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Of course there are outdoor barbecues in Japan, but with very little front or backyard space to work with, the grill and everything that goes on it has been shrunk down. Devoid of any fancy knobs, racks, or even a lid, and easily packed away in a storage shed for use during the summer, these small grills are deceptively simple, but can churn out some delicious grub.

Let’s take a closer look at the tradition of grilling meat outdoors in Japan and we’ll also show you how to enjoy your own Japanese-style barbecue.

You may be thinking we’re referring to yakiniku, the Japanese phrase that translates as “grilled meat” and typically refers to food cooked on an indoor grill that is built into a table. While yakiniku is delicious, it’s summer and the last thing we want to do is be trapped indoors with a hot cooking device…which leads us to our first step to enjoying Japanese-style barbecue: Pick the perfect outdoor venue.


Ah, this’ll do nicely. (It’s actually the last of our top 5 places to see the sun set in Japan). Alright, so we have…

Step 1: Find a beautiful outdoor setting for your meal.

Which now leads us to (you guessed it!)…

Step 2: Take out your barbecue grill and prepare the coals.

▼ Don’t forget to fan them with an uchiwa!dsc08291

In Japan, it’s popular to use actual wood charcoal instead of those self-lighting briquettes that are often used in the US. While these need a little extra direct flame to get them started or even a fire starter, the wood charcoal is preferred and definitely looks cooler and more natural.

Step 3: Once the coals have turned white, spread them around and put the metal grill on top.

▼ Don’t forget the metal tongs!dsc08299

Step 4: Bust out the food you prepared ahead of time and get ready to grill!

▼ What’s a barbecue without meat?dsc08302 (1)

▼ But don’t forget your vegetables!dsc08300

Step 5: Start grilling!

▼ This is where chopsticks come in handy.dsc08315

Make sure the meat is completely unseasoned and so thin that it will easily fold in half. Lid? What lid? We grill in the open air here.

Step 6: Grab your metal tin, chopsticks, and dipping sauce.

Japanese outdoor barbecue essentials! Since the meat is so thin and the vegetables are cut into easily manageable pieces, all you need is a pair of chopsticks to grab the goods and a bowl to put your sauce in.


▼ Choose your favorite dipping sauce. Are you in a sweet or spicy mood?dsc08311

Also, since everything is bite-sized, that also means we eat standing up, straight off the grill. No need for a picnic table or bench!

Step 7: Sweat and wait.

Huddle around the grill with your friends, fight over the spots upwind of the smoke and sweat profusely waiting for the veggies to finally finish cooking. That’s the only downside to Japanese-style barbecue: the thinly sliced meat cooks lickety-split while the onions, carrots, cabbage, and other veg take their time getting nice and soft.

Step 8: Grab from the grill, plop in the sauce and eat.


That metal tin is really coming in handy! Use your chopsticks to grab the meat or veggies directly off the grill, slap it in your chosen sauce and eat in one bite!

Step 9: Repeat step 8 until you can no longer stand it.

So what do you think about Japanese barbecue? No Webers, propane grills, thick steaks or burger patties to be seen, but there’s plenty of flavor and good times. Just keep that meat sizzling and the sauce flowing and you’re going to have a delicious meal.

Images © Khoa “K” Dinh/RocketNews24