Tokyo offers various seasonal specialties, and summer is no exception. Many different foods have developed in Japan to overcome the hot and humid summer. Try these 15 foods and be ready to explore the city!
Kakigori is the Japanese version of shaved ice. Who would have thought this simple dish become huge in Japan? Many people have worked really hard to make fancy Kakigori, and many places offer the bowl with special ice made naturally in the north and syrups with natural ingredients.
Go try to find the ones made with syrups made with real fruits such as strawberries and lemons, or Uji-Matcha which comes with matcha syrup and red beans. You can also find more traditional Kakigori (which is not very fancy but cheap and affordable) often at summer festivals.
Here are some of the recommended places to have Kakigori in Tokyo:
Yelo in Roppongi offers various unique style Kakigori such as tiramisu, watermelon mascarpone and chocolate mint. It was quite shocking to hear about such flavors when it first came out. If you want to try something unique, Yelo is the place to go.
Nakamura Tokichi Ginza Store
Nakamura Tokichi is a long-standing Japanese confectionary shop originates in Kyoto. They are especially particular about their selection of green tea; thus, the only Kakigori menu at their cafe is Matcha Kakigori. You can choose the syrup from matcha, Hoji-cha, matcha and Hoji-cha, Matcha & Kuromitsu. The shaved ice also comes with soft-serve ice cream, Shiratama mochi, and red beans.
Anmitsu is a dessert that has been popular for a long time in Japan. It’s made with ager jelly, azuki bean paste, various fruits, boiled peas, red bean paste and served in a bowl with Kuromitsu, black sugar syrup. In many places, you can add a scoop of vanilla ice cream or matcha ice cream. The refreshing flavor of Anmitsu matches perfectly with summer in Tokyo.
Here are some of the recommended places to have Anmitsu in Tokyo:
Find more Japanese cafes in Tokyo: Best Japanese Style Cafes in Tokyo You Must Visit
This traditional Japanese style cafe opened in 1837 and said to be one of the best places for having Anmitsu. In this cafe, you can choose from black syrup to white syrup. The white syrup is a bit rare and tastes lighter than black syrup. Their Anzu (plum) Anmitsu is also recommended, which adds a sour flavor to Anmitsu.
Address: 1-15-6 Nihonbashi-Nigyocho, Chuo, Tokyo
Yokan is a type of jelly-like Japanese sweet made with red bean jam, ager, and sugar. Mizuyokan is one form of Yokan which contains more water thus softer and often eaten cold in summer. A piece of cold Mizuyokan is very refreshing in summer.
You can find Mizuyokan in most wagashi, Japanese dessert, shops in summer. Here are some places you can find Mizuyokan in Tokyo:
Toraya is one of the oldest wagashi shops in Japan. It continues since early 16th Century! Many Japanese people have loved the flavor for a long time. Toraya is especially famous for their Yokan, and they, of course, offer Mizuyokan in summer. If you are going to try Mizuyokan, why don’t you try the one from the most authentic wagashi shop?
Find more wagashi shops in Tokyo: 15 Wagashi Shops in Tokyo for the Best Traditional Japanese Sweets
Unagi is eels, and when we say unagi, it often means Unaju, which is a dish that puts grilled unagi on top of rice. It is said that unagi contains a lot of stamina and that’s why locals like to have it in summer. The best way to have unagi is to visit Unagi specialized restaurants.
Here are some unagi specialized restaurants you can find in Tokyo:
Nodaiwa is a long-standing unagi restaurant with over 200 years of history. They cook their unagi in the same style handed over chefs since their establishment. You can order both Unaju and shirayaki here. Shirayaki is a style of grilled eel, often served with wasabi and soy sauce. You can feel the natural flavor of eels stronger in Shirayaki.
Find more unagi restaurants in Tokyo: 10 Unagi Restaurants in Tokyo: Taste Crispy and Delicious Unagi!
5. Beer Garden
Who would have thought this German tradition be such a big summer icon in Japan? Many department stores set up a beer garden on the rooftops during summer, and people visit beer gardens after work to enjoy a cold beer outside. There are many beer gardens, all of them with unique characteristics.
FOREST BEER GARDEN (Mori No Beer Garden)
FOREST BEER GARDEN is one of the most famous beer gardens which takes place in Shinanomachi, near Shinjuku. Since they set up tables in a park, it feels very nice to drink beers surrounded by nature. You can enjoy various Japanese beers, including KIRIN Ichiban Shibori, and all-you-can-eat yakiniku BBQ.
Find more beer gardens in Tokyo: 10 Beer Garden in Tokyo for Awesome Beer in Summer
6. Takoyaki, Okonomiyaki, Yakisoba, Watagashi, etc.: Street food from festivals
One of the attractions of going to festivals to locals is foods: yes, most festivals set up many food stalls, and they make a tempting smell. Whether it’s a fireworks festival or Bonodori festival, foods are essential to festivals in Tokyo and Japan.
Some of the most popular foods from festivals are Takoyaki, Okonomiyaki, Yakisoba, Watagashi (cotton candy), Anzu ame (plum candy), chocolate bananas… it is impossible to have everything at once!
Find more about festival foods: 5 Street Food You Must Try in Japanese Summer Festivals
7. Zaru soba (cold soba noodles)
Soba noodles are one of the easiest foods to have in hot weather when people lose appetites. Actually, Japanese soba lovers choose to have cold soba noodles even in winter because it is the style which you can feel the flavor of soba the most. So why don’t you visit traditional soba restaurants to taste seriously delicious soba noodles?
Kanda Matsuya is one of the oldest soba restaurants in Tokyo. You can enjoy authentic zaru soba here in a traditional house-style establishment. Depending on the timing, you can also get to see a soba artist making soba from your seat. They also offer some sake and yakitori to taste before having soba noodles.
Find more soba restaurants in Tokyo: 5 Best Soba in Tokyo and How to Enjoy Soba
8. Cold Udon noodles
Udon noodles are also served cold as well as soba noodles. Cold udon noodles with grated daikon radish and sudachi taste really refreshing, and it is perfect for hot summer.
Kagawa Ippuku is a Michelin starred restaurant near Akihabara. They offer authentic Sanuki-style udon, which is the famous style of udon from Kagawa Prefecture. The noodles are thick and chewy yet sweet with the flavor of flours. Their dashi broth is very clear, and flavor stands out when it’s served cold.
Find more udon restaurants in Tokyo: 10 Best Udon in Tokyo You Never Want to Miss
9. Japanese style ice cream and gelato
Matcha flavored ice cream has probably become common in overseas already, but if you come to Japan, you will find far more varieties. Hoji-cha, red bean, green tea, yuzu, sakura, etc. So try as much Japanese flavored ice cream and gelato! Here are some places you can find such ice cream and gelatos:
Japanese Ice Cream OUCA
OUCA is an ice cream shop in Ebisu, and they focus on offering Japanese style flavors. Their offerings include matcha, sakura, red bean, sweet potatoes, etc. Not only the flavors but also the texture of their ice cream is awesome. It’s very smooth, and because it contains a lot of air inside, ice cream melts instantly in the mouth.
Suzukien is a tea shop in Asakusa and offers famous matcha gelato. Why is their matcha gelato famous? They have the strongest flavored matcha ice cream in the world! They offer seven flavors of matcha ice cream, from level one to seven, and level seven is the strongest.
10. Cold shabu-shabu
Can you imagine locals have cold shabu-shabu in summer? It is a very common summer food, and locals have it like a salad with vegetables and sesame dressings. You can find cold shabu-shabu pasta salad at convenience stores and may be able to encounter at Japanese food restaurants during summer. Men, Iroiro, Itsudemo Oyatu in Shinjuku offers cold shabu-shabu pasta and udon noodles for those who are interested in trying.
11. Hiyashi Chuka
The name of the dish literally means “chilled Chinese.” It is sometimes cold ramen, the Chinese noodle in a Japanese style. It consists of chilled ramen noodles with various toppings such as eggs, hams, lettuce, cucumber, etc. You can find it at Chinese restaurants and convenience stores in summer.
12. Grilled Ayu fish
Ayu is sweetfish in English and is a small fish in the salmon family. It is often skewed and grilled with charcoals, flavored simply with salt. Ayu is typical street food from stalls in riversides, so if you have a chance to take a day trip to riversides, look for a stall and try having Ayu. It is said to be one of the tastiest river fish.
13. Somen noodles
Somen is another Japanese noodles. It is a very thin noodle made with of wheat flour. Some noodles are often served with cold tsuyu (dipping sauce) just like soba noodles. Not like soba and udon, somen is more considered food to have at home, and it is not easy to find somen noodles in restaurants. Sososo in Ebisu is one of such restaurants. They offer not only some noodles in the traditional style but also offers in modern creative styles.
Ramune is the soda drink popular to drink in summer. Its iconic shape of the bottle makes Ramune unique, and locals feel it taste different from other soda drinks. You can find Ramune at festivals, etc.
15. Hiyayakko (cold tofu)
Hiyayakko is tofu served cold with toppings such as green onions, bonito flakes, and grated ginger. It is also one of the best ways to taste the flavor of soy. Many izakayas serve Hiyayakko in summer, so try to find one by visiting one of the Japanese food izakayas!
Find izakayas in Tokyo: 5 Best Izakaya in Tokyo That No One Tells You
More reads to enjoy summer
– 10 Best Things to Do in Summer at Tokyo to Enjoy the City Fullest
– 10 Best Beaches in and around Tokyo For the Next Summer Vacation
– 10 Best Fireworks Festivals In and Around Tokyo
– 5 Street Food You Must Try in Japanese Summer Festivals
– 10 Beer Garden in Tokyo for Awesome Beer in Summer
Information in this article is as of August, 2019
Thumbnail image is from Flickr