Food & Drink Overview

"Washoku" - A Cuisine Loved Around the World

Image of Nigiri Sushi
Photo:Nigiri Sushi

Among Japan's representative gourmet foods, Japanese food, such as sushi, tempura, sukiyaki and kaiseki cuisine, referred to as "Washoku," has been loved since ancient times.
In 2013, Washoku became the fifth cuisine in the world to be included on UNESCO's list of intangible cultural heritage related to food, following French cuisine, Mediterranean cuisine from Spain, Italy, Greece and Morocco, traditional Mexican cuisine, and Turkish Keskek.

There are four main characteristics of Japanese cuisine and other gourmet delicacies that can be enjoyed in Japan. They are as follows:

① Dishes Utilize of a Variety of Fresh Ingredients and Their Unique Qualities
Japan is a long country stretching from north to south and is blessed with rich natural landscapes, including mountains, villages, and vast oceans that allow fishing and agriculture to flourish.
Throughout Japan's long history, recipes and cooking methods that bring out the best of these fresh ingredients have also been developed.
Local gourmet foods that are unique to each region are also popular as B-grade gourmet (ordinary, yet tasty).

② Dishes Have a Healthy Nutritional Balance
The Japanese style of eating, which is based on one soup, rice and three dishes, is considered to be the ideal nutritional balance.
The use of umami, one of the five basic tastes (sweet, sour, salty and bitter), which expresses flavor, has led to a food culture with less animal fats and oils, which in turn has contributed to longevity and the prevention of obesity in Japan.

③ Dishes Express the Beauty of Nature and the Seasons Unique to Japan
Japan has four seasons, and each season brings color and enjoyment to Japan's beautiful natural landscape.
Japanese cuisine is rich in seasonal variations, using seasonal ingredients, decorating its dishes with flowers and leaves, and making the most of seasonal ingredients.

④ Dishes Have a Connection to New Year's Day and Other Annual Events
Japan's food culture is largely connected to the annual events of the year.
Family and community bonds have been strengthened through foods such as Osechi cuisine.

These are just a few of the many unique aspects of Japanese food that you won't find in other countries.

The Most Popular Japanese Dishes Around the World

Image of assorted tempura
Photo:Assorted tempura

Sushi, tempura, and ramen are some of the most popular Japanese dishes, and foreign tourists often line up for authentic Japanese sushi at popular restaurants.

The following are the rankings of everyone's favorite Japanese dishes according to (

No. 1 Sushi
No. 2 Tempura
No. 3 Karaage
No. 4 Tonkatsu (Pork cutlet)
No. 5 Nikujaga
No. 6 Soba
No. 7 Unaju (Unadon)
No. 8 Sashimi
No. 9 Udon
No. 10 Pork Miso Soup
No. 11 Sukiyaki
No. 12 Chawanmushi (steamed egg custard)
No. 13 Mizutaki
No. 14 Shabu-Shabu
No. 15 Dashi-Maki
No. 16 Oyakodon
No. 17 Shogayaki
No. 18 Oden
No. 19 Okonomiyaki
No. 20 Ochazuke
No. 21 Saba Misoni
No. 22 Miso Soup
No. 23 Somen
No. 24 Steak
No. 25 Chirashi Sushi
No. 26 Sanma Shioyaki (Salt-grilled saury)
No. 27 Shoyu Ramen
No. 28 Tendon (Tempura rice bowl)
No. 29 Ika Shiokara
No. 30 Gyutan
No. 31 Takoyaki
No. 32 Chikuzenni
No.33 Takikomi Gohan
No. 34 Katsudon
No. 35 Katsuo Tataki (Seared Skipjack tuna)
No. 36 Natto
No. 37 Kinpira
No. 38 Hiyayakko
No. 39 Mentaiko
No. 40 Zōni
No. 41 Yakisoba
No. 42 Tamago kake gohan
No. 43 Fried Shrimp
No. 44 Koya-dofu
No. 45 Kakuni
No. 46 Buri Daikon
No. 47 Omurice
No. 48 Shiraae
No. 49 Hijiki
No. 50 Kiriboshi Daikon
No. 51 Takuan
No. 52 Edamame
No. 53 Mozuku
No. 54 Unohana
No. 55 Okara
No. 56 Chanpon
No. 57 Ika Daikon (Simmered Daikon With Squid)
No. 58 Karashi Renkon

These Japanese foods or "Washoku," include gourmet dishes that have been imported from abroad and adapted to suit the Japanese taste over time.
Curry rice, ramen, croquettes, omurice, tonkatsu, spaghetti Napolitana, and anpan are some examples of these foods.

Conversely, some Japanese cuisine is composed of ingredients and cooking methods that are not used in Japan and have been altered in other countries.
Sushi is popular abroad as California rolls, spider rolls, and spicy tuna rolls.
There's also teriyaki, crab sticks and other surimi products, teppanyaki and more.

In recent years, the number of restaurants, cafes, hotels, Japanese restaurants, and izakayas where you can eat Japanese food has been rapidly increasing, and more and more foreigners are interested in experiencing authentic Japanese cuisine in their home countries.
According to a ranking of reasons for visiting Japan, "Eating Japanese food" is by far the most common reason for visitors to Japan from each country, with about 80% of visitors to Japan choosing this as their reason.
Especially for sushi; Foreign tourists often line up for authentic Japanese sushi at popular restaurants.

Other popular Japanese dishes include udon, monjayaki, okonomiyaki, soba, yakiniku, pasta, somen, takoyaki, blowfish, natto, shabu-shabu, karaage, hamburgers, hamburger steak, pizza, seafood, pancakes, umeboshi, miso soup, unagi (eel), wasabi, yakitori, sashimi, yaki gyoza, yakisoba, and grilled fish.

There are many family restaurants in the city that serve Italian, French, and Chinese cuisine adapted for the Japanese palate.

In recent years, convenience store food has been gaining a lot of attention in Japan.
Convenience store gourmet foods include hot foods, onigiri, bentos (boxed lunches), salads, many types of breads, oden, ice cream, sweets, and desserts, all of which are always fresh and inexpensive.
More and more foreigners are posting it as a recommendation on social media as a casual Japanese style food.

Moreover, theme park restaurants and concept restaurants based on the motifs of "kawaii," "robot," and "ninja," have become popular with foreign tourists, allowing them to enjoy Japanese food and entertainment at the same time.
Here are some of the unusual concept restaurants, izakayas, and bars you can enjoy in Japan.

・Restaurants based on the concept of a secret base where you can drink alcohol while watching robot anime
・Restaurants with a ghost motif interior and menu
・Restaurants where you can experience the world of the Arabian Nights
・Restaurants with a medical prison as the motif
・Restaurants where you can eat while enjoying a show by impersonators
・Izakaya where you can eat the fish caught in the fishing pond inside the establishment
・An Izakaya named after the popular professional wrestler Antonio Inoki
・Cafes with a vampire theme
・Restaurants that recreate the fantasy world of Alice in Wonderland
・Izakaya where you can drink alcohol and eat school lunches in a setting reminiscent of an elementary school classroom
・Izakaya with all-you-can-eat sweets
・Izakaya with a European church theme
・Izakaya with a gas station theme, where drinks are poured from a machine that resembles a gas station pump
・A restaurant where you can experience the riverbeds of Kyoto in Shinjuku, Tokyo
・Izakaya with a nostalgic atmosphere of the early Showa period
・Izakaya with the theme of the Warring States period and famous warlords
・Izakaya where ninja will welcome you to the establishment
・Restaurants with a prison theme where you're led into the restaurant in handcuffs
・A French dining restaurant in the image of a near-future space station
・An aquarium dining bar with a wall of water tanks
・The Robot Restaurant, chosen as "Japan's #1 Amusement Restaurant" by foreign tourists
・Izakaya where you can enjoy the world of the popular game "Monster Hunter"
・Izakaya in the image of a castle town in the Edo period
・Izakaya with the theme of the Shinsengumi and Sakamoto Ryoma, a hero at the end of the Edo period
・A concept izakaya based on the motif of the world of Cinderella
・Restaurants with VR and AR games
・Planetarium bars with a dim, romantic atmosphere
・Bars where penguins swim in the establishment
・Military bars where you can shoot air guns
・Railway izakaya with railway goods and train seats
・Canned food bars where you can eat canned food from different parts of the world
・Izakaya with monster figurines filling the restaurant
・A detective bar where you can actually request to do an investigation
・A monk bar where the barmaster is a practicing monk
・Izakaya with a haunted house theme

Enjoy Japanese Food at Your Leisure

Image of Matcha and Wagashi
Photo:Matcha and Wagashi

Japanese sweets (wagashi) made from adzuki beans and matcha are also becoming more and more popular.
Traditional Japanese confectioneries are hand-crafted by skilled artisans, and the number of foreign tourists attracted to the beauty of Japanese food is increasing.
These confectioneries are also popular as souvenirs among visitors to Japan.

Other Japanese sweets and gourmet foods are also popular with visitors to Japan as souvenirs, and Kit Kat, which sells many of Japan's local specialty flavors, has become a staple souvenir for tourists to Japan.
Japanese instant ramen and cup ramen are said to be of the highest quality in the world and come in a wide variety of flavors, making them another highly popular souvenir.
In the Philippines, "Seafood Noodles" are especially popular.

At the same, Japanese beverage culture is also spreading abroad.
Sake and shochu are particularly popular overseas, and there are many types of shochu, including rice shochu, barley shochu, potato shochu, soba shochu, and awamori.
Japanese whiskeys and wines are also popular.

Next, we'll introduce SAKE TIME's ( "2020 National Sake Rankings."
We recommend taking a trip across Japan in search of delicious sake!

Image of sake tasting
Photo:Sake tasting

No. 1 Juyondai (十四代) [Yamagata, Takagi Sake Brewery]
No. 2 Hanaabi (花陽浴) [Saitama, Nanyo Sake Brewery]
No. 3 Jikon (而今) [Mie, Kiyasho Sake Brewery]
No. 4 Shinshu Kirei (信州亀齢) [Okazaki Sake Brewery, Nagano]
No. 5 Koei Giku (光栄菊) [Saga, Kouei Kiku Sake Brewery]
No. 6 "No.6" [Akita, Shinsei Sake Brewery]
No. 7 Hanamura (花邑) [Akita, Ryoseki Sake Brewery]
No. 8 Kawanakajima Genbu (川中島 幻舞) [Nagano, Shusen Kurano]
No. 9 Hinotori (陽乃鳥) [Akita, Shinsei Sake Brewery]
No. 10 Sogga Père et Fils (ソガペールエフィス) [Nagano, Obuse Winery]
No. 11 Kudoki Jozu (くどき上手) [Yamagata, Kamenoi Sake Brewery]
No.12 Hououbiden (鳳凰美田) [Tochigi, Kobayashi Sake Brewery]
No. 13 Kameizumi (亀泉) [Kochi, Kameizumi Sake Brewery]
No. 14 Sharaku (写楽/寫樂) [Fukushima, Miyaizumi Sake Brewery]
No. 15 Gakki Masamune (楽器正宗) [Fukushima, Okidaikichi Main Shop]
No. 16 Amagaeru (天蛙) [Fukushima, Hiroki Sake Brewery Main Shop]
No. 17 Hiroki (飛露喜) [Fukushima, Hiroki Sake Brewery Main Shop]
No. 18 Akabu (赤武) [Iwate/Akabu Sake Brewery]
No. 19 Kamonishiki (加茂錦) [Niigata, Kamonishiki Sake Brewery]
No. 20 Nabeshima (鍋島) [Saga, Fukuchiyo Sake Brewery]
No. 21 Aramasa (新政) [Akita, Shinsei Sake Brewery]
No. 22 Zaku (作) [Mie, Shimizu Sake Brewery]
No. 23 Kamoshibi Tokuheiji (宮寒梅) [Aichi, Banjo Sake Brewery]
No. 24 Miyakanbai (宮寒梅) [Miyagi, Kanbai Sake Brewery]
No. 25 Kaze no Mori (風の森) [Nara, Yucho Sake Brewery]
No. 26 Asahi Taka (朝日鷹) [Yamagata, Takagi Sake Brewery]
No. 27 Sawaya Matsumoto (澤屋まつもと) [Kyoto/Matsumoto Sake Brewery]
No. 28 Machida Shuzo (町田酒造) [Gunma, Machida Sake Brewery]
No. 29 Kachikoma (勝駒) [Toyama, Kiyoto Sake Brewery]
No. 30 Denshu (田酒) [Aomori, Nishida Sake Brewery]
No. 31 Eiko Fuji (栄光冨士) [Yamagata, Fuji Sake Brewery]
No. 32 Ibi (射美) [Gifu, Sugihara Sake Brewery]
No. 33 Oroku (王祿) [Shimane, Oroku Sake Brewery]
No. 34 Matsumidori (松美酉) [Kanagawa, Nakazawa Sake Brewery]
No. 35 Takachiyo (高千代) [Niigata, Takachiyo Sake Brewery]
No. 36 Toyobijin (東洋美人) [Yamaguchi, Sumikawa Sake Brewery]
No. 37 Daishinshu (大信州) [Nagano, Daishinshu Sake Brewery]
No. 38 Shuho (秀鳳) [Yamagata, Shuho Sake Brewery]
No. 39 Yanma (山間) [Niigata, Niigata Daiichi Shuzo]
No. 40 Amaneko (亜麻猫) [Akita, Shinsei Sake Brewery]
No. 41 Bou (望) [Tochigi, Tonoike Sake Brewery]
No. 42 Muga (無我) [Yamagata, Tate no Kawa Sake Brewery]
No. 43 Senkin (仙禽) [Tochigi, Senkin]
No. 44 Kikutaka (菊鷹) [Aichi, Fujiichi Sake Brewery]
No. 45 Mimurosugi (みむろ杉) [Nara, Imanishi Sake Brewery]
No. 46 Morishima (森嶋) [Ibaraki, Morishima Shuzo Brewery]
No. 47 Isojiman (磯自慢) [Shizuoka, Isojiman Sake Brewery]
No. 48 Nito (二兎) [Aichi, Maruishi Sake Brewery]
No. 49 Noguchi Naohiko Sake Institute (農口尚彦研究所) [Ishikawa, Noguchi Naohiko Sake Institute]
No. 50 Haneya (羽根屋) [Toyama, Fumigiku Sake Brewery]

Dining Etiquette in Japan

Image of Japanese Dining Etiquette
Photo:Japanese Dining Etiquette

Please note that there are certain manners and etiquette that are unique to Japanese cuisine.
It is considered bad manners to eat rice or miso soup without holding the bowls, or to lean over the tableware.
Also, all dishes (with the exception of soups) are typically eaten with chopsticks.

In today's world, you can now easily gather information about these popular Japanese foods through the Internet or on social networking sites.
YouTube and Vimeo are also loaded with videos about them.
There are many highly attractive cooking and promotional videos from all over the country, so you can find your favorite Japanese foods!

COOL JAPAN VIDEOS is a website that introduces the charms of Japan through videos, and introduces many great videos about Japanese cuisine and gourmet food in Japan!