Is Japan on the cards this year? A visit to this vibrant country definitely won’t leave your taste buds unsatisfied. Get ready to be spoilt for choice with an array of tasty Japanese food from budget to blowout.

Read on for a definitive guide to Japanese dishes you will encounter on your travels, before you can say arigatou gozaimasu.


In other parts of the world, you might be most familiar with tempura prawns, but apparently in Japan they tempura EVERYTHING. Stroll through the fish market streets in Tokyo or Osaka and you’ll find tempura octopus, oysters, sardines, seaweed and even tempura pickled ginger.

My personal favourite is the asparagus, also sometimes wrapped in bacon for some odd reason…

Topdeck Tempura Japan Food Travel


Okonomiyaki is known colloquially as a ‘Japanese Pancake’ and is made from mixing cabbage, meat, onion, seafood, cheese with a flour and egg batter before being grilled on a hotplate.

If you venture south to Hiroshima, you’ll find that the Okonomiyaki served there are much bigger than in Tokyo or Osaka. They have more cabbage and are typically layered instead of mixed. Whichever way you like it, top it all off with lashings of mayonnaise and soy sauce and you’re in #foodie heaven.


If there’s one activity you should allow time for in Japan, make sure it’s attending a tea ceremony. This ritual around presenting and serving Matcha tea is an interesting insight into traditional Japanese culture.

The tea itself? It’s a fine green powder. When whisked with warm water, it creates a frothy, dark, bitter tea that is packed with beneficial antioxidants. Stock up while you’re in Japan as it can be an expensive and rare find back home!

Matcha Topdeck Japan Food Travel


Be warned, the first time you try one of these squishy Japanese dessert balls reminiscent of playdough you might not be into it. But these peculiar treats do grow on you. Mochi are traditionally rice cakes filled with a slightly sweet red bean paste but can sometimes vary in their stuffings. Looking out for custard or even whole strawberries.

These desserts are often sold in high-end sweet shops. But look out for them at market food stalls and you’ll nab one for half the price. #winning


Probably the most addictive Japanese meal of all is this slurpy, salty noodle soup, typically garnished with green onions, sliced pork and a hard boiled egg.

While arguably not an authentic Japanese dish (the noodle soup was adopted from Chinese cuisine) it has taken off in a big way. Tiny ramen restaurants are doing a big trade for locals and tourists alike.


Wander along any city street and you’ll find restaurant after restaurant offering different variations of sashimi. Think tuna, salmon, scallops, prawns or squid.  If you’re game, seek out Fugu, the fish infamous for its ability to kill you if not prepared correctly (eek!). The fish contains a deadly poison, you may remember it from an episode of the Simpsons!

Fugu is considered a delicacy in Japan and served as thin slices of sashimi. Generally, you will be safe as chefs have to undergo rigorous training before being able to serve it. But personally, I’m not one to dice with death on holiday. Did someone mention YOLO?!

Topdeck Japan Food


These tasty ball-shaped snacks are often found at bustling street food markets. Typically deep fried batter filled with octopus or squid, they are salty and chewy, but oh so addictive – and super cheap. But be careful, these suckers come out hot!

Be sure to join us on our epic 12-day Japan Highlights trip and share your Japanese food adventures with us on social using #Topdecker.

Freya Chesterman
Freya is a writer, graphic designer and dachshund enthusiast from sunny Perth, Western Australia. When she’s not plotting her next overseas jaunt, you’ll find her watching old episodes of An Idiot Abroad on Youtube.