Japanese festival food varies from the familiar to the strange, but most of the offerings are delicious. Festivals are a seasonal event all over Japan and many take place at shrines. A whole assortment of tents featuring treats, carnival style games, and actives fill up the area. The games are popular with kids and usually are things like shooting for toys and catching goldfish with a tissue net. Here are some of the more common food options you’ll see while enjoying a festival or outdoor event in Japan.
Takoyaki: Octopus Balls
Takoyaki are battered octopus balls; not octopus testicles, but pieces of octopus mixed with other ingredients grilled in batter. Takoyaki is an Osaka favorite that has gained popularity all over the country. Perfect food to eat as you enjoy an adult beverage.
Taiyaki is grilled batter shaped like a fish that can have a couple different fillings. The common one is sweet beans, although custard is often an option as well. A great one to eat as you walk around soaking in the celebratory atmosphere.
Ikayaki: Squid On A Stick
A dumpling made from rice flour that is grilled, dango balances sweet and savory. Deceivingly simple in concept and flavor, dango delivers an awesome texture and easy to eat size. The perfect festival food.
Kakigori: Shaved Iced
Kakigori is extremely popular in the Summer festival season. Shaved ice with a sweet syrup poured over it is what the kids scream for on a hot day. The texture and colors can be pretty unique, depending who is dishing it out. You can find some interesting sizes too.
Watame: Cotton Candy
Nothing new about cotton candy. In Japan the best thing about it is the packaging. Japan’s obsession with cute characters is on full display in their cotton candy wrappers, something that is cool to take pictures of and send to friends back home.
Ryan’s Rant: My 2 Yen
One of my favorite things about festival food is the contrast of watching a pretty woman eat a choco banana and another woman eating squid-on-a-stick. It’s almost comical how different the two look. A hint of sexual innuendo in one and the other looks like a horror movie scene. The next thing I love about food at the festivals is how well most of it goes with beer. It’s not an accident. The Japanese like to drink and the food is designed to compliment a night of drinking. A belly full of beer, yaki tori, and taiyaki makes shooting at boxes of toys in a tent even more fun. I have yet to win anything, not sure if that is the beer or if the game is rigged.