Tuesday, June 18, 2024
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Japanese festivals called matsuri, usually take place in Japan throughout the year and offer food in ‘Yatai’, which I’m sure you’ve seen (fans like us) in anime matsuri festivals, and that special atmosphere that is breathed in them, with some characters wearing kimono. Well, this is exactly like in real life.


Yatai at Japanese festival

Yatai are food stalls, food for Japanese festivals, although you can find them every day in typical shopping streets, an example would be the Nakamise street of Asakusa, on the way to the Sensoji Temple.

If you want to know more about yatai and the typical food of Asakusa and its streets click here.

At the yatai you will find from freshly cooked karaage fried chicken to taiyaki stuffed with red bean paste and other sweets, snacks and desserts during the festival add the magic to the Japanese matsuri.

In Japan, festivals are held at shrines, temples and other places throughout the year to celebrate seasonal or historical events.

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On holidays, store owners set up food stalls and outdoor stalls called “yatai” on the side, in the park or on the path near the shrine. The festival has a variety of sweets and desserts, which are a great way to sample Japanese street food at a reasonable price, ranging from 300 but usually always less than 500 yen.

They usually offer quick and delicious Japanese food, desserts and drinks. Here are some typical foods and desserts that can be enjoyed during Japanese festivals.

If you want to make your own Japanese meals and you don’t have any utensils, whether they are takoyaki plates, sake, mirin… click here it will take you to a list on amazon where you can get it.

Food and savory snacks of festivals in Japan | Yatai 屋台

Salted foods of the yatai.


Takoyaki at matsuri, yatai stand

Takoyaki (たこ焼き or 蛸焼) originated in Osaka (Kansai region) and is very popular throughout the country.

What is takoyaki

It is made from a thin Japanese pancake batter shaped like a ping pong ball, using a special iron grill mold to make bite-sized balls with small pieces of octopus (tako) inside.

They top it with takoyaki sauce (similar to Worcestershire sauce), katsuobushi (dried fish flakes) and dried green seaweed.

Optional toppings include Japanese mayonnaise and beni shoga (red ginger) mayonnaise and even cheese.


Okonomiyaki on yatai grill

What is Okonomiyaki (お好み焼き)

It is a round, savory dish similar to a pancake, pizza or omelet that usually contains cabbage, pork and sweet sauce. Since many variations on the ingredients can be used, it literally means “cook (griddle) to your liking”.

It takes time to make okonomiyaki, so vendors cook them in batches and provide hot pancakes after cooking. This is a favorite at many festivals, and few people can escape the temptation of its aroma and taste.

Depending on the region, there will be different changes. A common practice in Hiroshima is modanyaki (モダン焼き), including fried noodles (焼きそば). There is a similar dish that originated in Tokyo and is called monjayaki (もんじゃ焼き).


Karaage, Japanese fried chicken in matsuri, yatai stall

What is karaage (から揚げ).

It is a technique for making Japanese fried chicken karaage that is very popular. It is made by pickling a small portion of the ingredients in soy sauce, garlic and ginger, then lightly coating it with a mixture of karaage flour which is seasoned wheat or potato starch and then lightly frying it in oil, similar to tempura.

Note: it is a real delicacy for the Japanese, but be careful as they tend to like a lot of tendons and cartilage so you may be in for a surprise.


Normal caramelized dango, there are several different ones in each dango yatai.

There are many types of dango, but there is one that you will only see in a certain season, the hanami dango, you will see them in the cherry season matsuri, in hanami, they make them in three colors: pink, green and white.

What is Dango (団子)

They are small dumplings made of rice flour and served and strung on a bamboo stick. They can have sweet or savory fillings.

Yakisoba noodles

Yakisoba noodles on a Japanese festival yatai stand grill

What are yakisoba noodles (焼きそば).

These are stir-fried noodles often found at Japanese festivals. Stir-fried noodles are made with stir-fried cabbage noodles, chicken, pork, or beef, carrots and a few slices of ginger.

Ao nori or dried green seaweed is usually sprinkled on top. The color of yakisoba sauce and Japanese mayonnaise makes it more appetizing.

The cook forms a large pile of noodles in batches and divides them into orders as needed.

Another popular way to prepare yakisoba at festivals is to stack the noodles in a center-sliced bun (yakisoba-pan) hot dog style, and garnish it with mayonnaise and pieces of pickled ginger.

Tomorokoshi taki corn

Tomorokoshi baked corn at matsuri, yatai stand

Que es “tomorokoshi” (grilled corn)

It is a popular summer delicacy during festivals. This seasonal vegetable is usually freshly grilled on the grill and topped with a buttery flavor on the cob. Although you may have eaten this snack before, the traditional Matsuri atmosphere and the taste of corn will definitely give you a unique experience.


Yakitori grill at yatai stall in Japan

Yakitori (焼き鳥) is common at Japanese festivals and yatai stands.

What is yakitori

These are skewers of types of meat, small pieces that we can eat without problem are placed on a wooden skewer called kushiyaki (串焼) and seasoned with a kind of salty sauce ( yaitori sauce) or teriyaki sauce, which is basically made of mirin, sweet sake, soy sauce and sugar. They are then grilled to perfection and give off a unique aroma.

These pieces can be: mainly chicken skewers, chicken skin, chicken wings, chicken thighs, chicken balls, and bone cartilage, chicken tail or even chicken internal organs… all of them can include vegetables, but depending on where you are and how traditional those stalls are, you can find something more modern like beef, pork, seafood and fish ( bonito yakitori, salmon yakitori..).

French fries in Yatai

French fries (furaido poteto) in matsuri

French fries (フライド????テト) can be found all over the world, but at Japanese festivals, the variety of French fries may be different from any variety you’ve tried. This salty, crunchy snack is pronounced “furaido poteto” (French fries) in Japanese. There are also some unique Japanese flavors, ori shio (seaweed and salt flakes) can be delicious and are worth trying.

Ikayaki, Japanese squid brochette

Ikayaki squid on bamboo skewer in yatai

What is ikayaki

Grilled squid (烏賊焼) is another traditional holiday appetizer. Grilled squid will be ready in a minute and is seasoned mainly with soy sauce and served as a horizontally sliced squid ring. It is lighter than other Japanese festival appetizers making it an excellent appetizer with drinks such as beer or cola.

Festival sweets in Japan

Sweets in the yatai of Japan

Choco Banana

Choco banana in traditional yatai

In Japan, Choco Banana (チョコバナナ ) are very popular during festivals, as it is very difficult to make the same banana in case and that’s why you will see long lines at the yatai.

What are choco bananas

It is a banana skewer with different toppings, but almost always the bananas are soaked in chocolate and then sprinkled with candies, such as multicolored nuts or walnuts. It can also be dipped in other types of melted chocolate, such as white chocolate, strawberry-flavored chocolate and all kinds of chocolate.

The chocolate is filled with melon and strawberry filled chocolate. Sometimes they also have toppings, mini cookies that make it more luxurious.


Strawberry Kakigori shaved ice in Japanese festival

What is Kakigori (かきき氷).

It is a traditional delicacy during the summer season, and the ice is shaved with a layer of syrup, which turns into a layer of ice snow. This cold dessert is especially popular in summer, usually with fruity syrup and condensed milk.

Popular ice flavors include strawberry, melon, lemon, cola, mango, orange, matcha or green tea. Some kakigōri are often also called mizore (みぞれ, slush).


Taiyaki on metal grill in Japanese festival

Who is Taiyaki (鯛焼き)

It is a fish-shaped cake with a sweet filling. They are made using batter from regular pancakes or waffles by pouring them into fish-shaped molds and cooked on both sides. The most popular filling is sweet red bean paste, but you can also find taiyaki with custard, chocolate or cheese.


Satsumaimo, baked sweet potato at festivals

What is satsumaimo

It is a baked sweet potato and very nutritional, nostalgic at festivals for some because of the taste and smell.

Festivals usually have foods that are fried and sugary, and very heavy, but Japanese sweet potato (satsumaimo サツマイモ) is an exception, as it is light and very nutritional.

At some festivals, it is sold in long cuts, as sweet potato sticks with powdered sugar or icing, or sold as is as sweet potato is. These snacks contain vitamins and fiber so it could be a great dessert, or if you don’t want to fill up too much.

For some Japanese this is a big star, because it is a characteristic smell of autumn, when everything starts to cool down, it is a nostalgic food that reminds them of home and the changing of the season.

During the Japanese New Year, sweet potatoes are boiled and mashed before being mixed with chestnut syrup to make the special dish called Kurikinton, which is a symbol of wealth and prosperity.

If you want a private street food tour in Japan, get more information here.


TO LEARN MORE about yatai

To learn more about food, if you are an anime fan in Shokugeki no Soma (or Food Wars in English), you will find Yukihira Soma, Nakiri Erina, Tadokoro Megumi, the Aldini brothers and company, preparing unique dishes and also reinvented typical Japanese dishes.

You will see how they use different sauces, such as mirin sauce in some cases, yakisoba sauce in soma’s famous yakisoba stir-fry, yakitori sauce in yakitori chicken which they will prepare in a little known way…you will see a lot of different recipes so it is worth watching.

(Note: the only downside we see is that it is too…sensual (ecchi), i.e. it has touches of nudity and moaning voices that some people may find spoiling.

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