. One of the most amazing experiences I have ever had in my entire life. So expensive though – $30 was like 100grams (4 ish ounces)…. i about died eating it.

    Also the sushi – the conveyor belts I agree were awesome – but in osaka you can go to the market directly and buy oysters and scallops and hunks of bluefin toro and OMG it was amazing.

    Everything else you mentioned I loved and you are so right.

    Osaka, Kyoto, Hanoi…. Ningbo…. my favorite food cities in asia.

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