Have you been to a Japanese festival or matsuri?
While festivals are held all year round in Japan, there is something special about summer matsuri! One of the highlights of any matsuri is yatai or food stalls, where you can sample the very best Japanese snacks for usually no more than 500 yen (less than $5 USD).
And unlike other places in Japan, you’re free to walk around while you eat and drink!
We’ve found our top 10 sweet and savory Japanese festival foods you must try on your next trip to Japan!
Experience a matsuri through ZenPop’s Japanese Festival Stationery Pack. A ZenMarket service, ZenPop curates monthly boxes of the very best ramen, sweets, snacks or stationery and delivers to you direct from Osaka! Use coupon ZPFRIENDS19 to save $3 USD off your first ZenPop pack.
Our Top 5 Savory Festival Foods
You’ll smell this snack before you see it! Yakitori are easy-to-eat grilled meat skewers topped with a delicious and tangy sauce. While tori means chicken, you’ll be able to enjoy lots of different meat and veggie options, including tsukune (meatballs) and mushrooms.
A festival favorite, yakisoba is a stir-fried noodle dish made with shredded cabbage and meat (usually pork). It is topped with dried green seaweed, yakisoba sauce, and Japanese mayonnaise.
Best described as a savory pancake, Okonomiyaki is typically made of flour, cabbage, meat, eggs. The style of okonomiyaki and ingredients change depending on where in Japan you are, with popular varieties in Osaka and Hiroshima.
Takoyaki is probably one of the most popular Japanese festival foods. These bite-sized treats contain pieces of octopus topped with takoyaki sauce, dried bonito flakes, and green seaweed. Some varieties also include a heapful of green onions! Great to share with friends!
5. Mochi Mochi Potato
Mashed potato is piped directly into the fryer to make these long and delicate fries! This is a newcomer to the festival foods scene, but you should definitely try it if you can.
Our Top 5 Sweet Festival Foods
1. Ringo Ame
Ringo Ame, literally sweet apple, is the Japanese version of candied apples. This popular sweet is known all over the world and you can always find it at a Japanese festival. Actually, you can get all types of different candied fruits, like strawberries and cherries!
Perfect for a hot summer’s day, shaved iced is drenched with a sweet syrup of your choice. Popular flavors include strawberry, mango, and of course, matcha.
3. Choco Banana
Choco banana is a simple but delicious treat that you can only get at summer festivals in Japan! Whole bananas are dipped in chocolate and drizzled with an array of sweet icings and other toppings.
4. Bebi Kasutera
Bebi Kasutera (Baby Castella) are small bite-sized portions of Japan’s popular sponge cake, Castella, served deliciously warm. In recent years, you can find these mini-cakes in a variety of different shapes, including adorable characters like Pikachu!
Cotton candy is a popular treat for kids and adults alike. What is a festival without some delicious fluffy cotton candy to munch on while enjoying the sights and games?
Japan’s Top Three Festivals
Japan has thousands of festivals every year, some estimate close to 200,000! Many of these are associated with temples and shrines (of which Japan has approximately 190,000).
If you can only go to one matsuri on your summer visit to Japan, we’ve chosen our top three best summer festivals for a guaranteed energetic and spectacular Japanese festival experience!
So put on your yukata (casual summer kimono) and join the action!
1. Gion Matsuri, Kyoto
This festival is one of Japan’s most well-known. It is also Kyoto's biggest festival and is associated with the Yasaka Shrine. Held during the month of July, the main event is on the 17th, when Kyoto is taken over by a grand procession of floats for the Yamaboko Junko.
2. Tenjin Matsuri, Osaka
One of Japan’s biggest summer festivals with more than 1.3 million attending each year to enjoy the mikoshi (portable shrines) parade, traditional costumes and a spectacular fireworks show. The festival of the Tenmangu Shrine takes place on the 24th and 25th of July every year.
3. Kanda Matsuri, Tokyo
Kanda Matsuri is one of Tokyo’s three most famous Shinto festivals, along with Sanno Matsuri and Fukugawa Matsuri. It only happens once every two years, so make sure you time your trip right! The main event is on 11th and 12th May when 200 mikoshi are paraded through Kanda Shrine’s surrounding neighborhoods (Akihabara and Tokyo Station).
We hope you’ve enjoyed your taste of a traditional Japanese festival!
To find out more about ZenPop and it’s four subscription boxes - Ramen, Sweets, Ramen + Sweets Mix and Stationery - visit zenpop.jp. Use coupon ZPFRIENDS19 to save $3 USD off your first ZenPop pack.
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