When you envision the city of Tokyo, you might see bright neon lights, tall skyscrapers among ancient temples, the wild world of anime, and of course, tiny ramen joints and sushi restaurants in every nook. But while the city boasts numerous high-end Michelin-starred restaurants and casual restaurants, you don't always need to sit down for a meal. That's where Japanese street food comes in.
One of the most famous spots for yatai (traditional Japanese street food stalls) is in the Nakasu district of Fukuoka, but you don't have to travel that far for your street food fix. You can find Japanese street food anywhere in Japan, just keep your eyes peeled for little makeshift stalls manned by dextrous street food vendors (they can often be found in back alleys next to temples or shrines).
You might think that Japanese food is limited to seafood dishes only, but there’s a wide world of street food out there. These scrumptious dishes come cheap, but don’t skimp on flavor. Soon you'll find yourself digging into some molten hot takoyaki or slurpable yakisoba noodles.
There's an endless variety of Japanese street food you must try in Japan, so we’ve curated a list of dishes to grab when you're out and about. A fair warning though, Japanese street food can be really addictive! If you can, bring a friend and share the selection of street foods with them. After all, food is even more delicious when eaten together.
10 Must-Try Japanese Street Foods
Here is our list of 10 Japanese street foods you can't miss on your trip to Japan!
- Mitarashi Dango
- Menchi Katsu
- Daigaku Imo
Yakitori is one of the most popular Japanese street foods, consisting of grilled chicken on a stick (for maximum portability). Enjoy skewers of various chicken parts, from momo (thigh meat) to tebasaki (chicken wings). Other popular chicken yakitori skewers include tsukune (chicken meatballs) and negima (pieces of chicken breast or thigh alternating with slices of negi).
The more adventurous can try sunagimo (chicken gizzard), nankotsu (cartilage), and reba (liver). These tasty chicken skewers can be found at street food stalls in markets, as well as izakaya across the nation.
Pro tip: yakitori goes great with a nice, cold Japanese beer!
You’ve probably seen takoyaki being sold by street food vendors, in depachika (food basements), or at izakaya bars. It is likely the most popular street food in Tokyo, Osaka, and other Japanese cities (in fact, it originated in Osaka).
Takoyaki is a crispy, golf-ball-sized snack that is made of wheat flour, green onions, and of course, octopus. Literally translating to "octopus fry," takoyaki is cooked in a small grill pan with circular indentations. You can watch as the street vendor uses a particular Japanese technique to flip the takoyaki balls in the pan and make them spherical.
Takoyaki is often served with a drizzle of special sauce (similar to Worcestershire sauce), Japanese mayonnaise, and katsuobushi fish shavings. It is crispy on the outside and incredibly soft and gooey on the inside, perfect for an afternoon snack or with a beer.
The typical price of takoyaki is 400 to 600 yen and it can be found almost in every corner and street of Tokyo. If you'd like to try one of the most popular takoyaki chains in Tokyo, head to Gindaco.
Don’t let these adorable treats fool you. You’d think that this small dish is just another sweet treat from the streets, but once you’ve taken a bite of these, you’ll find yourself devouring more. Made with a fluffy, pancake-like batter that is poured into cute, intricate molds, ningyo-yaki is filled with anko (red bean paste) and cooked until golden brown. It’s best eaten while it’s hot and paired with tea or coffee.
If you don’t fancy anko, you can always opt for chocolate or custard-filled ningyo-yaki. They also come in various shapes and sizes! The typical price for ningyo-yaki is 500 yen for seven pieces. They are a staple at Sensoji Temple.
4. Mitarashi Dango
These cute little dumplings have the perfect blend of sweet and savory flavors. Made with glutinous rice flour, mitarashi dango are molded into little balls, put on skewers, and grilled over charcoal, attaining that slightly smoky, toasty flavor it’s famous for. They are then enrobed in a generous coating of soy sauce glaze, a delicious savory sauce that is balanced by sweetness.
Mitarashi dango are sweet, salty, and chewy; the perfect snack. It also doesn’t hurt that they're cheap. The typical price for mitarashi dango is 100 to 150 yen per stick and they can be found at wagashi shops, outside temples, or during festivities.
Though the dish didn’t originate in Japan, crepes are among the most popular street food items in the Harajuku area. This irresistible Japanese version of the French food comes wrapped up, making them easy to hold; and they're packed with a variety of fillings that you wouldn't find in Europe.
Made fresh to order, you can take your pick from hundreds of flavors, from sweet to savory, many of which are available only in Japan (like the matcha ice cream cheesecake crepe, for example). Opt for strawberries and whipped cream if you have a sweet tooth; or if you're feeling savory, go with crispy fried chicken pieces with a drizzle of sweet soy sauce glaze.
The typical price for this Japanese street food ranges from 300 to 600 yen, depending on the toppings, and they are found all over the Harajuku area. Check out our guide to the best crepe shops in Tokyo or join the Instalicious Harajuku Food Tour to try it for yourself!
6. Menchi Katsu
Who knew that wagyu, domestic Japanese beef, could be coated in panko and deep-fried to perfection? Menchi katsu is a one-of-a-kind dish that has been sweeping people off their feet with its extraordinary crispiness and tenderness. This Japanese street food is a true indulgence.
The typical price of menchi katsu is 220 yen per piece and it can be found in a variety of places, but Satou Steak House, with their in-house butcher, is one of the most highly-regarded places to try wagyu menchi katsu.
Okonomiyaki, sometimes referred to as "Japanese pizza," is a famous dish in Japanese cuisine; a type of pancake that typically includes cabbage, meat, and egg, and is topped off with sauce and condiments. There are two versions of okonomiyaki: Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki and Osaka-style okonomiyaki.
Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki is the layered version, with layers of crepe-like batter, cabbage, meat, egg, and other ingredients stacked one on top of the other. The Osaka-style okonomiyaki is all-in-one, with a batter that includes veggies, meat or seafood, egg, and tempura scraps.
Translating to "grilled as you like it," okonomiyaki is a vehicle for all kinds of ingredients, with limitless add-ins! Toppings include okonomiyaki sauce, Japanese mayonnaise, katsuobushi (dried fish shaving), and aonori (dried seaweed flakes).
Best enjoyed with drinks, this chicken dish is an addictive one. Marinated in mirin, garlic, soy sauce, and rice wine, the chicken is coated with a thin layer of potato starch to get that perfectly crunchy exterior. It’s crispy and savory, just the perfect snack if you’re craving something light but delectable.
The typical price for karaage is 300 to 400 yen. If you'd like to try something a bit different, order the chicken fries at Kin-No-Torikara.
9. Daigaku Imo
Lovers of sweet treats will adore this next Japanese street food. Sliced into thick chunks, these sweet potatoes are fried until crispy, then glazed with caramelized sugar or honey. Finally, they're sprinkled with sesame seeds to enhance that nutty flavor. From afar, you can see them glisten because of the perfect, thin coating of glaze.
Daigaku imo is best eaten while it’s hot, and it is also nutritious! The typical price of daigaku imo depends on how many grams you’re buying and it can be found all over Japan, in supermarkets, and at street food stalls in Asakusa.
If you prefer a slightly less sweet version of this dish, try yaki imo (baked sweet potato), a simple Japanese treat that can be found at any supermarket or peddled by your local yaki imo men, Japanese food vendors who drive around truckloads of this Japanese street food classic. It's the perfect snack for a chilly autumn day.
Yakisoba is one of the most popular Japanese street foods. It uses noodles that are stir-fried with slices of pork and vegetables like cabbage, onions, and carrots. It’s then doused with a generous serving of sauce and topped with fish flakes, seaweed flakes, and pickled ginger.
If you like carbs on carbs, try yakisoba-pan (yakisoba bread), which is a bun filled with these stir-fried noodles. The typical price for yakisoba is 350 to 700 yen and it can be found being sold by street food vendors across Japan.
The volume of amazing dishes to try in Japanese cuisine is endless, but these are the 10 Japanese street foods you must try when visiting Japan, from the sweet Japanese dumpling mitarashi dango to the iconic savory pancakes that are cooked "as you like it." There is much street food to try beyond this list though, so hit the streets and explore the world of Japan's best dishes for yourself!