What to Eat in Japan – The Best Food in Japan for Kids & Picky Eaters

This post may contain affiliate links. Please visit our Disclosure page for details.

What’s the best food in Japan? Wondering what to eat in Japan? For people like me, the answer to these questions is EVERYTHING. However, not everyone is willing (or able) to try whatever’s on offer. Some kids and picky eaters have particular tastes or digestive issues. Some people have allergies or other dietary restrictions that limit food to try in Japan. Others have just made up their mind what they like or don’t like. For these travelers, we present our list of the best food in Japan to try. We consider this list the best Japanese food for people who want or need to stick to something more familiar.  

COVER the best food in japan

Best Food in Japan for Kids & Picky Eaters 

Visiting Japan is a feast for the eyes, the soul, and the stomach. You may know what Japanese dishes you like, but what’s the best food in Japan for those who want to stick to what they know?  What to eat in Japan if your kids are afraid of the unfamiliar? Our kids were born in Tokyo, where we lived for 13 years, so they certainly have a taste for food in Japan. The best Japanese food and the worst junk food the country produces…they like it all. And you know what? Your kids will find lots of food to try in Japan, as well.

Our Japanese Food Guide

Perhaps your kids already have their own opinions on what to eat in Japan. Perhaps the picky eaters in your family already think they know the best food in Japan to try. They may be right, but I’d like to offer our own list of delicious food to try in Japan. Hopefully, you’ll find something new here. If you’re keen for your picky eaters to expand their palates further, then this Japanese food list is for you. Sure, you can find burgers and pizza all over the archipelago, but here I’m listing up the best food in Japan to push those with particular tastes to try something new.

Related Posts:

Got the Right Travel Gear??

Save & Share with Pinterest!

The best food in japan for kids PIN 2

The best food in japan for kids PIN 3

Best Japanese Food for Picky Eaters

Kyoto kaiseki - the best food in japan for kids & picky eaters

There is so much great food in Japan for kids that this list might just have to grow. Unlike much of Asian cuisine, it’s easy to find Japanese food for kids that isn’t spicy. Can it be salty? Sure, occasionally. But more often than not, food in Japan is often plain by Western standards, relying on the ingredients’ natural flavors.

What do you consider the best food in Japan for kids? What Japanese food types would you consider kid-friendly? What’s your number-one food to tray in Japan? Is there any food in Japan I should add to this list?

Best Food Tours in Japan and Japanese Cooking Classes 

One way to learn about the best food in Japan is to take a food tour with an experienced guide. Not only do you get to sample some of the best Japanese dishes, but you also may discover new food to try in Japan and elsewhere in the world. Below are some tours you can consider.

Walking Food Tour of Shibuya at Night (TOKYO) – Starts in early evening, and ends around 7 pm. You get to explore Nonbei Yokocho (‘Drunkard’s Alley’) in Tokyo, but the tour is focused more on food to try in Japan than on drinking.

Tsukiji Market Tour in Tokyo with Samples and Coffee – Morning tour with a breakfast of seafood — definitely what to eat in japan!

Small-Group Wagyu Beef and Kaiseki Ryouri Tokyo Cooking Class – You will prepare a total of 7-8 different types of best Japanese dishes — from appetizers to desserts. This includes a main dish of Wagyu steak: definitely one of my recommended food to try in Japan!

Experience Local Food & Drink on Sunamachi Ginza Shopping Street (TOKYO) – This morning tour visits Sunamachi Ginza, one of the best local shopping streets in Tokyo with lots of stalls selling great food to try in Japan. Try a vast array of traditional Japanese dishes, including inarizushi, yakitori, and oden.

What to Eat in Japan: Best Japanese Food for the Picky

sushi in Tokyo - the best food in japan for kids & picky eaters

The best food in Japan is fresh, nutritious and aesthetically appealing. Of course, many people interpret these words differently, but when we talk about what to eat in Japan, we hope to only point you toward the best Japanese food. This isn’t a complete list of the best Japanese food because it doesn’t include many of our family’s favorite Japanese dishes (we love eel, offal, and lots of slimy and/or fermented stuff). Instead, I’m listing up only what we consider the best food in Japan for kids and others who won’t (or can’t) eat adventurously. In other words, the best Japanese food listed here is universally loved and easily found all over the country. Our list of the best food in Japan is divided into six main sections:

  • Noodle-Based food to try in Japan
  • Rice-Based food in Japan
  • The Grill: best food in Japan that’s grilled or roasted
  • The Fryer: best food in Japan that’s deep-fried
  • Fruit & Desserts: food to try in Japan for the sweet tooth

Japanese food is remarkably diverse, and our list of food to try in Japan covers most of the categories that picky eaters enjoy. It’s not all raw fish and fermented beans — although they’re both worth trying as well. No, much of the best Japanese food is crispy, salty, and sweet…just in a different form. 

Noodle-Based Best Food in Japan 

Like in much of Asia, noodle dishes are the best food in Japan for most picky eaters. The main noodle types we recommend are soba (そば), udon (うどん), and ramen (ラーメン). All three types may be served hot or cold, depending on the dish, the restaurant, and the season.

Zaru Soba (ざるそば)

zaru soba - what to eat in japan

For this dish, the versatile soba (buckwheat) noodle is served cold with a small cup of dipping sauce made from tsuyu, a Japanese staple ingredient made from a stock of fish (or seaweed, or shiitake mushroom), soy sauce, mirin, sake, and sugar. Usually served atop a bamboo strainer, cold soba noodles are sone of the best Japanese dishes for cooling down in the summer heat. Loved by kids all over Japan, zaru soba is often served with a handful of garnishes, which often include scallions, sesame seeds, and grated ginger. There may be a raw quail egg added on top, but it can be easily avoided. 

Find the Best Hotels in Tokyo for Families

Yakisoba (焼きそば)

yaki soba - food to try in japan

This sweet and savory style of soba noodles is definitely some of the best food in Japan found just about anywhere. Here the noodles are fried on a griddle with pork and cabbage with a thick sweet & savory sauce.  It’s usually served garnished with pickled ginger, which is a love-or-hate flavor for most kids in Japan and can be picked off of needed.

Where to try yakisoba

You can order yakisoba in some restaurants, but the best way to eat it is from a street stall at a festival or other outdoor event. Some of the best Japanese food served in parks and on sidewalks. 

Kitsune Udon (きつねうどん)

kitsune udon - the best food in japan for kids

The much thicker udon noodles are one of the best Japanese dishes for kids and some of the best Japanese food to start young ones with. Kitsune udon is a soup noodle bowl with a portion of sweetened fried tofu placed on top. The flavors here are not very strong, and the sweet fried tofu can easily win over even some of the pickiest eaters. It’s what to eat in Japan’s many standing noodle shops. 

Curry Udon (カレーうどん)

curry udon - best japanese food for picky eaters

There are a number of restaurants and chains that specialize in a soup curry version of the popular Japanese noodle dish. Curry udon is often served with very mild curries. You’ll find it on both adult and children’s menus, with silly plastic toys included for the latter. Some of the best food in Japan for a winter’s day.

Ramen (ラーメン)

ramen - What to Eat in Japan

This ain’t the cheap noodle bricks you ate in college decades ago. No, an authentic bowl of ramen is some of the best food in Japan. It’s an art form and people line up for blocks for it. Cooks nationwide obsess over their soup-base recipes for a lifetime. There are literally hundreds of ramen styles, with flavors centered around everything from sesame seeds to pork bones. Our kids’ personal favorite is miso ramen, but if your kids want something simpler, try a shoyu (soy sauce) or shio (salt) based soup. The best food in Japan for a hangover, too…not that I know anything about that.

Tip: Lots of places offer a complimentary bowl of rice to go with your ramen bowl. Once the noodles are gone, dump the rice into the remaining soup and relish each drop.

Where to try ramen

Ippudo is one of the nation’s biggest chains and is super dependable. Lower-end Tenka Ippin is also consistent, cheaper, and has lots of outlets around the country. One of my personal favorite ramen chains is the Kohmen in Tokyo. Their gyoza is fantastic, too. There are dozens of other nationwide franchises, and much of the best ramen is made by in family-run shops. It’s what to eat in Japan in every season, but in the hottest part of the summer try hiyashi chuka (冷やし中華), which is a cold and refreshing version. 

Discover the Best Family Hotels in Kyoto

Rice-Based Best Food in Japan 

The staple of Asia, rice plays a vital role in Japanese cuisine and culture. It goes without saying that rice is part of much of the best food in Japan. Before I moved to Japan, I thought that all rice was the same, but after a few years in the country, my tastes became more refined. The sticky (glutinous) rice of Japan is our family’s favorite of course,  and you need that stickiness to make many of the best Japanese dishes synonymous with the country.

Onigiri (おにぎり)

onigiri - the best food in japan for kids

Japan’s most ubiquitous fast food. As beloved and varied in Japan as the sandwich is in the West, the onigiri rice ball is the best Japanese food broken down to its essential elements: rice and salt. It’s sometimes wrapped in a slice of nori (seaweed paper), sometimes plain, or sprinkled with roasted sesame seeds. What’s inside? It could be a plum (梅). It could be tuna and mayonnaise (ツナマヨ). There’s also a possibility that it could be squid guts (イカの塩辛), so be careful (we like the guts, but no shame in wanted to avoid them).

Here are a few commonly found varieties, with their Japanese names. These are commonly found in shops, convenience stores, and many restaurants. There is a fantastic array of these, and I encourage you to try them all as they’re some of the best Japanese food for on the go. Besides, they’re only a dollar or two, so it’s worth risking trying them to see what you like. However, here are a few familiar flavors for reluctant eaters:

  • Salted Salmon — Sake, さけ or 鮭
  • Tuna with Mayonnaise — Tsuna Mayo, ツナマヨ
  • Shrimp with Mayonaise — Ebi Mayo, 海老マヨ
  • Yakiniku (BBQ beef) — 焼肉
  • Karaage (fried  chicken) — 唐揚げ

Where to try Onigiri

The ubiquity of 7-11 and other convenience stores means that you’ll never be too far away from a rice triangle, but you’re likely to walk by shops selling heftier, heartier, hand-made ones as well. That includes many grocery stores that have their own “deli” section. Look for handmade onigiri there. Some of the easiest food to try in Japan.

Inari Zushi (いなり寿司)

inari zushi - japanese food blog - food in japan for kids

Inarizushi is the simplest form of sushi. They’re balls of sushi rice (with a slightly sweet & vinegary taste) stuffed into a pouch of sweet and savory fried tofu. The ones you see in the picture above are elaborately garnished with beans, chestnuts, sesame, and mountain vegetables, but most inarizushi are plain or have a simple sprinkling of sesame and salt. The kids should love them in any form. Some of the best food in Japan when you want to keep it simple.

Where to try inarizushi

Like the onigiri mentioned above, inari are super common in supermarkets and convenience stores. An easy food to try in Japan.

Tamagoyaki (卵焼き)

tamagoyaki. best japanese food for kids and picky eaters

Okay, so you want to go to a sushi place but your kids don’t like sushi and don’t know what to eat in Japan? Try tamagoyaki. The name essentially means “fried egg,” but it’s really the Japanese-style omelet. It’s served a number of ways, and one of them is in squares on top of sushi rice.

Where to try tamagoyaki: most sushi places serve it in one form or another. 

Oyakodon (親子丼)

oyakodon. best japanese food for picky eaters

Another of the best Japanese dishes based on eggs. The name literally means “family bowl,” because it’s made of chicken and egg over rice. Get it? Family bowl, mother and child…Okay, so it’s a little morbid, I know. But it’s delicious and easy for kids and some of the best food in Japan for picky eaters to like. 

Here are the Best Hotels in Osaka

Hayashi Rice (ハヤシライス)

hayashi rice - What to Eat in Japan

Most Japanese curry and rice dishes are mild wherever you are in Japan. Yet if you’re concerned about spice levels, then I suggest trying Hayashi Rice. It’s almost never spicy and is some of the best food in Japan for anyone who can’t handle spicy food. Essentially, Hayashi rice uses a demi-glace sauce that’s been tweaked to Japanese tastes, it usually contains onions, mushrooms, and beef.

Where to try Hayashi Rice

You’ll find Hayashi rice on the menus of “Family Restaurant” chains like Jonathan’s and Royal Host, but you can find it in other places, too. One higher-end (and recommended) option is Kurofune-tei, a restaurant in Ueno (Tokyo) that specializes in yōshoku, or Japanese adaptations of Western cuisine.

Omuraisu (オムライス)

omuraisu - best japanese dishes for picky eaters

Like fried rice? Like eggs for dinner? Then this is what to eat in Japan. Omuraisu comes in many forms, but most involve an omelet encasing a filling of rice and veggies. Many establishments put an overly generous dollop of ketchup on the top, which I’m not a fan of. If possible, choose the demi-glace version. Some of the best food in Japan for kids or anyone who needs something familiar.

Where to try Omuraisu

This is another item you’ll find on menus around the country, and frequently on kids’ menus. If you want to try the high-end version, one of the best-known places is called Taimeiken (very near the Japan Kite museum in Nihonbashi). However, the regular old Japanese version is just as good. One chain we frequent is RAKERU.

Gyudon (牛丼)

gyudon - best food in japan for kids

This is the most commonly-found fast food in Japan, but higher-end versions can also be found in nice restaurants. Strips of thinly sliced beef and onions are stewed in a soy-sauce based mix and then placed atop a bowl of rice. Many Westerners may find this particular cut of meat stringy compared to what they’re accustomed to. I did, but soon after soon it became addictive. It’s what to eat in Japan when you’re in a hurry, as the fast-food versions of this are served up very quickly.

Where to try gyudon

You’ll find gyudon fast-food chains all over Japan, and even elsewhere in the world (over 1,400 international franchises, mostly through Asia/Pacific region). Yoshinoya and Matsuya are the McDonald’s and Burger King of Japan. Both franchises are cheap and easy to order, with fast service and pictures on the menu.

Don’t miss our MEGA-post on Tokyo for Kids!

The Grill: What to Eat in Japan

Whether it’s a hot skillet or a charcoal fire, lots of the best Japanese dishes are best served right off the grill. In fact, you’ll see the word for “grill” or “bake” in Japanese is often right there in the name of the food: yaki (焼). Here’s what to eat in Japan straight off the grill. 

Yakitori (焼き鳥)

yakitori - japanese food guide

Some of the most famous food to try in Japan and around the world, yakitori is simply chicken and vegetables that have been grilled on skewers over an open flame. Our personal favorite is over charcoal (炭火) and you’ll often see that on the signs. This is a great food to try in Japan because it’s familiar and comes in small portions so you can try different types until you find what you like best. In addition, it’s usually seasoned with sea salt only — no spices. 

Where to try yakitori: Iseya in Kichijoji is a good choice if you’re in Tokyo visiting Inokashira park or the Ghibli Museum. However, you may need to wait if you arrive without a reservation. Keep your eye out for trucks along the street, as well.

The Torikizoku chain is a personal favorite simply because of the value for money (the bright yellow signs make them easy to locate on busy streets, as well). That said, they can get pretty smoky inside. At least they used to. In addition, most izakaya chains have good yakitori selections.

Yakiniku (焼肉)

yakiniku - What to Eat in Japan

Simply translated as “grilled beef,” an evening at a good yakiniku establishment is one of our favorite meals in Japan and ranks as the best Japanese food around. In most places, you order several small plates of raw meat and vegetables, and then proceed to cook them yourself on the grill built into the table. This is a great way to eat, but remember that it’s not the most child-friendly method. Be careful with kids near the grill. 

This form of dining is often said to have originated in Korea, and distinctly Korean cuisine is often on the menu. This is great news for families like ours who love japchae (stir-fried glass noodles) and buchimgae (Korean pancakes), but keep in mind that kimchi, the spicy Korean pickled vegetables, may make an appearance. We love it. Many picky eaters don’t.

Where to try yakiniku

We were always partial to the Toraji chain, but some of the best yakiniku we’ve ever had was in small, mom & pop shops. Also, if you’re in Odaiba, some of the yakiniku places in the Decks and Aqua City buildings are exquisite and have beautiful views of the bay.

Okonomiyaki (お好み焼き)

okonomiyaki - best japanese dishes for kids

Now let’s switch from the open flame to the iron skillet. Okonomiyaki is often referred to as a “Japanese pancake,” but this is savory, not sweet. And believe me: it’s a meal and a half. The style and ingredients vary wildly and often by region of Japan, but the main components are batter, shredded cabbage, and egg. From there, versions vary widely. There are varieties with pork, seafood, noodles, kimchi, beef tendon, cheese, and countless more combinations. Most okonomiyaki is served topped with mayonnaise, shaved bonito flakes, and a sweet and savory brown sauce. You often are in control of how much. It’s the best food in Japan to make yourself, but like the yakiniku mentioned above, please be careful with little kids and their fingers near the grill. 

This is some of the best Japanese food wherever you are in the country, but we think it’s best eaten in the Kansai region in cities like Kyoto and Osaka. That said, okonomiyaki is found everywhere and in different regional forms. Every region thinks they have the best food in Japan. Kyushu has its own style, as does Tokyo, called monjayaki. In my opinion, however, Kansai okonomiyaki reigns supreme. Okonomiyaki dining is often a DIY affair, and the ingredients will be delivered to your table raw in small bowls filled to the brim.

okonomiyaki ingredients - best japanese dishes for kids

You stir it yourself (careful not to spill!) and then pour the contents onto a hot skillet built into the table you’re sitting in front of. Specialized spatulas are provided.

okonomiyaki in Osaka - best food in japan for kids

Okonomiyaki can be a messy affair. Sophisticated Japanese cuisine it ain’t, but it’s some of the most fun food in Japan to eat with kids. The only thing is to remain aware of the hot skillet built into the table. Be wary of hot surfaces!

Where to try okonomiyaki

Of course, I’m biased (Keiko is from Osaka) but I think the best okonomiyaki is in the Kansai area. But that really doesn’t mean anything. It’s good everywhere. My favorite place to eat it in Tokyo is Sakuratei in Harajuku. In Osaka, it’s the streets behind Spa Word in the Shinsekai neighborhood. These are cook-it-yourself establishments, but if you’d like a more refined version cooked for you, try the Chibo chain.

Takoyaki (たこ焼き)

takoyaki in Osaka - best food in japan for kids

Takoyaki are small, spherical bite-size spheres using a similar batter recipe to the okonomiyaki mentioned above. Only here, there is a succulent chunk of octopus inside. Worried that the kids won’t like it? Let them try first…they may be surprised. A warning: understand that the inside of the ball is often much hotter than the outside, so cool accordingly. Don’t just pop one in your mouth or you could burn your tongue! Like okonomiyaki mentioned above, the recipe and variations differ wherever you buy them, but they’re some the best food in Japan and worth trying.

Where to try takoyaki

Others may disagree, but my favorite way to consume takoyaki is when walking around the Umeda and Shinsaibashi districts of Osaka. In Tokyo, we often ate it at Sankyuu, a warm mom & pop shop in our old neighborhood in Monzen Nakacho, where you cooked it yourself at the table.

Gyoza (餃子)

gyoza - best food to try in japan

Chinese restaurants are all over Japan, and in my opinion, the Japanese version of Chinese food often rivals that of the originators. Gyoza dumplings, however, are as much a Japanese food now as anything, and Japanese gyoza purveyors have perfected them.

The best gyoza dumplings will be crispy on the bottom and tender on the top. They can be eaten alone or accompanied by fried rice or a bowl of ramen. The dipping sauce for gyoza is safe for spice averse mouths, but be wary of other condiments on the table, which may include chili sauce and horseradish-heavy yellow mustard with the pungent punch of wasabi.

Where to try gyoza

You can find gyoza in just about any Chinese restaurant in the country. Also, most ramen shops sell gyoza as well. Great food to try in Japan if your picky eaters already like Chinese food. 

We have MEGA-post on Tokyo for Kids

The Fryer: The Best Food in Japan 

The best Japanese food has a reputation for being super healthy, but fried foods are just as common in the archipelago as anywhere else. You’ll find deep-fried Japanese dishes in both rural diners and high-end bistros. It might surprise you to discover that in many fried Japanese foods, the crunchy object that’s just been fried is immediately dropped into a bowl of soup or otherwise dampened with sauce. I considered this a travesty: the crunch is the best part! Even some of the best Japanese dishes do this. Yet as I have discovered, there are a hundred great ways to eat delicious things. Here is the best Japanese food for the crunch-lovers.

Tempura (天ぷら)

tempura - best food in japan for kids

Possibly the most common fried food in Japan for kids, tempura can be found as both fast food and fine dining. One of the major factors in price is often the quality of the oil: the lighter the oil is, the better, lighter, and more expensive the tempura can be. This is some of the best Japanese food for picky eaters because it’s so close to what’s eaten in the West. It’s also so well cooked that there are no worries about eating anything raw. 

Where to eat tempura: Tempura and noodles like udon and soba are often served together, so you’ll often find overlap between these on menus.

Tonkatsu (とんかつ)

tonkatsu - What to Eat in Japan

Isn’t this just a breaded and fried pork cutlet? Well, yes and no. The quality and presentation of Japanese tonkatsu raise the dish to another level in my book, and it easily makes this list of what to eat in Japan for picky eaters. In fact, it’s one of those foods that our family craves when we return to Japan. One of the most common ways to eat tonkatsu involves grinding your own sesame seeds to add to the sauce.

Tip: A lot of tonkatsu restaurants have an all-you-can-eat aspect to them. No, not all the fried stuff you desire, but often they have unlimited extras, such as rice, soup, pickles, shredded cabbage, or some combination of these.

Where to try Tonkatsu

Major chains include Maisen, Saboten, and Wako. Wako even has an English website. However, you’re likely to run across a tonkatsu restaurant in any busy shopping or underground area of Tokyo, Osaka or other major cities.

Other Food to Try in Japan

Here is more of what to eat in Japan for kids and picky eaters. These top Japanese dishes didn’t fit well in the other categories, but are commonly found and what to eat in Japan when in a bind.

Corn Soup

corn soup - best food in japan for kids

No, this isn’t my favorite, nor is it the healthiest dish on the list. But hey, kids love it, and if you’re with super hungry kids at a family restaurant (such as Jonathan’s, Royal Host, etc.), then this is the best food in Japan to get fast. It’s already prepared and just needs to be poured into a bowl and handed to you. Remember this when kids need something to eat right away. It tastes as it sounds, and is often a great stopgap appetizer for us before the main dishes arrive. It’s creamy, corny (literally) and satisfying.

Sushi (寿司) and Sashimi (刺身)

sushi and sashimi - best food to try in japan

What’s the best Japanese food to eat in Japan? Well, duh! Here you’ll find some of the freshest fish prepared by some of the most experienced people to ever shred a wasabi root. If your kids like sushi, then take them to a kaiten zushi (回転寿し) style restaurant. These are the ones with the conveyor belts moving small places of fish around the restaurant. You can find kaiten zushi restaurants all over Japan. However, understand that this version of sushi restaurant isn’t always the most sophisticated or refined. It’s not the best sushi in Japan. Not that it matters. I mean, even takeout sushi in Tokyo is often better quality than what you might order in other parts of the world.

tsukiji sushi and sashimi - best food to try in japan

Tip: If the kids don’t like wasabi, tell your server “Wasabi Nuki” (わさび抜き), and they’ll leave it off. Same goes for many sushi takeout places. Show them the package you want, and say “wasabi nuki” and they’ll make you one free of the green stuff.

Side note: It’s funny: when we were living in Spain, our kids would bring a few maki (rice rolled in seaweed) to their Spanish schools for a morning snack. Their friends think they are eating sushi. Hardly. Inside you’d find tuna fish, avocado, cucumber, sardines or some combination of them.

Where to eat sushi & sashimi

takeaway sushi and sashimi - best food to try in japan

The old Tsukiji Fish Market was our #1 choice, of course, but there are are a number of reliable chains like Sushi Zanmai. As for kaiten zushi, we’ve had good meals at Hamayoshi in Ueno and Pintokona in Roppongi. Sushi Ro is a lower-end conveyor belt sushi chain worth checking out. Don’t diss on takeout sushi, either. We often got pre-packaged sushi from supermarkets and chains like Chiyoda and loved it.

Best Japanese Desserts & Fruit

japanese fruit - food to try in japan

You didn’t think I’d leave out the sweets, did you? Japan may not rely on sugar-filled desserts the way many of their Western counterparts may. However, Japanese desserts are spectacular and often aesthetically beautiful as well. This goes double for the Japanese versions of western desserts. Cakes tend to honor the light textures of French pastries, while chocolates delve into the rich Belgian tradition. My daughter would say the best food in Japan is in this category, and I’m sure other kids would agree!

Anpan (あんぱん)

anpan. the best food in japan for kids

This is a baked sweet bread filled with anko (餡子 orあんこ), a sweet bean paste. I know, I know: many Westerners have a hard time getting over beans being sweet instead of savory. However, many kids get over this immediately and claim that anpan is the best Japanese food in the world!

Melonpan (メロンパン)

melonpan. the best food in japan for kids

Yes, this is a melon-flavored pastry often encrusted with sugar on top. Both it and anpan can be found in Japanese bakeries all over the country. Some of the best Japanese food for quick snacks and breakfasts. 

Mochi (もち)

mochi - traditional japanese food

A continuation of Japan’s love affair with rice, mochi is simply glutinous rice paste. This one ingredient is served alone, grilled on a stick or more elaborately prepared: stuffed with ice cream, sweet beans, strawberries, or other elaborate concoctions.

sakuramochi- my favorite japanese dessert

Our favorite version of mochi is known as sakura mochi (桜もち), which is pink mochi pocket stuffed with sweet bean paste and wrapped in a pickled leaf of the Japanese cherry blossom tree.

Where to try Mochi

The easiest place to find mochi is the supermarket, but you’re likely to find it in dessert shops and elsewhere.

Dango (団子 or だんご)

dango - japanese food blog

A version of mochi mentioned above, dango are often balls made from rice flour that are then prepared and served dozens of ways. Our favorite way is mitarashi dango (pictured here) a version that’s grilled over charcoal, then dipped into a sweet & salty soy-based sauce.

Where to try Dango

Like mochi mentioned above, local dessert shops and supermarkets are dependable places to find dango. They’re also frequently on sale at stalls set up near parks, festivals and other events and populated areas.

Taiyaki (たいやき)

taiyaki - the best food in japan for sweet tooths

This fish-shaped pastry actually has no fish in it. It’s a pastry, really, best eaten right off the grill. The interior is usually filled with either custard or sweet bean paste, but some specialty shops around town may have chocolate or other fillings. 

Where to try Taiyaki

Our favorite spot is Kanda Daruma, a stand in Tokyo near Akihabara and the 3331 Arts Building.

Baby Castella (ベビーカステラ)

baby castella - japanese street food

The original Portuguese recipe for castella cake has been popular in Japan since it was first introduced to the archipelago in the 1500s. You’ll find this bite-size take on it at stalls at festivals and in front of parks like Yoyogi Koen. What to eat in Japan when you need something not too sweet but filling. 

Kakigori (かき氷)

kakigori - best japanese desserts in the summer

This shaved ice sweet treat is a summer favorite across Taiwan, Korea and most of east Asia. Japanese shaved ice comes in dozens of forms. Some have fruit and condensed milk, while others add puddings and sweet beans. Our daughter especially loves the sickly-sweet “snow-cone” style popular in North America and elsewhere. You know the one: drizzled with a rainbow of high-fructose syrups. That’s not an endorsement, but it’s what to eat in Japan when you need to cool down on a summer day. 

Where to try kakigori

Visit any place where kids congregate in the summer, and you’ll see signs with the Chinese character for ice (氷). You’ll also see plastic versions of kakigori in the glass displays of restaurants everywhere. The best Japanese food (is it a food really?) when you need to cool off in the summer.

Crepes (クレープ)

japanese crepes - What to Eat in Japan

Japanese crepes use the same style of egg batter as French crepes, and then fill it with all sorts of goodies, such as fruit, puddings, Nutella, whipped cream, and custard. My personal favorite has blueberry jam and a thin slice of cheesecake inside. Many Japanese food stands will have displays showing you plastic simulations of their menu, along with numbers to order by. Some stands sell savory crepe versions as well, with items like ham & cheese, corn, and tuna/mayo. But we all know which versions our kids will order, don’t we?

Where to try Japanese crepes

Our favorite spots are in Tokyo on Takeshita street  (竹下通り) in Harajuku. There are a number of stands along this road. Just pick whichever has the shortest line. You may find something in nearby Omotesando, as well.

Japanese Sweet Potato (焼き芋 or やきいも)

japanese sweet potato - yaki imo - best food in japan

One of the simplest and best Japanese food for kids and adults alike. This is Japanese culinary simplicity at its best. It’s just a potato, usually roasted by charcoal, but its mellow, satisfying flavor will ring true. The best Japanese food ordered on the street in winter. 

Where to eat Japanese sweet potato

Just listen for the call: “Yaaaakiii iMohhhhh!” You’ll hear it in rural neighborhoods and urban centers alike. Many sellers have mobile stalls, complete with an oven, selling them everywhere in the colder months.

Find One of The Best Family Hotels in Osaka

Japanese Fruit

Not all that is sweet is sugar. Japanese fruit is some of the best Japanese food we’ve ever had. Try these locally-grown fruits during your visit to the country.

Japanese White Peaches (桃 – もも -momo)

japanese peaches - the best food in japan

Seriously: these things are amazing. I grew up near Atlanta Georgia, the supposed “Peach State.” I liked peach cobbler and other peach-based desserts growing up but was never a particularly huge fan of the fruit itself. When Keiko told me that I had to try a Japanese peach, I said: “yeah, whatever.” Now I know. Wow. Completely different flavor.

Asian Pears (梨 – なし – nashi)

asian pears - the best fruit in japan

This is one of my favorite fruits in the world. Bearing little resemblance to the elongated Western pear I grew up eating, a good Asian pear is firm, crisp, and resonates with a deep, almost musky flavor that I am at a loss of words to describe.

Fuji Apples (富士りんご – Fuji Ringo)

fuji apples - best japanese fruit

If you like hard, sweet, crunchy apples, then this is the best Japanese fruit for you. Fuji apples are often huge and juicy but retain that crisp texture for much longer than most firm apples.

Mandarin/Satsuma Oranges (みかん – mikan)

mikan - popular japanese fruit - What to Eat in Japan in winter

Easy to peel and usually seedless, the mikan is an eastern version of the mandarin orange (also called satsuma) and one of our favorite Japanese food to eat in winter when they’re in season. My in-laws buy them by the crate in December. Our fingers are literally orange from peeling one after another for hours.

Persimmon (かき – kaki)

persimmon - japanese fruit

Another winter staple fruit, the Japanese persimmon has a hearty flavor and a firm texture that my kids love. For whatever reason, I didn’t really care for them for years, but now I mix them into salads and relish them on their own.

Strawberries (いちご – Ichigo)

japanese strawberries

What can I say? Japanese strawberries are some of the best in the world. That said, the best ones can run quite expensive, as well, so be wary.

Yuzu (柚子 – ゆず)

Yuzu - japanese fruit

This cousin to the lemon and lime produces one of my favorite flavors in the world. However, I’ve never eaten a yuzu off a tree. Confused? Don’t be. You’ll find the yuzu flavor in a variety of Japanese foods and drinks. With considerably more depth than its citrus relatives, yuzu makes just about anything taste better. Some of the best Japanese dishes have the essence of Yuzu in them. My sister totally fell in love with this flavor when she visited us in Japan. Now she has yuzu trees growing in her own garden in California.

Read our other posts on Japan with Kids

Is This All the Best Japanese Food There is?

I’d love to write about more must-try Japanese food for kids. If you want part two, part three or even more obscure and delicious Japanese food, let me know in the comments. Tell me your favorite Japanese dishes and where you eat them!

Further Reading:

Save & Share with Pinterest!

The best food in japan for kids PIN 1

The best Japanese Food for kids & picky eaters PIN 6

The best Japanese Food for kids & picky eaters PIN 5 The best Japanese Food for kids & picky eaters PIN 4

best food in japan for kids PIN 7

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. This means, at no extra cost to you,  we might receive a small commission if you make a purchase or book a Japanese food tour using those links. My opinions are my own and I only recommend places/services that I believe will genuinely help your travel.

Photo Credits via Creative Commons CC BY or other Royalty-free image sites. Some images may have been altered slightly via cropping or color enhancement:  #7, #8, #9, #10, #12, #14, #15, #19, #20, #21, #23, #24, #25, #26, #33, #34#42, #43, #44, #45, #46, #47, #48

Comments

  1. Do little kids need to have their own order of food at restaurants in a Japan, especially ramen shops you order food from the ticket machines? My kids six and nine usually just share one order because they have very little appetite when we eat in the restaurant. Thanks!

    • Hi Nandi,

      I believe that it really depends on the type of place you’re eating. In your case, with only two kids and it sounds like you plan to order something for them to share, so it should not be a big problem. Just ask for an extra plate/bowl. Enjoy!

  2. Great informative blog! Traveling with our 5yo daughter next week for the 1st time in Japan, and can’t wait. Btw, I’m in love with Yuzu, and as well i have tree in my garden in Croatia.

  3. michelle Dods says

    Loving all your posts relating to travel in Japan. We head there in May with our 2 children who are highly allergic to all nuts and intolerant to egg ( can tolerate some egg in cooking etc). Also one is allergic to fish – luckily the other LOVES sushi.
    Looking at your food recommendations I have come up with a few food options. Would any of the following usually contain nuts or fish.

    Yakisoba (焼きそば), Onigiri (おにぎり) obviously not tuna!, Yakiniku (BBQ beef) — 焼肉, Karaage (fried chicken) — 唐揚げ
    Gyudon (牛丼), Yakitori (焼き鳥), Gyoza (餃子), Tonkatsu (とんかつ)

    All help would be greatly appreciated.

    • Hi Michelle. Those are going to be two challenging allergies in Japan — especially fish. Chestnuts are common in sweets, but easy to avoid. Restaurants vary in their ingredients and cooking methods, and there is a chance that peanut oil (or oil with traces of peanut oil) could be used. Better to ask. Also, there is a lot of sesame used (as oil, or sprinkled on top of things, etc). I’ve read that sesame can trigger some people with nut allergies.

      Now with fish….fish is tricky. How strong is the allergy? Is it for actual fish flesh or is he/she sensitive to *anything* with fish derivatives in it? One of the main ingredients in Japanese cooking is dashi, which is made from bonito flakes. Dashi is in LOTS of Japanese food: soups, sauces, marinades, etc. I had a friend who was allergic (to fish and chicken) visit me in Tokyo many times, and he ate lots of curry, gyudon (beef bowls) and pork chops.

      As for the foods you describe, none of them use fish- or nut-based items as main ingredients. But in sauces….unclear. There is definitely sesame used in some sauces for yakiniku & tonkatsu, and ingredients like dashi are thrown around in places you might not expect, so the level of fish sensitivity is important.

      If you want, Keiko and I could send you some sentences to print out and show at restaurants, if that would help.

  4. When I was a child, in the 1960’s, my Japanese mother would bring home to us in the US fancy gift boxes of instant, individually packaged desserts that when hot boiled water was added would make a thick, sweet soup type dessert with small Japanese candies, and mochi. The powdery dry ingredients that made up the thick soupy and yummy desserts came in green(matcha), white(?), and brown(Red bean). She only told me the name Oshiruko, and as an adult I have found a more “grocery-convenience store” type Oshiruko, but not the green or white or brown exquisite, and fancy instant dessert. She bought them in Tokyo, Japan. My mother is no longer with us and I’m still searching for these very delectable desserts. Do you know anything about these?

    • There are many versions of this kind of sweet in Japan. It’s called Kaichu Shiruko. Kaichu means pocket. Basically, portable Shiruko.

      I am not sure if the same product from the 60’s is still available, but the ones from Tsuruya Yoshinobu sure look fairly close to your description.

      They don’t deliver overseas, unfortunately, but I hope this helps your search!

      • Yes, that’s very close to it! Similar packaging, same color for desserts, and same added mochi, and beans for the brown and green ones. I remember the white one had smaller, colorful, soft jelly type candies. Thank you so much! I’ll do more research now that I have the name, Kaichu Shiruko, and hopefully I can find a company that will ship to the U.S.😊

        • Perri, did you find someone that will ship to the US? I live in Okinawa and would be happy to send you some but I’m having trouble navigating the japanese website in order to order it. I’ll have to ask my Japanese friends if they know where to pick some up. Please let me know as I know how it is to miss pieces of home!

          • Perri Mink says

            Hi Michelle, I discovered that there are several online Japanese Personal Shopper companies that ship Internationally. I just got the package yesterday. I made all 3 shiruko and they are exactly as I remember, with the little Japanese candies too. Thank you for offering to help and thank you Jason for making my wish come true that I’ve yearned for many years.

  5. Melon-pan is a favorite in our family (along with anpan, cream-pan, and just about anything you get at a bakery in Japan). Yum! This list is making me hungry 🙂

Speak Your Mind

*

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

css.php