When it comes to Japanese street foods, the crucial word to know is “Yaki” (焼), meaning “to grill.” It’s the base for tasty compound words like takoyaki (octopus balls), okonomiyaki (savory Japanese pancake), yakisoba (stir-fried noodles), taiyaki (a sweet cake filled with red bean) and more! The word “yaki” brings to mind all things griddled up hot and fresh in front of your eyes.
Japanese street foods vary by region, with each area of Japan producing its own unique festival foods and portable bites, but there are several famous street foods available nationwide. You can’t talk about street food without mentioning takoyaki, those crispy-on-the-outside and gooey-on-the-inside molten balls of batter filled with pieces of octopus. Hailing from Osaka, they’re a fan favorite among the variety of Japanese street foods, topped with a tangy and sweet sauce and katsuobushi (dried fish flakes) that sway from the residual heat of the takoyaki. There’s also the previously mentioned yakisoba and okonomiyaki, as well as foods like fish cakes and tamagoyaki (a sweet rolled omelet) which are classic fish market dishes.
As for dessert, there are a number of Japanese street foods to satisfy a sweet tooth! Taiyaki is a sweet (and Instagrammable) fish-shaped cake traditionally filled with sweet red bean paste. There are also custard cream, matcha, and even ice cream versions! Crepes and other cute sweets are a must-eat in Harajuku while ningyoyaki (sweet bean-filled cakes that are made in various shapes) is a staple of Sensoji Temple. Discover the diverse food landscapes of regional Japan through the variety of Japanese street food experiences below!