10 Winter Food You Should Try in Japan

oden Food & Drinks

As winter gets closer, what comes to your mind to warm yourself from the cold weather? It could be sweaters or a cozy blanket but how about the delicious winter foods? It warms you up from inside your body while satisfying your stomach at the same time. Most of them can be found at supermarkets and convenience stores and you can enjoy it at home! Here are our winter food recommendations that you should try in Japan.

1. Oden (おでん)

Oden (おでん) is a type of traditional Japanese stew that is loved by many people of all ages. It contains a variety of food ranging from boiled egg, radish (called Daikon (大根) in Japanese), Konnyaku (こんにゃく) (traditional Japanese food made from konjac), and fish cakes. We put them in a pot and boil them together with delicious soup generally made of soy sauce and soup stock. The mild taste is easy to try even for children and those who have never had Oden before. Some people enjoy different flavors by adding some seasoning or spice such as karashi, Japanese mustard. You can find them at convenience stores where each ingredient is sold individually. In some areas, people eat oden with miso.


Where to buy/enjoy Oden in Japan?

You can find Oden at convenience stores in Japan. Generally, they sell it only for the winter season when they can expect high sales as the cold weather encourages more people to buy it. Each ingredient is sold individually, and the price is shown along with the name of each ingredient. You need to take out the ingredients that you want to buy from the soup and pack them in a container on your own and bring it up to the register.

Also you can try oden during this Food and Drink Tour at Sunamachi.

2. Hot Pot (お鍋)

Hot Pot is one of the most popular dish styles that is essential for Japanese people in the winter season. We usually enjoy it with a variety of vegetables and meat cooked and served in a large pot together. There are a wide range of hot pot styles according to each region and even household, so it is difficult to define what the hot pot actually is. In some regions, people put local specialties in hot pot such as “Kiritanpo” (きりたんぽ), which is known as a famous traditional food in Akita prefecture. Hokkaido is home to “Ishikari Nabe”(石狩鍋), a hot pot featuring fresh salmon cooked with miso-based source. “Chanko Nabe”(ちゃんこ鍋) refers to a special hot pot generally served to Sumo wrestlers! 

Also read: 10 Popular Types of Nabe (Hot Pot) in Winter in Japan

Chanko hotpot - sumo food

Where to buy/enjoy Hot pot in Japan?

You can enjoy hot pot at Japanese restaurants including Izakaya bars. Many people also enjoy hot pot at home which is preferable for those who want to put their favorite ingredients in it. At grocery stores, they sell a variety of hot pot soup base such as Kimchi (キムチ) base. Popular soup bases include soy sauce, salt, miso, and Tonkotsu which is also loved as the best flavor for ramen!

It is easier and faster to use a large pot to cook all the ingredients together, especially when you expect large groups or others to share it together. When the ingredients are cooked, you can dish them out on small plates so that everyone can enjoy their food individually! 

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3. Crab (かに)

Winter is definitely the best season to taste fresh crabs that are caught in the Sea of Japan. It is known to offer a suitable environment for crabs to grow with plenty of nutrients. There are a number of famous ports along the east coast of Japan where fresh crabs are caught and landed. In other countries, people usually enjoy only boiled-crabs, but here in Japan we cook them in a variety of ways. It is sometimes served as it is without cooking, which brings you a flavor of the sea. Tempura (天ぷら) is another popular way to enjoy the plump crab covered with the crispy coating.

What to eat in Japan

Where to buy/enjoy Crab in Japan?

Head to Hokuriku region if you want to try the best crabs in the winter season. There are luxurious Japanese-style inns that offer crab dishes along with other local delicacies. It also allows you to get a refreshing hot spring experience after having satisfying dishes. If you prefer somewhere more reasonable, visit Sushi restaurants which offer crabs for affordable prices. Kaiten Sushi (回転寿司) is a unique style of sushi restaurant where sushi is delivered on the conveyor belt! 

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4. Oyster (牡蠣)

Oyster is another blessing from the ocean that is loved by many Japanese people during the winter season. It is a type of shellfish with two hard shells which feature a unique shape. It is also eaten in other countries especially where they can expect fresh oysters. It is often referred to as “the milk of the sea”, as it contains plenty of nutrients such as calcium and magnesium which are essential for our bodies to grow!      

What to eat in Japan

Where to buy/enjoy Oyster in Japan?

Take the Shinkansen to get to Hiroshima which has a high production of fresh oysters. We enjoy it in different ways including raw, cooked with butter and soy sauce, or even put in a hot pot with other seafood. You can also buy one at grocery stores, but be careful as it could cause you a terrible stomachache if you get one which is not fresh enough to eat as it is! Make sure to cook them thoroughly before you eat them in that case.

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5. Mikan (ミカン)

Mikan is a kind of fruit which is often called Mandarin Orange in other countries. It is basically similar to what you imagine when you hear the word Orange, but the peel is softer and easy to remove with your hands. Japan boasts several famous production areas of Mikan such as Shizuoka (静岡) and Ehime (愛媛) prefecture, which is widely known for the warm climate suitable for them to grow fester. They contain plenty of Vitamin C, which brings a variety of health benefits to your body and skin. Once you remove the external peel you will find thinner white skin covering the flesh, which also contains nutrients including Vitamin C and dietary fiber!     

Where to buy/enjoy Mikan in Japan?

You can get Mikan at any grocery stores. It is generally cheaper to choose ones sold in bulk than buying them separately. Japanese people love to have them at home while warming themselves under the kotatsu. It is a traditional Japanese furniture that consists of a table equipped with an electric heater underneath!

6. Nikuman (肉まん)

Nikuman is a steamed meat bun that originates from China. It is generally made from flour dough which is filled with pork. In Japan, we have invented a variety of types of Nikuman that includes “Steamed pizza bun” (ピザまん), and sweet ones which have sweet red bean paste called “Anko” (あんこ) in it. The size and affordable price make it a perfect food to pick up at convenience stores when you feel a bit hungry!

Where to buy/enjoy Nikuman in Japan?

Nikuman is sold at convenience stores just like Oden. You can find a variety of Nikuman being steamed in an electric equipment installed by the cashier.  

7. Hayashi Rice (ハヤシライス)

If you want to cook something by yourself at home, try Hayashi rice which has a flavor similar to curry rice. The name originally comes from “Hashed beef with rice”, which developed as an original recipe in Japan during the Meiji period. It consists of rice with beef and onion cooked in a demi-glace sauce on the top of it. The mild taste is easy to try for children and those who don’t like spicy food!  

8. Curry Udon (カレーうどん)

Udon is a thick noodle made of wheat flour and curry udon (udon in the Japanese curry broth) will warm you up from the inside of your body! It often contains ingredients such as leek, fried tofu and beef or pork. Popular way to enjoy it is adding some toppings to the soup, such as mochi, cheese or tempura. Depending on the restaurant, you can choose the level of spiciness. 

curry udon

 Where to buy/enjoy curry udon in Japan?

There are a bunch of locations that offer curry udon in Japan. In Tokyo, Konaya in Sugamo is one of the most popular restaurants. In Kyoto, Mimikou is an international tourist-friendly place that also offers vegetarian/vegan options. 

9. Oshiruko (おしるこ)

Oshiruko or Zenzai is a sweet soup of red beans that often comes with mochi. It will warm you up well so it’s a popular Japanese sweet during the winter. It’s also sold at the vending machine as a canned drink only available during winter! 
You can find oshiruko at a traditional sweet parlor (Kanmidokoro in Japanese) in tourist destinations, such as Yanesen in Tokyo and Gion in Kyoto. 

oshiruko / zenzai

10. Sukiyaki (すきやき)

Sukiyaki is similar to hot pot but it’s mainly focused on beef. Ingredients are simmered in sweet and salty soy sauce based broth. The popular ingredients to put in sukiyaki other than thin-sliced beef are tofu, leek, hakusai (chinese cabbage), shiitake mushrooms and shirataki noodles. It is often eaten with raw egg, you pick the ingredients from the pot and then dip into the raw beaten eggs. 

Food and Drink Tour

We offer some Food and Drink Tours in the Tokyo and Kansai area. Let’s explore the area with a knowledgeable guide and try some local foods. Listening to the background stories will help you understand the culture and the area!

If you don’t have any plans for winter holiday this year yet, why don’t you take advantage of this opportunity to try Japanese food culture? It will take you on an exciting journey to discover great dishes that have been loved by Japanese people for many years!    

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Happy travelling!

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