Japan is a country that celebrates a number of events throughout a year. These festivities are fun but that isn’t what will be focused on in this article. It is the food they serve in these festivals that will be the topic here. It is, of course, an important part of the festival because that is how the people stay fueled up for all the activities at these festivities. You simply have to explore your options and hopefully, this article would guide you in finding the type of dining you would want to experience when eating and looking for the festival foods that would go perfectly with your wine or beer.
Usually, the same foods are served at any of the festivals that happen in Japan. It doesn’t matter what city of Japan you are or if it’s a Saturday or a Sunday. It may be the Obon Festival or a special day at Disney Tokyo, one thing is certain and that is that you will surely see the same foods being sold at small individual stalls spread across the vicinity of the festival. The wide variety of food may cause more problems than solutions so this wide variety would have to be cut to the top seven festival foods they serve on these special occasions.
Known to be The Most Famous Festival Food in Japan: Yakisoba
Festivals usually involve a lot of walking, dancing, singing, and other activities that take up energy. With all the energy expended in an hour or so of enjoying a festival, it would be a no-brainer to think that the body would crave for something to give it more energy. In this case, this energy is given by the carbohydrate-rich festival food called Yakisoba.
Yakisoba is a type of noodle dish that is served with some cabbage and some thinly cut pork. Unlike a lot of noodle dishes, Yakisoba is one noodle dish that is fried so it does not come with the soup that most ramen dishes have. There are also many sauces that can be used to enhance the flavor of the Yakisoba but generally, in festivals, the sauce used is oyster sauce. This then is topped off with katsuobushi, which is a smoked and dried tuna topping more popularly known as bonito flakes.
The Pizza of Japanese Festival Food in Japan: Okonomiyaki
Finger food is definitely a usual favorite when talking about food served in festivals. In a place where you are always on the go, one would understand the appeal of being able to feed yourself as you move along the street. This appeal is why Okonomiyaki is a favorite from the many options seen in these events.
The Okonomiyaki may not fall under what you refer to as gourmet cooking but it is quite a unique experience to eat. This dish was originally made because the people did not want to waste the leftovers from previous meals. This created a tradition of flexibility when making this meal so people have the freedom to put whatever they deem worthy to add to their Japanese pizza. More often than not, the ingredients used for an “authentic” Okonomiyaki are seafood, cheese, and pork.
If carbohydrate meals or “GO food” isn’t your liking, the following dishes to be discussed should be better options to look into. Nevertheless, the Yakisoba and Okonomiyaki mentioned above are delicious and should be tried at least once because it truly is a treat to have.
The Favorite Japanese Festival Food Protein Source: Yakitori
Next on the list of great festival foods would be the Yakitori. This meal truly showcases Japan’s obsession with perfecting something. When you taste the way they cook Yakitori in these festivals, you might start to think of how they take pieces of meat grilled together on a stick and turn it into this mouthwatering, sweet, and savory meal.
It could be made from beef or pork but usually, the favored meat for this dish is chicken. The sauce the chicken is usually marinated with is a soy based sauce that is quite sweet. Also, don’t be fooled by the fact that this dish is pure meat because it is heavy and filling. For the people who like the feel of eating street food on a stick, this may be a dish you wouldn’t want to miss.
If this isn’t your cup of tea, don’t sweat it. There are so many other delicious meat dishes out there to try. The next item on the list is actually one with meat and it is also quite a special treat so read on if this somewhat is the type of food you are looking to try when you hit the summer festivities in Japan.
The Japanese Festival Way of Serving Octopus: Takoyaki
If you are looking for more street food on a stick, the Takoyaki should very well be the next best thing to the Yakitori. Unlike the Yakitori, the Takoyaki is cooked individually and not bundled up on one stick. One simply uses the stick to poke the Takoyaki from the plate it is served on.
Surely, you have seen a video or two of how these small, round, and delicious things are prepared and served. Much like a waffle, the majority of the ingredients like the seafood are pre-cooked and mixed in with the batter that will be heated in a Takoyaki maker. If you have no idea how that looks like, imagine a waffle maker but instead of a circular dip with crisscrossed patterns, it is simply rows and columns of semicircle dips. These dips are where the batter is cooked.
The cooked balls of dough that are filled with scrumptious seafood is then topped off with sauces like mayonnaise and yakisoba sauce. After the sauce is spread generously across the balls, it is then sprinkled with some seaweed and the favorite topping for festival foods, the bonito flakes.
If those options still don't make you drool, hopefully, the desserts served in these festivities will do the trick. From sweet to salty, to whatever else kind of dessert you are into, Japanese festivals are sure to have it. In lieu of that, if sweetness is what you’re after, look no further than the next two items on the list.
The Japanese Festival Foods That are Made with Mochiko: Dango and Mochi
There is a brand of ice cream that is called Mochiko and while it is truly also made of mochiko (rice flour), it is not what will be talked about in this section of the article. The treats to be discussed here are the original and authentic ones made from this rice flour and these are the Dango and Mochi.
Imagine a dumpling but instead of meat and vegetables wrapped in it, it is a certain flavor of filling. In its simplest form, that would be the description of Dango. The Dango is quite the complex dish because of the variety alone. It is basically a Japanese dumpling filled with different things and this is where the variety comes in. There are more than 10 types of Dango and because of the creativeness of the Japanese mind, more are being created to this day. The most common types though are the Anko, Chadango, and Bocchan Dango.
The Anko is the Japanese dumpling whose filling is red bean paste. The Chadango is the one with the green tea filling. The Bocchan Dango is the most unique of the three common types because it is the type that has three colors. The first two colors are red and green which represent the red bean and green tea flavors, respectively. The Dango in the middle of the red and green is said to be egg flavored or egg filled.
Moving on to something quite similar to Dango, we have the Mochi. Usually, the Dango is served skewered on a stick. In the case of the Mochi, it is served as one big piece of rice cake and it is also filled with a flavoring of its own. This little dish has quite the historical background with regards to it being a food of symbolism and festivities. It used to be exclusively for the emperors and nobles from the earliest years in Japan. Then, it became a food of sacrifice to their gods. It has long been a food for festivities and it still lives on as one of the favorites these days.
You may not care about the details of the history of the Mochi and if that is the case, all you really need to know about it is that it is delicious beyond measure. It is also a unique taste. It would be hard, maybe even impossible, to find a similar dish served anywhere else in the world except for Japan and it is in this case that you should not miss out on trying one of these treats when you find yourself wandering the streets of a Japanese festival.
The More Obvious Dessert for the Japanese Festivals: Taiyaki
Nothing tops off a meal like a delicious dessert does. Sweet treats not only remove any unwanted taste from your mouth, it also gives you a quick energy boost which is very useful in festivals that need more physical interaction in ways from dancing and alike. Because of this, it would be a sin not to recommend one of the famous desserts in Japan, the Taiyaki.
Much like the Takoyaki, the Taiyaki also consists of the pancake or waffle batter as its outer shell. This outer shell in molded into a fish and don’t be mistaken to think that only some of these things look like fishes because this goes for all Taiyaki. The inside of the fish covering is filled with all kinds of flavors but the most popular fillings would have to be the red bean, custard, chocolate, and cheese. The diversity of the fillings alone should entice you to try in because of how it accommodates all tastes of dessert. If a traveler would want a sweet treat, he or she would just have to pick from the many sweet fillings these desserts have. Same goes for those who like salty desserts or even savory desserts. This dish is believed to be an original creation from Tokyo and because of its goodness, it has become a world known dessert served even outside the festivities. Some Taiyaki is now even served as a cold dessert, of course, still having its famous fillings alongside the thick ice cream inside the fish shell.
There are more types of food served in the festivals in Japan like chocolate covered bananas and many others but you will have to find out what other treasures are to be found there. It is important to know that these festivals usually happen in the summertime when the cherry blossoms bloom and fill the streets with white and pink flowers. To be detailed, those are in the months of March, April, and May. If you are unable to attend festivals in those months, worry not because there are still some later celebrations in the year, specifically in the months of July, August, and September.
Again, all these festival foods are practically the same in all festivals all year round so don’t think that you might miss out on something great if you go earlier or later on in the year. Really try to dive into the culture and try all things you are open to trying because these foods not only quench your hunger but also give you, the traveler, an inside perspective of what the Japanese like and put value in. Enjoy the experience and may you and your friends have a feast at the festivities!