Must-Eat Food in Japan: 29 Japanese Food Kids Love

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Visiting Japan is a feast for the eyes, the soul, and the stomach. You may know what Japanese dishes you like, but what must-eat food in Japan will the kids enjoy best?

Must-Eat Food in Japan for Kids — 29 Things They'll Love kyoto lunch

MUST-EAT FOOD IN JAPAN FOR KIDS

Our kids were born in Tokyo, where we lived until 2013, so they certainly have a taste for food in Japan. They like it all. And you know what? Your kids will find lots of Japanese food to love, as well.

Perhaps your kids already have their favorite Japanese foods. However, if you’re keen for them to expand their palates further, then this list is for you. Sure, you can find burgers and pizza all over the archipelago, but here I’m listing up some of what I consider to be the most kid-friendly Japanese dishes.

Have you read our MEGA-post on Tokyo for Kids? Don’t miss it!

Must-Eat Food in Japan for Kids — 29 Foods They'll Love sushi stop

There are so many must-try Japanese foods for kids that this list might just have to grow. Unlike much of Asian cuisine, it’s easy to find Japanese foods for kids that aren’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 must-eat food in Japan do you know from the list below? What Japanese foods would you consider kid-friendly? Any food in Japan I should add to this list?

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Must-Eat Food in Japan: 29 Japanese Food Kids Love

Must-Eat Food in Japan for Kids — 29 Foods They'll Love stall

MUST-TRY JAPANESE FOODS

This isn’t a complete list of Japanese food, and it doesn’t include many of my personal favorites. Instead, I’m listing up some of the most well-liked and popular Japanese food for kids. These items are universally loved and easily found all over the country.

This list of kid-friendly Japanese food is divided into six main sections: Noodles, Rice, the Grill, the Fryer, Desserts, and Fruit.

Contents

NOODLE-BASED FOOD TO TRY IN JAPAN WITH KIDS

Must-Eat Food in Japan for Kids — 29 Foods They'll Love noodles

Like much of Asia, noodle dishes are some of the most popular Japanese foods around. The main noodle types 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)

Must-Eat Food in Japan: 29 Japanese Food Kids Love

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 fish (or seaweed, or shiitake mushroom) stock, soy sauce, mirin, sake, and sugar.

Usually served atop a bamboo strainer, cold soba noodles are a great way to cool 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.

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Yakisoba (焼きそば)

Must-Eat Food in Japan: 29 Japanese Food Kids Love

This sweet and savory style of soba is definitely a must-eat food in Japan for kids. 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.

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.

Kitsune Udon (きつねうどん)

Must-Eat Food in Japan: 29 Japanese Food Kids Love

The much thicker udon noodle is possibly the most popular Japanese foods for kids. Kitsune udon is a soup noodle bowl with a portion of sweetened fried tofu placed on top.

Curry Udon (カレーうどん)

Must-Eat Food in Japan: 29 Japanese Food Kids Love

There are a number of restaurants and chains that specialize in a soup curry version of the popular noodle, and they’re often very kid-friendly, mild curries, children’s menus, and the silly plastic toys that a kid’s menu entails.

Ramen (ラーメン)

Must-Eat Food in Japan: 29 Japanese Food Kids Love

This ain’t the cheap ramen packs you ate in college decades ago. Ramen in Japan is an art form and a must-eat food in Japan. People line up for blocks for it, and 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 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.

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. These are just three chains, however. There are dozens of other nationwide franchises, and much of the best ramen is made by in family-run shops.

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RICE-BASED MUST-TRY FOODS IN JAPAN

Must-Eat Food in Japan for Kids — 29 Foods They'll Love rice

The staple of Asia, rice plays a vital role in Japanese cuisine and culture. Before I moved to Japan, I thought rice was just rice, 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 dishes synonymous with Japanese food.

Onigiri (おにぎり)

Must-Eat Food in Japan: 29 Japanese Food Kids Love

Japan’s most ubiquitous fast food. As beloved and varied in Japan as the sandwich is in the West, the onigiri rice ball is Japanese food boiled down to its essential elements: rice and salt. 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. It could be tuna and mayo. There’s also a possibility that it could be squid guts, so be careful (we like 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. After all, they’re only a dollar or two, so it’s worth the risk. 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.

Inari Zushi (いなり寿司)

Must-Eat Food in Japan for Kids — 29 Foods They'll Love sushi stop

Inari zushi is the simplest form of sushi. They’re balls of sushi rice (with a slight 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 chestnuts, sesame, and mountain vegetables, but most inari zushi are plain or have a simple sprinkling of sesame and salt. The kids should love them in any form.

Where to try inari zushi

Like the onigiri mentioned above, inari are super common in supermarkets and convenience stores.

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Hayashi Rice (ハヤシライス)

Must-Eat Food in Japan for Kids — 29 Foods They'll Love sushi stop

Curry and rice is often mild and very dish found throughout Japan. If you’re concerned about spice levels, however, then I suggest trying Hayashi rice. It’s almost never spicy and is a must-eat food in Japan for spice averse kids. 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 that specializes in yōshoku, or Japanese adaptations of Western cuisine.

Omuraisu (オムライス)

Must-Eat Food in Japan for Kids — 29 Foods They'll Love sushi stop

Like fried rice? Like eggs for dinner? Then this is the dish for you. Omuraisu comes in many forms, but most involve an omelet encasing a filling rice and veggies. Many establishments put an overly generous dollop of ketchup on the top. If possible, choose the demi-glace version.

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 is just as good. One chain we frequent is RAKERU.

Gyudon (牛丼)

Must-Eat Food in Japan for Kids — 29 Foods They'll Love sushi stop

This is one of the most commonly-found fast foods in Japan, but 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 quite stringy compared to what they’re accustomed to, and then soon find the dish addictive.

Where to try gyudon

You’ll find gyudon fast food chains all over Japan, and elsewhere in the world (over 1400 international franchises, mostly through Asia/Pacific region). Yoshinoya and Matsuya are the McDonald’s and Burger King of Japan, with branches in many other countries. 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: MUST-TRY FOODS IN JAPAN

Must-Eat Food in Japan for Kids — 29 Foods They'll Love sushi stop

Whether it’s a hot skillet or a charcoal fire, lots of must-eat food in Japan is 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).

Yakitori (焼き鳥)

Must-Eat Food in Japan for Kids — 29 Foods They'll Love sushi stop

Possibly one of Japan’s most famous exports, 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.

Where to try yakitori:Iseya in Kichijoji is a good choice if you’re in the area 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.

Must-Eat Food in Japan for Kids — 29 Foods They'll Love sushi stop

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. Most izakaya chains have good yakitori selections.

Yakiniku (焼肉)

Must-Eat Food in Japan for Kids — 29 Foods They'll Love sushi stop

Simply translated as “grilled beef,” an evening at a good yakiniku establishment is one of our favorite meals, and it certainly ranks as one of my top must-try foods in Japan. In most places, you order several small plates of raw meat and vegetables, and then proceed to cook them by yourselves 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. I’ve witnessed kids burn their hands when adults weren’t looking, so make sure you keep an eye on little hands!

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 kids 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)

Must-Eat Food in Japan for Kids — 29 Foods They'll Love sushi stop

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.

Best eaten (we think) in the Kansai cities like Kyoto and Osaka, okonomiyaki is found everywhere and in different regional forms. 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.

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.

Must-Eat Food in Japan for Kids — 29 Foods They'll Love sushi stop

Okonomiyaki can be a messy affair. Sophisticated Japanese cuisine it ain’t, but it sure is a hit with kids. The only thing is to remain aware of the hot skillet built into the table. Be wary of little hands near hot surfaces!

Where to try okonomiyaki

Of course, I’m biased (my wife’s 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, and 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.

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Takoyaki (たこ焼き)

Must-Eat Food in Japan for Kids — 29 Foods They'll Love takoyaki

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, but understand that the inside of the ball is often much hotter than the outside, so cool accordingly. Like okonomiyaki, the recipe and variations differ wherever you buy them, but they’re all 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)

Must-Eat Food in Japan for Kids — 29 Foods They'll Love Japanese gyoza

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 of 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 a horseradish-heavy yellow mustard with the pungent punch of wasabi.

Where to try gyoza

You can find gyoza at just about any Chinese restaurant in the country. Also, most ramen shops sell gyoza as well.

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THE FRYER: MUST-EAT FOOD IN JAPAN FOR KIDS

Must-Eat Food in Japan for Kids — 29 Foods They'll Love Japanese tempura 2

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 goodness in both rural diners and high-end bistros.

It might surprise you to discover that in many Japanese dishes, 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!), but as you will see, there are a hundred great ways to eat delicious things.

Tempura (天ぷら)

Must-Eat Food in Japan for Kids — 29 Foods They'll Love tempura

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 (and more expensive).

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)

Must-Eat Food in Japan for Kids — 29 Foods They'll Love sushi stop

Isn’t this just a breaded and fried pork cutlet? Yes and no. The quality and presentation of tonkatsu raises the dish to another level in my book, and it easily makes this list of must-eat food in Japan for kids. 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.

Best Food Tour in Japan and Cooking Classes to Experience

Sometimes, it helps to take a tour to experience something different with someone who can explain about food and culture behind them. Below are some tours you can consider.

More Tours

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

Tsukiji Fish Market Tour in Tokyo with Samples and Coffee – Morning tour with a seafood breakfast. You get to visit Tsukiji Fish Market

Small-Group Wagyu Beef and Kaiseki Ryouri Tokyo Cooking Class – You will prepare a total of 7-8 different types of dishes from appetizers to desserts including delicious Wagyu steak as a main dish.

Experience Local Food and Drink on Sunamachi Ginza Shopping Street (TOKYO) – Morning tour visiting Sunamachi Ginza, one of the best local shopping streets in Tokyo. Try a vast array of traditional Japanese foods including inarizushi, yakitori, and oden.

OTHER MUST-EAT FOOD IN JAPAN FOR KIDS

Here are a few must-try Japanese foods for kids that didn’t fit into the above categories — including the most obvious one.

Corn Soup

Must-Eat Food in Japan for Kids — 29 Foods They'll Love sushi stop

No, this isn’t my favorite, nor is it the healthiest dish on the list, but hey, kids love it, and it’s one of the fastest things to the table in many restaurants. Remember that when kids need something to eat now. It tastes like 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)

Must-Eat Food in Japan for Kids — 29 Foods They'll Love sushi stop

The most recommended must-eat food in Japan with kids is sushi. 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.

Kids love the kaiten zushi (回転寿し) style restaurants best — 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. Not that it matters. I mean, even takeout sushi in Tokyo is often tastier than what you might order at a nice restaurant somewhere in the west away from the coast.

The best place to eat sushi in Japan? The Tsukiji Fish Market, of course. I’ve written about how to visit the Tsukiji Fish Market with kids, and think it should be on your list of travel experiences, as well.

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, we’re living in Spain at the time I’m writing this and our kids bring a few maki (rice rolled in seaweed) to their Spanish school 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

The Tsukiji Fish Market is 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.

Must-Eat Food in Japan for Kids — 29 Foods They'll Love sushi stop

Need more food post? Here’s on Non Spicy Food in Malaysia

JAPANESE FRUIT & DESSERTS

Must-Eat Food in Japan for Kids — 29 Foods They'll Love fruit

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, the desserts they enjoy 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.

Below are some of the best desserts for kids (and you!) to try in Japan

Mochi (もち)

Must-Eat Food in Japan for Kids — 29 Foods They'll Love sushi stop

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.

Our favorite version is known as sakura mochi, 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 point you towards is the supermarket, but you’re likely to find it in dessert shops and elsewhere.

Dango(団子/だんご)

Must-Eat Food in Japan for Kids — 29 Foods They'll Love sushi stop

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)

Must-Eat Food in Japan for Kids — 29 Foods They'll Love sushi stop

This fish-shaped pastry is 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 near Akihabara and the 3331 Arts Building.

Baby Castella (ベビーカステラ)

Must-Eat Food in Japan for Kids — 29 Foods They'll Love sushi stop

The original Portuguese recipe for castella cake has been popular in Japan since it was first introduced to the archipelago in the 1500’s. You’ll find this bite-size take on it at stalls at festivals and in front of parks like Yoyogi Koen.

Kakigori (かき氷)

Must-Eat Food in Japan for Kids — 29 Foods They'll Love sushi stop

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: from the fruit and condensed milk to 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.

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.

Crepes (クレープ)

Must-Eat Food in Japan for Kids — 29 Foods They'll Love sushi stop

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 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 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/やきいも)

Must-Eat Food in Japan for Kids — 29 Foods They'll Love sushi stop

A quintessential 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 it’s mellow, satisfying flavor will ring true on a crisp fall or winter morning.

Where to eat Japanese sweet potato

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

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JAPANESE FRUIT

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

Japanese white peaches (桃 /もも/momo)

Must-Eat Food in Japan for Kids — 29 Foods They'll Love peaches

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)

Must-Eat Food in Japan for Kids — 29 Foods They'll Love sushi stop

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)

Must-Eat Food in Japan for Kids — 29 Foods They'll Love sushi stop

If you like hard, sweet, crunchy apples, this one’s 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)

Must-Eat Food in Japan for Kids — 29 Foods They'll Love mikan

Easy to peel and usually seedless, the mikan is an eastern version of the mandarin orange (also called satsuma) and a winter staple in Japanese households. 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)

Must-Eat Food in Japan for Kids — 29 Foods They'll Love kaki

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)

Must-Eat Food in Japan for Kids — 29 Foods They'll Love 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)

Must-Eat Food in Japan for Kids — 29 Foods They'll Love yuzu

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.

Side note: 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

What’s Your Must-Eat Food in Japan?

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 favorites, and where you eat them!

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Must-Eat Food in Japan: 29 Japanese Food Kids Love

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Comments

  1. 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.

  2. 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!

      • Perri Mink says:

        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.

  3. 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 🙂

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