COLOURFUL, CUTE & CRAZY
Think rainbow cotton candy, flaming ramen and super cute organic animal doughnuts. If you want to eat something crazy that looks good on Instagram, head to Japan.
When my BFF Laura and I were planning our trip to the land of the rising sun, we tagged each other in cute Japan-related stuff on Instagram. I’ll be honest: most of it was food.
And with good reason: Japan has so much going on in the culinary department, people flock there just to feed. It’s not just ramen and sushi (although these are excellent choices).
There’s giant rainbow cotton candy, cutesy animal shaped milk foam coffees, square chiffon cakes and perfect French patisseries and desserts, just to name a few.
We didn’t get close to trying everything on offer (next trip!) but we did snack and snap enough to give you an idea of what (and what not) to eat.
Here’s 13 foods to try when you visit Japan.
1. GIANT RAINBOW COTTON CANDY
Giant fairy floss aka cotton candy. Takeshita Street, Harajuku. A post shared by SASCHEUR (@sascheur) on
Yes, cotton candy (aka fairy floss) is pure sugar and essentially affects your brain like crack, but this one was both huge AND pretty. Just look at it. It was actually very mesmerising to watch them spin sugar into gold, artfully adding colours to make a very beautiful, sticky mess. Imagine all the kids getting high off this.
2. ICE CREAM
Ice cream is a big deal.
It’s so photogenic. The vanilla soft serve from ZakuZaku has little croquant chou crumbs at the base and it was super creamy. But the mixed soft serve from Fushimi Inari was next level. It was so stinking hot and we’d climbed almost to the top and decided it was time to #TreatYoSelf. It was like a splice: lemonade sorbet and vanilla ice cream.
3. HARRY POTTER WORLD: BUTTERBEER & CHOCOLATE FROGS
Sadly, Butterbeer is non-alcoholic.
It’s fizzy drink in the books and it’s fizzy drink in Harry Potter World, too. But my friend said it tasted nice enough – like creaming soda with a melted marshmallow on top, but not too sweet. Probably ideal for a hangover.
Chocolate frogs are actually chocolate.
They’re also amusement park priced, which means I didn’t bother buying one. Cute, though.
Frozen pineapple on a stick makes for a refreshing summer snack! A post shared by SASCHEUR (@sascheur) on
I paid good money for frozen fruit on a stick.
It was so freaking hot. Turns out quartering a pineapple, skewering it and freezing it is a fantastic idea. Super refreshing, delicious and I was getting a portion of fruit for the day. Seriously, I need to do this over summer instead of scoffing Frosty Fruits.
Looking for a proper Western breakfast in Japan?
4. FIRE RAMEN
Two words: MY EYEBROWS!!!
Nah. They were fine, but damn this was HOT. Check out the video below of me shitting my pants, terrified I was about to get singed. The dude next to me was chill AF, which was probably more worrying than losing my brows.
Everyone always raves about eating Ramen in Japan.
After a disastrous attempt in Tokyo where we had orange soup covered in teeny tiny baby prawns (still in their shells), we decided we owed it to ourselves to give it another shot.
I googled ‘ramen, Kyoto’, and this place showed up just a short bike ride down the road from our Hostel with really great reviews and the added fire element that makes everything better.
They have a vegetarian option!
I found it surprisingly hard to find vegetarian options in Japan. Most ramen is pork-based and even ‘vegetarian’ ramens are made with a pork broth. Menbakaichidai actually use a chicken and seafood broth as the base of their regular pork ramen (which is apparently delicious). Fortunately for me, they also have a vegetarian soup for their veggie ramen, and it was absolutely delicous.
Fire is the secret ingredient.
Fire actually makes it taste better. Something about the onion oil caramelising the sugars in the green onions. Apparently. Whatever, it tasted good and looked cool. The fire only lasts a couple of seconds, but it feels like a lifetime.
5. THE BEST SUSHI IN JAPAN
I personally love it I don’t have to interact with people. Genki Sushi have the ideal setup: order on an iPad and wait for one of the two conveyor belts to deliver your food.
When we first walked in, I almost walked out. The fish is so fresh, it smells like you’re at the fish market staring into the cold, dead eyes of an eel. It was the best sushi I’ve ever had.
6. OCTOPUS BALLS (TAKOYAKI)
Different parts of Japan are renowned for different Japanese delicacies, and takoyaki is Osaka’s specialty. Dotonbori, Osaka’s bright culture-filled ‘downtown’ strip, is the ideal spot to grab some Japanese street food. Pick up a paper tray of eight or so searing-hot squid balls and try to find a seat amongst the tourists.
What are Takoyaki?
Takoyaki are essentially just chunks of squid and a pancake-like batter cooked using a special appliance that makes perfectly round balls. They’re then finished off with a dollop of kewpie mayo and dried shrimp flakes.
Napalm-filled balls of squid.
Be careful not to bite into them too soon – or to confidently pop a whole one into your mouth. The inside is like the inside of the sun and will cling to your mouth like napalm. Ouch.
7. CUTE CUSTARD-FILLED BANANA CAKE
NB: Not actually a banana.
Every time we ended up back in Tokyo Station, we’d walk past the Tokyo Banana stand and have a bit of a “lol” at the picture of a penis wearing a bow tie. Seriously. I mean maybe we’re just super immature, but it looks like a bloody penis wearing a bowtie. Naturally, I had to buy some, so I grabbed two boxes at the airport.
Yep, so those bowtie wearing, penis-shaped banana flavoured, individually wrapped cakes have creamy banana custard inside. I can’t even make this shit up. To be fair, they were pretty tasty and went well with a cuppa.
8. ORGANIC ANIMAL DOUGHNUTS
Instagram-worthy doughnuts from Floresta Nature Doughnuts.
I kept seeing these adorable animal doughnuts all over the gram and realised pretty quickly that a trip to Japan would be a complete waste of time and money if I didn’t photograph and eat an organic, panda-shaped doughnut, too.
There’s only one place that does them: Floresta Nature Doughnuts. They have a couple of outlets, including Nara (on your way to feed the deer) and on the outskirts of Tokyo.
But to be completely honest, I should have stopped at photographing them. They’re super cute but pretty dry and cakey. Their ears were delicious though – some kind of dry roasted almonds.
Do it for the gram, not your tastebuds.
Super popular dessert bars.
You’ll smell them everywhere: freshly baked, hot Belgian waffles wafting their delicious scent from dessert bars in malls. There are quite a few of them, and they’re usually packed with people photographing their ice cream smothered treats.
Don’t bother resisting. Just eat the damn waffles.
We tried to be good but eventually just caved, late at night, lured by sugar cravings and that irresistible smell. I went with chocolate banana, served with a big dollop of thick cream and vanilla ice cream.
It’s hard to get waffles wrong, and these were no exception. Delicious.
10. FLUFFY JAPANESE PANCAKES
Not your average pancake.
I hadn’t actually heard of fluffy Japanese pancakes until Laura mentioned them. And they aren’t like regular pancakes, either.
They basically look like a really thick pikelet. You can order them either sweet or savoury, which makes them a pretty versatile brekky choice.
I’ll have the pancakes, sweetie.
The sweet are usually made with ricotta, served with sliced banana and maple syrup. These are super popular at Australian restaurant Bills in Omotesando (near Harajuku).
The savoury still have the lovely fluffy texture, but they aren’t sweet. Laura ordered hers with prawns, avocado and a creamy pepper dressing. Not what we expected from pancakes, but delicious all the same!
11. CROQUANT CHOU
It looks like a churro, but it tastes like a profiterole.
Actually, that pretty much sums it up. Think of a stretched out profiterole filled with yummy vanilla custard. You can find it at ZAKUZAKU, alongside the super creamy, crumbed vanilla ice cream cones in Harajuku.
12. INDIVIDUALLY WRAPPED FRUIT
Okay, so I left this one to last because it’s not really a ‘must eat’ food, it just surprised me.
I’m not a huge fan of using plastic bags at the supermarket: even in the fresh food section, I chuck everything straight into the basket without a bag. I’ve had people tell me this is strange – but seriously, your food literally grows in dirt and is covered in pesticide. How is a shopping basket worse?
The individually wrapped watermelon wedge makes sense. But the individually bagged, single banana? That’s just wasteful! It’s got a protective sleeve already – it’s called a banana peel!
And individually packaged apples? We have enough plastic waste in our oceans and landfill as it is…I just don’t think we need to be adding to it like this.
13. FAMED UNCLE RIKURO’S CHEESECAKE
The best cheesecake in the world.
At the base of Tokyo Skytree is the shopping centre Tokyo Solamachi. It has a range of stores and a food court filled with colourful snacks and, more importantly, free samples. Laura and I had a wander through the Cheese Garden, where we grabbed a sample of their baked cheesecake.
It was the best cheesecake either of us have ever had, and unless we go back, I don’t think we’ll be able to top it. Regrettably, we didn’t buy one (or go back for more samples) and we searched and craved for baked cheesecake for the remainder of the trip.
Enter Uncle Rikuro’s famous cheesecake.
For some unknown reason, this cheesecake gets talked up a lot – to the point that you can buy one in Sydney now. We lined up for about 20 minutes to buy an entire cake (they don’t sell slices) because it’s so popular – but to be completely honest, it was crap.
Yes, it was fluffy. But aside from that it didn’t really have any flavour, and there were raisins (?!??!?!) at the bottom.
Yeah, nah. I don’t get the hype. Go to Cheese Garden and really treat yo self.
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