The Beginner’s Guide to Japanese Food

If you’re not from Japan, knowing where to begin when trying something new can be challenging! This post is for you if you don’t know what a California roll or sushi is!

This user-friendly guide will go over some fundamental sorts of Japanese food and dishes that are likely to whet your appetite for discovering an entirely new culture.


Because Japan has so wide distinctive and delectable varieties of fish native to its soil, sushi has become a mainstay of Japanese cuisine. Also, nations worldwide, including America, have modified and altered sushi.

The preparation of sushi varies according to the area in Japan as well! Ask your server if you’re looking for anything particular fish.

When eating sushi for the first time in Japan, keep these simple rules in mind:

  • Never combine wasabi and soy sauce.
  • Always dip the fish, never the rice.
  • Never top your sushi with pickled ginger.
  • Always eat it apart from the sushi.

Not a big issue, but it’s always polite to attempt to follow the customs in your community.


Yakitori, which translates to “grilled chicken,” is a dish that consists only of grilled meat, fish, or vegetables on a skewer. It is not rocket science.

But everything, from chicken thighs to mushrooms, is well-seasoned and typically drizzled with a sauce made of soy sauce using a paintbrush.


Ramen is a soup made with thick wheat noodles and salt, soy sauce, or miso. Although ramen restaurants may be found all across Japan, it is evident that Tokyo has the most significant number of them.

Ramen comes in various shapes and forms, but you should be aware of the two primary types: Shio (salt) and Shoyu (soy sauce). They can have thin or thick noodles, small or huge servings, meaty or vegetable, moderate or extremely powerful soups, and white or red forms. Regional varieties include, among others, Kyushu ramen (red broth, plenty of garlic), Hokkaido ramen (creamier white broth, thicker noodles), Hakata ramen (white, tonkatsu-based, thin noodles), and many more.


A thick wheat flour noodle is called udon. It can be dipped in a sauce or eaten hot or cold in a soup. This is a fantastic substitute if you don’t want something nearly as intense as ramen. The doughy noodles’ texture is ideal for slurping.


Buckwheat noodles are known as soba. Although they are often more biting than udon, they are thinner. Different toppings, cold foods, and hot broth-based dishes are all options for soba. It is available everywhere in Tokyo, just like ramen and udon.


A savory pancake called an “okonomiyaki” is stuffed with vegetables like cabbage and bean sprouts. It can be eaten alone or with sauce and bonito flakes on top. Your waiter or waitress cooks the pancakes on a grill in front of you at the table and adds each item to your dish one at a time as they finish cooking it.


Takoyaki is octopus dumplings in the shape of balls. They contain tempura crumbs, green onions, pickled ginger, and sliced octopus. One of the most well-liked street delicacies in Tokyo, these tiny balls of delight can be found throughout the city. Our preferred location to purchase these delectable treats is Takoyaki Wanaka, located off of Shinjuku’s Golden Gai.


This meal consists of beef cooked in a sweet sauce until it is incredibly tender. The meat is then served over rice (either in soup form or not), and onion or other vegetables, such as bean sprouts, are frequently added as a garnish. Both independent mom-and-pop eateries and chain restaurants like Yoshinoya, Matsuya, and Sukiya serve this meal.


In a Japanese dish known as tempura, vegetables and seafood are battered and deep-fried. It can be served with rice or on its own. Tempura is typically consumed with white soy sauce, green onions, and grated ginger. The batter creates a light but crunchy coating for the dish that puffs up beautifully. Restaurants of many types, from the most casual to the most upmarket, serve tempura. Of course, there are numerous tempura chains across the city, including Tenya, where you may find this popular dish (for some great deals).


A side of shredded cabbage and rice is served with tonkatsu, a breaded pork cutlet that has been deep-fried in hot oil until cooked through and golden brown. White soy sauce, green onions, and grated ginger are typical accompaniments to this dish. Most frequently, you may find tonkatsu in izakayas or other informal eateries where you can order a variety of meals for one meal (a great way to try many dishes at once).