5 Unique Japanese Food Many Foreigners Try to Avoid | Guidable - Your Guide to a Sustainable, Wellbeing-centred Life in Japan

5 Unique Japanese Food Many Foreigners Try to Avoid

By Tony Tao Jul 10, 2020
Japan has a reputation among foreigners for being creative and special. One unique character of Japan, which is of great interest to foreigners (as well as great fear!) is their food. Because of the peculiar appearance, taste or smell, sometimes they are avoided by people from overseas. Getting to know them is considered as a fascinating experience because you will be able to explore the culture behind.

Let’s get into it!

1. Natto (Fermented Soybeans)

Natto is one of the most common Japanese foods which is symbolized as a unique food in Japan. In Japanese traditional style of breakfast, it is often served as one of the side dishes. This fermented food has a unique consistency and surprising smell – foreigners are extremely scared of this smell, even Japanese. In fact, many say it’s an acquired taste. However, you shouldn’t be deterred by this.

Natto is extremely healthy and is associated with many health benefits, ranging from stronger bones to a healthier heart and immune system.

Where can I eat natto?

Natto is a growing delicacy, from the convenience stores to supermarkets can be found across Japan.
If you love natto, though, you should head over to Mito, Ibaraki, the natto capital of the world.

2. Rare Octopus/Squid

Sashimi is often prepared by killing the animal first, but for this dish, the ika (squid) is sliced up while it’s still alive. Due to its freshness, the tentacles can sometimes be felt moving about in your mouth. Rare octopus contains many nutrients.

Where can I eat rare octopus/squid?

Nomarlly it will be available at sushi restaurants. Otherwise, you can go to Yobuko, Saga, where the dish is regional to.

3. Pickled Plum (Umeboshi)

Highly salted pickled plums, or umeboshi, have been a cherished part of the Japanese diet for decades, admired for their preservative qualities and health benefits as well as their distinctive mouth-puckering sourness and salty tang. Nevertheless, the specific combination of salt and sour makes them a hard taste for others to acquire, especially foreigners.
In Japan, you will sometimes meet a lunch box meal which has one piece of pickled plum placed on the centre of white rice. It is called “Hinomaru Bento” in Japanese. “Hinomaru” means the red circle which resembles the sun, and it symbolizes the Japanese flag.

4. Raw Horse Meat

Horse meat was consumed in the prefectures of Kumamoto and Nagano for four hundred years since horses were also used as burden beasts in agriculture there.

In Japanese cuisine, sakura or sakuraniku (sakura means “cherry blossom,” niku means “meat”) is called raw horse meat because of its pink colour. The horse meat can be eaten raw as sashimi, often with added ginger and onions, in thin slices dipped in soy sauce. It is called basashi in this case.

Where can I eat basashi?

Basashi can commonly be found in the Tohoku region (Akita, Aomori, Fukushima, Iwate, Miyagi and Yamagata). Prefectures such as Kumamoto, Nagano and Oita are famous for basashi.

5. Pufferfish (Fugu)

Fugu is a pufferfish dish that can be prepared in a variety of ways. The consumption of fugu has resulted in several cases of poisoning. As a consequence, this is strictly governed.

To be a fugu chef, one must complete a three-year apprenticeship. Besides, these fugu chefs must pass a series of stringent examinations to be fully qualified. It has been estimated that only 35% of the applicants pass.

Where can I eat fugu?

Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi is most famous for its fugu. Despite this, it can be found throughout Japan in restaurants specializing in fugu.