“Must Eat and Drink” Recommendations for Japan


Typically Japanese food is in smaller portions. They stress visual presentation and healthy balance between vegetables/meats, etc. food is simple. They take much pride in the preparation. Most people think Japanese food is just sushi and Teriyaki Chicken, but there are so many different types of Japanese foods.

General Etiquette:

Chopsticks (O-hashi)

 Remember to never point your chopsticks at anyone or play with chopsticks. Don’t leave your chopsticks directly on the table (put it on the bowl or plate). Even when grabbing food from a plate that everyone is sharing, sometimes people turn the chopsticks around to grab the food so that the end of the chopsticks where you eat- does not touch the public’s food. Hold the chopsticks towards the end for more leverage. You can use your hands depending on the food.



Serve tea or drinks to others first, especially elders (boss, etc.). Say “Itadakimasu” before you eat (it’s like grace, time to eat, yum good food!). Say “Gochisousama deshita” to the cook/staff as you leave when you are at a good restaurant- means pretty much thanks for the great meal you prepared.

Trash is split up into burnibles and nonburnibles

Let’s start with the DESSERTS First! 🙂

“Less is more”, their sweets/desserts are lighter- less fatty compared to American sweets. Japanese. They have huge European influence in their bakeries and desserts. Delicious cakes, pastries, pies, ice cream, yogurt, creme brulee, green tea flavor cookies, desserts, etc. They are usually wrapped up in elaborate wrapping paper, boxes, etc. and can be quite pricey.

Definitely try “mochi cream” desserts!  (mochi – rice dessert)


Mochi Cream

Amazing desserts in display cases sold at the malls

An pan = red bean sponge pancake dessert

Cakes, pastries, and desserts

Symbolic New Year’s Day Meal

Typical lunch

Typical New Year's Day Lunch - eat food has a symbolic meaning

Yakisoba - fried buckwheat noodles



TOP 9 “Must Eat” Typical Food in Japan

1.  Ramen – noodles



Recommend Shoyu Ramen Soup Base. Miso soup base is good as well. There are meal sets such as ramen, side of hard boiled egg soaked in sauce, and chashu pork rice bowl. The ramen has seaweed, bamboo shoots, egg, green onion, 2 big slices of pork, and yellow somewhat curled thick ramen noodles (typical..but there are different textured noodles). You can also add sesame seed, spice seasoning onto it afterwards. Small and Large sizes.

Ways to Order:

You fill out a card of your preference of texture of noodle: hard–soft, soup base-: light–strong, adding toppings (spinach, egg, seaweed, extra meat, bean sprouts, etc.), how much oil: light — strong. You can request more noodles for an extra charge.

Ramen Set Deals: They also serve other food such as gyoza dumplings, fried rice, karaage chicken and they have set menus that you can order.

Ramen Booth - Fill Out Card

2.  Okonomiyaki – Japanese style pancake

Japanese Pancake with vegetables, potatos, sauces


3.  Sushi – great fish


Authentic sushi is actually just the sashimi, wasabi under it, and a small portion of rice under it. All other “rolls” such as “Caterpillar Roll”, “Firecracker Roll”, “Philadelphia Roll”, etc. do not exist in Japan. They are simply Westernized fusion combinations to satisfy the foreign customers.  Typically, when dipping the sushi into the soy sauce, you want to dip the fish/meat- not the rice. Therefore, turning the sashimi at an angle slightly while dipping it in the shoyu soy sauce (mixed with wasabi). Also, typically you fit and eat the whole/entire portion of sushi into your mouth in one bite.

Best Tuna = Toro or Maguro

Home Made!

Amazing homemade sashimi, wasabi, etc.

4.  Izakaya – means “House of Sake”




Izakayas are Bar/Restaurants where most Japanese parties and birthday parties are held.  Most friends go out to eat and have drinks here. It is also the place where most businessmen go after work and drink.

Often times, you remove your shoes and you sit down on the ground. Or under the table- the ground caves in and it’s deep where you can put your feet down it and you still sit on the ground as well.

4.  Yakitori

Several Izakayas sell Yakitori or have yakitori food

the fry chicken or meats on skewers on a stone oven. Feel free to buy beer and alcohol for the cook and they will down it there in front of you 🙂



Tofu Agedashi, Pork Belly, shrimp, fried mochi soup, french fries, soft shell crab, squid, fried banana and ice cream dessert, CHICKEN WINGS are AMAZING, Pitcher of beers, shochu, amazing salad with DAIKON radish, Calpico (carupisu- milk sugar sweet water) with soju is a good drink as well.

Lots of Japanese tapas dishes- tofu dishes are great, sesame spinach, yakisoba noodles, meats/veggie skewers, Natto, Takoyaki (octopus balls). Ume shu plum wine.  chicken hearts, nutto beans on skewers, bacon wrapped tomato that is juicy when you bite into it, chicken with wasabi on skewers, meatballs (but not your typical meatballs), chicken with vegetable/onion, try with yuzu sauce (very spicy similar to wasabi), salmon or tune carpaccio (raw), agedashi tofu with sauce, okra on skewers, onion on skewers, shitake mushroom on skewers.

5.  McDonalds – Japanese style

Amazing ketchup, french fries, and ebi (shrimp) burger – original to Japan!



6. Eat at Any “Convini” Convenience store

similar to 7 Eleven..They have AMPM there..they have amazing bento boxes, ice cream, snacks, soups at those stores too!!


コンビニ Convini = Convenience Store

コンビニ Amazing food, bento boxes!

7. Japanese European Fusion

There are numerous Japanese Italian, Japanese French Bakeries, and Japanese European restaurants.

Italian Tomato Restaurant


Entrees include: Japanese pizzas, Salads with light home made dressings. Entrees such as Mushroom Risotto, Scallops, Carpaccio, Stew, Curry, Seed crusted tuna ahi with bok choy, cod, seafood pasta, meat pasta- with great high quality, home made taste. Nice wine selection. Dessert menu- Panna Cotta with fruits, also green tea ice cream, creme brulee.

Plastic Displays

8. Sukiyaki

Typically made at home – beef, meats, with quail egg, cooker, meat, sauces



9. Nabe

Very similar to Nabe except Nabe is used with fish broth, more vegetables, etc


10. Japanese Curry

Much sweeter than regular curry, paired with ginger, chicken or pork katsu/cutlet and rice, tofu, spinach, egg, or potatoes. Sometimes they add apples, yogurt, honey, peanut butter, etc. to their curry as well. There are numerous curry places all over.





Order Asahi Beer on Tap- it’s the only beer on tap straight from Japan. All others are brewed/water is from Canada. You can taste the crisp, dry difference.

Beer is usually served in large cups with handles/pitchers at every restaurant , practically every meal, and even vending machines.



 Rice wine just like any wine or beer has different taste varying from dry to sweet. Most sake is sipped cold (not hot and drank as a sake bomb/shot). They usually give you the bottle and a small glass. Sometimes they give you the small glass in a wooden box and the sake overflows into the box. You drink from the box and the small sake cup/glass as well. It can be quite strong and the best sake can be pretty expensive. I would recommend trying Sakura pink sake.






Known to be healthier than sake, yet still very strong and smooth, Shochu is distilled over and over similar to Vodka.  There are different kinds made from barley, sweet potato, etc.


Shochu is almost mixed with Calpico (Ca-ru-pi-su) milky/sugar drink, or mixed as a fruit cocktail.


Orange Cassi cocktail is also a fave drink as well!

NON ALCOHOLIC DRINKS (in cool looking plastic shaped bottles of different sizes)

Matcha Green Tea Smoothies & ShakesMatcha Green Tea Smoothies & Shakes

Amazing vending machines in the neighborhoods

Healthy Juice & Tea Drinks in vending machines

  • Iced Coffees
  • Delicious juices – apple, peach, orange, mango – taste just like the fruit or even have pieces of the fruit in it!
  • Water is usually not served automatically with meals – there is more beer available than water – you have to ask the waiter for water!




If you would like to add your favorite food/restaurants in Japan, advice, recommendations, or experiences,

feel free to post it on




2 thoughts on ““Must Eat and Drink” Recommendations for Japan

  1. This post really took me back to when I was recently in Japan! Loved it! Lawson’s is the best convini, the vending machines have hot and cold milk tea, and I had the best eel of my life at a restaurant at the Tokyo Fish Market. I could seriously go on and on. Thanks for the nostalgia!

    • Yes! Note to self and add it to the list – Lawsons! The hot and cold milk tea! soo good. Thanks for sharing! 🙂 We miss Japan also!! Feel free to share any of your other tips, stories, photos/videos of Japan if you’d like!

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