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The Beginner's Guide to Japanese Food

Japanese food is one of the most popular cuisines in the world. But if you’re not from Japan, it’s hard to know where to start when you want to try something new! If you don’t know what a California roll is, or even what sushi really is – then this article is for you!

In this beginner-friendly guide, we’ll be going over some basic types of Japanese cuisine and dishes that are sure to get your taste buds excited about experiencing a whole new culture!


A staple of Japanese cuisine, sushi’s prominence is a result of the many unique and delicious types of seafood native to Japan. Not only this, but sushi has been adapted and changed by regions all over the world – including America!

Every region in Japan has its own variation on how to make sushi, too! So if you’re looking for something specific or specific fish – be sure to ask your server.

When you do sit down for sushi in Japan for the first time, remember a few basic things: don’t mix the wasabi into your soy sauce, dip the fish (not the rice) into the soy sauce, and the pickled ginger is not for piling on top of your sushi, but for eating after a piece of sushi. Not a big deal, but it is always nice to try to adhere to the local way of doing things.


The premise of yakitori (which means “grilled chicken”) is simple: grilled meat, fish, or vegetables on a skewer. Rocket science it is not.

But from chicken thighs to mushrooms, everything is well seasoned and usually glazed by paintbrush with a soy sauce-based sauce. 


Ramen is a miso, soy sauce, or salt-based broth with thick wheat noodles. This dish can be found all over Japan, but obviously Tokyo has the highest concentration of ramen shops in the country.

Ramen comes in many shapes and forms, but there are two main styles to know about: Shio (salt) and Shoyu (soy sauce). They can come in white or red form; thin or thick noodles; small or large portions; meaty or veggie; mild tasting soup or super intense ones. There are also regional variations like Hakata ramen (white, tonkotsu based, thin noodles), Hokkaido ramen (creamier white broth, thicker noodles), Kyushu ramen (red broth, lots of garlic), and much more.


Udon is a thick wheat flour noodle. It can be served cold or hot, in a broth or dipped in a sauce. Either way, it is a great alternative to ramen if you do not want something quite so intense. The texture of the doughy noodles is perfect for slurping.


Soba are buckwheat noodles. They are thinner than udon but usually have more of a bite to them. Soba is available with different toppings, in cold dishes, or hot broth-based ones. It can be found all over Tokyo just like ramen and udon.



Okonomiyaki is a savory pancake filled with cabbage, bean sprouts, and other vegetables. It can be enjoyed on its own or topped with sauce and bonito flakes. The pancakes are cooked on a griddle right in front of you at the table by your waiter/waitress who adds each ingredient one by one to your dish as they knock it out.


Takoyaki are ball-shaped octopus dumplings. They are filled with diced octopus, green onions, pickled ginger, and tempura crumbs. These little balls of joy are one of the most popular street foods in Tokyo and can be found all around the city. Takoyaki Wanaka just off of Shinjuku’s Golden Gai is our favorite place to grab these tasty morsels.


This dish consists of beef that has been simmered in a sweet sauce until very tender; it’s then placed on top of rice (either in soup form or not) and often topped with onion or other vegetables like bean sprouts. You can get this meal at chain restaurants like Yoshinoya, Matsuya, and Sukiya or at independent mom and pop restaurants.


Tempura is a type of Japanese cuisine where seafood and vegetables are battered and deep fried. It can be served on its own, or with rice. Tempura is usually eaten with white soy sauce, green onion, and grated ginger. The batter puffs up so nicely creating a light but crunchy coating for the dish. Tempura can be found at all kinds of restaurants from very casual to more upscale affairs. Of course you can also get this popular dish at multiple tempura chains all over the city like Tenya (for some great deals).


Tonkatsu is a breaded pork cutlet that has been deep fried in hot oil until cooked through and golden brown; then it’s sliced and served with a side of shredded cabbage and rice. This dish is also usually eaten with white soy sauce, green onions, and grated ginger. Tonkatsu is most often found in casual restaurants or izakayas where you can get several dishes for one meal (a great way to try many dishes at once).

Are You Looking for Delicious Japanese Food and Some Family-Friendly Entertainment?

You’ve never had food this good! Kimono Restaurant offers a great place to take your family for entertainment, delicious eats, and fun. We start with the highest quality ingredients before grilling them right in front of you on our hibachi grill–the perfect way to get involved by watching as we prepare it just how YOU want it so there will be no surprises at all when they bite into your meal. This experience also gives us an opportunity to show off some amazing tricks which is where being entertained comes into play; our talented chefs will astound you even further by flipping meats around wildly or doing some other intricate, spectacular feats. If you’re looking for the perfect place to take your family for food, fun and entertainment. Kimono Japanese Restaurant in Benicia and Pleasanton, California, can’t be beaten! Join us today and experience the Kimono difference.