Come spring and you can already feel the festive air around you! As the days get warmer, you are likely to come across various matsuri (festivals) – some large and famous, some local; but no matter what kind of matsuri you come across, the energy and buzz in the air is uplifting.
And when there is a matsuri, there is food!! Most Japanese festivals take place close to temples or shrines, but despite this, you will see yatai (food stalls) lining the clamorous, adjacent streets.
Want to know what all you can enjoy at these festivals? We have created a savory and sweet edition for “Things to Eat at a Matsuri.”
Let’s check out some of the yummiest savory treats!
According to certain surveys in Japan, takoyaki remains the top pick for festival food. These are basically soft dough balls filled with octopus, baked and topped with mayonnaise (the Japanese kind) and a sweet, sticky sauce.
Even if you don’t like octopus, you can enjoy watching the chef’s skills as they pour, flip and flick them by the score!
2. Okonomiyaki （お好み焼き）
A popular “soul food,” these are thick savory pancakes with the batter mixed with ingredients like cabbage, prawn, meat, etc. and topped with okonomiyaki sauce (a sweet sticky teriyaki kind), dried seaweed powder, beni shoga (shredded pickled ginger) and bonito flakes.
You can find both the Hiroshima-style, stuffed with noodles,
as well as Osaka-style okonomiyaki at festivals.
This mainly is a small fish, usually yamame (mountain salmon) or ayu (sweet fish), grilled over coals. Sometimes, you will also find prawns and other white/small fish.
4. Kushiyaki （串焼き）
Simply skewered meat – chicken, beef, pork!
The meat is usually cut in small cubes, skewered seasoned with salt and pepper or tare, depending on the cut.
You can smell ikayaki from a mile away! Soy sauce is generously brushed on squid which is grilled on a pan till it is pink and tender. Contrary to looks, squid tentacles are unbelievably crunchy and delicious. You can get a whole squid called maruyaki (丸焼き）or sliced.
6. Jaga Bata（じゃがバター）
Hot potatoes! “Jagaimo” in Japanese and “bata,” derivation of butter! Huge wooden, rectangular steamers are placed on top of one another to steam potatoes. Once steamed, the potatoes are topped liberally with butter. These days, you can also find tarako mayonnaise or mentaiko mayonnaise (salted or spicy cod roe mayonnaise).
Now what’s so special about having Japanese-style fried chicken at a matsuri, you may ask? Nothing really, but it’s one of those things that smells so good, it’s hard to miss.
These look like buns but are actually made using fermented buckwheat dough filled with stuffing made from Japanese vegetables and are gently roasted on an iron pan. The fillings include burdock, eggplant, pumpkin and sometimes, minced meat!
9. Tomorokoshi (トウモロコシ）
Sweet char-grilled corn pasted with soy sauce or salt. We recommend trying the soy sauce version!
Although soba means buckwheat, yakisoba is made using wheat flour and flavored with a sauce similar to oyster sauce. These are stir-fried with bite-sized portions of vegetables like cabbage, carrots or onions and salt and pepper. Garnishing includes seaweed powder, bonito flakes, beni shoga (shredded pickled ginger) or mayonnaise.
★ Want to take something special back home with you?
You are bound to find a few stalls selling an assortment of spices and my personal recommendation is the freshly mixed shichimi (seven spices).
The best thing is most of these cost about 300-600 yen! So you can walk about and pick and choose various things. Make sure to check our updates on Facebook, Instagram, and website for more on festivals and events for the year!
Hope you get a chance to stumble upon many of these high-energy festivals.