Is street food in Japan safe?
You are taking a trip to Japan. You’ve heard all the horror stories. Montezuma’s revenge from Mexico, the trots from India, worms from Korea. Your gastral tract gets nauseated just thinking about it. The one thing on your mind: is Japan the same? Is it safe to eat street food in Japan?
The answer: yes! Street food in Japan is as safe as a hot dog vendor in New York! There might be the odd one out that gets the boot from Food Services, but in general it’s one of the best and cheapest things to pick up for lunch in the city.
The Japanese have the same standards of cleanliness and high quality of food as America. Oftentimes street vendors, fair vendors, and food trucks that provide food for local areas are as safe to eat as the restaurant counterparts in the same area. So with everything being on the menu, including the sushi, what are some of the best things to pick up on the Japanese market?
Tip 1: Do not miss out on the taiyaki! The scrumptious Japanese fish are worth every bite and penny that you will pay for them. Beware, you might just end up eating two: one savory, one sweet, making it a totally inclusive meal just in this one food truck item. Taiyaki are fish-shaped stuffed waffles either with savory ingredients like kimchi and cheese, or sweet ingredients like custard and bean paste. There is really no downside to these fun fish.
*Even the pickiest of kid eaters will love the cinnamon and sugar ones.
Tip 2: Teriyaki rice balls are not something to be missed. This fun treat can be found on a stick and eaten delicately as you walk about your day. They make a great snack, or paired with one of the other things on this list, a delicious lunch. It doesn’t hurt that it’s like eating fried dough balls dipped in teriyaki sauce. Just be aware that some of the dough balls can have different fillings themselves. Look at what you’re ordering and make sure that you are getting the filling that you intended.
*Ask a local. The local people often times are the best at knowing which of these pop-up shops are worth lining up in front of and which are worth walking past. If you’re willing to be courteous and respectful, often times the younger people know enough English to help you. If you ask them for their opinion nicely they will most likely give it, along with directions on where to go. Be respectful and bow if necessary. Showing submission is always a good way to get along with the Japanese people in any circumstance. The next next thing is to honor the elders around you regardless of their ability to speak English or not. Japanese people believe that their elders are worthwhile and even as tourists we need to respect this belief.
Tip 3: Ice cream in Japan can be quite a treat. Both cafe and ice cream shops have a variety of fun flavors and toppings. The funnest part is walking with it to your next destination. Ice cream is portable!
*Be prepared for new if you go by color alone. Don’t look at that bright green ice cream and think that it’s mint or pistachio. Most green ice creams in Japan are matcha. It is better to be aware than to be sorry. If their signs come in both Japanese and in English that can help. But in the case that all you’re ordering from colors alone be aware that it might not be what you expect. It will still be delicious!
Tip 4: Onigiri are an extra special treat. These rice balls are something special that you can only get in Japan. Sweet rice with a hidden gem inside. Makes them extra special as an add-on to any meal or a great dessert.
*There are certain types that show up only around specific times of years and in specific provinces. Research when and where you’re going to be in Japan so that you know what to look for at these Festival Gatherings. Knowing creates the best way to enjoy your trip.
Tip 5: Vending machine drinks. Japanese vending machines are known for their diversity. The drink machines are no different. There are both hot and cold drink machines. The flavors are unique to the areas, so take your time. Look over the pictures and enjoy.
*You can always go with a taste of home, but why? You are on an adventure. Try something new. The worst thing is you find out you like or dislike something new. This is how I found out I loved Muskat. It is prominent in Japanese candy and drinks. Don’t miss out!
The best food of all? The one that is on budget! Use your best judgement. Even street food can be expensive if you get everything.