Cuisine from Japan is popular all around the globe, and people are totally enamored by this culture’s unique approach to the culinary arts. Much of their national identity and traditional heritage is reflected in their many different foods. We all know that the culture is anything but normal. And this eccentricity is clear to see in their many dishes that are extremely unusual. If we ask an average person from Japan, they won’t see anything out of the ordinary with these exotic dishes. To them, Natto or Red Pepper Kit-Kat is as normal as a Mars Bar or a burger with fries.
Even those who think they’ve tasted everything Japan has to offer might be surprised by some of these dishes. Even if someone has tasted their fair share of cuisine from Japan, the only way to truly experience food from Japan is to visit the empire of the rising sun for themselves. Some of these foods are incredibly rare, and they can only be found in certain small areas in Japan. In addition, many of the stranger dishes are incredibly expensive, making them true delicacies. It’s easy to judge these foods, but remember: we can’t knock it until we’ve tried it...
20 Black Sulfur Ramen
We all know that various types of noodles are a huge hit in Japan, but the people on this island enjoy some strange variation of noodles that we’ve not previously seen anywhere else. One such example is the “Black Sulfur Ramen,” which is completely black in color. Although it might look weird, it’s actually quite tasty, and doesn’t taste too different when compared to other types of ramen noodle. There are tons of other strange types of ramen as well, such as “Ghost Ramen.”
Although it’s one of the most unusual foods you can eat in Japan, it’s also one of the most famous. This is the famous pufferfish dish that is poisonous if not prepared correctly. This famous dish has even made its way onto shows such as The Simpsons, where Homer tries Fugu for himself. Chefs must train for three years to prepare this dish properly. In addition, Fugu is one of the most expensive dishes you can eat in Japan… As well as one of the riskiest… That being said, the preparation of this dish is so well regulated that it’s almost impossible to become poisoned.
This wouldn’t be an honest depiction of foods from Japan without some strange raw meat thrown into the article. And one of the strangest types of raw meat (also known as sashimi) is Basashi. What type of meat is this, you ask? It’s actually horse meat. While it’s typically seen as unacceptable in the west to eat horse meat, they sometimes call it “cherry blossom” meat in Japan, due to its bright red color. This is often given to tourists as a prank!
17 White Strawberry
While Japan is known for its many unique cooked dishes, it’s also a place where tourists can find all kinds of unique fruits. Many of these are native to the isolated island nation, but some have actually been created by innovative farming methods from Japan. One example is the White Strawberry, or “White Jewel.” It was created by a farmer who spent years cross-breeding strawberries until he created a strain that was white on the inside and the outside. These are incredibly valuable and expensive fruits.
16 Curry Pan
This is basically a donut, but instead of filling it with custard, whipped cream, or jelly, the people from Japan have decided to fill it with curry. Weird, right? It’s a widespread favorite over there in the land of the rising sun, and it’s pretty easy to make. It’s just traditional curry wrapped in dough, and then deep fried. You can easily find it in most bakeries and convenience stores in Japan. This might be a slightly strange take on the traditional Western donut, but we have to admit, it looks pretty tasty.
15 Red Pepper Kit Kat
We all know that people from Japan are huge fans of various types of candy and chocolate, much like any other nation. But it’s also a pretty well-known fact that they have some pretty weird candies over there in the empire of the rising sun, and some of these really blow our minds. You’ve probably heard all about the various flavors of Kit-Kat they have in Japan, including the famous Green Tea variant. But did you know that another popular flavor is actually Red Pepper? That’s right, it’s a spicy type of Kit-Kat bar!
14 Candied Squid
Believe it or not, one of the most popular snacks in Japan is Candied Squid. It’s pretty much exactly what you’d imagine it to be – a dried, candied version of the sea creature, often sold in brightly colored packages. Think of it as a type of potato chip, or as an alternative to the popular pork rinds snack down in the deep south. Surprisingly, this snack doesn’t actually taste very sweet, and it’s more of a salty taste. If you’re ever in Japan, be sure to try a pack of candied squid… If you dare.
13 Kujira Va Iruca
When Westerners hear the phrase “Whale Tail” in the context of food, some of us might conjure up images of the popular deep fried treat popular in Canada and other parts of the world. While that snack is essentially a donut with no relation to actual whale meat, the same cannot be said for Kujira. This is a very divisive type of meat for obvious reasons, and can be served in a variety of ways. But perhaps the most unusual way of serving whale is by using the belly meat to make a thin, crispy, bacon-like meat.
Mentaiko, also known as Tarako, is another famous dish in Japan that some people find a little strange. But in the grand scheme of things, it’s probably one of the most tame foods in this entire article. Mentaiko is simply a salted sack of cod roe, usually covered in a thin membrane. It’s sold raw for the most part, and in English the name literally translates to “Children of Cod.” That’s because cod roe is actually fish eggs, if you didn’t already know.
Although this tiny green fruit might look a lot like a lime, it apparently tastes nothing like one. It is a type of citrus fruit, but apparently the taste is actually closer to that of an orange. That being said, people don’t actually eat Sudachi in Japan – instead they squeeze out the juice and use it as flavoring when they cook. They’re a unique type of fruit, and they’re considered almost crucial to cooking certain types of mushroom. Genetic analysis shows that the Sudachi might have been created as a hybrid species hundreds of years ago.
At first glance, this meal might not actually look so strange. In fact, it might remind you a lot of popcorn chicken or chicken nuggets, which are so common at fast food outlets here in the west. But this is Nankotsu, and there’s something a little different about this dish. First off, it is technically chicken, but instead of using the meat, this dish utilizes only the cartilage. It might seem strange to us that people in Japan use the part of the chicken that we usually throw away, but apparently it’s quite delicious.
Suppon is another one of those delicacies from Japan that might surprise some people. The name sounds pretty nice, almost like the English word “supper.” But this is in fact softshell turtle, usually cooked in a hot pot. Various other parts of the turtle are consumed in a variety of different ways, but we’re not going to get too graphic in our description with this one… But it is considered to be one of the best foods available in Japan, so brave connoisseurs might be willing to give it a go.
This might actually be one food that Westerners will understand. After all, Shikasashi is simply Deer meat, which we call Venison. We’ve been eating this food for thousands of years, and apparently people from Japan share our taste for this type of meat. But there’s one notable difference when it comes to Shikasashi – it’s raw deer meat. This is served as one of the most interesting types of sashimi you can buy in Japan. It’s also incredibly rare, only served in certain areas of Japan.
7 Zaru Soba
At first glance, this might seem like your average bowl of noodles. But in reality, there’s something very unique about Zaru Soba. How many of our readers like eating cold noodles? We’re guessing there’s not many. But that’s precisely what Zaru Soba is… Cold noodles! It’s considered a refreshing and light snack in Japan, and these buckwheat noodles are dipped in sweet broth, and usually served with wasabi and green onions. If you can’t quite wrap your head around this one, just remember that it can get very hot and humid in the summer months.
6 Square Watermelon
Ah yes, the famous square watermelon. When news of this reached the west, it caused quite a sensation. Enthusiasm about the Square Watermelon has died down a little since then, but it remains one of the most well-known oddities today. The Watermelon is not some kind of crazy new breed of the plant, but rather an ingenious growing method that any farmer can pull off. It’s still very cool though, and it perfectly sums up the love for the extraordinary when it comes to food in Japan.
Natto is one of the most famous foods from Japan, and that’s largely due to the huge impact it has on people. In Japan, people are pretty split when it comes to what they think of Natto. Some love, others hate it, but everyone has strong opinions about it. Natto is fermented beans, usually served over rice. It’s famous for its strong taste and odor, and it’s another food that shocks most tourists in Japan. Love it or hate it, there’s no denying the fact that Natto is incredibly healthy for you, and it’s considered a superfood.
4 Sea Grapes
While this famous food might look a little bit like fish eggs, Sea Grapes are actually totally different. They’re actually made from a sea plant, which might make them more or less appetizing than fish eggs, depending on your point of view. They’re considered a delicacy in Japan, and sea grapes are known for the way they pop in your mouth with a salty, fresh aftertaste. This is actually a specialty of the Okinawan Island area, so you should travel there if you want the authentic Sea Grape experience.
This is another food that many of our readers might be familiar with. Unagi is actually a common food in sushi restaurants in the west, although many of our readers might not be 100% certain about what Unagi actually means. It’s eel – more specifically, freshwater eel, and it’s a very popular food in Japan It can be put in sushi, made into sauces, or even served barbecued over rice. Some might be a little turned off by the concept of eating eel, but the people from Japan (and others) love it.
Tuna might not be the most spectacular food we’ve ever seen, and most of us eat it in the west. And Toro might not be the most exotic or unusual food in this article. But it is worth mentioning, because Toro remains one of the most popular type of food for sushi. Toro actually refers to the belly of Bluefin Tuna, which is becoming so popular for sushi that it’s being overfished. As a result, it’s almost a threatened species, and the price is skyrocketing.
Without a doubt, one of the strangest fruits from Japan out there is the Akebi, and most people probably had no idea that it even existed. While it’s a strange shade of purple on the outside, the inside of the fruit almost looks like a banana. But it definitely doesn’t taste like a fruit – and is more closely linked with the taste of a vegetable. In New Zealand, the plant is considered an invasive species. But in Japan, it’s very much a native plant to these strange islands.