|Yakitori, Shabu-Shabu and Sukiyaki
If you are visiting Japan and are looking for an alternative to all that fish and seafood, don’t worry. Over the years the Japanese have acquired a taste for meat and there are many restaurants that serve grilled meat and other dishes for non-vegetarians.
The most common kind of restaurant you will find is yakitori restaurants. Yakitori literally means grilled chicken, and the specialty at these restaurants is chunks of chicken meat (and other parts of the chicken) grilled over a charcoal fire on thin skewers and seasoned with salt, or a sweet soy sauce. Yakitori are generally drinking establishments and places to socialize, however, they offer a cheap and relaxing place to get a quick meal.
Sukiyaki is another of Japan’s best-known meat dishes, and most westerners seem to enjoy them. The food is cooked right at the table, which makes for a fun dining experience. Sukiyaki is also commonly cooked in people’s homes and if you are lucky enough to be invited to someone’s house for dinner, you may get to enjoy this in an intimate setting. Sukiyaki is basically thinly sliced beef cooked in a broth of soy sauce, stock and sake, along with assorted vegetables and tofu. You use your chopsticks to serve yourself from the pot and then dip your food in a bowl that contains a raw egg. If the raw egg is too much, you can skip this part.
Shabu-shabu is also prepared at your table and consists of thinly sliced beef cooked in a hot broth with vegetables. When you eat shabu-shabu, you take the meat and vegetables of the plate and swish it around in the broth until it is cooked. The food is then dipped in some assorted sauces and then eaten. The name shabu-shabu comes from the swishing sound the beef makes when it is cooking. Shabu-shabu restaurants are a lot of fun, but can also be fairly expensive, so it’s best to check the price first.
Tempura is also one of the most famous Japanese foods. Tempura consists of fish, prawns or vegetables cooked in a fluffy, non-greasy batter. Tempura is best when hot, so try not to wait too long and use the light brown sauce (ten-tsuyu) to cool each peace before eating.
Shokudo are inexpensive restaurants that usually have wax displays of their menus in the front window. These shops have a wide variety of Japanese and Western dishes and are a godsend for hungry people that haven't yet learned to read a Japanese menu. If you still are having trouble finding someplace to eat, family restaurants are a safe (albeit less exciting) choice. The menus usually have pictures and you'll find many western favorites. Department stores also have a pretty good variety of eateries in their food court. If you happen to be in Japan in summer, beer gardens are a fun place to go. Sapporo is famous all over Japan for it's beer gardens, but many cities have rooftop beer gardens often with great views. Keep your eyes open for tabe-hodai or nomi-hodai deals (all you can eat and/or drink).
Teppanyaki restaurants are basically Japanese steakhouses, and although the food is cooked in front of you on a hot grill. Okonomiyaki restaurants are another fun place to eat. They are fairly inexpensive and one of the more unique eating experiences you will have. Guests usually sit around an iron hotplate and then their order is brought to them with all their ingredients in a bowl. The guests then stir up their bowl, in what looks to be pancake batter, and cook it themselves on the hot grill. After about 5 minutes your okonomiyaki (which also looks similar to a pancake) is finished and ready to eat.
Tonkatsu restaurants are also popular in Japan, and a good place to go if you are a meat eater who really wants to get filled up. Tonkatsu is a deep-fried breaded pork cutlet served with a special sauce, usually as part of a set menu (tonkatsu teishoku). Even if you don’t usually eat pork at home, you should try this dish once while you are in Japan – you’ll probably be pleasantly surprised. Most tonkatsu restaurants also let you choose from different cuts of pork, as well as chicken or prawns.
Nomi-ya are small local bars that can often be recognized by the large red lanterns hanging outside. They mainly serve sake and beer, but also have snacks and are a good place relax and meet over a drink. Izakaya are lively Japanese-style pubs with a fairly large menu of small dishes. Although izakaya are usually loud and smoky, they are great place to meet friends and enjoy a meal and to see Japanese people relax after a long day of work. Koryori-ya are small shops that serve popular Japanese dishes such as seasonal fresh fish and vegetables. They are often nothing more than a couple of tatami mat rooms, but are a good place for a quiet and inexpensive meal. Chuka Ryori-ya are Chinese restaurants and are usually moderately priced. Japanese tastes are not suited for very sweet or spicy foods, so Chinese, Indian and Thai food in Japan is generally toned down as a result.
For people who do not want to eat Japanese food everyday, Japan does feature many western, Indian, Thai and other Asian restaurants to choose from. Keep in mind that the farther you get from large metropolitan areas the less choices you will have, although will find many interesting family restaurants in rural areas that can be delicious.
Japan General Information
Please note: We will be updating this section in the near future. If you would like to help us do this, please do contact us. Thank you.