Japanese Summer Festival Food Guide
By Lisa Hong
Summer is here, which means the start of summer festival season! As you make your way through the crowd in your Yukata and clickity-clackity wooden sandals, be prepared to delve into the mouth-watering street fare that Japan has to offer!
The 3 Yaki’s – The essence of Japanese street food. The sweet and savory aroma lets you know one of these is nearby: Yakisoba (fried noodles with cabbage and beef or pork), Okonomiyaki (fried batter with cabbage, pork, and eggs), and Takoyaki (fried ball of batter, octopus, and seasoning).
When you are asked if you want sauce and mayonnaise on top, say yes. Just say yes! My favorite of the three is Okonomiyaki; I truly love all of the layers and flavors in each fluffy bite. However, at a crowded festival, Takoyaki is definitely the easiest to eat standing up and walking around – and of course, very tasty (if you like octopus). Yakisoba is probably the most “ordinary” of the three, but you can’t go wrong – it’s familiar and just GOOD every time.Photo by Clausito’s Footprints
Something on a Stick – Corn, fish, mochi, octopus, chocolate covered bananas, candy apples and strawberries (be careful if you have fillings!), chicken and all its parts (Yakitori) – you name it! Easy to purchase, easy to eat. Won’t fill you up, so you’ll have room to try more!
Fried Food – My two favorite fried foods at festivals are Karaage (battered and fried clusters of seasoned chicken) and gigantic sweet potato sticks, sprinkled with sugar. Appetizing and shareable. No matter how stuffed I am, I need my something fried.
Doner Kebabs – Comfortable-to-hold pita pockets filled with cabbage, tender kebab meat, and an addicting spicy sauce. This isn’t Japanese, but it’s everywhere, and it’s delicious!
Ramen “Burger” – I’ve actually only seen this elusive stand once. I have never found it again, but I haven’t lost hope. This food vendor doesn’t actually sell burgers; the name is quite misleading. The Ramen “Burger” is “dry” Ramen, with the broth infused into the noodles. The slightly wet noodles are put into a small, square paper bag and you can use chopsticks to eat it or just chomp away at it. This is the best way to eat Ramen standing up! Plus, especially in the summer, I can do without all of the boiling broth.
Shaved Ice – In the almost unbearable summer heat, the importance of shaved ice is obvious. Have one to rescue the day or night!
COLD Beer and Chu-Hi – Thank you Japan and your no open container laws! Being able to drink (responsibly) outdoors and enjoy the festival vibe definitely adds to the experience.
Finally, here are some tips to help you make the most of feasting at festivals:
1. Bring a plastic bag to hold you trash. As you might know, Japan doesn’t have easy access to rubbish bins, but that is no excuse for littering.
2. Carry wet wipes to clean up the festival food messiness around your mouth and hands.
3. Bring your own water to stay hydrated.
4. Share your food with your friends. The more you share, the more foods you can try!