There’s much more to Japanese food than just sushi and seafood.

So I have a bit of a confession to make: I don’t actually like most Japanese food.

Yes, yes, gasp away. Before I first came to Japan, one of my biggest fears was that I wouldn’t be able to eat anything in the country, since I don’t like seafood or raw food. Thankfully upon arriving I found out that there’s much more to the Japanese cuisine, so I’d like to share some of them with any others out there who want to experience Japanese tastes without involving anything undercooked or from the ocean.

That’s why today we’re counting down the top five Japanese foods for people who don’t like seafood. We’ve broken it down by restaurant, from easiest to hardest, excepting places like ramen shops and fast food joints like Sukiya or Yoshinoya since it’s pretty easy to get something Japanese and any-palate-friendly there.

So let’s get to it! Starting off with…

#5. Beginner mode: At the convenience store — onigiri and yakisoba

Flickr/Hajime NAKANO, Flickr/Nori Norisa (edited by SoraNews24)

Ah the conbini. This is at the bottom of our list because it’s pretty easy to pick up something to eat no matter your preference. But if you want a taste of something uniquely Japanese that isn’t full of sugar (get melon bread for that) or that isn’t terrifying for beginners (get oden for that), then onigiri and yakisoba are two good options.

For those unfamiliar, onigiri are “rice balls,” though the versions at the convenience store are more triangular. You’ll find them stacked in a slightly-refrigerated shelf, and there can be anywhere from a dozen to seemingly billions of different varieties. If you’re not a fan of seafood then you’re going to want to avoid these:

  • ツナ (tuna)
  • しゃけ or さけ or サーモン (salmon)
  • 明太子 or めんたいこ (walleye pollack roe)
  • たらこ (cod roe)
  • すじこ (salmon roe)
  • 海老 or えび (shrimp)

Instead, search for one of these:

  • 鶏 or チキン (chicken)
  • 牛 (beef)
  • 豚 or ブタ (pork)
  • 味噌 (miso paste)

If all that sounds like way too much work, then you can get a seafood-free Japanese meal with some yakisoba. It’s just a bunch of fried noodles mixed with vegetables and sometimes meat, so check out the words above if you’re unsure about what’s in it. Or, you know, just look at it through the clear plastic shield.

▼ And if you’re feeling adventurous, why not get both?
Look at all that delicious, non-seafood Japanese goodness!

#4. Easy mode: Family restaurant — curry and omurice

Flickr/akira yamada, Flickr/hirotomo t (edited by SoraNews24)

If you’re at a family restaurant then your choices are going to be more limited than at a convenience store, and you may find it harder to get something that’s actually Japanese. Sure, you could just order a hamburger or something, but if you’re visiting Japan then wouldn’t you rather try something unique to the country?

That’s where curry comes in. Curry may sound more like Indian food than Japanese, but Japan has put their own spin on the dish so much that it’s practically their own thing now, kind of like American pizza vs. Italian pizza.

▼ This is Indian-style curry…

▼ …and this is Japanese-style curry.
(Rice-penguins may or may not be a mandatory inclusion.)

As long as you like rice with a bit of creamy spice to it, then you’ll be golden. Just be sure to steer clear of any of the seafood words from before, and you can enjoy a nice vegetable, beef, pork, chicken, or whatever curry you want.

If that’s not uniquely Japanese enough for you though, then perhaps you’d like to try “omurice,” as in, “omelet rice.” It’s exactly what it sounds like: an omelet wrapped over rice, usually with ketchup on top.

▼ And quite often shaped into cute designs
that make you feel guilty about eating them.

▼ It’s so pure… but I must eat it or she’ll go yandere on me….

What I find particularly funny about omurice is that many Japanese people I’ve spoken to are convinced that it’s an American food. When I tell them I’d never even heard of it before coming to Japan, they’re shocked. So give this culturally-confusing food a try if you want to avoid the fish and still get something that’s Japanese and delish.

#3. Medium mode: At the izakaya — okonomiyaki and tonkatsu

Flickr/ume-y, Flickr/yoppy (edited by SoraNews24)

Izakaya, Japanese pubs, are a common place to meet up with friends or coworkers. But they can also be terrifying when someone recommends ordering up a plate of sushi or raw meat and splitting it. When that happens, offer up an alternative! We recommend okonomiyaki and tonkatsu.

Okonomiyaki (literally “grilled-as-you-like”) is often hailed as the “Japanese pizza” or “Japanese savory pancake,” but in reality it’s quite different from either. The ingredients vary wildly (as does its origin depending on who you ask), but the base usually consists of a batter made of flour and cabbage, then often eggs, green onion, or dashi, with meat and vegetables added in.

▼ The final product is then slathered in okonomiyaki sauce and mayonnaise,
making for one deliciously crunchy-yet-soft and extremely savory meal.

But if even the okonomiyaki is a bit too adventurous for you, then have no fear, tonkatsu is here to save the day. Tonkatsu is just a fried pork cutlet, nothing fancy, but can be found at pretty much every Japanese restaurant, so it’s a safe go-to.

▼ Just one thing: don’t eat it before you slather it with a hearty amount
of “sauce” (that’s just what it’s called) for the full, mouth-bliss experience.

#2. Hard mode: At a mid-range Japanese restaurant — hamburg and soba

Flickr/iyoupapa, Flickr/Norio Nomura (edited by SoraNews24)

For someone who doesn’t like traditional Japanese food, there’s nothing scarier than sitting down at a Japanese-style restaurant, opening the menu, and seeing nothing but colorful fish heads, shrimp, and sushi staring back at you.

But fear not! There are two dishes commonly found at mid-range Japanese-style restaurants that can help you get through: hamburg and soba.

At first glance you might think, “Hamburg? But I don’t want a hamburger, I want something Japanese.” But in Japanese, “a hamburger” is hanbāgā, whereas what you’ll be ordering is hanbāgu, “a hamburg steak.” It’s exactly what it sounds like — a steak made out of ground meat.

▼ Depending on how fancy the restaurant is, you may get
shredded daikon (Japanese radish) and spring onions on top.

But if the hamburg isn’t Japanese enough for you, then go ahead and try the soba, another fancy restaurant staple. Soba is kind of like ramen, except the noodles are thinner and made of buckwheat. There’s a ton of different varieties to choose from, but here’s some of the most common:

▼ There’s kitsune soba (“fox soba”) topped with fried tofu.

▼ There’s tanuki soba (“raccoon dog soba”)
topped with fried tempura batter.

▼ And there’s zaru soba (“basket soba”) where the noodles are
served cold on a bamboo basket and you dip them into a light sauce.

Any of the above would make for a good soba choice, though if you’re not a fan of fish or raw things, then you may want to avoid tempura soba (usually served with fried shrimp) or tsukimi soba (served with a raw egg on top that cooks in the hot broth).

And the #1 Japanese food for people who don’t like seafood is…











1. Expert mode: At a sushi restaurant — inari


It’s the ultimate nightmare for anyone who doesn’t like seafood: going to a sushi restaurant. Unlike the other places on this list, many sushi restaurants in Japan specialize only in sushi and sashimi. So there’s no way around it; you’re going to have to order one.

Thankfully there’s an option that I have to embarrassingly admit I’ve only learned about in the past few years: inari (or inari zushi).

Unlike other sushi that’s filled with rice and raw fish, traditional inari is filled with only half of that equation — rice. The rice is wrapped in a fried tofu pouch, and that’s it! No fish, no raw meat, nothing! Just some sweet, sticky sushi rice and a convenient pouch to grab and eat it with.

▼ The innards of an inari.

▼ And just like everything else in Japan,
inari can of course be cute-ified as well.

And now, armed with this food knowledge, you can safely go to Japan and enjoy the unique cuisine, all while avoiding any fish and raw meat! Best of luck to you, traveler, and if you do run into any sushi on your travels…

▼ …just make them into socks instead.

So there you have it, the top five Japanese foods for people who don’t like seafood. Did we miss your favorite Japanese food? Let us know in the comments, especially if your favorite food happens to also be one of the top five odd ways Japanese people beat the summer heat.

Top image: PAKUTASO (edited by SoraNews24)

W.T.F. Japan will be back next Thursday. In the meantime, say hi on Twitter and let me know if there’s any topics you’d like to see covered. See you next week!