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Japanese Dishes===

Unlike in the US and other countries, Japanese menus will often presume you know what you’re getting when you order a Japanese dish and may not list ingredients or allergy information. When in doubt, ask. Many dishes will have meat in them.


Things to know:

  1. Alcohol can be purchased at conbinis, drug stores, supermarkets and liquor stores. For the best selection, go to a large supermarket or liquor store.
  2. Alcohol may be consumed in public. Exercise your right and have a lovely cherry-blossom season.
  3. However - Drinking and driving or biking is strictly forbidden. The legal BAC is 0. Unlike in other countries, you cannot have a beer with dinner and drive home. Get a designated driver, use daikou (see the driving section), take public transit, walk, and/or have a slumber party.
  • Nihonshu 日本酒: Commonly called sake abroad, this rice-based liquor is stronger than wine but not as strong as hard liquor. Served warm or cold. A test of quality is a smooth taste when served cold. Sougen is a good mid-priced regional brand. Alcohol content: 15-20%.
  • Cup sake: A single serving of Nihonshuu. Found at conbinis nationwide, this is the ultimate in cheap (and tacky) drinking.  Local brands Sougen and Tateyama can be found at most conbinis, and are pretty high in quality.
  • Nama biiru 生ビール: Order a draft beer anywhere except a brewery, and you will be served whatever yellow fizzy national brand (Kirin, Asahi, Sapporo) beer the restaurant has. Alcohol content: 3-6%, same as a national brand beer in other countries.
  • Real beer: Varieties of Belgian brands Leffe and Chimay can be found at large liquor stores and import stores. Sapporo makes a decent chocolate beer with Royce (pour it out of the can first.) Nihonkai Club in Noto-cho is a local brewery and restaurant and makes a good dark beer, but you the beer is not sold in stores.
  • Shouchuu 焼酎: liquors based on a variety of ingredients. Rice (kome-jouchuu 米焼酎), barley (mugi-shouchuu 麦焼酎), and potato (imojouchuu 芋焼酎)are the most common bases, but there are many varieties. Alcohol content: 25%.
  • Chuuhai 酎ハイ: Canned, flavored and cheap, this can be likened to Smirnoff Ice. Alcohol content: 1-6%. Carbonated and sugary.
  • Wines: Noto Wine is a local winery in Anamizu. Their wines can be purchased all over the Noto. There is also Yanagida Blueberry wine (label is in English). Additionally, there are national brands of wines (Suntory) and, at larger liquor stores, imported wines.
  • Red wine- aka wain 赤ワイン.
  • White wine- shiro wain 白ワイン.
  • Umeshu 梅酒: A very sweet plum liquor. Alcohol content: 10-15%.

Tea and Other DrinksEdit

  • Bancha 番茶—a “coarse” tea served at the office and at home. Second-harvest sencha.
  • Ocha お茶 or ryokucha 緑茶: green tea (general).
  • Koucha 紅茶—black tea.
  • Sencha 煎茶—new-leaf green tea.
  • Houjicha ほうじ茶—roasted green tea.
  • Haabu-cha ハーブ茶—herbal tea.
  • Mugi-cha 麦茶—cold barley tea drunk in the summer. Steep one tea bag in 1 liter of cold water for 2 hours.
  • Matcha 抹—green tea used in tea ceremonies. Made by mixing matcha powder with hot water. Try out matcha ice cream and other matcha-flavored treats while you’re here!
  • Genmai-cha 玄米茶: tea made from rice.
  • Soba-cha そば茶: tea made from the liquid used to cook soba. Contains barley. If you are allergic to soba, do not drink this.
  • Calpis カルピス—sweet fermented-milk drink based on a drink from Mongolia. The kids love it. Called Calpico in the US.
  • Pocari Sweat ポカリスエットand Aquarius アクエリアス: sports drinks with electrolytes. Lower in calories and sugar than Gatorade. Great when you’re recovering from a stomach bug. Also, if the weather is so hot and humid that you feel queasy, drink one of these slowly over the course of an hour or two.
  • Medicinal drinks—Dekavita C (Vitamin C—cold prevention), Fibre Mini (fiber), Ukon no Chikara ウコンの力 (Power of Tumeric—cold prevention).

Grain-based FoodEdit

  • Kome 米: uncooked white rice
  • Gohan ご飯: cooked white rice. Also means meal.
  • Genmai 玄米: brown rice. Available in larger grocery stores.
  • All-purpose flour: komugiko 小麦粉; chuurikiko 中力粉. A medium-weight flour used for just about everything. In Japan, cake flour and bread flour are often easier to find and many recipes use them.
  • Cake flour: hakurikiko 薄力粉 low-gluten, light flour used for cakes and cookies
  • Bread flour: kyourikiko  強力粉high-gluten, dense flour used for breads and breading.
  • Whole-grain flour: zenryuu hun 全粒粉 whole-grain flour. Might be harder to find than non-whole grain flours. Not often used in Japanese cooking.

Everyday DishesEdit

Not high cuisine, and perhaps not what you’d expect from Japanese food, these items will show up in school lunches, conbini meals, and diners.

  • Donburi 丼: A rice bowl with various toppings.
  • Oyakodon 親子丼 Chicken-and-egg rice bowl
  • Ten-don 天丼 Tempura vegetables and seafood bowl.
  • Katsudon カツ丼 Fried pork cutlet (tonkatsu トンカツ) bowl.
  • Doria ドリア: A dish of rice with some kind of sauce on it. For example, tomato sauce with eggplant and bacon.
  • Hamubaagu ハムバーグ: The bane of English teachers everywhere, the “hamburg steak” (or “Salisbury steak,” or “hamburger without a bun”) will be in your textbooks, taunting you. Japanese people consider this to be Western food, but very few Westerners seem to have eaten this outside of Japan. Be warned.
  • Haru-maki 春巻き: Spring roll.
  • Karee-raisu カレーライス: Japanese-style curry and rice. Usually has carrots, potatoes, and chicken or beef in it.
  • Korokke コロッケ: Croquette, a patty of mashed ingredients coated in breadcrumbs and fried. Popular varieties include beef, vegetable, and pumpkin.
  • Miso-shiru 味噌汁: Miso soup. Usually contains konbu seaweed, green onions, and tofu.
  • Nattou 納豆: fermented soy beans. Smells very strong. Supposed to be good for your health, but many Japanese people don’t like it.
  • Okonomiyaki お好み焼き: A non-sweet pancake-like batter mixed with cabbage, egg, and usually some kind of meat; cooked and served with mayonnaise and okonomi sauce with bonito flakes and aonori on top. Popular add-ins include pork, squid, mochi, and cheese. Hiroshima-style is flat with noodles on the bottom; Kansai-style is thicker and without noodles.
  • Onigiri お握り: Rice ball. Sometimes has flavoring like shiso mixed in. Also may have a filling, like umeboshi (pickled plum), chicken, tuna-and-mayonnaise. Sometimes wrapped in seaweed.
  • Omuraisu オムライス: A portmanteau of omelet and rice, this dish is plain omelet wrapped around rice; may include beef. Topped with ketchup.
  • Taiyaki たい焼き: Fish-shaped sweets filled usually filled with red-bean paste. Does not contain fish. Can be bought at the grocery store and at festivals; sometimes available with chocolate or custard fillings
  • Takoyaki たこ焼き: Breaded balls of octopus meat served with sauce, bonito flakes, and mayonnaise. A regional specialty of Kansai, but available almost everywhere.
  • Tonkatsu: Pork cutlet coated in bread-crumbs and fried.
  • Umeboshi 梅干: sour pickled plums. (Supposed to help ward off H1N1, according to The Japan Times.)
  • Zenzai ぜんざい 善哉: a soup made from azuki beans, sugar, and a little salt with toasted mochi. Sometimes served for New Year’s.

Fish and SeafoodEdit

If the meal is nama-X, it is raw. Nama-kaki is raw oysters.

  • O-sushi お寿司: Sushi. Japanese-style sushi tends to be the kind with the raw fish on top rather than rolls.
  • Yakizakana 焼き魚: baked fish
  • Aji 鯵: mackerel
  • Buri 鰤:yellowtail (an Ishikawa speciality)
  • Kujira 鯨: whale (some are endangered, but you may be served this at school.)
  • Maguro 鮪Tuna
  • Ootoro 大吐露fatty tuna
  • Same 鮫: shark (endangered, please do not eat)
  • Shake 鮭 salmon
  • Tsuna ツナTuna, usually canned
  • Ebi 海老 蝦shrimp
  • Kaki カキoysters (not to be confused with kaki 柿, persimmon)
  • Tako たこ 蛸 octopus


  • Soba そば – thin buckwheat noodles.
  • Udon うどん – thick wheat-flour noodles.
  • Ramen ラーメン– a Chinese-style of wheat-flour noodles.
  • Shio 塩- salt—very simple broth
  • Tonkotsu 豚骨– pork-based broth
  • Shouyu 醤油 – soy-sauce based broth (often with chicken- or pork-based stock)
  • Miso みそ– miso-based broth
  • Somen そうめん– thin, white wheat-flour noodles served cold in summer

Terms that describe noodle dishes (particularly udon and soba)

  • Kake かけ 掛け = In a simple broth with onions; sometimes a fish cake.
  • Kitsune キツネ 狐 Fox = Has bits of fried tofu in it.
  • Tanuki たぬき Raccoon = contains bits of fried tempura batter
  • Tsukimi つきみ 月見 Moon-viewing = has an egg in it (may be raw or partially cooked)
  • Tempura 天ぷら = comes with vegetables and meats fried in bread crumbs. Usually includes pumpkin, sweet potato, shrimp, fish, and green pepper but varies by season and dish.
  • Yaki 焼き = Stir-fried in yaki sauce; usually with pork and cabbage.
  • Zaru ざる = Cold noodles served on a bamboo plate (zaru) with a liquid for dipping.
  • Tsukimi つきみ 月見 Moon-viewing = has an egg in it (may be raw or partially cooked)
  • Tempura 天ぷら = comes with vegetables and meats fried in bread crumbs. Usually includes pumpkin, sweet potato, shrimp, fish, and green pepper but varies by season and dish.
  • Yaki 焼き = Stir-fried in yaki sauce; usually with pork and cabbage.
  • Zaru ざる = Cold noodles served on a bamboo plate (zaru) with a liquid for dipping.

Asian FoodsEdit

  • Bibimba ビビンバ: A rice-bowl dish based on Korea’s bibimbap. Typically contains ground beef, a spicy sauce, and vegetables.
  • Gyoza 餃子: Sometimes called potstickers in English, this popular Chinese dish. Japanese version is shuumaiシュウマイ.
  • Maabodoufu 麻婆豆腐: A dish based on China’s mapo doufu; typically found in Chinese restaurants. Consists of tofu, ground pork, green onions in a spicy bean-paste sauce.

Bakery ItemsEdit

  • Anpan アンパン: Sweet bread filled with anko (sweet azuki bean paste). Sometimes are shaped like Anpan-man, a children’s cartoon character who is, in fact, an anthropomorphic an-pan.
  • Furansu pan フランスパン: French loaf. Not usually sold in grocery stores, but often found in bakeries.
  • Meron pan メロンパン: Melon-pan is supposedly melon-flavored, but tastes as much like melon as Apple Jax taste like apples (which is to say, not at all). Has a distinctive “quilted” pattern.
  • Shokupan 食パン: white bread. Sometimes contains lard.
  • Shuu kuriimu シュークリーム: A crème-filled pastry based on the French chou crème.
  • Rai-mugi panライ麦パン: rye bread
  • Zenryuupan 全粒パン: whole grain bread. (This may be bleached white to avoid that “bread for commoners” look. Check the label.)


  • Daigaku-imo 大学芋: candied sweet potatoes
  • Mochi もち 餅: glutinous rice “cake.” Found in zenzai soup; sometimes filled with anko (azuki bean paste).
  • Purin プリン: Pudding (usually a yellow creme brulee style pudding).
  • Yokan 羊羹: a thick, jellied dessert made of azuki bean paste, agar, and sugar; sometimes contains chestnuts or azuki beans. May also be made from white kidney beans and flavored with green tea.

Ingredients (fruits, vegetables, herbs, roots, and everything else)Edit

  • Apples (Fuji ふじ, Tamarin 玉林, and JonaGoldジョナゴールド): Sell for around 100 yen a piece, even in packs. Best in fall, but available year-round.
  • Budou ブドウ: Japanese grapes. Small budou have edible seeds; large budou are like big seeded grapes. The peel of the large budou is edible, but is tough and a little bitter; most Japanese people remove the peel before eating. Available in late summer and fall.
  • Cherries サクランボ (sakuranbo): Japanese cherries and cherries imported from the US (American cherii アメリカンチェリー) are usually available year-round but are ridiculously expensive out of season. In season in late spring and summer.
  • Chrysanthemum 菊 kiku Small yellow flowers; sometimes used as garnish or fried in tempura.
  • Cucumbers: smaller, crispier, and thinner than US cucumbers. Available year-round.
  • Daikon 大根: Japanese radish. Looks like a huge white carrot. Available year round; in season in the summer.
  • Edamame 枝豆—soy beans in the pod. Boil to tenderness and salt lightly for a snack. To eat, bite the beans out of the pod. Frozen edamame are available year-round; fresh edamame are available in spring and summer.
  • Eggplant/aubergine なす (nasu): The Japanese eggplant is smaller and less seedy than its European counterpart. Often served pickled or in tempura. Available year-round; in season in fall.
  • Figs イチジク無花果ichijiku: Fresh figs are available in late summer and early fall. Candied figs are available in late fall through spring.
  • Gobo ゴボウ: Burdock root. Used in Japanese soups.
  • Gohya ゴーヤ bitter melon. This fruit looks like a green and bumpy squash. Used in Okinawan cuisine. The seeds are toxic, only the peel is edible. Allergies: people with melon allergies. Available in spring and summer.
  • Goma ごま: Sesame. Sesame seeds, sesame paste (nerigoma 練りごま, or tahini), and sesame oil (goma abura ごま油) are all staples of Japanese cuisine.
  • Grapefruit グレープフルーツ gureipufuruutsu: available year-round.
  • Kabocha カボチャ 南瓜 Available year-round; in season from late summer through winter. Small and green on the outside, the kabocha is sometimes called the Japanese pumpkin. In reality, it is a buttercup squash. The flesh is “creamy” and sweeter than American pumpkins and the skin is edible when cooked.
  • Kiwi fruit キーウィフルーツ: available from late April through summer. Regular variety and Golden ゴールデンきキーウィフルーツ. (Note: if you just say kiwi, Japanese people will hear it as きゅうり kyuuri, cucumber.)
  • Komatsuna 小松菜: Japanese mustard leaf. A little spicy; sort of like spinach.
  • Konnyaku こんにゃく: A tough jelly of the plant called devil’s tongue, voodoo lily, or konjac. Available year-round. Found in oden and some Japanese nimono dishes.
  • Lotus root レンコン renkon - the root of the lotus plant; used in tempura Japanese vegetable dishes. Has a distinctive “Swiss-cheese” pattern.
  • Melon メロン: a green melon, sort of like a honeydew crossed with a cantaloupe. Very popular as gifts, a very nice gift melon can sell for thousands of yen.
  • Nashi なし: Sometimes called the Asian pear or apple-pear in English. This yellow fruit is the size of a large apple; the skin is edible but tough; the Japanese usually peel it and slice it before eating. The texture is like a crisp apple, but the flavor is more like a sweet pear. Available in late summer through fall.
  • Persimmons 柿 kaki: Not to be confused with kaki, oysters. Available in mid-fall to mid-winter. The most popular type is the Haciya, which is astringent and hard when unripe; let orange tomato-shaped persimmon sit at room temperature until it turns deep red and the flesh softens beneath the skin. Has the consistency of fibrous jelly; remove seeds before eating. Ripe Fuji persimmons are shaped like a heart and have firmer skin.
  • Satsuma imo さつまいも: Japanese sweet potatoes. Purple on the outside, yellowish on the inside. Sweet and can be steamed easily in the microwave or cooked into soups. In season in late summer through winter; available year-round.
  • Seaweed: Dried seaweed is nori のり. There is also konbu 昆布, hijiki, mozoku, and wakame 若布.
  • Shiso しそ perilla. A herb that’s flavor resembles a cross between mint and basil. Popular in tempura.
  • Spinach ほうれん草 hourensou: Expensive; goes bad fast.
  • Take no ko 竹の子 bamboo shoots. Available late April to late May.
  • Yomogi ヨモギ ヨモギ: mugwort. Used to color soba and mochi dark green.
  • Yuzu: sometimes called citron in English. A yellow citrus fruit; good for making jam or sweets but not eaten by itself. Stir yuzu jam into roasted green tea or black tea as a cold remedy. Available in December and January.