Japans Top Matsuri (Festival) Street Food Favorites

Festivals are an important part of Japanese culture and are held throughout the year to celebrate different traditions and seasons. One major attraction in these festivals is the delicious varieties of foods. Some of the most popular street foods include Yakitori, Taiyaki, Yakisoba Noodles, Ikayaki, and Dango. 

If you happen to be in Japan while a festival is taking place, you must go and experience the atmosphere and myriad of food flavors there.

Let’s take a look at the tastiest, must-try street food favorites at Japanese festivals.

Taiyaki

Taiyaki is a signature Japanese street food that is highly popular at festivals. This is a fish-shaped cake filled with a delicious red bean paste. The style of Taiyaki can vary from a soft pastry to a crispy wafer.

Sometimes, it can also have other fillings like chocolate, matcha, custard, cheese, or sweet potato. 

The detailed fish design gives Taiyaki its appealing and unique appearance. This traditional dish is a must-try on your trip to Japan. 

Taiyaki

Takoyaki

Another Japanese classic, Takoyaki originates from Osaka and is wildly popular all over the country.

This snack is made from a wheat flour-based batter in the shape of round balls and is filled with chunks of cooked octopus, green onions, and tempura bits. In fact, Takoyaki literally translates to “octopus balls.”

These balls are slightly crispy from the outside and soft and gooey on the inside. They are topped with a takoyaki sauce, as well as seasonings, like dried green seaweed and katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes).

You can also get optional toppings like mayonnaise, cheese, and beni shoga (red pickled ginger).

Takoyaki is super savory and fresh, with hints of sweet and sour flavors. Plus the contrasting textures give it a perfect mouthfeel.

Ikayaki

Ikayaki is a popular fast food in Japan and an all-time favorite street food variety across the many festivals. Typically served on sticks, it is a tender grilled squid, glazed with soy or teriyaki sauce.

It is served in a variety of ways with the octopus cut into rings, with tentacles left out, or as a whole squid. 

Thanks to the skewers, it’s super easy to eat Ikayaki while you’re out and about. So, if you want to enjoy tasty squid while in Japan, you must try Ikayaki. 

Varieties of French Fries

French fries in Japan are a league of their own because of the different varieties you can get here. One tasty snack is the fried potato, pronounced as “furaido poteto” in Japan.

These salty, crunchy, long-cut fries come in a bag with a special seasoning. You just have to shake the bag to mix the fries and the specialized seasonings.

You can also try other flavors such as ‘nori shio’, a seasoning made from seaweed flakes and salt.

Okonomiyaki

This savory version of a Japanese pancake is typically made from flour, eggs, shredded cabbage, bonito flakes, green onions, and pork (or your choice of protein.)

It can also be topped with different condiments like Japanese mayonnaise, dried seaweed, or a special Okonomiyaki sauce. 

If you love omelets, this dish is a must-try for you whenever you’re in Japan. 

Yakisoba  

A Japanese classic, Yakisoba is highly enjoyed at festivals and parties. Essentially, it is a stir-fry noodles dish with vegetables like carrots, cabbage, pickled ginger with pork, beef, or chicken.

It is also seasoned with a savory and sweet sauce to make it tangy. A sprinkling of Ao nori (dried green seaweed) gives it even more flavor. 

Yakitori  

Yakitori is another appealing street food that is found at Japanese festivals. These are bite-sized pieces of chicken served on wooden skewers.

The chicken is seasoned with a glaze made from soy sauce, brown sugar, sake, and sweet mirin. Then, it is grilled over a charcoal flame which gives it a unique, smoky aroma and taste. 

You can also choose the piece of chicken, like chicken meatballs, thighs, wings, bone cartilage, tail, or internal organs. 

Karaage

Karaage is a Japanese-style fried chicken that is extremely tasty and satisfying. 

These bite-sized pieces of chicken are first marinated in soy sauce and sake, then lightly coated with flour, and fried fresh. For added portability, they are served in a paper cup or container. 

Karaage is very similar to American nuggets, but it has a more complex flavor profile. 

Tomorokoshi  

Who doesn’t love corn? The Japanese certainly do, and they’re really good at making the perfect corn on the cob.

Known as Tomorokoshi in Japanese. this is a popular snack, readily available in most festivals. The corn is freshly grilled at the stall and then coated with a soft layer of butter. 

This amazing corn is a treat to have, especially while you’re enjoying a traditional matsuri

Jaga Bata

Jaga Bata is the Japanese version of a grilled or baked potato. It is typically served with butter and is the ultimate comfort food in Japan. The taste and texture of these heavenly potatoes will surely win you over. 

Satsumaimo

If you love potatoes and want them with a sugary twist, you must try Satsumaimo at Japanese festivals. These Japanese sweet potatoes make a delicious dessert. And they are super nutritional too.

The potatoes are finely dusted with a glazing sugar but they taste just as good without it too. These are usually cut lengthwise and are served as sweet potato sticks. 

Dango

Dango is a Japanese dumpling made from rice flour. These bite-sized balls of rice are usually served on a skewer. They come in a variety of flavors like red bean paste, soy sauce, green tea and more. 

Interestingly, Dango is often altered to fit in with different themes at festivals. The dough is colored with different dyes or covered in different glazes to customize the Dango.

This Japanese festival food is worth trying for its distinct look and flavor. 

Ichigo Daifuku

Ichigo Daifuku, also known as Strawberry Mochi is a popular spring dessert in Japan. If you love strawberries and chewy mochi, this dessert is perfect for you.

The soft mochi is stuffed with juicy strawberry and red bean paste. It’s as delicious as it sounds.

Choco Banana

This Japanese version of chocolate-covered bananas is also street food and festival favorite. Refreshing, chocolatey, and sweet, choco banana is most popular at summer festivals as the banana is often frozen. 

The choco bananas are decorated with sprinkles and other toppings as well.

Japanese Crepes

Similar to traditional French crepes, Japanese crepes are just like thin, delicate pancakes. You can find many different varieties and flavors, but sweet crepes are the most popular here. 

They are typically served as a cone with delicious fillings like fruit, custard, jam, ice cream, and whipped cream. Absolutely delicious.

Kakigori

Much like American snow cones, Kakigori is a shaved ice dessert found in Japan. It is usually topped with fruit syrups in different flavors and condensed milk.

The best flavors of Kakigori are melon, lemon, cola, strawberry, mango, matcha, and orange. 

If you’re in Japan during the summer season, this dessert will be perfect for cooling you down and refreshing you. 

Wataame

What’s a festival without cotton candy? Known as Wataame in Japan, cotton candy is a sugary treat, popular among people of all ages. Usually made in a machine, it is served on a stick covered with a bag. 

What makes Wataame so cool in Japan are the bags it’s served in. These are typically decorated with manga art, depicting popular characters.

Japanese Summer Festival Foods

MT Lee
My fascination with Japan began several years back at a roadside bonsai stand while on vacation. I became more interested in the where and why's more than the trees themselves. My love of Bonsai led me to further research my interest in the gardens where they originated from and the places and people that surrounded those little trees. My curiosity was well rewarded upon visiting Saitama where the National Bonsai Museum was located and Omiya Village the bonsai mecca for lovers of this ancient art form. Exploring many towns and villages and even making my way to Japan's furthest southern prefecture of Okinawa. I hope to share my love of this wonderful and exotic place with all those who want to know more about Japan.