A truly remarkable travel destination is defined not only by its scenic beauty and cultural heritage, but also by its mouthwatering cuisine. Tokyo, the capital of Japan, is a food lover's paradise, and its spirited street food scene is a testament to that.
Tokyo's streets are lined with culinary gems that will definitely satisfy your taste buds. For foodie travellers, Tokyo street food stalls will allure you with its affordability, freshness, and the chance to witness the art of cooking right before your eyes. In a city like Tokyo, the abundance of delicious street food options will elevate your travel experience to new heights, making it a trip you'll never forget.
And I have fantastic news for you, as there are many street food places in the capital city, including Ameyoko in Ueno, Tsukiji fish market, Yanaka Ginza (my favourite) or Harajuku. And each district had its own signature street foods with its own flavours and unique taste sensations.
Takoyaki is a must-try, with its octopus-filled dough balls cooked to perfection in a special moulded pan. These savoury treats are crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. Dango, on the other hand, are sweet rice dumplings often served on skewers, offering a delightful contrast of textures with their chewy consistency and sweet soy glaze.
Another Tokyo street food staple is okonomiyaki, a savoury Japanese pancake filled with a variety of ingredients such as cabbage, seafood, or meat. Cooked on a hot griddle, this dish is customized to your liking and topped with a mouthwatering sauce. Yakitori, skewered and grilled meats, is a classic street food choice that is both satisfying and flavourful. With a range of sauces and seasoning options, this dish is at the heart of izakayas and yokochos.
Ready? In this article I will reveal the best street foods of Tokyo with their perfect fusion of flavours, textures, and aromas.
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Tokyo Street Food
There's no denying that Tokyo is a food lover's paradise, boasting an unparalleled culinary landscape filled with exceptional restaurants and mouthwatering street food. With the highest number of eateries per capita compared to any other city, Tokyo's dedication to food is unmatched. As you embark on your Tokyo itinerary, make sure to indulge in the best street food that this vibrant metropolis has to offer.
To try the authentic Tokyo street food experience, it's essential to explore the city's diverse culinary hotspots:
Ameyoko in Ueno is a must-visit destination, home to a lively market street filled with food stalls offering freshly-made takoyaki, okonomiyaki, and other Japanese delights.
For seafood enthusiasts, the iconic Tsukiji Fish Market is a haven of delectable sushi and various seafood dishes.
Venture into the charming Yanaka Ginza to experience the nostalgic ambiance of a traditional Tokyo shopping street, where you can sasavourver sweet dango and other authentic treats.
Harajuku, a hub for the young and trendy, is the perfect spot to indulge in an eclectic mix of Instagram-worthy street food, including crepes and cotton candy.
For a more intimate atmosphere, head to the cosy alleyways of Nonbei Yokocho and Omoide Yokocho, where you can enjoy yakitori and other grilled delights amidst the warmth of tiny bars and izakayas.
The colourful and atmospheric Yurakucho and Shinbashi Yurakucho Gado-shita offer a lively street food experience, with a variety of dishes and friendly locals who gather here after dark for a pint and good food.
Takoyaki are spherical Japanese dumplings are made from a savoury batter filled with succulent pieces of grilled octopus, creating a combination of textures and tastes. Often referred to as Octopus Dumplings, takoyaki is not only a tasty snack, but also an affordable treat that will leave you craving more.
What makes takoyaki even more appealing is the array of toppings and garnishes that accompany it. These dumplings are drizzled with a tangy, sweet sauce and Japanese mayonnaise, then sprinkled with nori (dried seaweed) and finely chopped green onions or bonito flakes.
One of the best things about takoyaki is witnessing the skill and artistry of street food vendors as they prepare these octopus-filled morsels. Using a specially designed, spherical mould, the cooks expertly pour the batter, add the octopus pieces, and deftly turn the dumplings with chopsticks until they are perfectly golden brown.
Yakitori, a quintessential Japanese street food, consists of skewered meat, expertly grilled to perfection. This dish is a staple in Tokyo, and you can find it at countless food stalls and izakayas throughout the city.
To taste the yakitori, there's one place you simply cannot miss: Omoide Yokocho, also known as Memory Lane or Piss Alley, in Shinjuku. Nestled in the heart of Shinjuku, Omoide Yokocho is a narrow, atmospheric alley filled with tiny bars and restaurants that specialize in yakitori. The smoky aroma, the sizzling sounds, and the warm glow of the grills create an immersive experience that's nothing short of magical.
Okonomiyaki, a flavourful Japanese dish, has captured the hearts of food lovers not only in Japan but also in Western countries. At its core, okonomiyaki is a savoury pancake that originated from the Japanese tradition of repurposing leftovers to create a scrumptious and satisfying meal. Today, okonomiyaki has evolved into a culinary sensation that can be enjoyed at numerous restaurants and street food stalls across Tokyo (and beyond).
Okonomiyaki begins with a base of batter, typically made from flour, water, and grated yam. From there, an array of ingredients such as shredded cabbage, bamboo shoots, eggs, bacon, seafood, and meat are added, creating a combination of flavours and textures. While the original concept revolved around using leftovers, modern-day okonomiyaki features carefully selected, fresh ingredients to ensure a top-notch dining experience.
The dish is then cooked on a hot griddle, right in front of you, and served with a variety of toppings like nori (dried seaweed), pickled ginger, tonkatsu sauce, Japanese mayonnaise, and bonito flakes. For the best okonomiyaki, I recommend Sometarō in Asakusa.
Are you hungry yet?
At first glance, dango may not seem like the most appetizing treat. These round, sticky balls covered in powdery "stuff" can be quite intriguing to those unfamiliar with Japanese desserts. But once you take that first brave bite, you'll soon realize that dango is a true gem among Tokyo's street food.
Dango are sweet rice dumplings, often served on skewers, and made from mochiko, a type of glutinous rice flour. These chewy, slightly sticky dumplings are then coated with various toppings or sauces, such as sweet soy sauce, red bean paste, or kinako (roasted soybean flour).
As you wander the streets of Tokyo, you'll find dango at various food stalls and sweet shops, with each vendor putting their own twist on the classic treat. The seemingly simple appearance of dango belies the burst of sweet, delightful flavours that await you with each bite. You'll find them in Ameyoko in Ueno Park and at festivals and events too.
I was in Harajuku when I first discovered the Japanese crazy crêpes. No, I didn't name them crazy, this is their actual name. Why? I have no idea, probably because you have to be crazy not to try them?
As the name suggests, these Japanese crêpes are anything but ordinary. Crazy Crepes are made from a thin layer of perfectly cooked batter, which is then filled with an astonishing variety of sweet ingredients. From fresh fruits like strawberries, bananas, blueberries, kiwis, and mangoes to indulgent delights like whipped cream, matcha cake, chocolate sprinkles, and ice cream. With so many combinations to choose from, you're bound to find a crêpe that speaks to your taste buds and leaves you craving more. And they do look (and taste) incredible.
Find them at several popular crêperies in Harajuku, such as Marion Crêpes, Santa Monica, SWEET BOX, Cafe Crepe Strawberry House, and PARLA.
Be warned, though, that once you indulge in a Japanese Crazy Crêpe, you may become a lifelong devotee. But who wouldn't want to be part of a secret society of Crazy Crêpe enthusiasts?
Cotton Candy (Watame)
It's hard to believe that with the abundance of delightful sweets available in Tokyo, the locals manage to maintain their slim figures. One such irresistible treat is Watame, the Japanese version of cotton candy, which can be found throughout the city.
Watame is essentially pre-bagged cotton candy. As you stroll through areas like Ueno, you'll find this airy, sugary confection waiting to satisfy your sweet tooth. Its soft, melt-in-your-mouth texture and sweet taste make Watame a popular and nostalgic treat for people of all ages.
If you're looking for a truly unique cotton candy experience, head over to Totti Candy Factory in Harajuku. This popular store is famous for its giant, multicoloured cotton candy creations that are as eye-catching as they are delicious. Totti's towering treats are super Instagram-worthy too.
Sweet Potato (Yaki Imo)
A popular and nutritious street food option in Tokyo is the humble Yaki Imo or baked sweet potato. Cooked to perfection over a wood fire, this Japanese food is the perfect combination of natural sweetness, smoky aroma, and soft, comforting texture.
Yaki Imo vendors often travel through neighborhoods in trucks, reminiscent of ice cream vans in the UK, announcing their presence with the distinctive cry of "yaki imo." This really is an authentic Japanese street food you will find in places like Yanaka Ginza and Shibamata.
When you bite into a Yaki Imo, you'll taste rich, earthy flavours enhanced by the wood fire's smokiness. The warmth and sweetness of this traditional Japanese street food make it a comforting snack during cool autumn and winter months, while its nutritious nature ensures guilt-free indulgence.
Tamagoyaki is a Japanese rolled omelette served on a stick and topped with various things like roe, for example. Tamagoyaki can be found in places like the famous Tsukiji Market in Tokyo, where you can savour its delightful taste and silky texture.
Tamagoyaki's irresistible taste has even inspired me to recreate the dish at home, making it a favorite morning meal or an easy, protein-packed snack throughout the day.
Ikayaki, or grilled squid on a stick, is a popular street food option in Tokyo for seafood lovers. This simple and delicious dish can be found in various locations, including Tsukiji Market and the yokochos in Shinjuku neighborhood.
Cooked to tender perfection over an open flame, Ikayaki is typically served with a sauce that enhances the squid's natural flavors. The sauce is often a blend of soy sauce and mirin. This is such a popular and delicious food, I even found it in other Asian countries like Korea, served at the night markets.
No trip to Tokyo is complete without trying gyoza, the iconic Japanese dumplings that are crispy on the outside and packed with flavours on the inside.
Gyoza come in a variety of fillings, with prawn gyoza being my favourite. These delicate dumplings are skillfully crafted with a thin wrapper, enveloping a juicy filling, then expertly pan-fried to create a perfect balance of crispy and tender textures. I'm craving a Japanese gyoza right now!
Yaki Onigiri, or grilled rice balls, is a popular and comforting Japanese street food with a unique twist on the traditional onigiri. This delicious snack is created by grilling rice balls until they develop a crispy outer layer, adding a delightful contrast to the soft and tender rice inside.
Yaki Onigiri is made from Japanese short-grain rice, which is sticky enough to hold its shape when formed into a ball or triangle. Before grilling, the rice balls are brushed with a mixture of soy sauce, mirin, and sometimes a touch of sugar. The resulting umami flavor is literal heaven on earth. Some street vendors fill the Yaki Onigiri with pickled plums (umeboshi), grilled fish, or seasoned seaweed.
And I'm going to let you in a secret. If you can't find them as street food when you crave them, you can find them at many convenience stores dotted around the city.
Yaki Tomorokoshi, or grilled corn on the cob, is a delightful Japanese street food that evokes fond memories of childhood and family traditions. This simple snack is perfect for enjoying while strolling through the streets of Tokyo or relaxing by the seaside, as it brings together the comforting flavors of corn with a distinct Japanese twist.
Yaki Tomorokoshi involves grilling corn on the cob, often served on a stick for convenient snacking. The secret to its mouthwatering flavor lies in the combination of miso, soy sauce, butter, and salt, which is brushed onto the corn during the grilling process. It's especially popular during festivals.
First time I tried Shioyaki was not as street food, but during a kaiseki dinnet at the Nishiyama Onsen Keiunkan (which is the oldest hotel in the world). Shioyaki is grilled mackerel served on a stick, known for its bold and intensely salty flavor. The best time to enjoy it is during summer making it perfect for a festival treat. We've also found it during the cherry blossom festival at street stalls.
Shioyaki is seasoned mackerel with a generous amount of salt before grilling it over an open flame or charcoal. When trying Shioyaki for the first time, be prepared for the intense saltiness and consider pairing it with a refreshing drink to balance out the flavours. Now, this one is easy, as Japan has so many vending machines with drinks for your convenience.
One of the most satisfying and filling Japanese street foods has to be Yakisoba. Yakisoba is essentially fried soba noodles stir-fried with a variety of ingredients, including vegetables, meat, or seafood. This beloved comfort food is perfect for enjoying outdoors, whether you're sitting on a bench in Ueno Park or taking a break from exploring the lively streets of Tokyo.
One important tip for enjoying Yakisoba on the go is to master the art of using chopsticks. Since the dish can be a bit messy, being proficient with chopsticks will save you from turning your outfit into an impromptu Yakisoba plate.
Tsukune is a type of chicken meatball typically served on skewers, much like Yakitori. These succulent meatballs are super tasty perfect for snacking on.
Made from ground chicken mixed with spices, vegetables, and seasonings, Tsukune is grilled to perfection, giving it a slightly crispy exterior and a juicy, tender interior. The skewers are often brushed with a savory, sweet, and sticky sauce.
While Tsukune can be found at street food stalls and enjoyed on the go, it can also be served as part of a larger dish in a restaurant setting. If you crave them and don't mind trying these in a restaurant, head to Akiyoshi Sakuragaoka in Shibuya where they serve fantastic Tsukune.
Taiyaki is a delightful Japanese treat that combines artful presentation with delectable taste. This fish-shaped cake is typically filled with custard, chocolate, or savory cheese. They are one of my favourite Japanese desserts and I always crave them when I'm back in Tokyo.
The custard version is a popular favorite, but each filling offers its own unique and scrumptious experience.
It's easy to find them dotted all around Tokyo. Try them at Wakaba shop in Chiyoda, Naniwaya Souhonten in Asakusa, Sakuraya in Shimbashi or Yanagiya Taiyaki in Nihonbashiningyocho.
Kushikatsu is skewered and breaded meat, seafood, or vegetables then deep-fried to achieve a golden, crispy exterior. These crunchy skewers are typically served with a flavorful dipping sauce.
Popular among both locals and tourists, Kushikatsu can be found in various street food stalls and izakayas across Tokyo especially in places like Yanaka Ginza. Kushikatsu can also be enjoyed in a restaurant that specialises in this dish. For a special ocassion, head to Hantei Nezu near Ueno Park or Kushikatsu Bon in Ginza.
Kakigori is a beloved Japanese dessert that features finely shaved ice topped with a variety of sweet syrups, and sometimes condensed milk or fruit. This light and refreshing treat is perfect for cooling down on a hot day or satisfying your sweet tooth while exploring the streets of Tokyo.
Try a traditional favourite like matcha and strawberry. The secret to the best Kakigori is the melt-in-your-mouth texture, which is achieved by shaving the ice into ultra-fine flakes.
You will find Kakigori at various street food stalls, cafes, and specialized shops throughout Tokyo. Some establishments even offer unique twists on the classic dessert, such as using natural fruit juices or incorporating innovative flavors and toppings. The best place to find authentic kakigori is Yanaka Ginza area.
More Tokyo tips
I have a dedicated guide to helping you learn how to behave in a Japanese restaurant. I also put together a list of things to know in terms of manners and etiquette for Japan.
I have several itineraries for you as well:
Enjoy your foodie trip to Tokyo!
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the most popular street food in Tokyo?
The most popular street food in Tokyo has to be takoyaki, a delicious snack made from octopus-filled dough balls. Cooked to perfection in a specially designed moulded pan, Takoyaki offers a delightful contrast of textures – crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. The dish is usually served with a flavourful sauce, mayonnaise, green onions, and nori, as well as bonito flakes. Other popular street foods in Tokyo include Yakitori (grilled skewers), Okonomiyaki (savoury pancakes), and Dango (sweet rice dumplings).
Is there street food in Tokyo?
Absolutely! Tokyo has a thriving street food scene that attracts so many tourists with its unique dishes, affordable prices, and fresh ingredients. Street food vendors can be found throughout the city, often congregating in popular districts such as Ameyoko in Ueno, Tsukiji fish market, Yanaka Ginza, and Harajuku.
Many of these areas are known for their signature street foods, and exploring these lively neighbourhoods is an excellent way to sample the best of Tokyo's dishes. From savoury snacks like Yakitori and Takoyaki to sweet treats like Taiyaki and Crazy Crêpes, Tokyo's street food scene fantastic.
What is the famous street food in Japan?
Japan's street food culture varies by region, but some iconic and famous dishes have gained popularity nationwide.
- Takoyaki, dough balls filled with octopus, is a beloved snack that originated in Osaka and is now enjoyed across the country, especially in Tokyo.
- Yakitori, skewered and grilled meats, are a classic Japanese street food choice, often served at izakayas and local bars.
- Okonomiyaki, savoury pancakes filled with a variety of ingredients such as cabbage, seafood, or meat, is another popular dish, with regional variations like Hiroshima-style and Osaka-style.
- Ramen, a noodle soup dish, and Sushi, vinegared rice with various toppings, can also be enjoyed as Japanese street foods, although they are more commonly associated with sit-down restaurants.
Which city in Japan has the best street food?
Many cities in Japan have a thriving street food scene. Tokyo, the capital of Japan, offers an extensive range of street foods in districts like Ameyoko in Ueno, Tsukiji fish market, Yanaka Ginza, and Harajuku.
Osaka, another foodie hotspot, is famous for its Takoyaki, Okonomiyaki, and Kushikatsu (deep-fried skewers). Kyoto, known for its rich cultural history, also has its own lively street food scene, with popular choices like Yatsuhashi (sweet rice cracker) and Mitarashi Dango (rice dumplings in sweet soy sauce). You won't want to miss Nagoya with its special red miso dishes.