One of the best things about visiting any country is sampling its cuisine and during your stay in Japan you’ll probably be wishing to do just that. Many Japanese restaurants specialise in one particular type of food. Sushi is of course the most famous dish, but Japanese food does not stop with raw fish; other specialties include teriyaki (marinated beef/chicken/fish seared on a hot plate), sukiyaki (thin slices of beef, bean curd and vegetables cooked in soy sauce and then dipped in egg), and tempura (deep fried sea-food and vegetables).
If everything so far sounds a bit meat and fish orientated don't be alarmed - there are vegetarian options in Japan. Try the wonderful zaru soba (buck-wheat noodles served cold), a bowl of Udon (thicker noodles) in a mountain vegetable soup, tofu steak or a vegetable okonomiyaki (savoury pancake). If you are feeling adventurous you could try natto, a sticky and slightly smelly concoction made of fermented soya beans.
If you want a more general selection, then the best place to go is an Izakaya (Japanese pub) where you will find an extensive and pretty cheap choice of food and drink. Izakaya often offer tabehodai or nomihodai - for a set price you get an hour or two to eat or drink as much as you like. Choosing exactly what to eat is made easier by well illustrated menus or plastic food displays at the doorway – just point and see what you get. In major cities you will also find plenty of Western-style restaurants.
Each region of Japan also has its own speciality foods, unique to or particularly famous in that one area of the country. These are nearly always made from locally produced ingredients.
Safe eating while travelling in Japan
Travellers usually won’t have any trouble with food in Japan as the quality and food hygiene standards are high. It is important to take care when eating sushi and other raw seafood as if it has not been properly prepared it can make you incredibly unwell. The same precaution should be taken with meat – if it doesn’t look right or hasn’t been cooked thoroughly, it is best to avoid it.