If you think sweet sake and crispy tempura are the only tantalizing Japanese foods worth hopping on a flight for, add these to your list. The Land of the Rising Sun’s complex culture, deep history, and creative spirit are responsible for some of the most unique eating experiences, and Japanese cuisine caters to travellers who are open to trying something new.
Japanese Foods Worth Traveling For
These Japan snacks combine eyebrow-raising ingenuity, delicious bites, and some slightly questionable choices for unique eats that are well worth the plane ride—and they deliver photo-op moments that are social media perfection.
Ice Cream for Your Pocket
You’re craving ice cream, but the dripping cone you could do without. Enter Coolish: A mildly addictive ice cream served in a genius juice-box-like pouch. Soften the contents slightly by squeezing the packet with your hands, pop the top and you can savour all the soft ice cream goodness without worrying you’ll be left holding a sticky mess.
Braver still? Try the packaged corn-on-the-cob-flavored ice cream bars that are available at local convenience stores.
Lucky Pierrot’s Squid Burger
There may be a clown mascot out front, but this is no McDonalds. Lucky Pierrot’s cult following ran the golden arches out of town years ago. When that fast food craving strikes, head to the city of Hokodate—the only place in the world where you’ll find the beloved restaurant chain’s squid brurgers. Along with squid you’ll find a host of fast food options, including the bestselling Chinese Chicken Burger (Think General Tao chicken on a bun).
Silent Ramen for One
Sometimes you just want to slurp your Ramen without the prying eyes of neighboring tables. That’s no problem at the Ichiran Hondori shop in Hiroshima. Customers punch their order into a vending machine, grab their numbered ticket, and sit in a stool at the corresponding booth. Each is shuttered on both sides so that you never need make eye contact with your neighbor, and even your food is delivered with a healthy respect for your personal space: The bamboo curtain in front of you rises and your steaming bowl is quickly delivered before the divider falls shut again. It’s an introvert’s delight.
Sushi via Train Delivery
Want a meal with some entertainment? Hit a $1-per-plate sushi house and choose from options that range from the non-traditional burger sushi to classics like sashimi. The real treat is the mini-computer in your booth for ordering: Punch in your dining choices and a tiny train delivers your meal at your table.
Treats That Are (Almost) Too Cute to Eat
Who wants boring old custard when you can have a cake pop shaped like a puppy? Why settle for a bag of cotton candy when you can have a perfectly-shaped cloud of it that’s the size of your head? At shops throughout Tokyo, you’ll have a hard time deciding if you should eat your treats or adopt them. The cuter the better, especially in the Harajuku area of Tokyo, where the treats come with a side of people watching.
7/11 Seafood Snacks
In Japan, the local 7/11 store offers way more than just your standard bags of chips and chocolate bars. Try something different to satisfy cravings you never knew you had, for tiny mackerel fish mixed with slivered almonds, wasabi-covered peanuts, dried squid, or crayon-shaped gummy candies.
Noodles at Any Speed
Japan’s commitment to a hot noodle meal should be applauded, and there’s never an excuse for missing out on a bowl here. Waiting for the train? On most station platforms, you’ll find a vendor with tables at the ready for you to quickly slurp before you go.
Got more time? Make your own noodles in Takumi No Sato village. Local women will show you how to knead dough with your hands (and feet!) before cooking them up for you to eat.
More from SmarterTravel:
- Japan Travel: 4 Ways to Make Your Trip a Breeze
- 10 Things to Expect at a Traditional Japanese Ryokan
- Hiking the Nakasendo Way in Japan
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Heather Greenwood Davis is a lifestyle journalist and National Geographic Travel columnist. Follow her on Twitter @greenwooddavis or keep up with her family’s adventures on GlobeTrottingMama.com.
We hand-pick everything we recommend and select items through testing and reviews. Some products are sent to us free of charge with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions and do not accept compensation to review products. All items are in stock and prices are accurate at the time of publication. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.
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