Japan and sushi? They go together like Mario and Peach. But we’d be lying if we said that good ol’ reliable soosh was the only dish to get pumped for in this food-obsessed country. Traditional Japanese cuisine is the perfect balance of salty, sweet, sour and umami – and non-sushi lovers (whoever you are) will be glad to know that it’s not all raw fish.

Japanese food got your taste buds doing a dance? Then read on for our must-eat list.

Shojin ryori*

*That’s a traditional Japanese Buddhist dinner, FYI. First things first: it’s presented so beautifully, you’ll feel guilty eating it. Secondly: it’s all about the rule of five. That is, five ways of cooking, five flavours and five colours, all crammed into the ultimate snack-pack – including grilled, pickled and deep-fried dishes, soup and tofu (with steamed rice and tea on the side). Joining us on our Japan Highlights trip? You’ll get to eat one of these at our un-BELIEVABLE temple lodge in Osaka.

Hida beef

Probably one of the classiest cuts of meat that’ll ever pass your lips. Why? It’s all about the marbling, babes. Food science fact: Hida beef’s coating of marbled fat prevents all the flavours and juicy goodness escaping as it cooks. The result? Meat so tender it’ll melt in your mouth. Bonus: all you non-veggies out there will have the opportunity to give it a try at our hotel in Takayama, slap bang in the middle of Gifu prefecture (aka Hida territory). It’s authentic Japanese food at it’s finest.


A mouthful in more ways than one (LOL). Seriously though, this savoury pancake is all kinds of delicious (and makes a great hangover cure). Ingredients include: flour, eggs, cabbage, meat and vegetables, all cooked up in a frying pan. The best place to try this traditional Japanese dish? The Dotonbori district in Osaka, 100%. And in case you were wondering, okonomiyaki means ‘grilled how you like’ in English – so feel free to customise your pancake with whatever sparks joy.


Real talk: ramen tastes EVEN BETTER when you make it yourself (unless you’re sh*t at cooking, that is). And where better to learn how to do it like a pro than Kyoto? After kitting yourself out with an apron and head wrap fit for an Iron Chef, you’ll get to have a go at whipping up your own ramen noodle dish from scratch (dw, you’ll get a guidebook full of instructions). For the final touch, choose your own broth and toppings. Then: EAT IT. This one’s the ultimate Japanese comfort food.

Momiji manju

It’s cute. It’s cakey. It’s kawaii. It can only be… momiji manju, an adorable lil’ maple-leaf-shaped treat from the Itsukushima Shrine in Hiroshima. These bun-like rice and buckwheat creations have a sweet bean paste centre – and they taste so good, the Japanese decided to create momiji manju-flavoured Kit Kats in homage (no really, look it up). Bought them as souvenirs? We’ll be impressed if you manage to get through the flight home without annihilating them.


Okay, so we know that ‘Piss Alley’ doesn’t sound like an ideal place to stop and get a snack – but stay with us. Tokyo’s Omoide Yokocho (whose more charming English translation is ‘Memory Lane’) is world-famous for its mouth-watering Japanese street food – specifically yakitori grills. But what is yakitori? Good question. It’s your new favourite chicken skewer, that’s what – and it comes with a healthy dose of tare sauce (soy sauce’s thicker, tastier cousin). Forget Macca’s – this is the epitome of Japanese fast food.


We know there’s plenty more where that came from. Share your fave Japanese food in the comments below >>>

Erin Bunn
Erin is a confessed travel addict, ravenous reader and utter coffee snob. A digital nomad based in Bali, Erin is passionate about sharing travel stories from all over the world.