10 Most Popular Japanese Foods Among Tourists

by Michelle Lin

The Japanese diet has become increasingly popular in recent years due to its unique flavors, fresh ingredients, health benefits and visually impressive presentation. Japanese food features a wide variety of dishes, from savory to sweet, ramen to mochi. The use of high-quality ingredients and traditional cooking techniques has made Japanese food one of the most popular cuisines in the world. This time, we cover the top 10 popular Japanese dishes that you need to try when visiting Japan next time.


Sushi is the most iconic Japanese dish that most people think of right away when it comes to Japanese food culture. The combination of vinegar-seasoned rice, fresh, raw fish, soy sauce, and vegetables makes for a unique cultural experience that cannot be compared to others. Not to be confused with sashimi, which is just raw fish. The history of sushi dates all the way back to the 8th century as a way to preserve fish. Over time, sushi has gained popularity for its cultural significance and has evolved into the representative of Japanese food. Nishiki Market is a popular eatery in Kyoto, Japan that offers tons of sushi options and other food stalls.

Japanese chef making sushi at restaurant.


Ramen’s origin can be traced back to China, where wheat noodles were first made. However, it was in Japan where the noodle soup dish took on its current form and became the beloved comfort food that it is today. Whether you prefer traditional ramen or a more modern take on the dish, there's no denying the appeal of this iconic Japanese food. While ramen shops can be found in many cities across the globe, each with their unique take on the dish, it’s definitely a different experience to try this iconic dish in Japan. 

 A bowl of ramen served with seaweed, bamboo shoots, an egg, and pork.


Tempura is a popular Japanese dish in which seafood or vegetables are battered and deep-fried to create a crispy coating. The process of deep-frying gives the dish a crispy texture that is hard to resist. In Japan, you can find tempura in restaurants all over the country, often served as a main dish. If you visit one of these restaurants, be sure to try some of their unique varieties such as shrimp, squid, sweet potato, eggplant and more.

A plate serving a shrimp and vegetable tempura dish.


Okonomiyaki is a type of savory pancake containing ingredients such as cabbage, seafood and pork along with flour batter mixed together before being cooked on a griddle called teppan (iron plate), then topped with bonito flakes. The origins of okonomiyaki are not clear, some claim that it was first made by a restaurant in Osaka around 1870, while others say that it was invented by Taisho period soldiers who fought during World War I. Either way, these tasty, savory pancakes have been around for quite some time now, and we doubt they’ll ever go out of style!

Top view of traditional okonomiyaki being cooked on the griddle with two spatulas.

Japanese Curry Rice (Kare - Raisu)

Japanese curry rice, or kare-raisu, is a popular home dish in Japan. It is a hearty and flavorful dish made with a blend of spices and vegetables, often served with white rice. Japanese chefs back in the late 1800s adapted the traditional Indian curry recipe to suit local tastes by adjusting the spices to make it milder, sweeter and less spicy. The unique blend of spices makes kare-raisu a beloved comfort food that can satisfy every palate. When paired with katsu, the curry can also be used as a dipping sauce to bring a new level of umami.

A serving of kare-raisu, or Japanese curry rice, with katsu and ginger.

Miso Soup

Miso soup is a Japanese soup made with miso paste, dashi, and a variety of vegetables, and is also known to be a healthy food choice as it is low in calories and high in nutrients. Miso soup is a staple of Japanese cuisine and is often served as a part of a traditional Japanese meal, making it a must-try for tourists visiting Japan. Miso soup is a top contender for healthy Japanese food because of its probiotics from the fermented soybeans.

A bowl of miso soup is surrounded by tofu chunks, green onions, and a pair of chopsticks atop a green placemat.


The word yakitori translates directly to “grilled chicken”. Yakitori is grilled chicken skewers made from small pieces of meat from different parts of chicken, including thigh, liver, hearts, gizzards, and skins. It is a common street food in Japan, typically cooked over a charcoal grill.

A plate serving eight meat skewers, or Japanese yakitori, beside a lemon wedge.


Onigiri (rice ball) is a simple yet delicious snack made with steamed rice, often filled with pickled plum, tuna, salmon, or chicken and then wrapped in nori seaweed. The origins of onigiri can be dated back to ancient Japan when it was used as a portable and convenient food for travelers. The rice was often shaped into a compact ball or a triangle for easy carrying. Today, onigiris can easily be found in convenience stores and train stations, so don’t forget to get one on-the-go.

Two onigiri rice balls served on a wooden platter.


Mochi is a traditional Japanese food that is made from rice that has been pounded into sticky paste. The origins of mochi can be traced back to ancient Japan, where it was originally used in religious ceremonies and festivals. Today, mochi is a popular food in Japan and around the world due to its unique texture, the chewy texture is unlike any other food, and it can be a fun experience for those who have never tried before.

Four pieces of mochi served on a black plate.


Matcha is a type of green tea that has become increasingly popular in recent years due to its unique flavor and health benefits. The tea has a rich earthy flavor that is often described as both sweet and bitter and can be prepared in many different ways, from traditional ceremonies to modern beverages like matcha lattes.

A matcha latte beside a small container of matcha powder and a bamboo whisk.

Japanese food is an excellent representation of the country’s rich history and culture and it offers a wide variety of delicious and unique dishes. Whether you’re a fan of traditional Japanese food or you prefer modern variations, there is something for everyone to enjoy. If reading about these famous Japanese dishes make you a little hungry, Bokksu's Japanese subscription box brings a monthly curated collection of the best Japanese snacks sourced directly from local snack makers from Japan.

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