January 23, 2024

Are there any seasonal foods I should look out for in Japan?

Japan is known for its delicacy. Travelers love to explore different flavors and cuisines in Japan. Food in Japan changes every season and therefore, you must know what food you will eat. 

In this article, we have listed down the seasonal food in Japan that you must try. Plus, you will also know about the food that you must avoid during a particular season. 


Japanese seasonal food is a culinary tapestry woven with vibrant hues and distinctive flavors of each season. With a deep-rooted connection to nature, the Japanese embrace the changing seasons as a source of inspiration for their cuisine. 

From delicate cherry blossoms in spring to the hearty warmth of winter stews, each season brings forth a unique array of ingredients that are celebrated in traditional dishes.

Best Japanese winter food

Japanese winter food invites indulgence in hot pots like nabe and comforting bowls of Zoni soup. Try the below-given winter food in Japan. 

Nabe: Ideal for winter get-togethers, this dish is a communal hot pot that consists of thinly sliced meat, tofu, vegetables, and noodles cooked in a flavorful broth. These vegetarian foods taste delicious in winter.  

Sukiyaki: A delightful winter favorite, this dish consists of thinly sliced beef, vegetables, tofu, and shirataki noodles in a sweet and savory soy-based broth.

Zoni: A traditional New Year's soup that is soul-satisfying and made with rice cakes, or mochi, in a clear or miso-based broth with carrots and daikon radish.

Tofu: During the colder months, a straightforward and filling hot tofu dish provides warmth and nourishment. This illustrates how much Japanese people value hearty winter fare.

Best Japanese summer food

Japanese summer food brings a refreshing burst of flavors with dishes like Hiyashi chuka, a chilled ramen salad, and vibrant bowls of cold somen noodles. The following are the foods that you can enjoy in summer.

Hiyashi Chuka: A cool summertime dish of ramen noodles topped with ham, colorful veggies, and vinegary soy sauce.

Somen: A refreshing summer treat of thin, delicate wheat noodles served cold, usually with a light dipping sauce and ginger and green onions as garnish.

Hiyayakko: Ideal for hot summer days, this dish is simple but refreshing, consisting of chilled tofu topped with a variety of toppings like grated ginger, green onions, and soy sauce.

Unagi Kabayaki: A tasty and substantial option for summer dining, unagi kabayaki is grilled eel glazed with a sweet soy-based sauce and frequently served over rice (unagi donburi). This is one of the best seasonal foods in Japan.

Mizutaki: A hot pot dish featuring a light and clear broth with chicken, vegetables, and tofu, offering a balance of flavors while still being suitable for warmer weather.

Best Japanese fall foods

Japanese fall food introduces earthy flavors with dishes like chestnut rice and sweet potato tempura. There are many famous restaurants in Tokyo and Osaka to enjoy these foods. The following are the foods that you can enjoy in autumn. 

Kuri Gohan: A fragrant fall dish that combines rice and chestnuts to create a nutty, aromatic blend that perfectly embodies the season. 

Sweet Potato Tempura: It is also known as Satsumaimo Tempura, and is made of deep-fried sweet potato slices. These slices are coated in a crispy, light tempura batter. The combination of sweetness and crunch is delightful.

Nimono: It is a hearty and comforting stew made with a variety of fall vegetables, including burdock root and Japanese pumpkin, cooked in a soy-based broth.

Matsutake Gohan: Aromatic rice cooked with matsutake mushrooms, a highly valued fall ingredient known for its distinct flavor and earthy aroma.

Tai Meshi: A dish where sea bream (tai) is steamed with rice and autumn vegetables, creating a savory and aromatic one-pot meal that reflects the seasonal bounty.

Best Japanese spring foods

Spring heralds the arrival of sakura-inspired delights, such as sakura mochi and cherry blossom tea. Below is the list of foods that you can try. 

Sakura Mochi: Delicate rice cakes filled with sweet red bean paste, wrapped in a pickled cherry blossom leaf, celebrating the arrival of cherry blossoms in spring.

Cherry Blossom Tea (Sakura-cha): A fragrant tea made by infusing cherry blossoms in hot water, offering a subtle floral flavor and a beautiful pink hue.

Chawanmushi: A savory egg custard dish that often includes spring ingredients like fresh seafood, chicken, and seasonal vegetables, showcasing the light and delicate flavors of the season.

Takenoko Gohan: Bamboo shoots, a spring delicacy, cooked with rice to create a dish known as takenoko gohan, combining the earthy taste of bamboo shoots with the subtle sweetness of rice.

Strawberry Daifuku: Mochi filled with sweet red bean paste and a whole strawberry, creating a delightful blend of textures and flavors that align with the sweetness of spring strawberries.

Foods to avoid

In Japan, the cuisine often reflects the changing seasons, and certain foods may be more popular or considered fresher during specific times of the year. However, it's important to note that these guidelines can vary, and many foods are available year-round due to modern agricultural practices and global supply chains. Here are some general suggestions on foods to be mindful of based on the seasons:

Spring Season

Fugu (Blowfish): While not strictly a seasonal dish, fugu is a delicacy that is often associated with winter. However, it's crucial to be cautious, as the toxins in fugu can be more potent during the breeding season in spring.

Wild Vegetables (Sansai): Spring is known for the abundance of wild vegetables. While many are delicious and safe, it's recommended to be cautious if foraging on your own, as some wild plants may be toxic.

Summer Season

Fatty Fish and Seafood: High temperatures can lead to increased bacteria growth, so it's advisable to be cautious with raw or fatty fish during the summer months.

Eel (Unagi): Although eel is a popular summer dish in Japan, some people avoid it due to superstitions that eating it will help endure the heat. Additionally, overfishing concerns have led to calls for sustainability.

Autumn Season

Fugu (Blowfish): Similar to spring, fugu is traditionally associated with winter, but it's available in autumn as well.

Matsutake Mushrooms: Matsutake mushrooms are highly prized in autumn. While delicious, they can be quite expensive.

Winter Season

Oysters: Winter is the peak season for oysters in Japan. However, it's essential to consume them from reputable sources to avoid the risk of contamination.

Fugu (Blowfish): Fugu is a winter delicacy, but, as mentioned before, it's crucial to choose a licensed and experienced chef.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, exploring the seasonal foods in Japan is a delightful journey that offers not only a rich culinary experience but also a deep connection with the country's cultural and agricultural traditions. Each season brings a unique palette of flavors, textures, and culinary specialties, providing an opportunity to savor the best of what nature has to offer.

Embracing seasonal foods allows you to witness the ebb and flow of Japan's diverse landscapes and agricultural cycles. From the vibrant hues of cherry blossoms in spring to the hearty stews and hotpots in winter, the Japanese culinary calendar reflects the nation's profound appreciation for the changing seasons.