23 Delicious Japanese Winter Foods You Need to Try

Wondering what is the best Japanese winter food to try? We’ve got you!

Japan’s winter season brings with it a delightful array of comforting and hearty foods that are perfect for warming you up on a cold day.

As the temperature drops and frosty landscapes take over, the Japanese are well-prepared to battle the chill with their culinary expertise.

In this post, we’ll share everything you need to know about Japanese winter food, including must-try dishes, food festivals to include on your Japan winter itinerary, and more!

What Makes Japanese Winter Food Unique?

Japanese winter food is unique and comforting, designed to warm the body and soul during the cold winter months.

Hot pot dishes, such as nabe, are popular and consist of a simmering pot of broth, meat, seafood, and vegetables that are shared among diners.

Winter ingredients such as root vegetables, mushrooms, and citrus fruits are used in stews, soups, and hot pot dishes.

Comfort foods like ramen, udon noodles, and donburi are also popular.

Don’t forget to get travel insurance for your trip! As always, I recommend Safety Wing for great prices and coverage abroad. It starts at only $45 USD per month and will have you covered with everything you may need during your trip! Check them out here.

Delicious Japanese Winter Food

1. Yakitori

Yakitori is a savory Japanese snack that you won’t regret trying.

It consists of skewered pieces of chicken, which are usually marinated in a sweet and salty sauce called tare.

Japanese Winter Food

These skewers are grilled to perfection, giving them a slightly smoky flavor.

You can enjoy yakitori at izakayas, street food carts, and even upscale restaurants.

2. Kabocha Nimono

Kabocha Nimono is a flavorful Japanese pumpkin simmered in a delicious broth.

Japanese Winter Food

The soft texture and subtle sweetness of the kabocha make this dish a staple during the winter season. Served as a side dish, it’s a tasty addition to any meal.

3. Okayu

This rice porridge is typically made with just rice and water, making it an easily digestible meal.

Japanese Winter Food

Feel free to add ingredients like ginger or pickled plums for additional flavor.

4. Nikujaga

Nikujaga is the epitome of comfort food and one of the best Japanese winter foods.

Japanese Winter Food

Made from tender meat (usually beef or pork) and potatoes, this hearty stew is sure to keep you warm and satisfied throughout the winter.

You may also like:

5. Chawanmushi

Chawanmushi is a savory egg custard dish that is often served as an appetizer and contains delightful surprises like vegetables, seafood, or chicken.

Japanese Winter Food

Its warm, delicate texture complements any meal during the colder months, making it one of the most popular Japanese winter foods.

Japanese Winter Food: Hot Pot Dishes

6. Nabe

Nabe is a popular Japanese hot pot dish that’s perfect for the winter season.

You’ll find it all over Japan during the winter season, and if you like it, it’s actually pretty easy to recreate at home!

Here are some popular nabe variations:

  • Yose Nabe: a combination of meat, fish, and vegetables cooked in a simple broth.
  • Chanko Nabe: sumo wrestler’s hot pot, featuring various proteins and vegetables in a flavorful broth.
  • Kimchi Nabe: a fusion of Japanese and Korean flavors, using spicy kimchi and pork.

7. Sukiyaki

Sukiyaki is like a dream come true for meat lovers, with thinly-sliced beef taking center stage.

Japanese Winter Food

It’s typically cooked in a shallow iron pot at the table, allowing everyone to dig in and enjoy it together.

8. Shabu Shabu

Named for the swishing sound the ingredients make as they cook in the hot pot, shabu shabu is a fun, interactive Japanese winter food you can enjoy with friends and family.

Japanese Winter Food

Shabu shabu is a deliciously light and fresh hot pot dish that provides the perfect balance of flavors and textures.

9. Oden

Oden is a traditional Japanese winter food, perfect for warming you up on cold winter days.

It’s a one-pot dish featuring various ingredients like boiled eggs, daikon radish, tofu, and fish cakes, all simmered together in a rich and flavorful soy-based broth.

Japanese Winter Food: Rice Dishes

10. Kare Raisu

You might know Kare Raisu as curry rice, which is a delicious Japanese winter food.

Japanese Winter Food

It consists of a rich curry sauce served over steamed rice.

The curry is usually made with a variety of vegetables, such as onions, carrots, and potatoes, and a choice of protein like beef, chicken, or pork.

11. Oyakodon

Another comforting Japanese rice dish to try during the winter months is Oyakodon – a warm, hearty bowl of steamed rice topped with a delicious mix of chicken and eggs, all cooked together in a savory sauce.

Japanese Winter Food

The name “Oyakodon” literally translates to “parent and child rice bowl”, referring to the chicken and egg used in the dish.

Japanese Winter Food: Noodle Dishes

12. Udon

Winter in Japan is the perfect time to try Udon.

You’ll find these thick and chewy wheat noodles in piping hot broth that will warm you right up.

There are several varieties of Udon for you to try, some of which include:

  • Kitsune Udon: Topped with sweet fried tofu
  • Tempura Udon: Garnished with a piece of shrimp tempura
  • Kare Udon: Featuring Japanese curry over the noodles

13. Soba

Soba is another Japanese winter food favorite, made with buckwheat noodles.

Japanese Winter Food

These noodles have a distinct earthy flavor and can be enjoyed hot or cold.

While they can be enjoyed year-round, winter is when you’ll find heartier Soba dishes, like:

  • Kake Soba: Noodles in hot broth topped with green onions
  • Tempura Soba: Similar to Tempura Udon, but with Soba noodles
  • Tsukimi Soba: With a raw egg added to the hot broth, which cooks gently as you eat

14. Ramen

With countless regional styles and variations available across Japan, there’s always a new bowl for you to taste.

Ramen typically features thin wheat noodles in a rich broth.

Here’s a quick look at some popular types of Ramen:

  • Shoyu Ramen: Soy sauce-based broth
  • Miso Ramen: Miso paste-infused broth
  • Tonkotsu Ramen: Rich and creamy pork bone broth

While slurping up your noodles, don’t forget to enjoy the toppings like chashu (braised pork), bean sprouts, and bamboo shoots.

Japanese Winter Food: Sweets and Snacks

15. Mochi

Mochi is a popular Japanese snack, especially during winter.

Japanese Winter Food

It’s a soft and chewy rice cake made from glutinous rice, often filled with sweet fillings like red bean paste, or dipped in soy sauce and wrapped in nori (seaweed).

You can find these delights at convenience stores, supermarkets, or traditional mochi shops.

16. Zenzai

Zenzai is a sweet red bean soup served with mochi (rice cakes) that makes for the perfect Japenese winter food for sweet tooths.

Japanese Winter Food

Made from azuki beans and sugar, it’s not only tasty but also provides energy to help you stay warm.

17. Yakiimo

Yakiimo is a must-try roasted sweet potato treat.

You’ll find food vendors selling them on street corners and filling the air with their tempting aroma.

Japanese Winter Food

These nutritious snacks are both filling and satisfying, making them perfect for combating the chilly weather.

18. Hoshigaki

If you’re looking for a unique fruit option, give Hoshigaki a try! These dried persimmons are a traditional winter snack in Japan.

They are naturally sweet and chewy, offering a pleasant contrast to fresh fruits.

Regional Winter Delicacies in Japan

19. Hokkaido: Ishikari Nabe

In Hokkaido, you’ll find delicious comfort food to keep you warm during the chilly winter months.

Japanese Winter Food

One must-try dish is Ishikari Nabe, a miso-based hot pot loaded with fresh salmon and vegetables.

20. Hokkaido Ramen

Another popular choice is Ramen – but with a twist!

Creamy, buttery broth, and corn as toppings make Hokkaido’s ramen a unique and hearty meal.

21. Hokkaido Kani Miso

For seafood lovers, don’t skip the opportunity to try Kani Miso, the flavorful crab innards served right in the shell.

And of course, who could forget the sweet treat of chocolate-covered potato chips – a local specialty that hits the sweet and salty cravings just right!

22. Nagano Oyaki

In Nagano Prefecture, Oyaki is the go-to Japanese winter food – a hot, steaming bun stuffed with various fillings like vegetables, sweet red bean paste, or even savory meat.

Japanese Winter Food

This versatile delicacy is a perfect on-the-go snack, or you can enjoy it with a side of hot sake to warm up your body inside and out!

23. Kyushu Motsunabe

Kyushu’s winter food scene is bursting with flavor, and one of its star dishes is Motsunabe.

Japanese Winter Food

This rich, hearty hot pot features beef or pork offal, vegetables, and mouthwatering spices, usually accompanied by a bowl of steamed rice or noodles to soak up the delicious broth.

Don’t forget to get travel insurance for your trip! As always, I recommend Safety Wing for great prices and coverage abroad. It starts at only $45 USD per month and will have you covered with everything you may need during your trip! Check them out here.

Japanese Winter Food Festivals

1. Sapporo Snow Festival

The Sapporo Snow Festival might be mostly known for its stunning snow and ice sculptures, but there’s plenty of delicious Japanese winter food to enjoy too!

As you wander around these gorgeous, wintery grounds in February, you’ll find street food stands offering local Hokkaido dishes such as ramen, Genghis Khan (grilled lamb), and scallops.

2. Hiroshima (Miyajima) Oyster Festival

If you love seafood, the Hiroshima (Miyajima) Oyster Festival is the place to be.

This oyster-centric event takes place in February and allows you to experience the freshness and taste of locally caught Miyajima oysters.

You can enjoy a variety of dishes such as raw oysters, grilled oysters, and fried oysters.

3. Beers of Japan Festival

Finally, wash it all down at the Beers of Japan Festival. This festival showcases the country’s burgeoning craft beer scene.

Usually held in February, the event features a wide variety of beers from local brewers and even breweries you may not have heard of.

Your winter food-filled adventure won’t be complete without some tasty brews to complement it.

Japanese Winter Food: Conclusion

Japanese winter food is a unique and comforting cuisine that offers warmth and nourishment during the cold winter months.

From hot pot dishes to seasonal stews and soups, Japanese winter food features a range of delicious ingredients and flavors that are designed to warm the body and soul.

Whether you are enjoying a bowl of ramen or sharing a hot pot with friends and family, Japanese winter food is a beloved cuisine that brings people together and celebrates the joys of the season.