7 Must-Try Japanese Festival Foods

By Umami Recipe
7 Must-Try Japanese Festival Foods

There is a rich food culture rooted in the traditional Japanese culture of festivals. All countries have their own local festivals and celebrations. Similarly, each region in Japan has its own festivities, with dishes that accompany and complete the occasion. If you would like to know more about the food culture surrounding traditional Japanese festivals, we encourage you to refer to this page.

Representative Japanese Festival Food: Takoyaki

Takoyaki is one of the most popular festival foods in Japan. Takoyaki is a small golf ball sized snack with octopus and vegetables inside a round piece of dough. They are sold at festivals in Japan for about 500 yen per case (6 to 8 pieces), and the hot dough and the elasticity of the octopus make for a delicious dish.

Octopus is a very popular seafood in Japan, and is eaten more often than tuna, which is famous as sushi. Whenever there is a festival, people line up in front of the takoyaki stores first. The octopus inside the takoyaki is not the only attraction. The sauce and nori (seaweed) that is poured on top of the takoyaki are also important. For the sauce, worcestershire sauce or tonkatsu sauce, which is made by slowly simmering vegetables and fruits, is a favorite. Other toppings are mayonnaise with a strong flavor, aonori (green laver) and bonito flakes. Aonori is finely chopped seaweed that has a more pronounced flavor than regular nori, so it goes perfectly with the takoyaki. Incidentally, the batter for takoyaki is not only made of flour and water, but may also contain soup stock made from bonito flakes. By mixing the essence of fish into takoyaki, the flavor is enhanced with greater depth.

Takoyaki, one of the most popular festival foods, is also one of the most popular B-grade gourmet foods in Japan. In addition to festivals, takoyaki can be bought easily and cheaply at supermarkets and convenience stores. Since they are made from wheat flour, they are popular among children as they fill up their stomachs. Japanese people's love for takoyaki is evident from the fact that many families own takoyaki kits that allow them to cook these delectable snacks at home. Especially in Osaka and Hyogo prefectures in the Kansai region, takoyaki has become the second most popular home meal after okonomiyaki.

Takoyaki is a representative festival food loved by the Japanese people and is a must-try.

Popular festival Sweet: Chocolate Covered Banana

One of the most loved sweets at festivals in Japan is the chocolate covered banana. They are generally sold at festival stalls with the banana skewered with a single chopstick. The chocolate used to coat the bananas is mainly brown milk chocolate. However, depending on the store, white chocolate or colorful chocolate may also be used. Decorated chocolate bananas are also popular, where candy or another fruit is added to the chocolate. Since chocolate bananas are a simple dessert, they are easy to make at home. Add a generous amount of hot water-boiled chocolate to coat the banana, refrigerate for an hour, and your chocolate banana is ready. It can be said that chocolate bananas are an indispensable part of Japanese festivals.

Japanese Festival Essentials: Yakisoba

Japanese festival food is often rich in flavor and inexpensive. Yakisoba is another classic Japanese festival food dish that fits this description. Yakisoba is a noodle dish made of medium-thick noodles that are prepared on a hot plate with sauce. The word yakisoba literally means "grilled noodles" in Japanese. When it comes to noodle dishes, they are usually boiled or stewed. However, in the case of yakisoba, the noodles are fried over high heat on a hotplate or frying pan.

The ingredients in yakisoba are cabbage, pork, red ginger and bean sprouts. You may also add aonori (green laver), katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes) and squid or octopus if you like. Yaki-soba is a staple at festivals as well as a popular dish at home. The main attraction is that hungry children can eat their fill. Make your own yakisoba by adding your favorite ingredients left over from the day before. There is another reason why yakisoba is loved as a festival food; the strong flavoring of the sauce and mayonnaise. Most of the sauces used for yakisoba are sweet sauces. After frying the noodles in the sauce full of umami from fruits and vegetables, mayonnaise is added to finish the dish. The combination of sauce and mayonnaise is truly exquisite. Incidentally, takoyaki is also eaten with the same combination. As you can see, yakisoba is a family dish loved by Japanese people of all ages, and is a common site at festivals.

Festival Food with a Cute Appearance: Ningyo-yaki

There are some Japanese festival foods that are known for their cute appearance. Representative of this category is the Ningyo-yaki. Ningyo-yaki is a sweet treat made by pouring sweet dough into small molds and filling them with bean paste or custard cream.

The biggest feature of Ningyo-yaki is the griddle used for baking. The griddle has many molds that resemble the faces and bodies of small dolls. The batter is poured into the molds and cooked thoroughly on both sides to perfection. The batter used to make the animal faces and bodies is a sweet sponge cake batter that has a slight sweetness to it.

There are two main types of bean paste used for the filling of the cake batter: white and black paste. White bean paste is a sweet paste made from white kidney beans. On the other hand, black bean paste is made from red beans and brown sugar. White bean paste has a stronger bean flavor, while black bean paste has a sweeter flavor.

In addition to bean paste, custard cream is sometimes used as a filling for ningyo-yaki. Anko (sweet red bean paste) has a unique taste that may not be to everyone's taste, but custard cream is a familiar confectionary, making it a good choice when trying Ningyo-yaki for the first time. As you can see, ningyo-yaki is a Japanese festival food with fun variations.

Festival Food with Sweet and Salty Flavors: Taiyaki

Taiyaki, with its delightful taste of sweet and salty bean paste, is a festival dessert in the shape of a fish, the Tai. The outer dough is less sweet than the dough of Ningyo-yaki. The reason is to balance the dough with the sweetness of the filling, which has more anko or custard cream than the ningyo-yaki. The contents of taiyaki are the same as those of ningyo-yaki, anko (red bean paste) and custard cream, but because the size of the dough is larger, the filling of the anko is sometimes filled with chestnuts or cheese. Also, the dough itself can be matcha-flavored or strawberry-flavored. This is a Japanese festival food with a fun appearance of a fish.

Incidentally, some Japanese convenience stores sell a product called Taiyaki Ice Cream. This product is a taiyaki-like sandwich filled with sweet bean paste and ice cream. It is not as hot and fresh as a real taiyaki, but the sweet bean paste and ice cream are a perfect match. If you have a chance to stop by a convenience store in Japan, please give it a try.

As you can see, Taiyaki is a festival food loved by the Japanese. Please give it a try as a sweet treat to savor the sweetness and saltiness of the sweet bean paste.

Fluffy Festival Food: Wata-ame

Another popular festival food in Japan is the wata-ame, commonly known as cotton candy. Wata-ame is a treat that originated in the United States in the 19th century, and since the 20th century, it has become a festival treat in Japan. This sweet is made by filling a special machine for making wata-ame with sugar that resembles pomegranate, and then wrapping it around chopsticks or other objects to complete a lump of sweet cotton. Depending on the sugar and coloring used, wata-ame can take on many different hues. In Harajuku, the fashion center of Japan, rainbow-colored wata-ame is sold. The fluffy cloud-like appearance of wata-ame is also popular among children at festivals. If you go to a festival in Japan, you will see children begging for sweet wata-ame.

Incidentally, machines for making wata-ame at home are also available. For families with children, this machine is a great help in making cotton candy. Cotton candy at festivals is a snack that can be bought for about 200 to 300 yen, making it affordable for a child with pocket money, a reason why wata-ame is deeply connected to the memories of childhood.

A Festive Treat of Ice and Syrup: Shaved Ice

A summer treat at Japanese festivals is shaved ice with syrup. Shaved ice is a sweet treat made by roughly shaving ice into a cup and then pouring sweet syrup on top. The syrup usually comes in flavors like melon, strawberry and blue Hawaii. After eating shaved ice, the color of your tongue takes on the color of the syrup, making it a fun treat for kids. Shaved ice is a sweet that has become so popular that it has become a specialty. From Taiwan, there are extravagant fruit shaved ice with mangoes and pineapples, while Japanese shaved ice stores specialize in Japanese shaved ice with special ice and bean paste. Shaved ice treats are the perfect sweet for the hot summer season. The fact that there are many variations of flavors is also a secret for its longevity.

Japanese Festivals are a Treasure Trove of Cheap and Delicious Food!

We took a whirlwind tour of the most famous foods at Japanese festivals. All of these foods are closely related to the lives of Japanese people. The combination of sauces and mayonnaise or sweet dough and bean paste is very familiar to Japanese people. Try some of the Japanese festival foods and find out what flavors the Japanese like.

Umami Recipe Team

Bringing what's new on Japanese food and culture, from traditional to current trends to your home.