Pandering to the otaku with cute girls, hunky boys, and fantasy settings aside, anime is also a brief window to the Japanese society and culture. We get to see how Japanese society functions, and we get to see some beautiful scenery of the countryside and see the beautiful landmarks like Tokyo Tower, Mount Fuji, and the various ancient castles that still stand today.
But what’s often overlooked is the food unique to Japan. You see our favorite characters eat these foods, sometimes we’re not really sure what are they and what they’re made of. Luckily for you, Honey’s got you covered with this list of Top 10 Traditional Food Shown in Anime!
It’s a very simple list containing 10 Japanese food you often see in anime. So grab your chopsticks and let’s get cooking!
10. Takoyaki (The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya 2nd Season Ep 12)
Walking around festivals is very tiresome and make you very hungry. You could go for some candy apples or some yakisoba, but if sweets and noodles aren’t your thing, you could always try the steamy and mouth-watering takoyaki.
Takoyaki or Octopus Dumplings is a ball-shaped snack made of a flour based batter cooked in a molded pan, filled with minced octopus, brushed with takoyaki sauce, mayonnaise and sprinkled with almost anything like aonori and bonito. Like most foods found in Japan, takoyaki flavor varies per region, and they’re commonly sold by street vendors and in festivals. Heck, there are even restaurants that specialize in making takoyaki.
Watching the cook preparing the batter to poured to the pan and periodically flipping them over is fun to watch and at the same time, checking if the cook did put some minced octopus in them dumplings because some stingy vendor only put a few sprinkles. If the takoyaki was cheap, then, you get what you paid for. But don’t be Haruki Emishi from Get Backers, though, for embarrassing the takoyaki vendor for being stingy and probably himself as well.
9. Sushi (Sushi Police Episode 4)
Contrary to popular belief, sushi isn’t pressed rice with raw fish on top. Sushi is a type of food preparation with cooked vinegared (sometimes sake) rice as the main ingredient and combined with other ingredients, most popularly raw fish and other seafood. There are many types of sushi, like the California roll/maki (mostly overseas), and the most identifiable type is the nigiri zushi — pressed rice with raw fish on top.
Sushi can be found anywhere in Japan and they even have specialized restaurants with sushi served by a conveyor belt or kaiten zushi (sushi train or revolving sushi) style. You sit down on a table and in front of you is a conveyor belt with sushi dishes and you eat by simply selecting which sushi you want.
Eating sushi come in two ways: by hand or by chopstick. You can spice things up by adding soy sauce or wasabi. Careful on the wasabi though because Mugen from Samurai Champloo didn’t have a good time after eating so much of it. You certainly don’t want people seeing you with your mouth wide open like a fish out of the water.
8. Nattou (Working!!! Episode 5)
What makes Japanese food distinct to Western cuisine is the majority of them are made through fermentation. One such example is nattou, a Japanese food made from fermented soybeans.
Often used for sexual jokes, especially when the girls get covered by the natural sticky and slimy white stuff, nattou is actually very high in nutrition and it’s often commonly eaten during breakfast. The pungent smell is a turnoff to some, but once you get used to the smell, nattou is a delicacy and rich in vitamins and minerals. Pair nattou with miso soup, you’re fully fueled up for the morning.
7. Taiyaki (Kanon Ep 9)
If you have a sweet tooth and want to eat something before dinner, and want something that it’s not sugar or corn syrup, a taiyaki is gonna satisfy your need for sweets.
Taiyaki is a fish-shaped waffle cake with a sweet filling sandwiched in between. The filling varies like chocolate, and cheese, but traditionally, a taiyaki is filled with sweet red bean paste that is made from azuki beans. And it’s a perfect snack to give to someone who wears a backpack with wings and says “uguu” all the time.
6. Onigiri (Love Live! 2nd Season Episode 7)
If you’re hiking through the mountains and carrying lunchboxes is a hassle, or make some meals for people to simply pick up and eat, the onigiri, or rice balls, is the perfect finger food on the go, or food to eat in general.
Onigiri is white rice formed into triangular or cylindrical shapes and wrapped in a sheet of seaweed/nori. Toppings vary, but the toppings are usually salted or sour, and also acts as a natural preservative for the rice. If you don’t have any salted salmon or pickled ume, adding a small dash of salt is enough to make an onigiri.
Since it’s easy to make, ingredients are readily available, and you only need your hands, onigiri is popular to students working overtime for their school festival, a good food if you need a quick bite, and a popular snack if you wanna win the heart of that cute boy in your class.
...that’s assuming you didn’t put too much salt into them rice balls. It happens. A lot.
5. Matcha Green Tea (Skip Beat! Episode 7)
Tea is a popular drink in anime and if there are classy characters in anime, chances are they’ll spend their time drinking tea. However, the tea we often see in these kinds of anime are the Western kind, there are a few traditional Japanese ones that are equally common, the green tea.
Green tea comes in many forms but the most common one found in anime is matcha green tea. Matcha green tea is unique compared to other green tea because it is powder based and mixed with water or milk instead of the usual tea leaves. Matcha green tea is more expensive than other teas so they’re most commonly brewed in Japanese tea parties or anyone who can afford it. However, that didn’t stop people from making inexpensive matcha blends for sweets, drinks and even ice cream.
Like any tea, matcha has caffeine and along with theanine, drinking a cup or bowl gives you this soothing and relaxing effect. So if you ever see an anime character drinking matcha green tea, they’re drinking it to relax, and not to enjoy the flavor… which can be bitter to some? And drinking matcha green tea is probably like drinking Coca-Cola without the guilt of excessive sugars and calories… you’re gonna miss the fizzy taste, though.
4. Miso Soup (Kiniro Mosaic OP)
The staple of the everyday Japanese breakfast, a genki anime character can’t start their day without a warm bowl of miso soup. Miso soup is usually composed of dashi or a stock, and miso paste mixed together, and the flavor of the miso paste depends on the region.
What makes miso soup so common in breakfast meals in Japan is obviously the soup, it warms your body up and energizes you (literally and figuratively). Also, miso soup is low in calories and high in protein, you feel full and it will last you until lunchtime while not worrying about hating your weight. So if you ever see an anime girl running to school late with a toast in her mouth, you can bet she’ll be very hungry before lunchtime. Speaking of lunchtime…
3. Yakisoba (Glasslip Episode 3)
So you were late and only ate a toasted jam bread for breakfast (and probably fell when you were running), and now you’re hungry. To make matters worse, you forgot to bring your lunch because you were in a hurry, so it’s off to the school cafeteria for you. But what’s this? You don’t have enough money for a decent meal? Well, luckily for you, it’s not the end of the world! The school cafeteria also sells bread with fillings like melon bread, curry bread, and the most famous of them all (in anime at least), the yakisoba bread!
Yakisoba is made by frying noodles with meat, diced vegetables like cabbage and carrots, and flavored with yakisoba sauce. Since yakisoba is fried, there is no soup to worry about, so they’re perfect for eating on the go or as a snack. They’re popular in cafeterias, school festivals, traditional festivals, and the yakisoba bread is a favorite for students who forgot their lunch at home. Regardless if they forgot their lunch or not, Iizuka Yuzu from Sakura Trick loves yakisoba, she won’t mind eating it every day.
2. Sake (Rurouni Kenshin: Trust and Betrayal)
Its English name “rice wine” is misleading because sake is more similar to beer, based on how it is brewed. Sake is made from fermented rice and often it has a very clear, colorless liquid, much like water. Sake is a national beverage in Japan and it’s mostly served in ceremonies like graduations, weddings, and so on, and unlike wine and beer, sake is preferably best served warm, and with someone. Not to mention, the Japanese use sake as an ingredient in many dishes throughout Japan, so don't be surprised if you find out that some sake was used in your ramen or the rice in your onigiri.
In anime, you often see the characters who are usually middle-aged people or old-timers, drinking sake but there are younger anime characters who drink sake like the students from the anime Moyashimon. The arguably most memorable moment involving sake was from Rurouni Kenshin: Trust and Betrayal. We won’t spoil the moment, but there is a saying, “sake tastes better when you drink it with someone”. Rurouni Kenshin perfectly captured this moment and it’s one of the most memorable and saddest moments in anime.
1. Ramen (Naruto Shippuden Episode 309)
Ramen is a fairly recent culinary invention with an unclear origin story, with some saying the dish originated in China, but some suggest it’s of Japanese origin.
Ramen is basically a bowl of noodles with a thick broth and toppings that are usually slices of meat, and they are everywhere in Japan. What makes ramen so popular is a typical bowl of ramen (around 500-800 yen or 5-8 USD), is one complete meal thanks to its affordable price, rich soup, firm noodles, meaty toppings and incredible variety. This one meal-in-a-bowl is popular among the working crowd who eat outside, and they’re available almost anywhere from cafeterias, outdoor food stalls, amusement parks, restaurants and specialist restaurants called the ramen-ya.
Give a bowl of ramen a try if you happen to visit a Japanese restaurant. A bowl will leave you stuffed for hours. Now you know why Naruto loves them and where he gets most of his energy… aside from that Nine-Tails Fox inside him giving red chakra.
How’s the food? Great, huh? Japanese cuisines are very unique because of the types of ingredients and methods used to make them. Japan, in ancient times, is very isolated so they relied on their natural resources and updated or improvised the wisdom they inherited from the Chinese. The result is a variety of food that uses beans, fish, and spices to create dishes not found anywhere else. Until anime became globally popular and showed the world the many unique dishes Japan has to offer.
What do you think of the list? What other traditional Japanese food you often see in anime? Please share it with us by leaving a comment below!