5 Top Highlights of Japanese Cuisine

Food is a window into many cultures, and the food that we had in Japan was a peak into the historic and charming empire.

Matt eating bowl of ramen in Kyoto,  Japan. boldlygotravel.com

Japanese food is precise, clean, beautifully presented and a bit salty (if we’re honest)…but we loved (almost) every bite of it. Now a few of you will get caught up on the definition of ‘street food’, so what we mean by ‘street food’ is anything that is served on the street (obviously) as well as anything that the average person could afford to eat on a day to day basis (aka nothing fancy or expensive).

We love variety in our diet, but if we had to eat Japanese for a year we would not complain. We won’t list everything we tried, but here is a tribute to the most noteworthy:

Ramen – Honke Daiichi (#26 of 13,087 in Kyoto on Tripadvisor)

-        Matt’s take: a simpler style than we are used to (American versions tend to include way more ingredients), but the noodles and pork were deliciously tasty and cooked to perfection (not too hard or soft)

-        Kelly’s take: broth was slightly more salty than back home without any spice, lots of green onion was a plus with the delicious pork but I prefer for my ramen to include more ingredients.

Traditional bowl of ramen found in Kyoto, Japan. boldlygotravel.com

Traditional Small Plates – Terakawa (#3 of 1,968 in Nara on Tripadvisor)

Terakawa traditional small plates in Nara, Japan.

-        Matt’s take: while the duck slices were my favorite, the potato salad (cubes of potato, cheese, and bacon) was the best I’ve ever had…and the tofu was like eating a silky cloud and made me (briefly) consider logic going fully vegan

-        Kelly’s take: everything we had was perfectly prepared and presented. The tofu and omelet were my favorite along with the jasmine tea. I'm not typically a tofu person but this tofu was like tasting a flavorful fluff of a potato pancake. The lunch was overall filling but didn't make me feel stuffed. This was my favorite meal overall while we were in Japan. We were the only westerners in the entire area and when we left the tiny restaurant was packed with locals. We love going to spots that are filled with locals rather than tourists and this reaffirmed our beliefs that this was truly authentic local cuisine. 

Platter of takoyaki from food market in Kyoto, Japan. boldlygotravel.com

Takoyaki – Nishiki Market (in Kyoto)

-        Matt’s take: I can see why this is popular, but it was a bit too doughy for me

-        Kelly’s take: Excellent flavor but the super doughy consistency mixed with the sauce is very rich so I could only eat one or two without feeling completely stuffed.  

Baby Octopus Pop (Tako Tamago) – Nishiki Market (in Kyoto)

This was a Matt only treat

-        Matt’s take: looks a lot grosser than it was…and the hard boiled quail egg stuffed into the head was an unexpected treat


Sushi – Musashi (#28 of 13,087 in Kyoto on Tripadvisor)

Tuna Belly, Squid, Raw Horse

Horsemeat Sushi

-        Matt’s take: the tuna belly was one of the best pieces of fish I have ever eaten (and it was just $1.25 for 2 pieces)…the squid was a bit too squishy for my taste…but the raw horse was surprisingly tasty (though I’m not sure I would want to eat a big portion of it)

-        Kelly’s take: The tuna belly was the best i have ever had! While the sushi over all tasted really fresh and good, I have had better but I have also had a lot worse sushi. This seemed more of the type of place people go for a quick bite of sushi not to have a culinary experience. So for our purposes it was good, clean and inexpensive.

I will never in my life eat horse. I find the idea completely unethical and while I am not a vegetarian, I do think that all animals even those that we consume to be raised in healthy loving environments. Watching Matt eat the horse completely repulsed me and I no longer had an appetite to eat anything.